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We are the (culinary) champions

in Big Rock/Regional/Sugar Grove by
The fourth stage of the Culinary Champions competition was held Jan. 14 at the Sugar Grove American Legion. Lauren Robin (center) of the Illinois Restaurant Association presents a carmel apple burger to the panel of judges, including Sandwich Mayor Rick Olson (left to right), Executive Chef Steve Langlois of the Hyatt Lodge on the McDonald Campus in Oak Brook, Ill., Big Rock Village President Dean Hummell and guest judge Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels. 
Photo retrieved from Aurora Area Convention Center and Visitor’s Bureau Facebook page
The fourth stage of the Culinary Champions competition was held Jan. 14 at the Sugar Grove American Legion. Lauren Robin (center) of the Illinois Restaurant Association presents a carmel apple burger to the panel of judges, including Sandwich Mayor Rick Olson (left to right), Executive Chef Steve Langlois of the Hyatt Lodge on the McDonald Campus in Oak Brook, Ill., Big Rock Village President Dean Hummell and guest judge Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels.  Photo retrieved from Aurora Area Convention Center and Visitor’s Bureau Facebook page
The fourth stage of the Culinary Champions competition was held Jan. 14 at the Sugar Grove American Legion. Lauren Robin (center) of the Illinois Restaurant Association presents a carmel apple burger to the panel of judges, including Sandwich Mayor Rick Olson (left to right), Executive Chef Steve Langlois of the Hyatt Lodge on the McDonald Campus in Oak Brook, Ill., Big Rock Village President Dean Hummell and guest judge Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels.
Photo retrieved from Aurora Area Convention Center and Visitor’s Bureau Facebook page

Local restaurants vie to win 10-stage food competition
SUGAR GROVE—Working together to bring more tourism to the Aurora greater area, the Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has been hard at work with its latest idea: the ‘Culinary Champions’ competition.

Consisting of 10 restaurants from the cities of Aurora, Batavia, Big Rock, Hinckley, Montgomery, North Aurora, Plano, Sandwich, Sugar Grove and Yorkville, the competition boasts a lot of competitors and just as many challenges. From seafood to desserts, the championship consists of 10 contests total.

The most recent competition was held Jan. 14 at the Sugar Grove American Legion.

“We mentioned at one of the meetings that something that brings people to travel is food, so we decided to have a monthly culinary competition in each city,” Sugar Grove trustee Rick Montalto said. “So for 10 months there will be a food competition. The first month was in Hinckley and was steaks. This last one—the fourth one—was in Sugar Grove, and (involved) burgers.”

As with any competition, there are rules. All participants must be a sit-down restaurant located in one of the 10 cites that make up the greater Aurora area. The food presented at the competition must be an item that can be order at anytime. Nothing is made special for the competition.

Also, the competition cannot be held at any of the restaurants involved, giving each competitor the same chance for victory.

The judges for each event rotate between the presidents of each town or village, and include a guest judge, as well.

“Last (week), our judges were the Sugar Grove President (Sean Michels), the president of Big Rock (Dean Hummell) and the mayor of Sandwich (Rick Olson)” Montalto said.

At the dessert competition in March, there will also be a guest judge in the form of chef Gale Gand.

Also involved in these competitions is the Illinois Restaurant Association, which determines portion sizes for each competitor, creates judging criteria and tabulates the voting.

“There are different ratings for food: presentation, taste and several others,” Montalto said.

After a blind taste test and some voting by the judges, the Illinois Restaurant Association announces the winner. So far, Raimondo’s Pizza and Pub of North Aurora is in the lead, winning both best pizza and best ethnic food.

“Not only does (this competition) drum up business, but it gives each restaurant bragging rights,” Montalto said.

In addition to bragging rights, the overall winning restaurant will also have the distinction of $3,000 of free advertisement. The advertisement will come in the form of ads in the Illinois Restaurant Association’s monthly magazine and other various news sources.

“It’s a great way to bring the communities together,” Montalto said of the event.

Maple Park couple cited for dead horse found on property

in Maple Park/Regional by

MAPLE PARK—The owners of a horse found dead on their property outside of Maple Park last week were cited by Kane County Animal Control for lack of sufficient shelter and for the horse’s water being frozen.

According to Animal Control Director Brett Youngsteadt, his department received a call on the morning of Jan. 7 to report the deceased horse lying on the ground near the fence at a property in the 50W100 block of Peterson Road in rural Maple Park. When Animal Control personnel went to the property, they found the deceased horse, as well as 10 other horses on the property that “otherwise appeared to be in compliance with the law,” according to a press release from Animal Control.

All of the horses, which belong to residents Paul and Kay Phelps, were outside in extremely cold weather. Two lean-to shelters were found on the property, but Youngsteadt said that, in his opinion, given the weather, two shelters were not adequate for 11 horses.

Hay was available to the horses, and they appeared to be in good condition. However, no water was available, as it was frozen.

Youngsteadt said that he had “reached out to the experts” from the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Kane County Sheriff’s Office as part of the investigation. He said the decision was made not to conduct a necropsy, because they didn’t feel “it would yield the necessary results to give them answers.”

However, Youngsteadt said the working theory was that, due to the lack of water, the horse had likely developed colic and died.

The horse, a Haflinger mare named Maize, was at least 23 years old.

Youngsteadt said that horses can and do live outside in the winter weather. On the way to the Phelps’ property, he said he passed three other farms with horses outside.

The key is providing adequate shelter, food and water.

