From Illinois Valley Community College’s Community Relations Office 815.224-0465

Up to 250 district high school students are expected to participate in the Discover Manufacturing Career Expo at Illinois Valley Community College Tuesday, Oct. 25.

IVCC is partnering on the event with North Central Regional Betterment Coalition, Starved Rock Associates Vocational & Technical Education and several local sponsors and supporters.

The Manufacturing Expo invites all area high school students to explore endless possibilities in manufacturing.

PHOTO: IVCC welding program coordinator Tony Sondgeroth, right, assists a student operating a virtual welder at the 2019 Discover Manufacturing Career Expo.

“Manufacturing is a diverse and exciting industry with opportunities for students on many career paths including science, engineering, mechanics, finance, sales, communications and beyond,” said IVCC Director of Continuing Education and Business Services Jennifer Scheri.

Students visit local manufacturers in the morning for a tour and presentations showcasing functions of each business. Sites include Black Brothers Co., Canam Steel Corporation, Carus LLC, Epsilyte, HCC, Inc.; Machinery Maintenance, Inc.; On Site Repair Services, Inc., Valley Fabrication, Inc.; SABIC; and Vactor Manufacturing.

“We are thrilled to relaunch the Expo and IVCC is proud to provide a direct connection between students and local manufacturers,” said Scheri. “This year is especially exciting because it marks our first post-pandemic expo.”
After the tour, students will travel to IVCC for lunch and a keynote address by Peru native and IVCC alum Brian Krzyaniak, Vice-President of Strategic Development at Oertel Metal in Davenport.

The afternoon also includes breakout sessions led by IVCC faculty and company representatives focusing on various career tracks such as technology, business, manufacturing, and maintenance.

The Expo coincides with state and national manufacturing events. The first Friday in October is national Manufacturing Day. Illinois celebrates Manufacturing Month in October with events like Career Expo.

Manufacturing supports $580 billion of Illinois’ economic output, the largest share of its economy, according to the Illinois Manufacturers Association. In La Salle County, more than 11,000 manufacturing jobs generate over $3.8 billion.

Students interested in attending the Expo should register through their high school guidance counselor. For Expo information, contact Scheri at (815) 224-0390.

From Left to right: Illinois Valley Sunrise Rotary President Rick Hillenbrand, St. Margaret’s Health Family Dr. Fazal Khan, and NCRBC Board Member Nick Nosalik display some of the books to be distributed to new families as an encouragement for early reading for infants.

Illinois Valley Sunrise Rotary, in partnership with the North Central Regional Betterment Coalition, is providing 2,000 books to be distributed free by area pediatricians. The new books will be for families when they visit the doctor for both the infant’s 6-month checkup and their 1-year checkup. This expands an existing program which provides books and a reading advocacy pamphlet to new mothers when they are discharged from the hospital, and when they see the pediatrician for the 6-week well-baby exam.

IV Sunrise Rotary President Rick Hillenbrand says the club received a grant from parent Rotary District 6420, and combined club money along with funds from NCRBC to make the purchase. “We were happy to be able to make the purchase locally at Prairie Fox Books in Ottawa, and help our newborns get off to a fast start in life.”

NCRBC President J. Burt says, “the partnership made sense as Rotary has seven areas of focus, two of which are supporting women and children, and supporting education.”

The pediatricians and staff of both OSF St. Elizabeth and St. Margaret’s Health participate, so all families with newborns in the counties of LaSalle, Bureau, and Putnam can be recipients. Research shows when infants are exposed to words and verbal engagement in the earliest days of life, they tend to get ahead in verbal, cognitive, and instructional abilities.

Illinois Valley Sunrise Rotary President Rick Hillenbrand, 989-295-0014,

North Central Regional Betterment Coalition President J. Burt, 815-664-2600.

Hallunteers Preparing Sets for New Mothers

Recently, the Hallunteers of Hall School in Spring Valley got together on a Saturday morning to assemble sets of 4 Baby Bug books. Every mother in LaSalle, Bureau, and Putman County will get a set of books when she takes her infant child in for the 6-week checkup. Research shows infants who are read to and engaged with early do better throughout their life. Thanks to Principal Adam Meyer for coordinating this effort.

