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by Steve Robinson


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McLean County Board Report
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Recording Secretary:  Judith A. LaCasse

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Movie ‘BIKES vs CARS’ to be shown February 17 at Normal Theatre

Bike BloNo, the Bloomington-Normal Marriott, the Normal Theater and the Town of Normal are partnering together to present the fifth annual winter bike movie, BIKES vs CARS.
The movie will be shown on Wednesday, February 17 at 7:00 pm at the Normal Theater, 209 North Street in Normal. Doors will open at 6:30 pm for this free showing; however, a suggested donation of $7 will support Bike BloNo and Walk In Bike Out, an organization that repairs and provides free bikes to community members in need.
Three free bike tune-ups courtesy of the local bike shops (Bloomington Cycle & Fitness, Vitesse Cycle Shop and Wilson’s Cycle) will be raffled off that evening. Attendees are entered in the drawing by donating $7, purchasing or renewing a Bike BloNo membership, purchasing a Bike BloNo t-shirt or donating a bike to Walk In Bike Out.
New this year, the Bloomington-Normal Marriott will be selling a selection of bike-themed beers during the event.
For more information on the event or to RSVP, visit bit.ly/bikemovie2016



Valentine’s Big Band Dance February 14

The Illinois State University Jazz Ensembles will present a Valentine’s Big Band Dance from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14, at The New Lafayette Club, 1602 S. Main St., Bloomington. Admission to the dance is $15 per person at the door.
The event will feature classic big band music from the 1930s and 1940s as well as a wide variety of ballroom dance styles including cha-cha-cha, rhumba, waltz, swing, salsa and samba. All proceeds from the dance will help support jazz activities at Illinois State. A cash bar will be available. Those attending are asked not to wear jeans or T-shirts. For more information, contact Tom Marko at 438-2541 or tjmarko@ilstu.edu.







ISU Speaker Series hosts civil rights advocate Bayard Rustin Feb. 14th
In celebration of Black History Month, Carlos Figueroa of Ithaca College will explore politics at the confluence of race, religion, sexuality, and policy development. He will speak about his latest book with a talk titled “Bayard Rustin: Black Gay Quaker Thinker and Civil Rights & Labor Activist,” at 7 p.m. Monday, February 15, in the Prairie Room of the Bone Student Center.
Figueroa’s talk will be held in conjunction with The Legacy Wall exhibit at Milner Library. The traveling exhibit features “mini-biographies” of lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGBT), and transgender people, and aims to raise awareness of the roles LGBT people have played in shared human history.
The author of the upcoming Quakers, Race and Empire: Political Ecumenism and U.S. Insular Policy Rhetoric, 1898–1917, Figueroa will explore Rustin’s Quaker sensibilities, and how his reliance on Quaker principles–peace, equality, integrity, simplicity, community, and truth – informed his nonviolent protest, and later the coalition building during the black freedom and equality struggles of the 1950s-1960s.
“The way in which Rustin planned, organized, and facilitated important events through his Quakerism provides us with an opportunity to reconsider models for dealing with racial, social, and economic injustices across U.S. cities, including some college campuses today,” said Figueroa, an assistant professor of politics.
Figueroa holds a dual Ph.D. in political science and historical studies from The New School for Social Research. He studied politics, history, and literature abroad at Wroxton College in Oxfordshire, England, and democracy and diversity at the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies.
The talk is sponsored by Illinois State’s Department of History and the Office of the President. The exhibit is sponsored by the Office of the President and Milner Library.
The President’s Speaker Series seeks to bring innovative and enlightening speakers to the campus with the aim of providing the community with a platform to foster dialogue, cultivate enriching ideas, and continue an appreciation of learning as an active and lifelong process. All talks are free and open to the public.