Dr. Scott Austin, head of Equine Medicine and Surgery at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, said that healthy horses are perfectly content living outside as long as they have shelter of some kind to get out of the wind, and as long as they have fresh water and feed.

Where you run into trouble is when the horse is underweight; a young horse or an old horse, especially if it’s in ill health; or if it is from a warmer climate and not acclimated to the colder weather, Austin said.

“The most essential thing is water,” he said, adding that the water should be at a temperature of at least 40 degrees,” he said.

According to Austin, if a horse doesn’t drink enough water, he is likely to develop digestive problems, such as constipation, which predisposes him to colic.

“It’s just one more thing that pushes them toward hypothermia,” he said.

Paul complied with Animal Control’s notification to contact the department, and subsequently provided shelter for the remaining horses.

The couple was cited with two violations of a county ordinance regarding the care of an animal, each of which carries a $500 fine. However, Youngsteadt said the situation did not rise to the level of a criminal act.

“He did not intend for this to happen,” Youngsteadt said. “Cruelty was not involved in the death.”

The Phelps’ court date is set for Jan. 28.

Animal Control, through a press release, sent a reminder to all pet owners that, given the current season of extreme weather conditions, their recommendation is that “pets are not left outside for extended periods of time, and that all pets have access to adequate food, water and shelter.”

Attempts to contact the Phelps were unsuccessful.

Board rules in favor of 3 School Board candidates

in Kaneland/Regional by

KANELAND—The Kane County Election Board on Monday handed down a verdict in favor of four school board candidates running on the April 7 ballot.

Objections were made last week regarding the validity of candidate forms submitted in December by Kaneland School Board member Tony Valente and candidates Jerry Elliott and Dan Nagel, as well as a U-46 candidate. The objections stemmed from the four candidates using form P-7A instead of the traditional P-7.

The objectors for Valente, Elliott and Nagel included School Board Vice President Teresa Witt, School Board Secretary Gale Pavlak and trustee Peter Lopatin, as well as Lynn McHenry, Kaneland Education Association chief negotiator and a Social Studies teacher at Kaneland High School.

Hearings took place Jan. 7 at the Kane County Clerk’s Office in Geneva. Valente said he represented himself while Nagel and Elliott had an attorney.

Valente this week spoke about the Election Board’s ruling, stating that the petition forms filled out were “perfectly legitimate.” He also spoke on the objections filed by Lopatin, Witt and Pavlak, and related it to “what they do on the School Board.”

“They did (the objections) like they do everything on the board,” Valente said. “They make decisions without knowing. And they do things without research. And that is the problem with the three candidates—they just go ahead and make claims. They don’t know what they’re saying. There’s no basis for it. When they’re asked for what the basis is, they say, ‘We don’t know.’”

Witt responded to Valente’s comment.

“I find it ironic that he is claiming someone else didn’t do their homework regarding petition forms, when his own negligence caused him to file incorrectly,” Witt said. “Regardless of the decision of the Electoral Board, the form Mr. Valente used was not the right one. The fact that Mr. Valente, Mr. Nagel, and Mr. Elliott didn’t realize that the form did not pertain to Kaneland is troubling, and shows carelessness and a disregard for proper procedure.”

Pavlak also weighed in on the matter.

“There are no congratulations to be offered to anyone here because there wasn’t anything personal. It’s procedural, and we’re passionate about doing things properly with transparency,” she said.

McHenry, whom Valente has cited as an example of nepotism in Kaneland because her daughter was hired last fall to work as a paraprofessional at Kaneland High School, responded to the Election Board’s decision.

“While our society follows rule of law and not rule of men, there is much that is up to interpretation. And if it were not so, then we would not need boards/commissions, nor state and federal court systems,” McHenry said. “I would hope no voter, school board candidate or otherwise, would malign the process or the people behind it as being frivolous or bullying.”

Valente expressed what he felt the objectors did to Nagel, Elliott and himself.

“It was a bush league attempt to try to get three people removed from the ballot,” Valente said. “And it’s a sad state of affairs that they would be so petty. It’s a bullying technique in my mind. It’s a way to bully, and it’s a way to kind of circumvent the electoral process. Let the people decide.”

“It is a tactic of real bullies to try to play the part of the victim,” Witt said.

Meanwhile, Lopatin, who has had tense exchanges with Valente during past meetings, reiterated that the objections were “not personal.”

“Regarding (Monday’s) decision by the Kane County Election Board, I am disappointed but not surprised,” Lopatin said. “Prior to making my decision to file the objections, I consulted attorneys and elected officials in an effort to better understand the rules and determine if a violation had, in fact, occurred. I was encouraged to pursue this, not because it was a ‘slam dunk,’ but rather because the rules are ambiguous and their filings did not conform to the guidance from the Election Guide.”

Year 2014 fourth-coldest on record in Illinois

in Health & Wellness/Regional by

CHAMPAIGN, ILL.—The statewide average temperature for 2014 was 49.4 degrees F, which is 2.9 degrees below average. The year was tied with 1912 and 1979 for fourth place, according to Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel, Illinois State Water Survey, University of Illinois.

The coldest year on record since 1895 was 1917 with an average of 48.3 degrees F.

“Although 2014 was a cold year for Illinois, the effect was largely confined to the Midwest and was not global, and it does not reflect the long-term temperature trend in Illinois,” Angel said.

In December, the statewide average temperature in Illinois was 33.4 degrees, 3.5 degrees above average and the 29th warmest December on record. This follows a very cold November that was 8.2 degrees below average.

