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Local News Archives for 2021-12

HSHS St. Francis Hospital Turns to Public for Help in War Against Covid in New Year's Letter

A Letter to the Community: A wish for the New Year 


To the patients, families and communities we are proud to serve — 

It’s us, your local caregivers at St. Francis Hospital, who are reflecting on the coming New Year and have a wish that you can help make come true. 

We know you’re sick of COVID-19 — believe us when we say that we are, too. You’re sick of being told to get vaccinated, get boosted, wear your mask and avoid big crowds. We know you are tired of hearing about the surge and what you need to do to protect yourselves. You’re tired of shows and events being cancelled. You just want to get back to a normal life. 

But, we can’t. We keep our doors open to serve traumas, multiple types of illnesses, and yes, many COVID-19 patients, most of whom are unvaccinated. Our staffs are strained. Resources are strained. Capacity within our system is being pushed to the limit. 

We know we have to keep trying, and we will because you or your family may need us. We’re tired, but we’re not going anywhere. We’re here to treat you, support you and give you the very best of ourselves, whatever may come. But we need your help to keep our families and communities safe. We need your help to start 2022 with a chance to reduce COVID-19 numbers. And we know it’s not too late. 

Our wish this New Year is simple — please think twice. Do just one thing, take one more step to protect yourself and those around you. Don’t look back on this moment and think “if only.” If only I had stayed home when I was ill. If only I had worn a mask in crowded indoor areas. 

Please get vaccinated. Please get boosted. Please get tested. And please mask when you should. 


HSHS St. Francis Hospital 

Bowl-a-Thon in Hillsboro to Help Autism Causes

A group of 40 to 50 kids from the Team for Autism and Social Communication will take part in a bowl-a-thon at the Hillsboro Bowl.  You can make a pledge per pin to help TASC- Team for Autism and Social Communication as well as Care-Community Autism Resource Education.   

To Sign up email 
Include your 
- Name 
Pledge per pin/score for all children's first game bowled. 
Max Donation obligation 
Phone number 

Secretary of State Departments and Driver Services Facilities to Close from Jan. 3 through Jan. 17 Due to Increase in COVID-19 Cases

Due to an increase in COVID-19 cases statewide, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is announcing that all Secretary of State departments will not conduct in-person transactions – including Driver Services facilities –from Jan. 3, 2022, through Jan. 17, 2022. All departments and Driver Services facilities will reopen on Tuesday, Jan. 18. White is encouraging the public to visit for online services. Online transactions will remain open for all departments to conduct office services, including, but not limited to the following:
? Renewing a license plate sticker.
? Renewing a driver’s license or ID card for those who qualify (individuals may call 217-785-1424 to confirm their eligibility or to obtain their PIN).
? Obtaining a duplicate driver’s license or ID card.
? Obtaining a driver record abstract.
? Filing Business Services documents, such as incorporations and annual reports.
In addition, the Drivers and Vehicles Services hotline phone number will remain open at 800-252-8980.
Customers with issues involving administrative hearings may email or call 312-793-3722 or 217-782-7065.
As a reminder, White has extended all driver’s license and ID card expiration dates to March 31, 2022. This extension does not apply to commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) and CDL learner’s permits.
“After careful consideration and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to close all Driver Services facilities beginning Jan. 3, 2022, through Jan. 17, 2022, due to the spike in COVID-19 cases,” said White. “The health and safety of employees and the public remains paramount, and face-to-face transactions potentially increase the further spread of the virus. Our goal is to safely reopen all offices and Driver Services
facilities on January 18 for face-to-face transactions.” In addition, White greatly expanded remote renewal for driver’s license and ID card holders. Since this fall, White’s office mailed letters to eligible customers with expired driver’s licenses and ID cards requiring them to renew online, by phone or by mail. The office estimates that this helps to eliminate the need for approximately 1 million people to visit a facility.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has extended the federal REAL ID deadline to May 3, 2023.

Covid Surge Continues in Montgomery County

There has been concern about Christmas gatherings adding to the ongoing surge of the Omicron variant of Covid 19 as well as the ongoing Delta variant.  The latest numbers from Montgomery County show a post Christmas surge.  There were 151 new cases of Covid reported between Christmas Eve and Tuesday.  35 cases were reported over Christmas and Christmas Eve.  The number dropped to 4 the day after Christmas.  Then 42 new cases were confirmed on Monay with 70 more on Tuesday.  The full vaccination rate for Montgomery County stands at 47.26 percent.   

HSHS St. Francis Announces 2022 Prenatal Class Dates

Pregnant moms can get all their “what to expect” pregnancy questions answered by attending any or all of the Prenatal Education programs offered by HSHS Francis Hospital in the coming year. 