Hall School Volunteers assist NCRBC
Donor Blouke Carus

Thank you to Blouke Carus for the donation of Baby Bugs Books. As a result of Blouke’s generosity every mother in LaSalle, Bureau, and Putnam County should be getting a set of 4 Baby Bugs to read to their infants from their pediatrician when they go in for their 6-week checkup.

Stack of some of the donated Baby Bug books.

A community effort to get books into the hands of all new mothers, with the hope their children grow up to live better lives, kicks off this month.  This is the newest initiative of the North Central Regional Betterment Coalition’s (NCRBC) ‘Words Matter’ advocacy campaign.

Every new mother discharged from St. Margaret’s Health Spring Valley and St. Margaret’s Health Peru, and OSF St. Elizabeth in Ottawa, will be given a set of 6 books.  The intent is for reading to, and with, 0-to-3-year-olds.  An advocacy pamphlet describing the lifetime benefits of reading and verbally engaging infants right from birth will also be provided.


From left to right: Mark Hull North Central Regional Betterment Coalition (NCRBC), Mike Dudek LKCS, Melissa Balma Director of Obstetrics St. Margaret’s Health, Grace Sherwood UC/CAN, Amy Stone RN, Luke Tomsha Perfectly Flawed Foundation, Frank Kobilsek Illinois Valley Sunrise Rotary, J. Burt NCRBC.

“This builds on the longstanding research of the ’30 Million Words’ project, according to NCRBC President J. Burt.  This research shows the more infant to age 3 children are exposed to words, via reading and verbal engagement, the better they do at younger ages in the areas of cognitive, communication, and instructional skills.  These children start out ahead, and they tend to stay ahead.

Burt explained “the first year of the Words Matter campaign focused on reaching mothers, fathers, and grandparents during prenatal care, at hospital discharge, and in pediatrician’s offices.  It was reinforced with digital and social media. The natural progression is to begin putting books in the hands of the people most responsible for these children”


From Left to right: J. Burt North Central Regional Betterment Coalition (NCRBC), Frank Kobilsek Illinois Valley Sunrise Rotary, Dawn Trompeter President OSF St. Elizabeth, Heather Bomstad OSF Chief Nursing Officer, Dr. Brian Rosborough OSF Chief Medical Officer, Anabelle Tomas OSF Director of Family Birth, Don Damron OSF VP Ambulatory Services, Janet Kelsey OSF Pediatrics, Mike Dudek President LKCS, Lauren Theis OSF Director of Community Engagement, and Steve Seaborn VP NCRBC.

The coalition bringing the books to these new mothers includes LKCS of Peru, Illinois Valley Sunrise Rotary, the Perfectly Flawed Foundation, OSF St. Elizabeth, and St. Margaret’s Health.  LKCS is providing enough Ranger Rick Zoobie 0-to-3 books for every mother for a year and reached out to NCRBC for distribution.  From there, Perfectly Flawed Foundation and IV Sunrise Rotary worked to prepare, collate, and shrink wrap the 6-book set.

“We know there is a shortage of capable workers for our local employers and so it becomes clear we have upward room to help people do better and have a better chance at life,” Burt said. “This effort gets kids off to a better and faster start.”

Our community has a great core of volunteers who are generous with their time and have a heart for helping children in our community grow to be their best self. Recently, members of the Illinois Valley Community College Rotaract Program, the college version of Rotary, travelled to all the Little Free Libraries throughout LaSalle, Bureau, and Putnam Counties.

At each stop, members deposited 0-to-3 Babybug books that are perfect for infants through 3-year-olds, as well as the Ladybug publication and the NCRBC Words Matter Advocacy pamphlet. These are perfect additions of quality content to read to your baby.

If you have not heard about Little Free Library before, we encourage you to check them out. They are a nonprofit that provides access to books in communities throughout the United States and the world with a network of volunteer-led little libraries. These are small boxes located outside of a home or business or in a public setting where those in the community can come and take a book to read and leave one for someone else to discover. If you would like to start your own LFL or to find out more about this great organization, go to

Thank you to all of the Rotaract volunteers for assisting us in stocking our community Little Free Libraries.