Bloomington Kiwanis Pancake Days (and Scholastic Book Fair) to be Feb. 20 & 21

Funds send local kids to Camp Limberlost and support children’s projects
Bloomington Kiwanis Pancake Days has been an annual tradition since 1951. The club holds this event annually in late February serving pancakes and sausage to over 3,000 people. Pancake Days is held at the BCPA - Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts building (lower level ballroom). Pancakes are prepared by Kiwanis members and community organizations on specially designed and crafted griddles creating fresh, steaming hot buttermilk pancakes which are served with sausage, coffee (or milk or orange juice). 
This year Pancake Days are Saturday, February 20 and Sunday, February 21 from 7:00 AM to 12:30 PM.  Tickets are available at the door:  Adults $7.00 and Children (age 5-12) $3.00 - Children under age 5 are free.  Advance tickets are only $6.00 for Adults. To purchase tickets in advance, contact any Bloomington Kiwanis member, post on Bloomington Kiwanis Facebook page or call the Kiwanis District office at (309) 585-2216.
Pancake Days was expanded over 10 years ago to include a book fair, selling books for all ages through the Scholastic Books organization. The books at the fair include a wide variety of children’s and family interest selections.  Members of the Bloomington Kiwanis club volunteer at the book fair to assist shoppers with book selections and purchases.  The Book Fair hours are 7 am to 1:00 pm, February 20 and 21. 
Proceeds from the Bloomington Kiwanis Pancake Days and Book Fair go toward the club’s signature project of sending local deserving children to Camp Limberlost, as well as other programs benefitting local kids such as Aktion Club, Boys and Girls Club, WD Boyce Boy Scouts of America, Salvation Army and Children’s Miracle Network.  Each summer, since 1930, Bloomington Kiwanis has sent approximately 100 8-10 year olds who have been identified as children who would benefit from a camping experience, to Camp Limberlost at East Bay Camp at Lake Bloomington. Camp Limberlost is supported by fundraisers throughout the year including Pancake Days, Mother’s Day Flower Sale, Peanut Days, cheese sales, and individual and business/corporate donations.
The Bloomington Kiwanis Club was formed in 1920, with its charter in 1921, and has had many local community and business leaders as members and officers through the years.  It is part of Kiwanis International, a service organization whose mission is to change the world, one community and one child at a time, which is celebrating its 100 Year Anniversary around the world.
The club meets every Monday at noon for one hour at Biaggi’s on N. Veterans Parkway in Bloomington.  Lunch and a program are included at each meeting.  More information can be found at www.bloomingtonkiwanis.org . ##




Master Gardener’s Home, Lawn and Garden Day to be Sat., March 5
The 14th annual University of Illinois Extension McLean County Master Gardener Home, Lawn and Garden Day will be hosted at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, Illinois on Saturday, March 5. It is an all-day gardening extravaganza in which attendees get inspired, visit local vendors and interact with other knowledge seekers. Attendees will attend the keynote session, three breakout sessions, one mini-session with a Master Gardener, and breakfast and lunch for a $50 registration fee. Registration is open until February 26 and classes fill up fast. For registration please visit http://web.extension.illinois.edu/lmw or stop by the McLean County Extension office at 1615 Commerce Parkway, Bloomington for more details. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program or have further questions please contact Brittnay Haag at the Extension office at (309) 663-8306.
Just a few classes highlighted at this year’s event includes Herbal Tea Gardens by McLean County Master Gardener Diane Boeck; String Ball Gardening by Mary Leach from the Peoria Orchid Society; and Seven Steps to Set Up Your Home Landscape Design by Patrick Murphy, Horticulturist and Curator of the Fell Arboretum at Illinois State University. Dr. Lesley Deem from the University of Illinois Pollinatarium will talk about plants to include in the garden for larvae and adult butterflies.
Amanda Thomsen is one of the most popular garden bloggers of our generation. The name of the blog is “Kiss My Aster;” an eye brow-raising name for a woman loved by gardeners young and old. She writes for the popular trade journal, Greenhouse Grower, and is often highlighted in Fine Gardening magazine. Her mission, according to the editors, is to “youngify” the content. This year she brings her garden philosophies and easy to apply gardening hacks. Her keynote presentation is entitled “150 Ways to Create a Fantastic Yard Totally Tailored to You.” Attendees will be inspired and ready to take on the gardening season.
Amanda Thomsen, garden blogger and author, has gained popularity with her laid back approach to writing how she would talk to her best friend. She doesn’t pretend to have the perfect garden and has no intention to do so. She describes gardening and personal expression and baulks at the idea of a pristine garden. She embraces the garden tasks as a form of anger management.  Growing up in a family that idealized Jim Crockett’s Victory Garden ideals, she became a garden blogger when there weren’t blogs about gardening, first writing about her experiences as a garden center employee. She does not boast accolades but only describes it as “hot fudge” on top of a need to write about all things gardening.
The ever popular Shane Cultra from County Arbors Nursery in Urbana will open the day focusing on “New and Exciting Plants for 2016.” Shane is known for his charismatic presentations, super star amongst the Master Gardeners and will sure to have you running to the garden centers to buy the hot new plants for the year.
For more information please contact Kelly Allsup, Extension unit educator, Horticulture-Livingston, McLean and Woodford Unit at (309) 663-8306, or email Kelly at kallsup@illinois.edu.