The St. Francis Family Maternity Center offers a wide range of services for mothers and infants, and the class schedule for 2021 is now available. It includes childbirth education classes and breastfeeding classes plus other education about the amenities and quality care at St. Francis Hospital. 

Class times are 1-5 p.m. on the following dates: 

  • January 9 

  • March 6 

  • May 15 

  • July 17 

  • September 25 

  • November 13 

Classes are held in the 4th floor lounge of St. Francis Hospital and are taught by a registered nurse and a certified lactation counselor from St. Francis Family Maternity Center. They are open to any mom-to-be and their support person. It is recommended moms-to-be take the class that is closest to their due date. 

“The overall goal for all of our prenatal education programs is to make sure moms and families are as prepared as they can be for the delivery, as well as taking their baby home,” shared Elisa Feldmann, RNC, nurse manager of the Family Maternity Center. “We invite all expectant mothers and support persons to attend our educational classes.”

Feldmann also notes that all COVID-19 safety precautions are followed for the classes which are kept to limited numbers, socially distanced and masks are required.

According to the March of Dimes, prenatal education is an important component of supporting healthy pregnancies. Prenatal education promotes the maintenance of healthy lifestyles at the end of pregnancy and helps expectant mothers manage stress, support a healthy diet, avoid harmful chemicals and situations, recognize warning signs and symptoms that mean something may be wrong with their pregnancy, as well as prepare for labor and delivery.

The full calendar of classes at St. Francis Hospital Women and Infants Center can be reviewed on our website at under Classes and Events. In addition to these classes, St. Francis will be launching a Facebook breastfeeding support group in January 2022 to provide an additional, interactive experience for mothers in the community.

For more information and to register for classes, call (217) 324-8473.

The Family Maternity Center is designated a Silver Safe Sleep Hospital through the Eunice Kennedy Shriver organization and Cribs for Kids Program. It is also a Certified Baby-Friendly Hospital by the WHO and UNICEF, one of only approximately 600 designated hospitals in the US. The initiative encourages and recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for breastfeeding mothers and their babies.

Feldmann added, “Being recognized as a Baby-Friendly and a Safe Sleep hospital shows that our staff work diligently to provide all of the necessary education, support and techniques for our moms and babies. We are proud to provide this high-quality care to our community”




A Decision Day Could Be Looming for Corner Block Building

It doesn’t always happen at year’s end but the Hillsboro Planning Commission certainly wasn’t mailing it in during last week’s meeting.  They took on some pretty weighty topics, including the fate of the Corner Block Building on Main.  It was learned the building’s owner is seeking a bench trail after he was informed abatement requirements weren’t met by the deadline.  That court date is January 13th.  City Planner Jonathan Weyer says there are potential buyers for the local landmark and the current owners can reach out to city hall if they have a change of heart and decide to sell.  Progress is also being reported toward construction of a third screen for the Orpheum Theater at the building next door.  The commission is also looking at long term issues, starting the conversation about preparing for the coming rise of electric cars and trucks in the area.  Mayor Don Downs says at this point, the choices for charging stations should be on Main Street or off street parking lots.   

Witt Looks to Keep Off Road Vehicles Off Their Roads

Witt Mayor Shawn Cady doesn’t believe his town should be an All Terrain Vehicle Arena.  He is working with City Attorney Chris Sherer on an ordinance that would deny access to unlicensed mini bikes and four wheelers within city limits.  Residents have complained about noise generated by vehicles and in some instances destroying properties.

New Montgomery County Covid Numbers

The latest Montgomery County Health Department Covid numbers show 140 new cases in the past week as concerns have been growing about Christmas gatherings.  There were 9 new cases on Sunday, December 19th, 33 on Monday, December 20th, 35 on Tuesday, 37 on Wednesday and 26 on Thursday. 

Boom Mystery Solved

Tuesday's late morning boom caused quite a stir, not just in Mid-lllinois, but even louder in Peoria, Bloomington, Springfield, Decatur.  The boom was even heard in the Metro-East. It wasn’t an Earthquake, or meteorite but a sonic boom caused by a F-15 Eagle fighter jet.  That was confirmed yesterday by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration out of Kansas City.  The Boeing F-15-E Strike Eagle fighter jet was going through an acceptance flight for the Department of Defense.  The sound barrier is around 770 miles per hour, but the Strike Eagle aircraft blew past that mark, reaching 1148 miles per hour.  The sonic boom was felt over a wider area because the pilot was flying at 38,000 feet, more than seven miles above the ground.   While sonic booms can occasionally break a window here and there, no damage was reported across Mid-Illinois.