Snowfall was especially light in December and was absent in much of the state. The only snow of significance was in western Illinois, where 1 to 2 inches fell. This is in stark contrast to December 2013, when many parts of the state received 10 to 15 inches of snow.

The statewide average precipitation for December was 1.9 inches, 0.8 inches below average. The heaviest precipitation (rainfall plus the water content of snow) was in southern Illinois, which is typical for December. Precipitation amounts there were 3 to 5 inches. Much of the rest of the state north of Interstate 70 received 1 to 3 inches of precipitation during the month.

Illinois Law Now Q&A for January

in Regional by

ILLINOIS—The following is an ongoing series of short answers to common legal questions distributed monthly by the Illinois State Bar Association and Illinois Press Association.

Q: I got behind on my rent, and my landlord is threatening to turn off my utilities as a way to force me to pay. Isn’t this illegal?
A: Landlords are prohibited from forcing out tenants by turning off utilities, changing the door locks or going as far as to remove doors and windows in a rental unit. If this happens, you have recourse in a court of law and may be eligible for monetary damages, court costs and attorney’s fees.

Q: What happens if I can t repay my student loan after I finish school?
A: Among factors that can help lead to a forgiven, canceled or discharged loan are physical or mental ailments or an income that is dwarfed by the size of the loan. Other factors include whether you have dependents, if your work experience or degree isn t likely to increase your earning power, whether you kept in contact with your lender, if you tried to make payments and whether your jurisdiction applies the totality-of-circumstances test rather than the undue hardship test.

Q: Can a real estate agent work for both the buyer and seller of the same real estate?
A: Yes, this is a practice allowed by law when both parties agree, but many lawyers advise against the arrangement, noting that there are limits on confidential communications that are inherent in a dual agency situation. Lawyers are prohibited from representing both the buyer and seller in a transaction.

Q: If a teen is charged with sexting, what legal penalties does he or she face?
A: In Illinois, minors (defined as people younger than 18) are prohibited from distributing or disseminating indecent visual images across the Internet. While a minor who commits a violation can be subject to juvenile prosecution, the courts usually recognize the actions were performed without criminal intent. Illinois sexting laws give police and prosecutors options besides filing criminal charges. Therefore, a minor who admits guilt in sexting can usually avoid criminal charges by following a court order to obtain counseling, write apology letters or perform community service.

Q: Is there a way to structure an inheritance with specific directions to my adult children on how to spend the money?
A: To convert an inheritance into a permanent financial resource with stipulations, you will need to create a trust. The trust holds the financial assets while a person designated as a trustee provides the investment management, as well as financial guidance. In a trust, you can indicate how the money should be spent, and the trustee is charged with carrying out your wishes. A trust can also name the successors. An estate planning lawyer can help you write a trust that meets your goals and objectives.

Q: Due to my wife’s week-long hospitalization, we still owe a fairly large amount after health insurance benefits were applied. The hospital refused our request to pay off the balance in monthly installments and has even threatened to send our account to a collection agency. Do we have any recourse?
A: You may be able to resolve this issue by exercising your rights under the Illinois Fair Patient Billing Act. Enacted to protect health care consumers from unfair billing practices and abusive collection tactics, the law requires Illinois hospitals to notify patients of the availability of financial assistance, provide detailed billing information and follow a specific protocol prior to submitting patients to collection actions. Hospitals may not refer a bill for collections without first offering an insured patient the opportunity to request a reasonable payment plan for the amount personally owed by the patient.

For more information about Illinois law, visit If you have a legal question, send it to

Illinois Press Foundation journalism program grants

in Kaneland/Regional by

ILLINOIS—The Illinois Press Foundation will again offer its Illinois High School Mini-Grants Program for public and private high schools with existing journalism programs. High school journalism teachers may apply for grants up to $1,500 for hardware and/or software needed to produce print or online newspapers.

This is the sixth year the foundation has offered the grants. During 2014, $20,000 was awarded to more than 24 high schools.

Grant applications are due via email by Friday, Feb. 27, to Barry Locher, Illinois Press Foundation director, at Complete information can be found at

Christmas Kettles to Kaneland area

in Elburn/Kaneville/Maple Park/Montgomery/Regional/Sugar Grove/Virgil & Virgil Twp. by

KANELAND—Look for the familiar red Salvation Army kettles this November and December throughout the Kaneland/Big Rock area.

Conley Outreach (the local Salvation Army Service Extension representative) together with local Scout troops, businesses, 4-H clubs, church groups and Community Care Team volunteers will collect donations on Saturdays and the days just prior to Christmas outside various local businesses. The community needs your help.

Every year, Conley Outreach receives about $2,500 from the Salvation Army Metropolitan Division to help needy families pay for rent, heat, food, clothing or other necessities. Because of the current economic conditions, this money is depleted quickly. The Christmas Kettles enable Conley Outreach to raise additional money and replenish this fund. Approximately 90 percent of all the money donated in our area kettles will stay in our local Salvation Army fund.

All local kettles have a sign stating that the money will stay in the Kaneland/Big Rock area. This past year, the fund helped more than 100 of our neighbors. As winter approaches, many more will need help.

Consider making a donation when you are out shopping this month. Donations can also be sent to Conley Outreach/Salvation Army Fund, PO Box 931 Elburn IL 60119. If you have a group that would like to staff the kettles on a Saturday or Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 23-24, in either Sugar Grove or Elburn, contact Carol Alfrey at (630) 365-2880.