Published in St. Margaret’s Healthcare 2019/2020 Winter Issue of Healthy You Magazine

Pictured: Megan H. with her newborn Remi, & twins Tristan & Jullian.

What image comes to your mind when you hear or read those two words together? To some, it may signify telling the truth as opposed to telling a lie. To others, it might reference word choice and tone – what you say and how you say it. You can be funny or kind and lift up, or you can be critical or mean and tear down.

But looking at it another way, there is ample research that shows that words matter to the very youngest among us and can have a huge impact on the quality of life of your infant or toddler as they grow into an adult.

Wow! It’s hard to believe that infancy begins to set the stage for adulthood. What does all that mean?

In 1995, two researchers discovered that infant children of wealthier families had heard and been exposed to 30 million more words by the time they reached age 3, compared to the infant children of families who were less well off. The children who hear more words early in life begin kindergarten with stronger vocabularies, are stronger readers, and get higher test scores. They also have improved processing functions and better understand instructions at earlier ages.

How many children never reach their full potential in life simply because their parents do not understand that there is a window between birth and age 3 when reading to and verbally interacting with their child is extremely important? The opportunity is easy to miss because of our lack of understanding about early brain development and capacity, along with the misconceptions we may have about what kinds of messages or words infants can process. Exposing infants and toddlers to language and other languages early on will impact their capacity for comprehension and learning. These developmental years should not be overlooked. Don’t assume that a two-month- old is only a pooping and burping machine. Carry on conversations with them using a wide variety of words, not baby talk.

When words cross the child’s ears, they become imprinted in their brain. The child can’t speak the word. The child does not know what the word means, but you are helping their developing brain to process information. Almost like a CPU, the brain processes and stores that verbal imprint. Additionally, the brain is always active. The more words flooded into the brain, the greater the capacity it has. Even as adults, the more you hear, read and see, the more you learn. Exposure to new things is especially important for the developing brain.

Almost everyone can remember a time when a cute three or four-year-old shocked everyone around by blurting out a complex, thought-induced sentence or named all the presidents in order. It’s not that they are smarter than other kids, it’s that they were exposed to that information early on. The Not-For-Profit North Central Regional Betterment Coalition (NCRBC) thinks it is time to help more parents raise the potential of their children by being advocates for exposure to language and communication in those early formative years. They hope to encourage more parents and grandparents to read to and verbally engage with the newborn to threeyear- old children in their families and circles of influence. NCRBC President J. Burt says that the mission has a dual imperative. Burt explains, “We want all children to grow up to have the most satisfying life they can possibly have. If we do that, we know we will be increasing the quantity of the number of people thriving, instead of merely striving or simply surviving in LaSalle, Bureau, and Putnam counties. That helps our communities and employers, and it also helps to attract additional employers to the area.”

NCRBC got started in the 2000’s when a government report found that what was going to hold North Central Illinois back economically was an overabundance of low-skilled, low-wage jobs, accompanied by a shortage of people living in the area without a higher education or an expanded skillset, along with a significant drug problem. In 2009, NCRBC convened a gathering of 165 people, made up of business, government, and educators, to hear an address by former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley on the issue. For the past seven years, NCRBC has been a sponsor of the Discover Manufacturing Career Expo, which creates an opportunity for high school students to tour all aspects of a local manufacturer and participate in sessions with various manufacturers and instructors at Illinois Valley Community College.

Now, NCRBC is preparing to launch a multi-pronged advocacy campaign to get more kids exposed to more words. By partnering with the region’s birthing hospitals, including St. Margaret’s Health, the group will provide the facilities with literature on the importance of reading for distribution at pre-natal classes, in hospital discharge packs, and from pediatricians at the 6-week check-up. In addition, the human resource department of each of the regions’ largest employers will be asked to distribute the reading advocacy literature to their employees who are expectant parents and grandparents. A digital advertising campaign is also planned to continue to emphasize the importance of this message.

