The fifth and final story in our Neighbors series is about the journey of Heagin and Roger, long-time residents of Urbana, Illinois. The couple have faced difficulties in foreign countries and raised three children. The overarching message focuses on a common issue among the youth - drugs. See below for the transcription of their interview with voice overs from Crystal Kang.
The fourth story in our Neighbors series focuses on Max Abandja and Lester Berrio, a married couple from Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park in Champaign, Illinois. See below for the transcription of their interview, which includes voice overs from WILLconnect.org producer Crystal Kang, a senior in the College of Media at the University of Illinois. Production help by University of Illinois graduate student, Azra Halilović.
"My name is Lester Berrio. I'm from Colombia, South America. My name is Max. Last name is Abandja. I'm originally from Africa. The country of Gabon. Although I was born in France, but since my parents are from Africa. So I will say I'm from Africa."
When husband and wife Max and Lester moved to Shadow Wood in 2004, the neighborhood's racial and ethnic makeup was considerably more diverse. About half the families were Latino. Today, about 90 percent of the residents are Hispanic. Max describes the community as tight-knit.
"What I like about the neighborhood is the fact that, since it's very small, people know each other. And then they look out for each other. If someone notices anyone who doesn't belong to this neighborhood wandering around we automatically, or something suspicious, we will alert the other person."
Max and Lester have a small business cleaning houses. At the end of the work day, they're happy to lend a hand to neighbors who face challenges applying for jobs, understanding legal matters and dealing with medical issues because they're not native English speakers. They also share their faith by leading Bible studies.
"We help a lot of our neighbors because they need to make doctors' appointments. Sometimes, they don't know what the results of the hospital are. And so they come. They knock. Sometimes, they are pregnant and they have a pain somewhere in the tummy. So they want us to call the hospital to see if there is something they can do at home or they have to go over to the hospital."
The couple says residents would benefit from a community center and a storm shelter. Another concern? The rent keeps rising.
"You know we don't blame the front office because they're just working for the owners. But the owners should be also injecting money to improving the look of the neighborhood. And so far we don't see that."
"Yes, I agree that we really need a community salon or something. A community center. So that we can have gatherings here. And also, one thing is that this place is too dark at night. The neighbors don't have any front porch light and the city doesn't have any either."
While the crime rate has decreased in recent years, neighborhood safety is a concern for Shadow Wood residents. Most of the criminal activity comes from nearby, but outside the mobile home park.
Despite their concerns, Max says they're making the most of their living situation in hopes of a better tomorrow.
Living in a mobile home is not something that I would dream. Or something that we would do for the rest of our lives. In fact, we made the decision to move here because it was cheaper. And then so we can save and eventually move to a home but more like Florida. So we need to get something cheaper to make that happen. And also to get project done in South America. Help the families overseas: her family, my family. So that's the reason why we moved here.
Max Abandja and Lester Berrio of Champaign, Illinois.
For Illinois Public Media, I'm Crystal Kang.
The third story in our Neighbors series focuses on Thom Pollock, a long-time resident of Danville, Illinois. See below for the transcription of his interview, which includes voice overs from WILLconnect.org producer Crystal Kang, a senior in the College of Media at the University of Illinois.
"My name is Thom Pollock. I have lived in Danville almost 16 years."
Thom Pollock came to Danville from Chicago where he had served in Volunteers in Service to America, or VISTA. Through his work at a mental health agency in the Edgewater/Uptown area he grew passionate about human services. Today, he serves as the executive director of the private, not-for-profit Crosspoint Human Services in Danville.
"Crosspoint Human Services is a comprehensive agency in terms of human services. It not only serves persons with mental illness but persons who have developmental disabilities. Women and children who are in the midst of domestic violence. Women and children who are homeless. We have a daycare center. We have a program that covers seven counties that assesses children in their developmental stages of birth to three."
Crosspoint Human Services provides a number of affordable housing opportunities for people in Vermilion County.
"Crosspoint's establishments are all over Danville. And we have 16 buildings. And we like to think of ourselves as the best neighbor on the block. So we maintain our properties very well. We make sure that the neighbors know who we are. And that in the event there's a problem, feel free to call us. And in that way, I think we have had a very solid reputation about being a good neighbor."
Like many cities in Illinois Danville has a high rate of vacant properties. Vacant properties can contribute to the decline of neighborhoods. But Thom says Danville has a strong sense of community and that holds neighborhoods together. He sees it in his neighborhood.
"Recently, we had a little vandalism with our home. And one of our neighbors decided that they were going to travel up and down the alley behind our home and has done so almost on a daily basis at multiple times during the day to check to see that our home is okay. And that some folks that might be considered ne'er-do-wells are identified. So yeah, we look out for one another and have basically cleaned up the neighborhood."
Thom's home is in an old neighborhood, not far from downtown. In downtown Danville you'll find an apartment complex that Thom and the city are proud of.
Not long ago the apartments were run down and known for drugs and prostitution. Then Crosspoint Human Services, with Thom's vision, took it on. After a long struggle they found the money and the expertise to rehabilitate the complex, now known as the New Holland.
"It was rare to see historic restoration, green technology and affordable housing all put into one package. And we received national and state awards for that effort. When we first opened it up in 2005, I kind of thought that it was the newest neighborhood in Danville because all of a sudden 47 units were filled with families and kids. And it was just really neat to see school buses come up to what was once a building of ill repute and now it's got a very solid, positive relationship to the community and to the town."
Thom Pollock, who lives in Danville, Illinois, is executive director of Crosspoint Human Services and president of the New Holland Corporation.
The second story in our Neighbors series focuses on Gloria Thompson-Brown, a long-time resident of Danville, Illinois. See below for the transcription of her interview, which includes voice overs from WILL's Celeste Quinn.