Kaneland grad donates to Victims of Crime center

in Regional by

CRYSTAL LAKE, ILL.—Author Peter J. Gallanis, a Crystal Lake, Ill., resident and Kaneland High School Class of 1980 graduate, recently donated 20 percent of his first royalty check generated from sales of his Reporter Series of novels: “The Reporter: Part I – Rise and Fall,” and “The Reporter: Part II – Redemption,” to The National Center for Victims of Crime.

“I have always believed a true act of charity must be made anonymously,” Gallanis said. “However, I’m announcing this donation in order to create awareness for this incredible organization.”

The National Center for Victims of Crime ( advocates for victims’ rights, trains professionals who work with victims, and serves as a source of information on victims’ issues.

When Gallanis’ second book published in November, he publicly announced his intent to donate a portion of royalties generated by any of his novels that bear the reporter name.

“And today, the intent becomes reality,” he said.

The author made his donation in the name of “For those loved and lost in the tragedy of The Brown’s Chicken Massacre.”

Published by Bradenton Florida-based Abuzz Press, the first book in the series, The Reporter: Part I – Rise and Fall, follows the life of Nic Pappas, a reporter with the Palatine Star newspaper, assigned to cover a cold murder case known as The Brown’s Chicken Massacre. Pappas meets, and falls in love with, Mary Jane Santos, who lost her brother, Roland Jr., in the tragedy, tempting Pappas to violate the ethics of the reporter-source relationship. Believing the only way to end his dilemma is to solve the case, Pappas and Santos make a pledge to catch the killers.

The second book in the series, “The Reporter: Part II – Redemption,” takes place 10 years after Pappas resigns in shame from the Palatine Star. Pappas and Santos are reunited to once again investigate the Brown’s case. Through use of the Freedom of Information Act, Santos acquires the Brown’s case files. Pappas and Santos assemble one of the largest undercover teams to ever investigate a single case and launch a nationwide manhunt to find the Brown’s murderers.

For sale online only, both books are available through,,, and other fine retailers.

Gallanis was inspired to write the novels after experiencing a series of coincidences between the case and his life.

“Citing one example, the Brown’s tragedy occurred on Jan. 8; my wife, who was friends with one of the victim’s sisters at the time of the massacre, lost her mother on Jan. 8 and, my sister’s birthday is Jan. 8,” Gallanis said. “Furthermore, one of the murderers was originally interviewed by Palatine Police Department Detectives on Feb. 17, which just so happens to be my birthday. I don’t believe in coincidence and have come to believe it’s God’s will I tell this story.”

Gallanis is currently working on a prequel to his Reporter Series called “The Writer.” Slated for publication spring 2015, Gallanis’s new novel takes Pappas back to his high school days as a student newspaper reporter who attempts to solve a local murder mystery.

TAILS Humane Society joins #ILGiveBig

in Regional by

ILLINOIS—TAILS Humane Society has joined #ILGiveBig, a first of its kind effort in Illinois that will harness the collective power of charities, families, businesses and individuals—to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season.

Coinciding with the Thanksgiving holiday and the kickoff of the holiday shopping season, #ILGiveBig will inspire Illinois residents to take collaborative action to improve their local communities, give back in better, smarter ways to the causes they support, and help create a better world.

Scheduled for Dec. 2—the Tuesday after Thanksgiving—#ILGiveBig will harness the power of social media to create a state-wide movement around the holidays dedicated to giving—similar to how Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become days that are today synonymous with holiday shopping.

Seeing an opportunity to take the national #GivingTuesday movement and channel the generous spirit of the holiday season to inspire action around charitable giving, a group of friends and partners, led by the Donors Forum, came together to find ways to promote and celebrate the great American tradition of giving in Illinois. In this first year of the campaign, the goal is to raise $12 million from 100,000 generous Illinois residents on Dec. 2.

TAILS Humane Society is a 501c3 non-profit organization serving DeKalb and surrounding counties. It provides a safe haven for animals in need by providing shelter and medical care for pets in need as we search for a forever home. TAILS also addresses the root cause of pet homelessness by offering low-cost spay/neuter services for pet owners. It strives to strengthen the human-animal bond in the belief that compassion for animals enriches the quality of life for all.

For more details about the #ILGiveBig campaign, visit For more details about TAILS Humane Society’s participation, visit

TAILS Humane Society is located at 2250 Barber Greene Road, DeKalb.

Let’s talk turkey Balancing family traditions and food safety

in Health & Wellness/Regional by

ST. CHARLES—As the holidays approach, special family meals take center stage, and with them come many family traditions of how to prepare and present those meals. However, some customs may contradict today’s food safety recommendations.

“Our food system, and what we know about food safety, has changed drastically in the last few decades, and that can contradict some more traditional methods of cooking the holiday feast,” said Laura Barr, Nutrition and Wellness educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties. “We hear much debate this time of year about how to thaw, prep and stuff a turkey. Too often, misconceptions of recommended practices can lead to people getting sick.”

The truth about thawing
Thawing a turkey is done in many ways, but not all methods are safe. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms that a package of frozen meat or poultry left thawing on the counter for more than two hours is not ever at a safe temperature.

“There is no bacterial growth in a frozen turkey, and the danger zone for food is between 41 degrees F to 135 degrees F,” Barr said. “A product starts thawing from the outer layer first at room temperature. Therefore, the outer layer is in the danger zone for an unacceptable amount of time. It is unsafe to thaw any meat at room temperature, especially a large bird.”