Heartland Theatre Co. Opens ‘Clybourne Park’ Thursday, Feb. 11

Heartland Theatre Company opens Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, on Thursday, February 11, with a Pay-What-You-Can Preview.  Performances continue through February 27. The play is sponsored by Mike and Cindy Kerber.
Rhys Lovell, Artistic Director at Heartland, directs Clybourne Park, which features a mix of Heartland and ISU actors: John Bowen, Anastasia Ferguson, John Fischer, Joshua McCauley, Elante Richardson, Michelle Woody, Tim Wyman and Kristi Zimmerman.
Clybourne Park explodes in two outrageous acts set fifty years apart. Act One takes place in 1959, as nervous (white) community leaders anxiously try to stop the sale of a home to a black family. Act Two is set in the same house in the present day, as the now predominantly African-American neighborhood battles to hold its ground in the face of gentrification. Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. [Mature Language & Themes]
Performances are February 11, 12, 13 and 18, 19, 20, 21 and 25, 26, 27. Note:  There is NO performance on February 14 or 28
Sunday, February 21 Panel Discussion After The Matinee:
“Gentrification; How is This Play an Agent of Change?” with guests Meghan Burke, IWU Sociology Dept. Asst. Professor and Duane Boutte, ISU School of Theatre & Dance Asst. Professor
Ticket Prices: General Admission - $15, Senior Discount - $12, Student Discount - $5. Group Rates Available:  Email boxoffice@heartlandtheatre.org for a rate quote.
Curtain Times: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday matinees (No performance on Sunday, November 8.) Location: 1110 Douglas St, One Normal Plaza, Community Activity Center
For Reservations Call 309 452 8709 or email boxoffice@heartlandtheatre.org. Reservations Recommended for all performances except Pay-What-You-Can. No reservations taken on that night only for other than season ticket holders.
For More Information, Check out our website:  www.heartlandtheatre.org






Bloomington Polar Plunge to be held Saturday, February 27
The Polar Plunge, presented by Law Enforcement Torch Run and GEICO, is a unique opportunity to support Special Olympics athletes by taking a leap into the frigid waters of Miller Park Lake. The concept is simple: participants raise a minimum of $100 in donations in exchange for jumping into Illinois’ icy winter waters!  Besides bragging rights, all plungers will receive an official Polar Plunge hooded sweatshirt and entrance into a Post-Plunge party.  Additional incentive prizes are provided to those who raise $250, $500, or $1,000+ for the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois! You will also be eligible to win a seven-night trip for two adults to Riu Palace Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
 Anyone can plunge – young and old. Only registered plungers will be allowed in the water. No one of any age is allowed to be carried into the water. A parent or guardian must sign the waiver form if a plunger is under age 18. Attire: Anything but a wetsuit. Shoes are recommended; costumes are encouraged. Remember to bring a towel to dry off!
Plunge time will be 10 a.m.  for teams of 20 or more and noon  for smaller teams and individuals. Check-in time is 9:30 a.m.-noon
To register or support a plunger online visit:  http://soill.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=556&instance_id=5363
For more information contact Jill Bertelsen at 309-888-2012 or jbertelsen@soill.org.





Advocate BroMenn presents free ‘Concerns of the Heart’ event Feb. 25
Advocate BroMenn Medical Center will host “Concerns of the Heart,” a free community event, Thursday, Feb. 25 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Parke Regency Hotel and Conference Center, 1413 Leslie Dr., Bloomington.
Concerns of the Heart is an evening dedicated to the heart. Advocate Heart Institute and Advocate Medical Group physicians and experts from BroMenn Medical Center’s Cardiopulmonary Services will provide information to improve heart health and overall well-being.
From 5:30 to 6 p.m., screenings and displays related to heart health will be available for participants. Screenings include blood pressure and atrial fibrillation. Light hors d’oeuvres will be served at this time.
From 6 to 8 p.m. physicians will share expert information and answer questions. Advocate Heart Institute cardiologists Dr. James McCriskin and Dr. Wittoon Wera will speak, respectively, on atrial fibrillation and the use of statins.  Dr. David Koh, an Advocate Medical Group pulmonologist will present on lung cancer screenings and the importance of early detection.
The event is free, but registration is required. Please call (toll free) 800.323.8622 or visit www.advocatehealth.com/bromenn for more information or to register.