Between the availability of smart phones and access to the public library system, there is no shortage of materials for parents to read to their infants and young children. In fact, a great place to start is to read this article out loud to your infant.

What you say to your child and how you say it matters. Encourage learning by exposing them to new things. Read out loud, whether it’s a storybook or a manual. Carry on a conversation – forgo the baby talk. Provide books they can look at. If you want your children to have the best possible life and thrive, your words matter.

Article originally published in the Bureau County Republican, January 10, 2020
By Goldie Rapp

PRINCETON — Last year was The Princeton Closet’s most profitable year in 51 years.

And with such success, Church Women United, operators of the resale shop, were able to give back to the community more than they’ve ever been able to in the past.

On Thursday, $174,450 was given away to 33 local non-profit organizations.

Shirley Johnson, president of Church Women United, claimed it was a blessing.

“It just makes me want to weep,” Johnson said.

“It’s the generosity of the community. It’s the generosity of our volunteers. It’s the generosity of the people who walk through the front door to shop,” she said.

During a brief presentation before annual donations were handed out to representatives of each receiving organization, Johnson said on this year’s application she asked applicants to write down how many people these funds touch. After tallying those numbers, she came up with 82,374 people, which is eight times more than she had guessed.

“It’s crazy good,” she said.

The volunteers of The Princeton Closet and members of Church Women United stand by the motto, “What is best for The Closet,” which might be just one of the secrets to success at the resale shop.

Or it could be that The Closet is run on a tight ship. Johnson said there are only four part-time paid employees and the rest are volunteers. They also do whatever they can to keep operation expenses as low as possible.

Steve Esme, manager at The Closet, held up two paper cutouts of children shoe prints to illustrate how The Closet got started 50 years ago. It all began when a teacher approached a couple of women with shoe cutouts and asked if they could find shoes that size to fit kids in her classroom who had nothing.

“This is what we are today after 50 years, because of the community support of all the clothing that comes in here, because of the community support of all the people who buy what we have out here,” he said.

“We have 80 volunteers who come here everyday to help make it look great, to inspect everything. We could not do it without the volunteers.”

Despite the high number of volunteers, The Closet could always use more. Esme said there are more than 100 bags of donated clothing and 100 boxes of donated housewares that haven’t even been sorted and put out yet.

“We cannot keep up with what comes in the back door and putting it out on the floor. We love having that challenge, and you could help us a lot,” he said.

NCRBC Board Members Mark Hull and Derek Fetzer were on hand to receive a check from Terry Hoelle and Shirley Johnson of The Closet for the Words Matter project.
Recipients of donations from The Closet (front row, from left) are Kim Frey, Princeton Chamber of Commerce; Dawn Conerton, Community Partners Against Substance Abuse; Joanne Baker, Wyanet Food Pantry; Denise Ihrig, Bureau County Senior Center; Vanessa Hoffeditz, Bureau County Food Pantry; Danielle Gapinski, University of Extension, Bureau County 4-H; and (back row, from left) Trisha Schafer, Freedom House; Melanie Whitmer, Community Partners Against Substance Abuse and Freedom House; Christine Davis, Princeton Chamber of Commerce; Kevin Sangston, Community Partners Against Substance Abuse; Tim Oloffson, Another Child Foundation; Janice Wamhoff, Community Partners Against Substance Abuse and Second Story Teen Center; Mark Frank, Princeton Buddy Bags; Sarah Scruggs, Arukah Institute of Healing; Dana Van Autreve, Second Story Teen Center; Brad Oeder, Flags of Freedom; Dixie Nichols, Wyanet Food Pantry; Jason Marquis, Fellowship of Christian Athletes; Derek Fetzer, North Central Regional Betterment Coalition; Sue Spratt, Perry Memorial Hospital Foundation; Mark Hull, North Central Regional Betterment Coalition; Joy Kauffman, Farm Strew International; Cherry Olin, Farm Stew International and Mike Smith, Bureau County Historical Society.

If learning starts early you child will get ahead. If your child gets ahead, chances are your child will stay ahead.

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