Barr said there are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave oven.

The USDA advises to allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 degrees F or below, and a fully thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator one to two days before cooking it. Be careful to contain juices from the thawing turkey so as not to cross-contaminate other foods and surfaces.

“It may seem simple, but this will take some planning,” Barr said. “For example, it will take at least three days for a 15-pound turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. Be sure to accurately schedule when to take out a frozen bird based on the cooking day.”

If thawing in cold tap water, water must be changed every 30 minutes until the product is completely thawed. Additionally, the product needs to be packaged in a waterproof container to prevent cross-contamination and an undesirable texture change in the meat, Barr said.

“The same 15-pound turkey would thaw in seven hours in cold water, versus three to four days in a refrigerator,” she said. “But the cold water method is more labor intensive, and you must always cook a cold-water-thawed turkey immediately.”

When using a microwave, the USDA advises to “follow microwave oven manufacturer’s instructions for defrosting a turkey.” It also recommends cooking the thawed product immediately because some areas of the food may be warm and susceptible to bacteria growth.

“However you choose to thaw, consider it a critical control point to ensure safety, taste and texture of your holiday meal,” Barr said.

The proper prep
In the past, families would start preparing their holiday birds much earlier in the food process. The bird was butchered, plucked, washed and cooked in the home, Barr said.

“Some consumers today wash poultry because the practice has been passed down through the generations,” she said. “However, running water in and over a turkey, or other poultry, is a waste of time, as it is cleaned in the packaging process.

“In fact, washing the bird at home actually increases the potential for food-borne illness, as it spreads salmonella and other pathogens in the sink and around the food preparation area. By cooking poultry thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, and maintaining that temperature for 15 seconds, you will destroy any bacteria.”

Stuffing safety
There still remains the controversy about cooking holiday birds with or without stuffing.

“In support of optimal safety and consistent doneness, cooking the stuffing separately is the recommendation,” Barr said. “Following tradition, some cook the stuffing and turkey together. However, the turkey will reach doneness before the stuffing inside the bird. In this case, a probe food thermometer is essential to ensure stuffing has reached the proper internal temperature.”

If it has not maintained that internal temperature of 165 degrees F for 15 seconds, Barr said to keep cooking the turkey together with the stuffing until it does. Otherwise, the undercooked stuffing may likely contaminate the cooked meat, she said.

Critical cooling
It also is critical to refrigerate Time and Temperature Control foods (TCS) quickly after serving the meal. This includes meats, stuffing, casseroles, cooked grains and vegetables and sliced fruit. The fastest bacterial growth occurs between 70 degrees F and 125 degrees F, which is close to room temperature, Barr said.

“So, if a TCS food sits out for two hours, it is best to toss it,” she explained. “As the saying goes, ‘When in doubt, throw it out.’ As bacteria multiply, so does the risk of food-borne illness. The less time TCS foods are in the danger zone, the safer the food for consumption.

“A good rule of thumb is to monitor time and temperature carefully to ensure food safety with each and every step.”

For more information on the University of Illinois Extension programs in your county, visit University of Illinois Extension provides educational programs and research-based information to help Illinois residents improve their quality of life, develop skills and solve problems.

Christmas Kettles to Kaneland area

in Elburn/Kaneland/Kaneville/Maple Park/Regional/Sugar Grove by

KANELAND—Look for the familiar red Salvation Army kettles this November and December throughout the Kaneland/Big Rock area.

Conley Outreach (the local Salvation Army Service Extension representative) together with local Scout troops, businesses, 4-H clubs, church groups and Community Care Team volunteers will collect donations on Saturdays and the days just prior to Christmas outside various local businesses. The community needs your help.

Every year, Conley Outreach receives about $2,500 from the Salvation Army Metropolitan Division to help needy families pay for rent, heat, food, clothing or other necessities. Because of the current economic conditions, this money is depleted quickly. The Christmas Kettles enable Conley Outreach to raise additional money and replenish this fund. Approximately 90 percent of all the money donated in our area kettles will stay in our local Salvation Army fund.

All local kettles have a sign stating that the money will stay in the Kaneland/Big Rock area. This past year, the fund helped more than 100 of our neighbors. As winter approaches, many more will need help.

Consider making a donation when you are out shopping this month. Donations can also be sent to Conley Outreach/Salvation Army Fund, PO Box 931 Elburn IL 60119. If you have a group that would like to staff the kettles on a Saturday or Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 23-24, in either Sugar Grove or Elburn, contact Carol Alfrey at (630) 365-2880.

Holiday Spirit needs your help

in Kaneland/Regional by

KANELAND—Holiday Spirit, a joint program between Kaneland schools and Conley Outreach/West Towns, is in need of organizations, businesses, churches and other groups to adopt local families in need this holiday season. Last year, Holiday Spirit provided assistance to 132 children in 54 families through the generous donations from this community. It is anticipated that the need will be just as great this year.

Individuals or groups interested in adopting a family can contact Nicole Pryor, social worker at Kaneland John Shields Elementary School, at (630) 466-8500, ext. 108, or You may also contact Carol Alfrey, West Towns coordinator, at or by calling (630) 365-2880.

Monetary donations are also needed to purchase last-minute gifts and gas gift cards. Checks payable to Holiday Spirit can be sent c/o Conley Outreach, P.O. Box 931, Elburn IL 60119.