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Bill Linneman
Broadway Melodies

Helen J. Leake's Gardeners Tips
Longer daylight hours stimulating house plants

Capitol Facts by Rich Miller
Rauner not about to repeat mistakes of former Governors

Classic Colcalsure
Second Time Around

Normal Town Council Report
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Unit 5 School Board Report
 
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McLean County Board Report

by Steve Robinson

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Capitol Commentary from Senator Bill Brady
News from the Capitol

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Unit 5 School Board Report

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HCE Units to study History/Mysteries of McLean County
McLean County Home and Community Education groups will be learning about “History/Mysteries of McLean County” during their February meetings. The Fact Find is “Time to Dream and Plan Your Garden”. 
Other programs and workshops:  1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 8, Ribbon Wreath by Fran Burns, Extension Office, 1615 Commerce Parkway, Bloomington—reservations, fees and supplies list by Feb. 2, call Edna at 309-662-5520; 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 15, Community Service Day, making bags for walkers and hats, scarves and mittens and seat belt covers, Farm Bureau Building, near Interstate Center Dr., Bloomington, call Karen at 309-826-9559; 2-3:30 p.m. Feb. 15, Read and Share, “The Rosie Project” by Graimie Simsion, Extension Office Boardroom, call LaVon at 309-661-6391.
Our Annual Friendship/Membership Tea will be held on February 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Mennonite Church of Normal, Cottage and Hovey, Normal. The Bloomington Tea Ladies will present the program, “Treasure Thy Friend.”  Bring your own cup and saucer. Members are $5 and guests are free.  Call Kathryn for tickets at 309-275-8898.

Night Owls:  7 p.m. Feb. 17, home of Kathryn McNeely, 2012 E. Lincoln St. Bloomington, lesson by Rosemary Martin and hostess is Arlene Sieg; 309-275-6723.






Actor Giancarlo Esposito to headline Black History Cultural Dinner Feb. 24th
Award-winning actor, director, and education advocate Giancarlo Esposito will be the guest speaker at the Black History Cultural Dinner at 5 p.m. Wednesday, February 24, in the Brown Ballroom of the Bone Student Center.
Tickets for the dinner are available online. Tickets are $20, or one swipe of a meal plan for Illinois State students. Tickets are available online only, and will not be sold at the door.
During the dinner, Esposito will share his journey as an actor and an artist with a will to succeed despite the hurdles many people of color face while trying to break into “the industry.”
The event is sponsored by Illinois State’s University Housing Services, Campus Dining Services, the Association of Residence Halls, Hewett-Manchester Student Association, East Campus Diversity Coalition, and MECCPAC, a Dean of Students’ Diversity Initiative.
Esposito is a celebrated television, film, and stage actor, whose career spans decades and includes more than 60 films. Television audiences know him best for his iconic portrayal of drug kingpin Gustavo “Gus” Fring in AMC’s award-winning series Breaking Bad, for which he won the 2012 Critics Choice Award and earned a 2012 Emmy nomination. Other notable roles include Spike Lee films such as School Daze and Do The Right Thing, as well as Rabbit Hole, The Usual Suspects, Smoke, and The Last Holiday.
In 2007, through his production company, Quiet Hand Productions, Esposito made his feature directorial debut with the film Gospel Hill. He also co-starred with Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Julia Stiles, Taylor Kitsch, and Samuel L. Jackson. Quiet Hand Productions aspires to make “conscious content” films that focus on the inspirational.


