Sales of locally grown foods are up in the Champaign-Urbana area as new farmer’s markets start up, and more consumers turn to buy local produce.
Urbana resident Clark McPhail likes fresh food. So, nearly every Saturday in the summer, he bikes to Urbana’s Market at the Square and browses through the dozens of vendors to shop for fruits and vegetables. “In the summertime, 70 percent of our vegetable produce I buy here are from the farmer’s market or Common Ground,” McPhail said. “I don’t mind paying a little extra for quality produce."
Crystal Kang interviews Urbana residents Heagin and Roger Burton.
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.
Workers at one of the largest employers in Champaign-Urbana are being encouraged to stay physically fit through financial incentives.
A growing number of companies across the country have started encouraging employees to stay healthy by offering financial incentives.
Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, which is one of the largest employers in the area, is pushing for a healthier workforce through its Charge Rewards Program.
Jefferson Middle School in Champaign recently added exercise equipment to its classrooms.
(Funded in part by a grant from the Lumpkin Family Foundation)
Research at the University of Illinois suggests physical activity can boost cognitive health. To test that theory, Jefferson Middle School in Champaign recently added exercise equipment for its students.
Marcelon Mosley, 11, walks on a treadmill in the assistant principal's office at Jefferson Middle School in Champaign. Mosley started off using the treadmill about three times a week for about 30-to-45 minutes. He can come off as being very calm, expressing very little emotion, but he admits he isn't always that way. He said there have been times when he has reacted strongly to other kids' comments about him, or just hasn't felt motivated enough to keep up with his school work.
When the school began adding the exercise equipment at the start of the academic year, his teachers thought it might be easier for him to relax and focus by getting on a treadmill a few times each week.
He explains that he determines the speed of the treadmill based on his level of anger. If he is in a really bad mood, he said he may double the speed from his normal two miles per hour.
"When it goes faster, it calms me down cause I have so much energy that I want to break somebody's neck or something, and then I just use up my energy walking on the treadmill," Mosley said. Since he started using the treadmill at the beginning of the school year, Mosley admits that he is doing a better job now controlling his anger.
His mom, Cheryl Moore, has even noticed a difference in his behavior. She credits that not only to the exercise, but also to what she and school officials are doing to hold Mosley accountable when he misbehaves or doesn't turn in homework assignments on time.
"I think that it's kind of like a coalition basically with the parents and the teachers working together," Moore said. "What's that famous saying? It takes a village to raise a child." Mosley - along with five of his other siblings - all have ADHD, and he is one of two of them currently medicated for it. His mother hopes to get him off of it by the time he's in high school, but not if that compromises his performance in the classroom.
"It's hardest with Marcelon because actually out of all of our children, he takes the most amount of milligrams," Moore said. "He's very overwrought, and we try to let him do lots of exercise as much as she wants to. He just has tons of energy. It's like the wild in his eyes. When he acts like that, we're like, 'Do you need to go outside and play a lot more?'"
Students like Marcelon seems to benefit from this exercise equipment brought in by University of Illinois Professor Charles Hillman.
Hillman said there is a positive relationship between physical activity and cognitive health. Hillman, who teaches kinesiology and community health at the U of I, has already explored this connection with pre-adolescents, young adults, and older adults. After approximately one hour of exercise, he found that these age groups showed improvements in cognition and achievement.
"What's good for children is good for young adults," Hillman said. "What's good for young adults is good for older adults. Being healthy and exercising and having a higher level of fitness relates to better brain health and better cognition. And so because of that, I believe we need to act early. "
Now, Hillman is doing the same research, but this time with middle school students.
"Puberty changes a lot of things. It changes body. It changes hormone production, and it changes brain," he explained. "And so it's interesting to see during a time when kids are actively going through puberty, what these relationships are between fitness or health factors such as body mass and cognition in children."
Hillman and U of I Psychology Professor Neal Cohen are studying students at Jefferson over a three year period.
They believe that being overweight may affect parts of the brain associated with attention, memory, and cognition. As part of their research, Jefferson Middle School agreed to install exercise equipment around the school - aerobic balls in classrooms, Marcelon's treadmill, and bikes in the library.
In the school library students take turns riding on the exercise bikes. Librarian Kim Anderson said it is a challenge identifying ways the library can support students other than through literacy, which is why when she first heard about the school's exercise initiative, she jumped at the idea.