Waubonsee hosts Veterans Day observance

in Regional/Sugar Grove by
Veterans Day 2014 Salute Colors

Photo: Members of the Sugar Grove American Legion Post 1271 post the flags of the United States and of the Sugar Grove Legion Post, during a Veterans Day observance Tuesday at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove. Photo submitted by Jonathan Bilyk to

Honors WWII veteran Arthur Sheridan
SUGAR GROVE—Arthur Sheridan regrets not stepping forward sooner.

For decades, Sheridan, an Aurora resident and U.S. Army veteran of World War II, chose to live his life after returning home from combat in Europe in the 1940s, working his job and raising his family.

However, at the age of 80, he said, he was encouraged to get involved in his community and tell the tales of his service.

Sheridan’s story begins with his decision to enlist at 17 years old, and ends with a race across Europe as a member of the 20th Armored Division, culminating in the attack on Munich, Germany, and liberation of the infamous Dachau concentration camp.

Tuesday, Sheridan, who now serves on the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council, shared his story during keynote remarks of the Veterans Day observance ceremony at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove.

While recounting his story, Sheridan also encouraged fellow veterans to engage in public service and encouraged those in the community to welcome veterans back into the fabric of civilian life on the homefront.

“Our veterans need advocates,” Sheridan said. “Not just so they can secure the benefits they should receive, but so we can all be remembered during our years.

“Every able-bodied veteran is ready, willing and equipped to serve his community,” Sheridan said.

The event also included parading of colors and a placement of a wreath by representatives of American Legion Post 1271 of Sugar Grove, a reading of President Obama’s Veterans Day Proclamation by Waubonsee President Dr. Christine Sobek, and performance of patriotic musical selections, including The Star-Spangled Banner, directed by Dr. Mark Lathan, Waubonsee assistant professor of Music.

Halloween fundraiser gets a visit from Hughes family

in Regional/Sugar Grove by

Photos: Guest of honor and former Sugar Grove library director Beverly Holmes-Hughes (above, left) converses with new Sugar Grove Library Director Shannon Halikias of Naperville, Ill. Photos by Lynn Logan

Halloween fundraiser gets a visit from Hughes family
SUGAR GROVE—Along with unexpected donations and more volunteers than they knew what to do with, organizers of a Halloween fundraiser on Saturday got a visit from the beneficiary herself: Beverly Holmes Hughes.

The event, organized by Sugar Grove resident Debbie DeBoer and her family, gave kids one last chance to wear their Halloween costumes while playing games to win prizes. The single fee of $10 per child benefited Hughes’ ongoing battle with brain cancer.

“It was a crazy, busy day,” DeBoer said of the fundraiser event. “We were a little overwhelmed at first, getting everything set up.”

DeBoer said Harter Middle School teacher/coach Adam Wickness had promised 15 of his Kaneland basketball players as volunteers, but arrived with 20.

“We had about 45 children (attend), and we did really well on the raffles,” DeBoer said. “We had people without children show up with donations.”

DeBoer was delighted when one boy told her it was “way more fun” than another recent school fun fair.

“And then his friend piped up and said, ‘Way, way more fun,’” DeBoer said.

She was thrilled, also, that Hughes attended with her family to play the games and thank the volunteers.

“She (Hughes) tells me all the time she can’t believe how kind people are,” said Pat Graceffa, Sugar Grove Library Board trustee and longtime friend of Hughes’. “She looked good, and she was just thrilled. Beverly is one of the smartest people I know, but she isn’t obvious about it. She helps you figure things out, and you don’t realize until later that she’s the one who figured it out and let you believe you did it.”

Graceffa expressed her gratitude to the DeBoer family for organizing and running the event.

“It was really well-thought out. They had plans for everything,” Graceffa said. “And the kids got so excited over the small gifts they won.”

Graceffa also had a few nice words for the teen volunteers.

“The Kaneland basketball players were just terrific. They were so patient with the kids and even if the kids didn’t win, they made sure they did win,” Graceffa said with a laugh.

All proceeds from the event were deposited into the “Beverly’s Battle with Brain Cancer” fund at Castle Bank. Further donations to the fund are welcome, as well.

Elburn’s Fire District remains intact

in Elburn/Regional by

Photo: Fox River Fire/Rescue Chief Greg Benson (right) speaks to those in attendance at an informational meeting on Oct. 29 at Fox River Station No. 1 in Wasco. The purpose of the meeting was to provide information to residents, like Vince Kelley (below), who live in the petition area regarding the Referendum to Disconnect and Transfer to Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District. Representatives from the Elburn Fire Protection District were also in attendance at the meeting. The referendum question appeared on Tuesday’s General Election ballot, and failed by a vote of 1,292-443. Photos by Lynn Logan

ELBURN—The boundaries of the Elburn and Countryside Fire Protection District will remain intact after residents on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to reject a fire district disconnection question on the General Election ballot.

Approximately 60 percent of the 2,919 registered voters in the affected area made it to the polls, with 74 percent of those voting to stay with the Elburn Fire District, according to unofficial results on the Kane County election website.

“The turnout was amazing,” Elburn Fire Chief Kelly Callaghan said on Wednesday. “I’m glad the voters got a chance to speak out, and I’m glad they decided to keep the department that has been providing them quality service for many years.”
Callaghan went on to say that he was sorry that all the taxpayers in the area had to be burdened with all the mailers and meetings over the past several months.

“I’m sorry they had to go through all of this,” Callaghan said. “I don’t think this ever should have happened.”