Victims Lost in Rural Pawnee Fire Identified

Both victims of Sunday’s fire in Rural Pawnee in Christian County have been identified.  The Sangamon County Coroner’s office identifies the resident who died in the 400 block of East 1525 North Road as 70-year-old Gary Conner.  Sangamon County handled the investigation because he passed away at HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield.  The Christian County Coroner’s office identified the female victim as 59-year-old Patricia Smith of Pawnee.  Preliminary autopsy results indicate both victims died of smoke inhalation. 



Litchfield's Party in the Park in Limbo

The future of Party in the Park and the new Art in the Park festival in Litchfield are in limbo as  the Chamber of Commerce has released its 2022 events calendar.  Chamber Director Beth Cherry says the chamber reassessed its roster of events because some events did not benefit chamber members as much as possible.  The chamber will refocus on  educational and training opportunities, Business After Hours events, open houses, grand openings, and numerous other activities focusing on our members’ needs.  She said “We know that Party in the Park has been a Litchfield tradition for 40 years, and our first-ever Art in the Park event this year was well received also, but these events do not aid our local businesses in a manner that promotes our members. We’d like to see both events continue but we believe that they would be better suited for a community organization to organize. The Chamber can assist to transition these events to a new organization. 

The Litchfield Chamber of Commerce has released its 2022 major events 

schedule, as follows. Several of these dates are tentative at this time: 

1. Membership Drive—January 14, 2022 

2. Annual Awards Gala—March 26, 2022 

3. Annual Golf Tournament—June 10, 2022 

4. Litchfield Chamber of Commerce Pageant—July/August 2022 

5. Colors of Cancer Run—September 17, 2022 

6. Shop Small Saturday—November 27, 2022 

Hillsboro City Council Welcomes New Member

The Hillsboro City Council is back up to full strength as Mayor Don Downs tabs Fred Butler to fill the Commissioner's seat vacated when Daniel Robbins took over the post of Motngomery County Circuit Clerk.  The longtime head of maintenance for the Hillsboro School District has also spent time at the Hillsboro Sports Association Board of Directors.  

Litchfield Fire at Mobile Home, No Injuries, Blaze Appears Intentionally Set

Litchfield Fire Investigators are looking into a morning mobile home fire at North Locust and East Clark that appears to have been intentionally set.   Arriving firefighters were given indications children might be inside the structure.  When they reached the scene, fire was visible venting out a south side window.  With the potential for young people inside, they quickly extinguished the fire, and searched for occupants.  It turns out no one was inside.  The children who reside at the home were at a babysitter’s residence.  Mutual aid was provided by Raymond/Harvel and Mt Olive with support from Hillsboro Ambulance.   

Harvest of Hope Asking for Help

From: Harvest of Hope Food Pantry They need volunteers to help with our main community distribution days: December 15th from 1-4pm and December 18th 9:30am-4pm It's a great way for Hillsboro High School students to get their community service hours too. Community, if you need a food appointment call/text 217-560-7533. Donations: This time of year we always have a higher number of people using the food pantry. If you have it on your heart this Christmas season to donate food, right now we can use holiday type foods, anything you would have for a Christmas dinner that you think others would enjoy as well. We would like to be able to offer hams and turkeys and all the fixins’ You can also mail a donation and we’ll do the shopping for you! Harvest of Hope Food Pantry c/o World Harvest Church PO Box 543 Hillsboro, IL 62049 Thanks everyone! 

Storms Hit Hard But Area Escapes the Worst of Massive Storm System

Last night, the region was hit hard by powerful storms, but all things are relative.  When you look at the devastation in Kentucky and nearby at the Amazon Fulfillment Warehouse in Edwardsville, Mid Illinois emerged fairly lucky.  A tree was brought down on Mt. Moriah Avenue, just west of Red Ball Trail.  A tree on Highway 185 succumbed to the powerful storms on Route 185 south of Coffeen.  Tree limbs also stopped traffic on Route 185 near Rocky Ford Road and along Happy Lane and Merry Lane.  Near Reno, a number of power lines were taken down.  In Taylor Springs and surrounding communities, there were a number of reports and pictures of dense styrofoam material scattered across the area.  Early speculation indicates that material came from the possible tornado or severe weather that struck the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville.  Power lines were brought down in Fillmore and at least one tree was brought down in Nokomis.  In Coffeen, there were reports of trees down and a damaged machine shed. At least two people are dead after a roof collapse at the massive Amazon Fulfillment Center Warehouse Complex in Edwardsville.  It’s believed a tornado spotted in the area struck the facility.   If you have recovered styrofoam from  last night’s storms and you see indications of the word Amazon or the Amazon smile like logo, please send pictures and your location to  That information will be used to help the National Weather Service assess the storm damage. 