"My name is Gloria Thompson-Brown. I moved to Danville in December 1963 coming from the state of Florida."
Gloria has lived in the neighborhood she calls home since 1994.
"This is what they call the old part of Danville and what I mean by that is that Danville started from this area."
Gloria, her husband, Huey Lee Brown, and two of her grown children live in a house they rent on Robinson Street. Ask her about her home and she lights up. She likes the backyard and the enclosed front and back porches, and she loves the fireplace. Family photos and mementos are proudly displayed on the mantle.
They rent the house through Section 8, which is, essentially, a voucher program administered by public housing agencies to eligible people with very low incomes.
"I think I stayed in public housing 22 years and then a program called "Operation Bootstrap" - you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, so to speak-enabled me to become a participant in the Section 8 program and that was in 1989." While she lived in public housing and raised her children, Gloria worked for the housing authority.
"I started to work in the office. It was Carver Park Houses and I became the Community Services Advisor on staff there. And that gave me a broad spectrum of knowledge on both sides of the fence - as a resident and a Danville employee. I feel so well-educated (laughs) if might say that - in speaking on housing issues."
Today Gloria Thompson Brown is the Resident Services Coordinator at Green Meadows Apartments a privately owned, low-income housing complex, "and one of my main jobs is to bring as many on-site services that's conducive to the families there in that area. Residents have the right to live in safe, sanitary and decent living conditions."
Gloria is also an advocate for her neighbors and her neighborhood. Gloria's neighbors get together and talk to the city about their concerns which have included dilapidated housing and prostitution. They may also write letters to the editor. Gloria says as a result, prostitution has been greatly reduced and problem properties cleared.
She's been in the neighborhood for about 16 years. The neighbors feel comfortable calling on one another, lending one another a hand when needed. They keep an eye out for one another and the safety of the neighborhood. When her husband's bicycle was stolen, a neighbor saw it and returned it.
Gloria can count on neighbors to help shovel snow or give her a lift, if she needs a ride. Another of her neighbors:
"Has some young sons who know that my husband and I love fish. They go fishing and they'll drop off fish if they don't want to clean them. They know we'll clean them and eat them, too."
Gloria Thompson-Brown of Danville, Illinois.
The first story in our Neighbors series focuses on Mary Ann Pettigrew, a long-time resident of Danville, Illinois. See below for the transcription of her interview, which includes voice overs from WILL's Celeste Quinn.
"My name is Mary Ann Pettigrew, and I have lived at this address since 1962 when I bought this house."
The neighborhood is known as Rabbittown. The name goes back to the 19th century - inspired by the large number of wild rabbits living in the area. Most of the neighborhood's homes -including Mary Ann's- were built prior to the 1920s. Mary Ann grew up in a house her parents, John and Sarah Pettigrew, rented. There were nine children - six girls and three boys. Her father worked three jobs.
"I grew up within about five blocks of the present location and went to school at St. Pat's Catholic Church, which is a few blocks away. We always walked to school. They were wonderful neighbors. Established neighborhood. A close-knit neighborhood. Everybody watched out for the kids. If we did something wrong, we found out that our parents knew it before we got home."
For a number of years, the house she and younger sister Pat Pettigrew call home today housed her parents and some siblings. Mary Ann spent a number of years working as a Registered Nurse for the Santa Fe Railroad, for an oil company in the Middle East and St. Francis Hospital in Peoria. She came back to Danville in the early 1970s and has lived at the house on Buchanan Street ever since. She's seen many changes overtime - most recently the recession and slump in real estate. They have taken a toll on the neighborhood.
"We've had some young people move in. But I think the biggest issue is that some of the homes that have not sold are standing empty and others that the larger homes that have been turned into apartments. And I think that's one issue that has been a problem with the apartments. People are there for maybe a few months, and they're gone. And then somebody else comes in. They're there for a while and then they're gone, too. So there's really no sense of ownership as such. The issues that concern us as a whole are probably not unique to any city. These times are hard on everybody."
Neighbors, the neighborhood and Danville have always been important to Mary Ann Pettigrew. She is active in her Neighborhood Association and encourages young families to join and bring their children when they can. She knows there are many demands on families, but she says being a good neighbor is rewarding.
"In my opinion, a good neighbor is one who you know is there for you. They're friendly. They know that you can help them whenever they need it. And you know, without being intrusive. We had a neighbor lady. Her name was Margaret. We always called her Bunny. She used to drive a station wagon. And she was great. She taught Catechism at school. And she told us after church one day, she said, "Now when I give up my car," she said, "would you take me to church?" We said, "Sure, Bunny. We'll take you to church." So she finally had to give it up, and she said, "Okay." She said, "I had to take my driver's license three times last year." She said, "I'm not even going to try this year." So, she was in her 90's then."
Mary Ann Pettigrew of Danville, Illinois. I'm Celeste Quinn.
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As personal memories of Sept. 11, 2001 go, President Obama's are remarkable in how unremarkable they are...In 2001, Barack Obama was a lawyer, a professor and a state senator. He recounted the day as "one bright, beautiful Tuesday morning" a few years ago in an August 2007 speech captured by C-SPAN. Illinois Public Radio's Sam Hudzik reports.
Illinois Public Media's Bob McChesney interviewed the late Howard Zinn in October 2008. Howard Zinn was the author of A People's History of the United States, among many works. Zinn was an acclaimed historian and political scientist, and was active in Civil Rights and anti-war movements in the United States for many years.
Family reunification accounts for nearly two-thirds of lawful permanent migration to the United States: it's the largest avenue by which people receive admission to the country. Yet, family separation remains a part of daily living for countless immigrants. A legislative effort in Congress focuses on family unity as a key component of immigration policy. Illinois Public Radio's Sean Powers examines the issues facing lawmakers and families.