The referendum question asked if the territory bound by LaFox Road to the east, Anderson Road to the west, Campton Hills Road to the south and Empire Road to the north should be disconnected from the Elburn Fire District to join the Fox River Fire/Rescue District. The question was placed on the ballot after 128 of the residents in the affected area signed a petition last summer requesting the disconnection.

The matter went before a Kane County judge, who determined that the question should be put to the voters during the General Election.

“I’m glad they decided to keep us,” Callaghan said.

Elburn Village President Dave Anderson said the outcome was positive for the Elburn Fire District, as well as for the majority of people within the affected area who were caught off-guard. He said he was glad that so many people showed up to vote.

“This is the kind of election you want,” he said. “You don’t want 18 percent of the voters making decisions for the 100 percent.”

A call to the Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District went unreturned as of press time.

Kaneland grad publishes sequel to ‘The Reporter’

in Kaneland/Regional by

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill.—Pete Gallanis’ second book didn’t take long to write, but there’s a good reason for that.

The two books were originally one.

“I wrote ‘The Reporter’ as one book, but the publisher said it was too long, so I just divided it into two books,” Gallanis said.

Gallanis, a 1980 Kaneland High School graduate, said “The Reporter: Book II – Redemption” is now available for purchase.

The second book, dedicated to his wife, Chris, follows the continuing saga of reporter Nic Pappas, now a professor with a doctorate. Admittedly not a reader, Chris said with a laugh that she’s waiting for the movie.

Like most authors of fiction, Gallanis weaves fact and fiction, basing “The Reporter” loosely on the 1993 Brown’s Chicken Massacre in Palatine, Ill.

Ten years have passed since the end of book one, and Pappas reunites with Mary Jane Santos, who has acquired through Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act what he never could: access to the full Brown’s Chicken case file. The pair assembles an investigative team and launches a nationwide manhunt to track down the killers.

Gallanis said that a percentage of the sales from all works bearing “The Reporter” name will be donated to the National Compassion Fund in memory of all affected by the Brown’s Chicken Massacre.

The fund, a program of the National Center for Victims of Crime, is a registered 501(c)(3) charity that accepts donations and gives directly to victims and families of those affected by mass, violent crimes such as the mass shootings at Sandy Hook, Columbine High School, Fort Hood and Northern Illinois University.

While touting the second book in the series, Gallanis is also working on a prequel focusing on his protagonist, Nic Pappas, as a high school student at the fictional Kane County High School, loosely resembling Kaneland High School.

At the book signing for the first entry in the series, Gallanis conducted a raffle for a chance to be a character in the prequel. The raffle was won by Sugar Grove resident and fellow 1980 Kaneland graduate, Denise Kuzlick Feltes.

Gallanis said the prequel is being written so that it complements the first two books, or it can stand alone.

Published by Abuzz Press in Bradenton, Fla., “The Reporter: Part II – Redemption” soon will be available in paperback, on Kindle and from It’s currently available at and

Gallanis can be found on Facebook, where he also has created a page for the fictional Palatine Star newspaper.

Fire District disconnection issue heats up

in Elburn/Lily Lake/Regional by

ELBURN—Signs for and against disconnection from the Elburn and Countryside Fire Protection District can be seen throughout the area, especially in the territory where residents will soon make that choice.

Last summer, 128 residents from the area, bordered by LaFox Road to the east, Anderson Road to the west, Campton Hills Road to the south and Empire Road to the north, signed a petition to disconnect from the Elburn and Countryside Fire Protection District (ECFPD) and to join the Fox River and Countryside Fire Rescue District.

The petition ended up in court, where a Kane County judge determined that the question should be put to the voters. Approximately 3,000 residents live in the area that would be affected.

Representatives from the ECFPD have been meeting with homeowners associations to inform residents of the possible disconnection and what it would mean for them.

They are also planning a walk-a-thon for this weekend, in which they will go door-to-door to talk to residents about the issues.

“A lot of people don’t know (about the possible disconnection),” ECFPD Lieutenant Lisa Schopp said.

Schopp, in her role within the Fire District Association, is coordinating the effort to get the word out.

“We want to inform them about the election, so they can make an informed decision,” she said. “Hopefully, they’ll go out and vote.”

According to Fox River Fire Chief Greg Benson, the Fox River District went operational on May 1, 2011, with its first station located on Route 64 in Wasco. Prior to then, residents had been served by the St. Charles Fire Department.

With the Fox River station positioned on the border between the Fox River and Elburn districts, Benson said that residents in the surrounding area have had questions about their fire service since the station opened.


DSC_1450 Benson said that residents were concerned about response times, and they wanted to know why Elburn was responding to their emergency when they could see the Fox River station from their house.

He said that in early May, when the tax bills came out, people also had questions about the differences in the tax rates between the two districts. Elburn’s tax rate is $0.786 and Fox River’s is $0.266. For a $288,430 home on Farm View Road, this meant a tax bill of $708 in Elburn’s district, as opposed to $240 had it been in Fox River’s district—a difference of $468 for this year.

The Elburn district has since opened a third station at 5N276 Wooley Road in Lily Lake, which Elburn Fire Chief Kelly Callaghan said will provide shorter response times to those residents in the northern quadrant of the district. The station went operational on Oct. 1.

According to Callaghan, the district had been looking for several years to purchase property in that area when this location became available for rent.

Callaghan also said that, although Elburn’s tax rates are higher than Fox River’s, Fox River has a significant amount of debt, while Elburn operates with no debt.

Elburn village trustee Bill Grabarek said that through careful management of its money, the ECFPD was able to pay for its new station on Route 38 without borrowing money.

