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Rebuilding Main Street – Go big or go home

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Gillespie’s newest restaurant, CP’s Five and Dine, is almost ready to open its doors. Months of hard work and sweat has been put into the old Five and Dime, and as the deadline approaches, sleep has probably become nonexistent. There hasn’t been an evening this month when I haven’t seen him inside working to get things ready for the “big day.” Walls being built, equipment being moved in, permits getting approved, etc. So much goes into starting a business from scratch that if you haven’t done it, you grossly underestimate the time, dedication, and money that’s involved. I know I did.

When some people in town heard he was opening a restaurant, they laughed. “A restaurant? That’s the highest failure rate of any industry for new startups. Save your money. Too much risk.” But he pushed ahead. And then when they found out he was also going to have a bakery and seat close to 90 people, they once again laughed. “In Gillespie? You’ll never make enough to break even. Those things just don’t work in Gillespie. Look at what happened to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Chinese restaurant.” Yet again, he pushed ahead. I’m sure the same people said those things to Bill Toprani of Toprani’s Gifts and Debbie Tiller/Tobi Libbra of TwinnCo. I know I heard the same things about Ageless. “A half a million dollar gym in Gillespie. You’re crazy.” I couldn’t even get a local bank to give me a loan. I had to go to Litchfield Bank and Trust. But now, in a few days, thanks to CP, we’ll get to enjoy the culmination of his hard work, persistence, and vision for Gillespie.

Like mine, CP’s motto was “Go big or go home.” And after reading some of the comments from readers on the previous posts, it looks like that needs to be Gillespie and Benld’s motto for economic development. Go big or go home. Galena was mentioned several times in readers comments. A small town that said go big or go home, and now attracts visitors from all over the state. A town without an identity will forever struggle in mediocrity. What’s Benld’s identity? What’s Gillespie’s identity? Can we give them one? Can we be the little town of antique shops and bed and breakfast’s that’s conveniently located between St. Louis and Springfield? Can we be a town that resembled an old coal mining town? Or can we be a town that Al Capone once visited, and had a nightlife that rivaled that of St. Louis? Or if we focus on e-commerce, can we be the Silicon Valley of central Illinois? Maybe, like a local artist mentioned to me, we could remove two parking spots from each block and extend the sidewalk where those parking spots were and put a table and chairs at each location? Then people would have a reason to visit main street. Friends could interact with friends again. Whatever we decide doesn’t really matter. We just need an identity. We need to give people a reason to visit Gillespie and Benld. What lasting impression can we give visitors?

The main point is, if we really want to succeed, we have to draw people to Gillespie and Benld. Giving residents within the community stores, restaurants, and gyms is great, but to truly create a great small town, we need to focus on creating an identity that draws people from all over Illinois. We’ve taken some small steps at Ageless. Our gym attracts residents from Staunton, Bunker Hill, Brighton, and Mt. Olive. Our basketball training program this summer, which we consider will be the best 3 month training camp between St. Louis and Springfield, already has players from Edwardsville, Bethalto, Litchfield, Carlinville, and Brighton applying. That means two days every week for the entire summer, those players will get a taste of what Gillespie has to offer. Eventually, we’d love to build a gym that could house 2-3 full basketball courts to host basketball leagues and tournaments. We’re in a perfect location, 45 minutes south of Springfield and 45 minutes north of St. Louis. Imagine 10-15 teams (10 players per team, 2 parents per player = 300 players and parents) visiting Gillespie every month. How great would that be for local restaurants and shops? What else can we do to draw people to the area?

I firmly believe the only way to create an identity is to go big or go home. We have to take the risk, or we’ll be asking the same questions year after year. Invest. Invest. Invest. People have to open up their bank accounts and bet on Gillespie/Benld. And I know people think Ageless was paid for mainly by insurance money, but the truth is, the insurance money didn’t even cover 1/3 of the cost of Ageless. I have the loan and a dwindled bank account to prove it.

I don’t believe in dying with a big bank account, much to the dismay of my accountant and bank. Like Van Gogh, I’ll probably die broke and penniless. I’m fine with that because to me quality of life is so much more important than quantity of life. If I’m going to raise my kids in Gillespie and live here for another 40-50 years, I’d be an idiot not to invest in the community. I read a great quote the other day that pretty much sums it up:

Dalai Lama – when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

We need to seriously read the above quote several times, and self reflect. We can’t depend on “outsiders” to help rebuild main street. It has to come within the city limits.

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Letters to the Editor

Letter: Time for Republicans to rally around President Donald Trump

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President Donald Trump will formally accept the Republican Party nomination for President at the Republican National Convention next week.

America is a country divided and by virtue of accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for president, half the country will embrace him while the other half will want nothing to do with him.

The divide between Democrats and Republicans is nothing new, but what is new is the use of lawfare to target political rivals. Here in Illinois, the moment President Trump and his delegates filed their paperwork to be on the ballot in the Land of Lincoln, a group of far-left radicals immediately filed an objection to the filing. The objection was an outlandish legal charge that President Trump was the instigator of the events on January 6th, 2021, and was therefore not eligible to be on the ballot.

In the end these bogus accusations went nowhere. Even legal experts who were no fans of the 45th President thought the objection was ridiculous. But this is the state of affairs in politics today. Instead of putting ideas on the ballot and campaigning on the merits of those ideas, the far-left radicals are weaponizing our courts and targeting people solely on the basis of political ideology.