Nokomis Man Dies in Christian County Car Crash

A Christian County car crash claims the life of a Nokomis man.   31-year-old Charles Cummings was traveling northbound on County Highway 1, just north of County Highway 8, when the Christian County Sheriff’s Office reports his vehicle crossed the center line.  The vehicle entered the path of a soutbhound semi.  Cummings was pronounced dead at the scene.  The Illinois State Police is investigating.

Successful End to Search for Missing Palmer Woman

The Christian County Sheriff’s Office reports 71 year old Rebecca L. Arkebauer is back with her family after going missing earlier this week.     Family members advised Arkebauer has been  showing signs of Alzheimer’s and her destination was unknown but they were able to gain access to her location through her vehicle.  She was found in the Kankakee County town of St Anne.   The family is thanking a number of police agencies involved the search, including the Illinois State Police, which deployed aerial assets to get a bird's eye view in the search for Arkebauer.

Widow of Special Forces Veteran Thanks Montgomery County for Support

Montgomery County and its neighbors went above and beyond when residents were called upon to help salute a decorated fallen soldier, Special Forces veteran Master Sergeant William Crays.  Of course, the sacrifices of Crays were a family affair.  They often heard the words, "I’m deploying to Afghanistan" as Crays served five tours there as well as another in Korea.  The efforts of local volunteers didn’t just salute a decorated man who served but lifted the spirits of a broken hearted family. Crays' widow Blaire wanted to share a message to those who helped the family throuogh Master Sergeant Cray’s final journey home. 

Thank you to all who paid honor to Master Sergeant William Crays Whether it was, financially, spiritually, or physically, your acts have not gone unnoticed and have been greatly appreciated by those of us who have needed it most. 

 We would like to thank first and foremost all those involved with the Escort from the Airport and the Funeral, the US Army, Illinois State Police Districts 11 and 18, Missouri State Police,  Montgomery County Sheriff and Deputies, Litchfield Police Dept., Hillsboro Police Dept. Hillsboro Fire Dept. Litchfield Fire Dept. Raymond Fire Dept., the communities of Edwardsville, Mt. Olive, Hamel, Staunton, Livingston and the Missouri and Illinois Patriot Guard and the Litchfield VFW, Litchfield Moose, WSMI, David and Dan Hough and their Staff at Hough and Sons Funeral Home and the Businesses and people of our communities.  

 A very special “Thank You” goes out to “The Flagman’s Mission Continues” and everyone who helped put up and take down the flags that lined Rt. 16 from Hillsboro to Litchfield it was a very beautiful tribute. 

We will never forget your acts of kindness and support for our family. 

With sincere gratitude 

Blaire Murray Crays and Family 

Overnight Fire in Litchfield

Litchfield firefighters were called out to 314 North Locust for a structure fire around 1:30 this (Monday) morning..  While ambulances were called to the scene and two patients were transported, there’s good news to report. It appears the patients admitted to the hospital were taken there for observation..  The fire appears to be accidental in nature.  There’s no further word on damage. 

Route 185 Open after Pavement Repair

State Route 185 is now open between Hillsboro and Coffeen, after a re-pavement project was completed on December 2nd. The area of the repair was where the road had collapsed 6 to 8 feet due to mine subsidence caused by ongoing mining at Hillsboro's Deer Run Coal Mine. Signage indicating a 20 mile per hour speed limit and construction markers remain, but folks traveling the road should be able to maintain highway speeds through the area once again. 

Bond upgraded in Farmersville Thanksgiving Murder

The man accused in the shooting death of his ex-girlfriend in Farmersville on Thanksgiving won’t be leaving the Montgomery County Jail in the immediate future. 48-year-old Robert Tarr bond was upgraded from $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 because of additional evidence tied to the crime scene.  His public defender was requesting an amount of $100,000 because of his lack of criminal history.  States Attorney Andrew Affrunti noted 45-year-old Leslie Reeves was shot in the head at point blank range, and it appeared to be in execution style.  The homeowner, 48-year-old Christopher Smith of Farmersville, was also shot in the head.   For the past roughly 30 years, Tarr had no priors and owns a business in Collinsville.  States Attorney Affrunti was seeking $4,000,000 bond in the case.  Tarr left his home in Collinsville when he said he didn't, and that warrants allowed police to discover his vehicle had recently been washed. Affrunti pointed out the floor of the car was still wet when police inspected it. 


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