Parkside Elementary School honored for academic success
The Illinois State Board of Education recently announced that Parkside Elementary School was among two Illinois schools that were honored for their academic gains during the recent National Title I Association annual conference. Parkside Elementary School in McLean County Unit District 5 and Healy Elementary School in Chicago School District 299 were among schools recognized for helping low-income students achieve academic success.
“Celebrating the accomplishments of these two Illinois schools on a national platform is an extraordinary opportunity,” said State Board of Education Chairman James T. Meeks. “As Illinois strives to be a national model of education reform, this honor sets the stage for our schools to share their commitment to strong academics and best practices for preparing every child to reach their full potential.”
The National Title I Association, established to help improve and implement programs under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA), recognizes up to two schools per state as National Title I Distinguished Schools. Title I is the largest federally funded pre-college education program, providing funding to school districts that serve students from low-income families. The schools were honored during the association’s annual conference in Houston, TX, on Jan. 28-31.
The National Title I Association allows each state to select one qualifying school in each of the following two categories:
High Performing - A school that has achieved high performance levels for two or more years.
Achievement Gap - A school that has significantly closed the achievement gap between subgroups of students.
Results were based on 2014 scores from the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), which measured the achievement of third- through eighth-graders in reading and mathematics and measured achievement in science among fourth- and seventh-graders. Illinois replaced the ISAT with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams in 2015.
“The State Board is proud to commend these two schools on overcoming the challenges related to teaching our neediest kids,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “The teachers, administrators, and families of these two schools deserve the credit for working together to achieve academic gains that better prepare these students for success in college and their chosen career path.”
Parkside Elementary has successfully reduced its achievement gap among racial/ethnic groups as well as among economic levels. The school’s ISAT composite score has increased by 7.1 percentage points, growing from 61.5 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards in 2011 to 68.6 in 2014. This school, which is in Normal, has closed the racial/ethnic achievement gap from 37.5 percent in 2011 to 24.1 percent in 2014. Additionally, the achievement gap has also narrowed between low-income and non-low-income students from 43.9 percent in 2011 to 31.6 percent in 2014. Parkside has a school poverty rate of more than 52 percent.
Shelly Erickson served as principal of Parkside from 2006 to 2014 and noted the school’s low-income rate doubled over a two-year period shortly after she began. To help students overcome challenges and meet learning targets, the school started a small group-guided reading structure and then moved to a reader’s workshop model, where all teachers learned how to administer and analyze running records and how to provide appropriate, targeted interventions for students.
“It’s a tremendous honor and I think it really validates all of the hard work that my staff did through those years,” Erickson said. “Everyone really pulled together and we changed kids’ lives by teaching them how to read.”





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Images from recent games are available for viewing and purchase

Normal Community Ironmen, Normal Community West Wildcats, Ridgeview Mustangs, University High School Pioneers, Central Catholic Saints, Lexington Minutemen, ElPaso Gridley Titans, Illinois State University Redbird, Illinois Wesleyan Titan, State Farm Holiday Classic, McLean County Tournament, HOI Conference, Heart of Illinois


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All seats $7• Refreshments $1
Doors open 6:30 pm • Showtime 7:00 pm
Prize drawing every night
Great cartoons before classic movies
Hotline: 454-9722

Casablanca
Thur & Sat • Feb. 11 & 13
Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who owns a nightclub in Casablanca, discovers his old flame Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) is in town with her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Laszlo is a famed rebel, and with Germans on his tail, Ilsa knows Rick can help them get out of the country. PG / 102 min.
The Princess Bride
Fri & Sun • Feb. 12 & 14
A fairy tale adventure about a beautiful young woman and her one true love. He must find her after a long separation and save her. They must battle the evils of the mythical kingdom of Florin to be reunited with each other. Based on the William Goldman novel “The Princess Bride” PG / 98 min.
The SpongeBob Movie
A FREE Dress Up Movie Event
Sat. Feb. 13 • 1:00 PM
When a diabolical pirate above the sea steals the secret Krabby Patty formula, SpongeBob and his nemesis Plankton must team up in order to get it back. PG / 93 min.
Some Like It Hot
Tuesday, February 16
After witnessing a Mafia murder, slick saxophone player Joe (Tony Curtis) and his long-suffering buddy, Jerry (Jack Lemmon), improvise a quick plan to escape from Chicago with their lives. While Joe pretends to be a millionaire to win the band’s sexy singer, Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), Jerry finds himself pursued by a real millionaire (Joe E. Brown) as things heat up and the mobsters close in. PG / 122 min.
Bikes vs. Cars
Wednesday, Feb. 17
In the film we meet activists and thinkers who are fighting for better cities and who refuse to stop riding despite the increasing number killed in traffic. Volunteers will be asking for donations, which will be split between Bike BloNo and Walk In Bike Out, which repairs and provides free bikes to people who need them in our community. The Normal Marriott will also be selling a selection of bike-themed beers during the event. Unrated / 90 min. Free to attend.