Donald Trump is without a doubt the most famous person in the world and like all famous people, he has his fans as well as his detractors. He is not “literally Hitler” as the extremists on the left claim. He is not the enemy of Democracy. He is a candidate for office like any other candidate. His ideas of a strong border, a strong military, low taxes, reduced business regulations, trade deals that protect American interests and a desire to protect America’s interests abroad have been a part of the public discourse for a long time. The notion that these ideas are an “assault on our Democracy” is just nonsense.

President Trump was leading in the majority of the battleground states long before the country saw Joe Biden’s decline in real time during the recent Presidential debate. And the reason he was leading in the polls is because Americans in growing numbers have rejected Joe Biden’s failed policies. The fact that Joe Biden has demonstrated his complete inability to serve has only served to give President Trump even more momentum than he already had ahead of the Republican National Convention.

It is time for our party to rally around our nominee. We cannot afford to continue Biden’s open border policies that are crippling our cities. We need a President who is strong on crime and who will work with state and local governments to keep our communities safe. We need a leader who will put an end to the inflation hurting so many families. I hear all of the time from constituents who are overwhelmed by the price of food and other household necessities. The current Administration won’t fix a problem and in fact they won’t even acknowledge the problem exists.

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I call on everyone who may have voted for someone other than Donald Trump to watch the Convention and rally around our nominee. So-called “Republicans” like Adam Kinzinger who have done the unthinkable and endorsed Joe Biden are not only embarrassing themselves, but they are contributing to our nation’s decline.

We cannot afford another four years of the Green New Scam, the open border policies and the weaponization of the justice department to target political opponents. Joe Biden ran to heal our country and all he has done is fracture us even more. It is time to put America first and Donald Trump will do just that. It is time for Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, and moderate Democrats to rally around President Trump and Make America Great Again!

State Representative Adam Niemerg

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Letters to the Editor

Letter: Domestic violence is prevalent in Macoupin County

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Dear Editor,

Domestic Violence within Macoupin County is prevalent. It is destructive and can be both physical and psychological. It can affect anyone of any age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. It may include behaviors meant to scare, physically harm, or control a partner. While every relationship is different – domestic violence generally involves an unequal power dynamic in which one partner tries to assert control over the other in a variety of ways. The following statistics are all according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

We can see domestic violence inside the home: through the use and control of household pets. In one study, 85% of survivors who experienced co-occurring animal abuse reported that the behavior of their pets had changed. An even higher percentage of survivors who reported partners had harmed or killed their pet, have also reported their partner for domestic violence. We can also see an increase usage of firearms within the intimate partner violence home. A survey of contacts by the National Domestic Violence Hotline found (of those with access to firearms):  

  • 10% said their abusers had fired a gun during an argument.  
  • 67% believed their abusers were capable of killing them. 

We can see domestic violence inside our schools: as partner violence is not exclusive to the home. There are many instances of violence between dating partners that begin in high school. Nearly 1.5 million high school students in the United States are physically abused by dating partners every year. Within those relationships, 13.4% of male high school students report being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.  

We can see domestic violence inside our community: Macoupin County provides a specific set of needs for those victims and survivors of domestic violence. There are several complex concerns within a violent relationship that come to light once action has been taken. Safe Families sees a few main re-occurring concerns within the county:  

  • Survivors have fewer financial resources, making them more financially dependent on an abusive partner.  
  • The lack of rental units or other affordable housing options makes it more difficult for survivors to leave spouses or co-habiting abusers.  

The Macoupin County Safe Families program provides support for residents as they journey the emotional endeavors to leave behind domestic violence. As a contributor to that experience, we will be hosting a Domestic Violence Awareness Walk on October 7th on the Carlinville Square. An event shirt will be included with a ticket sale. The online tickets will close 09/29 at 5pm. Tickets will be sold at 9am day-of event at the Safe Families booth. More information about the Awareness Walk can be found on our website at mcphd@mcphd.net. We urge Macoupin County residents to join us and rally against domestic violence together.  

Juliet Wooldridge and Lilly Booth

Domestic Violence Advocate Coordinators
Community Health Worker
Macoupin County Safe Families

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Letters to the Editor

Letter: National Health Center Week is week of August 6

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Dear Editor,

Community Health Centers are the backbone of our nation’s primary health care system. We design innovative, integrated primary care based on what services communities need most — ensuring access to affordable, quality healthcare for over 30 million people. In addition to creating jobs and saving lives, collectively we save American taxpayers $24 billion a year in health care costs by preventing and managing chronic diseases.

Community Health Centers are not ordinary medical clinics; we are also problem-solvers who reach beyond the exam room to care for the whole person by providing access to necessities like food, transportation, and housing. Community Health Centers care for everyone, regardless of insurance status. Nationwide during hurricanes, floods, and fires, and locally during the pandemic, Community Health Centers are first on the scene and are vital to keeping America healthy.

The 2023 theme of National Health Center Week is ‘The Roadmap to a Stronger America.’ Community Health Centers serve as the beacon of strength, service, and care in their communities. In moments of pain and loss, we offer support and love. In moments of triumph, we offer hope and a vision for the future. This year’s National Health Center Week theme takes us on a virtual road trip across America, highlighting the achievements and amazing work being done at Community Health Centers in every state and territory. Celebrate the uniqueness of our community and get to know others as we journey across the U.S. together!

Each day of National Health Center Week is dedicated to a particular focus area. We will be working with community partners to recognize and celebrate each of the following focus groups in our community.

As part of National Health Center Week 2023, we invite you to support Macoupin Community Health Centers, Inc. to celebrate our mission and accomplishments.

Christy Blank
CEO/Public Health Administrator
Macoupin Community Health Centers, Inc.
Macoupin County Public Health Department

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