"They are actually reading when they're working out, and we also have a couple of iPads that we set up, so that they Velcro right onto the stationary bikes so they can flip through and either read a book online or work on one of the education apps," Anderson said.
Some of the students say 30 minutes of physical activity during gym class isn't enough time to stay active during the school day. Eight grader Paige Ducharme said getting more exercise has helped her concentrate.
"Cause you get your brain - like not really moving - but you get more energy inside of you so you find yourself awake more and more energized to be able to listen and make your brain function more," Ducharme said.
Students using the exercise equipment is part of Principal Susan Zola's larger vision. She also plans to transform the school's multipurpose room into an exergaming room where students would be exposed to a combination of games and exercise. In the space,
Zola envisions being able to grab a heart monitor, and do a cross country virtual tour in the mountains.
"So, it's like Wii on steroids," Zola said. "We believe it will take our students health and wellness to a whole different level."
While Marcelon Mosely and Paige Ducharme are physically fit, Zola said there are students at Jefferson who do battle their weight and other related health issues. Zola believes physical activity should be a priority for all students - even those who just want to work up a sweat.
"Wellness and students' well-being and where they land in terms of their healthy living impacts us all in the future," Zola said. "So, the stronger they are in terms of their hearts their spirits their minds their academics, the stronger citizens the stronger community members, the healthier our community will be as a whole."
More about Charles Hillman's research Unit 4 Tries to Stay Ahead of Nutrition Standards (Related) Champaign County Schools Adopt Anti-Obesity Initiative (Related)
Crystal Kang interviews Shadow Wood residents Max Abandja and Lester Berrio of Champaign, Illinois.
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.
Crystal Kang interviews Thom Pollock, executive director of Crosspoint Human Services and president of the New Holland Corporation
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.
Celeste Quinn talks with Danville resident, Gloria Thompson-Brown.
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.
New federal standards for school lunch menus kick in this year, and the Champaign School District is trying to stay ahead of the regulations.
(Funded in part by a grant from the Lumpkin Family Foundation)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture this year unveiled new nutrition standards for school meals. It's the first major nutritional overhaul of its kind in more than 15 years. The Champaign School District is trying to stay ahead of new federal regulations taking affect this year and beyond.
Mary Davis is the Director of Food Services in the Champaign School District. She and her staff prepare about 5,500 meals a day. In her year and a half on the job, Davis has introduced more fruits and vegetables, and by next fall fruits or vegetables will be required on every school lunch tray.
Davis has even added tofu as another option for high school students, despite the added expense.
"Tofu is quite high if you get a regular serving," she said. "But we're willing to take those costs on because this is the way we're headed and we want to be ahead of other districts, ahead of any mandates and regulations that they may enforce."
The USDA currently requires schools to offer proteins, grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy.
In the Champaign School District, elementary school students are required to have all five components, but students in other grade levels can pick three of the five components for their meals to meet federal mandates.
Based on the federal requirements, a complete meal can be milk, juice, and vegetable, or it can be two Bosco Sticks and a milk, since that includes grains, dairy, and proteins. Kris Light Branaman has a son at Edison Middle School. She said her son talks about school meals the same way she did at his age.
"That is to complain all the time about it," Branaman said. "But I think that here they seem to have a good balance of choices. I know that's one of the difficulties of adolescence is he has to make the choice, and there's a lot of pre-packaged stuff that I hope doesn't choose, but I know he probably will."
Stopping by some of the lunch tables at Edison, the attitudes about nutrition among the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders run the gamut.
Tyler Thompson credits his parents for encouraging him to be healthy.
"Like when they were younger they didn't eat healthy, but now they're eating healthy, so they're like a role model to me," Thompson said. "So, I'm just going to be a role model back."
But for some students, like Erika Sepich and Mackenzie Williams, nutrition isn't a factor. They say their parents don't really talk to them about why it is important to eat healthy.
"It's our body and if we want to eat unhealthy foods, then it's on us," Williams said.
Mary Davis said offering healthy options can be one obstacle because of the added cost, but she said another challenge can be getting students to willingly eat the food.
"Students are in a hurry," she said. "They want to get outside, or they want to talk to their friends and they haven't eaten until the bell rings. So, they're throwing a lot of their food away, except for maybe their chocolate milk."