 

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Heartland art exhibit features environmentally friendly works by Melanie Scott-Dockery
Melanie Scott-Dockery: Then and Now is on display now through March 4 in the Joe McCauley Gallery, located in room 2507 of the Instructional Commons Building (ICB) on Heartland’s Normal campus, 1500 W. Raab Road. An artist reception will be held on Thursday, March 3 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. at the gallery.
In Then and Now, Scott-Dockery blends her art with materials created or grown in her garden and kitchen. This production and use of botanical materials reflects her drive for “capturing change and transformation.”
“This body of work was spurred by a desire to stop purchasing ready-made supplies encased in plastic or metal and to connect my art practice to my gardening practice,” states Scott-Dockery. While she still works with acrylic and oil paints, she believes “it is important to consider the environmental impact of how we work as artists. I am far from having the answers, but I do want to engage in discussion to explore the possibilities.”
The current exhibit includes anthotype photograms on paper, a painting composed with plant dyes on canvas, cloches filled with milkweed seed and fluff, pastel and charcoal drawings, a variety of seeds and a box filled with next spring’s plantable art media. Also on display are samples of her handmade milkweed papers, some saturated with seeds, that visitors are encouraged to touch.
Exhibits, events, and parking at Heartland’s Joe McCauley Gallery are free. Gallery hours are weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on days the College is open. For more information about this exhibit, contact Danell Dvorak, gallery coordinator, at danell.dvorak@heartland.edu or call Heartland’s Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Department at (309) 268-8620.
Melanie Scott-Dockery completed a Master of Fine Arts at Northern Illinois University in 2004 and a Bachelor of Arts in fine art at the University of Southern Indiana in 1997. During the summer of 1995 she studied art in Florence, Italy through Indiana University’s overseas program.
Since the early 1990s, she has exhibited her work throughout the Midwest of the United States with exhibits at the McLean County Art Center in Bloomington, Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, the Around the Coyote Art Festival in Chicago and The Project Lodge in Madison, WI.
Scott-Dockery lives in Bloomington, teaches art part-time and tends a large garden.



Women in Communications Crystal Awards event to be held Thursday, Feb. 25
Join us for the annual Association for Women in Communications Crystal Awards Red Carpet Event on Thursday, Feb. 25 at the DoubleTree by Hilton. A cash bar and social will begin at 5:30 pm with the program starting at 6:00 pm. Note: Early bird pricing is available until January 31.
The evening is a celebration for AWC and community members alike as we honor outstanding women in an elegant affair. The Bloomington-Normal chapter will spotlight women of excellence by presenting the following honors during the event: Outstanding Woman in Communications, AWC Communication Innovation, Crystal Award and Student Scholarship.
The Outstanding Woman in Communications is a community member who exemplifies professional excellence and embodies the ideals of communication. The award winner displays a daily dedication to the craft as well as an understanding of the potential of communication as a tool to build and strengthen relationships, and reach into the community.
Nominees for Outstanding Woman in Communications for 2016 include: Susan Blystone of Illinois State University and Stephanie Adomaitis of Marcfirst.
The AWC Communication Innovation Award honors a woman who has achieved excellence in communicating a project, mission, or event, even though it is above and beyond her professional duties. Though she is not a communications professional, the innovator captures audiences and carries the ideal of communication as a way to create connections and further a goal.
Nominees for the AWC Communication Innovation Award for 2016 include: Sara Mayer of the City of Bloomington, Judy Brown of the Illinois Theatre Consortium, Deborah Halperin of Illinois Wesleyan University, Jennifer Sedbrook of OSF Healthcare, and Jamie Sennett of Illinois State University.
Also celebrated at the event will be the top AWC member of the year, honored with the Crystal Award. Chapter members nominated are Heather Wagner of the Town of Normal and Sarah Julian of COUNTRY Financial. The AWC student scholarship will also be awarded that night.
Reservations are required for the dinner. Admission to the dinner is $50 per person, or a table of 8 for $300. Early bird pricing ($40 per person) is available until January 31. Make your reservations through the events tab at http://awcblono.weebly.com/.