Davis said pushing for health and wellness is a team effort. At Carrie Busey Elementary School, she recently removed sugary items from the breakfast menu, substituting whole grains, bagels, and white milk for donuts, certain cereals, and flavored milk. But Davis said it is the teachers who must play an important role in encouraging students to appreciate nutrition.
Carrie Busey physical education teacher, Wendy Starwalt is trying to get her students to think differently about nutrition.
During a recent lunch period, she scans the lunches of kindergartners. She rates their meals on a sliding scale - 'go foods' like fruits and vegetables are considered the most healthy, 'slow foods' like yogurt and cheese should be eaten in moderation, and 'whoa foods' like frosted cupcakes and candy are reserved strictly for special occasions.
Students who eat plenty of 'go foods' can win a prize.
"I will make my way through and tell you the go food, the fresh fruit or vegetable, healthy food that I would like you to eat today to get your name in the raffle," she said as she walked around the cafeteria.
Starwalt began rewarding students for eating healthy three years ago. She gives out prizes, such as basketballs, pedometers, and a water bottle.
"If I call your name you may pick one thing," she tells them.
Starwalts said based on conversations she has had with parents, many of her students are conscious about eating the 'go foods' not just at school, but at home.
While the Champaign School District does sell ala carte items at the middle and high schools, it does not sell those snacks at the elementary schools. Meanwhile, vending machines are only accessible to students at the high schools.
Even though some students may fall off track at times, Starwalt said what they learn about nutrition at a young age sets a foundation for the rest of their lives.
"People used to only drink soda pop like on a Saturday night," she said. "Well, now if you go to a high school, you'll see soda pop all year, all day along, including Gatorade and Propel, which are just as full of sugar. We have to shift our kids to know that that's a treat. If you're going to have that, you can't have that all the time."
Many of the nation's schools are working to provide healthy meals.
The Obama administration this year announced new guidelines for government subsidized free and reduced meals - of which more than half of Unit 4 students qualify. Among the changes, meals will have calorie caps, sodium will gradually decrease over a decade, and flavored milks will have to be nonfat.
Some changes will be in place by the fall while others will be phased in over time.
Chart of 'Go' 'Slow' and 'Whoa' Foods School Lunches To Be Healthier: Have More Fruits, Vegetable What's Inside The 26-Ingredient School Lunch Burger?
The income of residents in Champaign and Vermilion has not kept pace with the increase of rent and as a result affordable housing is becoming harder to find.
(Former University of Illinois journalism graduate student Landon Cassman contributed to this report)
The income of residents in Champaign and Vermilion has not kept pace with the increase of rent and as a result affordable housing is becoming harder to find.
Census data from 2000 and 2010 and recent housing studies shows there are more renters, but that many can't afford to pay fair market rent. The data and studies also reveal that the number of vacant units has skyrocketed.
"The housing needs haven't changed. In fact, they've gotten worse for the people who need them," said Thom Pollock, executive director of Crosspoint Human Services.
A comprehensive review of local housing studies, Census data and federal reports show that across Champaign and Vermilion counties shows that between 2000 and 2010, fair market rents for a two-bedroom apartment in the two counties have increased more than 30 percent.
For Champaign County, it's gone up from about $600 to more than $800 for a two-bedroom apartment. In Vermilion County, it's increased from about $400 to $600 for a two-bedroom apartment in.
Meanwhile, median household income has increased less than 20 percent - from about $37,600 in 1999 to $45,200 in 2010 in Champaign County and from about $34,200 in 1999 to about $38,200 in Vermilion County A review of the studies and Census data also shows:
- The number of vacant housing units increased 43 percent between 2000 and 2010, from about 6,200 vacant housing units to nearly 9,000 vacant housing units . In 2000, about 7 percent of nearly 88,400housing units were vacant. In 2010, about 9 percent of 101,600 housing units were vacant.
- Renter-occupied properties increased 20 percent over the past 10 years from 36,200 to 43,200 while owner-occupied properties increased about 8 percent from about 46,000 to nearly 50,000.
- Minorities making up a disproportionate percentage of the renters and are concentrated in areas with low housing value and quality. While minority groups make up 29 percent of the total population, they make up 35 percent of the renters across the two counties.
Officials from Champaign released a county-wide housing study as part a report to the city council in October that looked at housing needs across the county. The study found that nearly 12 percent of the county's housing stock is substandard and over 10 percent of its households are "overburdened" - meaning households that pay more than 30 percent of income to rent and basic utilities.
"Probably the biggest issue that it pointed to was the lack of affordable housing, rental housing, for extremely low-income people," said Kerri Spear, neighborhood programs manager at the City of Champaign. "When you are earning less than 30 percent of the median family income, the ability for you to pay for your market rent in Champaign-Urbana is impossible."
College Students Lift Prices
Local college students not only drive up the rental price in Champaign-Urbana, but typically get the best pick of rental units in the best condition, Spear said.
"I think what we see here in Champaign-Urbana being a college community is that landlords can charge more because when you bring in two or three college students, each of them technically may be low-income, but they're usually supported financially living elsewhere, Spear said " And so, students can obviously pay more."
The county-wide housing study adjusted for the student population when assessing the area's needs.
"The effect of the student population in both the Cities of Champaign and Urbana is significant. If left in the housing need numbers, the students would be responsible for overstating need by nearly four times in the City of Champaign and by over twice as much in the City of Urbana," the report stated.
It added that the housing need is nevertheless still great in those Urbana and Champaign two communities as well as in Rantoul.
The housing study found that the majority of the county's lowest income population and minority populations are located within Champaign and Urbana, even with the student population removed.
While these two cities grapple with higher housing cost, its neighbor, Danville, also struggles with providing quality affordable housing.
Danville Housing Lower Priced, But Substandard
A study by the City of Danville released in September showed that while housing in Danville is "very low-priced ... much is in substandard conditions."
The Danville report states that nearly half of the homes in Danville were built before 1947 and homes built within the past 20 years make up less than 5 percent of the housing stock.
"Old housing stock is in some cases an impediment (to fair housing choices) where city-wide depressed housing values limit reinvestment, maintenance and modernization and make new construction economically impractical," the report stated. "Too much of the affordable housing is in substandard condition," the report stated.
Gloria Thompson-Brown is a housing rights advocate and works to educate low-income residents on their rights and responsibilities.
"Landlords have been lax in keeping their properties up," Thompson-Brown said. "And when there are residents living in these (properties), if there are problems, they tend to blame it on the residents when landlords should be held more responsible for the upkeep of the properties."
Over the past decade, Danville lost just over 1 percent of its housing units, according to Census data. Renters make up about 36 percent of Danville's housing market.
Without residents, though, there is no rental business, Thompson-Brown said.
"They're the most important commodity in the business," she said. "So I think they should be treated as such and know that (they) are needed here. And it should be a two-way street."
New Danville project gets awards
The New Holland apartment complex in downtown Danville is a renovated five-story historic affordable housing project that has garnered several awards for its designs as well as large-scale energy-efficient geothermal system.
"We decided to kind of push the envelope," said Thom Pollock, executive director of Crosspoint Human Services and president of the New Holland Corp. "We wanted it to be green. We want it to be historically correct, and we wanted it at the end to be affordable for the tenants. And I think we achieved all three."
The nearly 50 apartments units in the building are subsidized and rents range anywhere 40 percent to 60 percent of fair market rent. Residents cannot make more than 60 percent of the area median income to live at the New Holland.
Barbara Donaldson, 77, moved in to a two-bedroom apartment at the New Holland six years ago. Once a homeowner, Donaldson had sold her house before moving to Israel. But a series illness and subsequent operation cut short her plans for a permanent stay in Jerusalem and Donaldson moved home.
"And so, just gradually, I was still working some after that," she said. "But my strength in the recent years has kind of decreased because I'm not, of course, as you know, as young as I used to be."
With a depleted savings account and limited income, Donaldson's housing options were stifled.
"My options would probably be that I would be with one of my children," she said. "That probably would be about it. Because at this point, at my age and so forth, I'm not able to really make a lot of money."
Donaldson said she was out hunting for a new place to live when she saw the New Holland and "thought in my heart, this is where I want to be."
"I love this majestic building," Donaldson said.
And that is what Pollock hoped to accomplish.
"Affordable housing should be quality housing, safe housing. Something that you and I would like to live in," he said. "And in this case that's what we aim to do at the (New Holland) and I think we've achieved that."
Mary Ann Pettigrew shares stories of growing up in Danville.
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.
Page 1 of 9 pages 1 2 3 > Last ›