Free Income Tax Preparation Sites Open This Saturday
With tax season underway, trained volunteers are ready to offer free tax help to eligible community members. United Way of McLean County (UWMC) is once again partnering with the Bloomington-Normal VITA Foundation to prepare and file tax returns at four IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites in Bloomington-Normal. Eligible residents of McLean County are invited to visit a VITA site and complete their free federal and state tax returns now through April 14.
VITA promotes community-wide financial stability by linking McLean County residents to essential income-based resources. Providing free tax preparation helps low-income individuals and families access these often costly services. According to the IRS, the National Society of Accountants recently conducted a survey which showed that the average cost of professional tax preparation is $261.
IRS-certified volunteers help ensure individuals receive tax credits they may qualify for such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. These credits serve as important income supports for individuals and families.
For those interested in visiting a VITA site, volunteers are available to prepare free federal and state returns at the locations and times listed below. You can also visit BN VITA at www.bnfreetaxservices.org.
Locations:
• Heartland Community College, 1500 W. Raab Road, Normal, Workforce Development Center, Room 3601. Tuesday: 5-8 p.m.; Thursday: 5-8 p.m.
• Bloomington Housing Authority, 104 E. Wood Street, Bloomington. Monday: 5-8 p.m.; Saturday 9-12 (noon)
• United Way of McLean County, 201 E. Grove St. Bloomington, IL 61701, 309.828.7383
• Mid Central Community Action, 1301 W. Washington St., Bloomington. Wednesday: 5-8 p.m. (By appointment only. Call 309.829.0691)
• Normal Activity Center, 1110 Douglas St., Normal. Friday: 9:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. (By appointment only. Call 309.888.9099)
• Western Avenue Community Center, 600 N. Western Ave., Bloomington. Friday (Feb 5th – April 18th) 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Who is eligible?
• Single individuals with no dependents and income of $35,000 or less
• Single with dependents and income of $55,000 or less
• Married with combined incomes of $55,000 or less
Information and documents to bring to your appointment:
• Tax information such as W-2, 1099, 1095A, etc.
• Social Security cards or ITINs for all persons on the return
• Government issued photo ID
• Copy of your 2014 Federal Tax Return



Master Gardener’s Home, Lawn and Garden Day to be Sat., March 5
The 14th annual University of Illinois Extension McLean County Master Gardener Home, Lawn and Garden Day will be hosted at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, Illinois on Saturday, March 5. It is an all-day gardening extravaganza in which attendees get inspired, visit local vendors and interact with other knowledge seekers. Attendees will attend the keynote session, three breakout sessions, one mini-session with a Master Gardener, and breakfast and lunch for a $50 registration fee. Registration is open until February 26 and classes fill up fast. For registration please visit http://web.extension.illinois.edu/lmw or stop by the McLean County Extension office at 1615 Commerce Parkway, Bloomington for more details. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program or have further questions please contact Brittnay Haag at the Extension office at (309) 663-8306.
Just a few classes highlighted at this year’s event includes Herbal Tea Gardens by McLean County Master Gardener Diane Boeck; String Ball Gardening by Mary Leach from the Peoria Orchid Society; and Seven Steps to Set Up Your Home Landscape Design by Patrick Murphy, Horticulturist and Curator of the Fell Arboretum at Illinois State University. Dr. Lesley Deem from the University of Illinois Pollinatarium will talk about plants to include in the garden for larvae and adult butterflies.
Amanda Thomsen is one of the most popular garden bloggers of our generation. The name of the blog is “Kiss My Aster;” an eye brow-raising name for a woman loved by gardeners young and old. She writes for the popular trade journal, Greenhouse Grower, and is often highlighted in Fine Gardening magazine. Her mission, according to the editors, is to “youngify” the content. This year she brings her garden philosophies and easy to apply gardening hacks. Her keynote presentation is entitled “150 Ways to Create a Fantastic Yard Totally Tailored to You.” Attendees will be inspired and ready to take on the gardening season.
Amanda Thomsen, garden blogger and author, has gained popularity with her laid back approach to writing how she would talk to her best friend. She doesn’t pretend to have the perfect garden and has no intention to do so. She describes gardening and personal expression and baulks at the idea of a pristine garden. She embraces the garden tasks as a form of anger management.  Growing up in a family that idealized Jim Crockett’s Victory Garden ideals, she became a garden blogger when there weren’t blogs about gardening, first writing about her experiences as a garden center employee. She does not boast accolades but only describes it as “hot fudge” on top of a need to write about all things gardening.
The ever popular Shane Cultra from County Arbors Nursery in Urbana will open the day focusing on “New and Exciting Plants for 2016.” Shane is known for his charismatic presentations, super star amongst the Master Gardeners and will sure to have you running to the garden centers to buy the hot new plants for the year.
For more information please contact Kelly Allsup, Extension unit educator, Horticulture-Livingston, McLean and Woodford Unit at (309) 663-8306, or email Kelly at kallsup@illinois.edu.

















 

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