“I applaud them for that,” Grabarek said.

Fox River District does have $4.4 million in debt, which Benson said is in general obligation bonds, payable over the next 10 to 18 years. He said the money was used to acquire facilities and equipment.

Although Elburn has raised the concern that Fox River will raise its rates in order to pay off its debt, Benson said that the district can’t raise its rates by more than 5 percent or the consumer price index without voters’ approval through a referendum.

Benson responded to Elburn raising concerns about Fox River’s debt with a question of his own.

“Why do they (Elburn) have $13 million in the bank?” he asked.

There was also a concern raised by one of the Elburn Herald’s readers regarding the Fox River District being delinquent in its property taxes. This turned out to be in error, as governmental bodies are exempt from paying property taxes. The district had not yet completed the paperwork to obtain that exemption when the delinquency notice was published.

Elburn’s signs refer to additional fees that Fox River would charge residents for service. Although both districts charge for ambulance services, Elburn representatives have pointed to an ordinance on Fox River’s website showing fees that the district could charge for fire services.

Although the wording of the ordinance is confusing, Benson said that those fees listed for fire trucks and other services would only be charged in very specific situations, such as in the case of arson or a hazardous material spill.

“We don’t levy fees for fire alarm response (fire alarms in homes or businesses) or structural fire responses (home fires),” Benson said.

Since the disconnection was proposed, both Elburn and the Fox River Fire districts have made and disputed claims about one other.

“This whole thing has become political and emotional,” Benson said. “It has taken away from the idea of what the fire service is supposed to be.”

Both districts have stated that the safety of their residents is the top priority.

Benson said that his firefighters are well-trained and educated in all the latest industry knowledge.

Elburn’s Fire District Board President Tom Reynolds emphasizes the history that Elburn has in the area.

“The Elburn district has served the area well for 132 years,” he said. “We have more experience and we have better equipment.”

Grabarek also mentioned the history the Elburn fire district has with its residents. Grabarek himself had a heart attack four years ago, and he said he was grateful for the quality of their service.

“They kept me alive and they got me to the hospital,” he said.

Appreciative of the quality of their service and the careful fiscal management of the district, Grabarek said their “care, quality and viability depends on tax dollars.”

If the disconnection goes through, the Elburn district stands to lose about $1.1 million in revenue. Grabarek said he is concerned that this loss in revenue “could negatively impact the health, welfare and safety of our residents.”

Voters in the territory slotted for possible disconnection will be asked for their answer to this question on Nov. 4. A ‘yes’ vote is a vote to disconnect from Elburn and join the Fox River district; a ‘no’ vote is a vote to stay with the Elburn district.

Youth sports to benefit from Forest Preserve purchase

in Community Sports/Elburn/Regional by

BLACKBERRY TWP.—Thanks to the Kane County Forest Preserve, Elburn and Kaneland community sports teams will have an expanded field for softball and baseball, soccer, football and lacrosse.

Kane County Board District 18 Representative Drew Frasz attended last week’s Blackberry Township meeting to announce the purchase. The land, originally owned by the Gum family, was sold to the Forest Preserve by Donald Westlake, who was married to Helen Gum Westlake until her death in 2012.

The 62 acres is located on Bateman Road, south of and adjacent to McNair Field, where Elburn’s Youth Baseball and Softball team has played for years. The Forest Preserve paid $10,000 an acre for the land, for a total of approximately $620,000. The closing on the property took place Sept. 30.

The Forest Preserve will enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Blackberry Township, which will coordinate the development and construction of the field with the leagues.

The township has for some time carried an annual line item of $10,000 in its budget for youth sports, Blackberry Township Supervisor Fred Dornback said. He said the township would coordinate the use of the space, and will grade and seed the site, as well as providing rudimentary roads and parking areas.

Then it would be up to the youth sports groups to develop and maintain the fields, he said.

“We won’t be spending any new tax money,” Dornback said. “We’re in the facilitating business.”

Frasz said that he saw a lot of opportunities for people to donate their talent and time. He said the Forest Preserve sees this as a “citizen-led effort.”

The township will apply for an Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. If it receives the grant money, those funds, together with local fundraising and individual and company donations, will be used to make the necessary improvements.

One of the Forest Preserve’s requirements will be for portions of the property restored to prairie, with walking trails and benches for anyone to use. In addition, Dornback said one of the wishes of the township, going back to when Dave Anderson was the supervisor, is to have a common area where a family can get together to play volleyball, or kids can play pick-up games.

“When I was a kid, that’s how we did it,” Dornback said.

McNair Field had been leased by Blackberry Township from the Transmission Relay Corporation since it purchased the land in 2003. The lease had granted the local athletic leagues the use of five of the corporation’s 20 acres, located south and east of the intersection of Bateman and Rowe roads. The 10-year lease expired in April 2013.

Although the township negotiated a new lease with the owners, it was a short-term agreement.

“This will take away the fear of losing the land,” Frasz said. “It gives more long-term stability.”

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Click to view larger map

Former pastor’s wife charged with attempted murder

in Montgomery/Regional/Sugar Grove by

MONTGOMERY—Pamela J. Christensen, 47, of Montgomery, has been charged with six counts of attempted first degree murder, three counts of aggravated battery and three counts of aggravated unlawful restraint, stemming from an incident that took place in late September.

A Montgomery Police press release states that police responded to a home in the 2300 block of Patron Lane on Sept. 25 after receiving two 911 hang-up calls. According to police, responding officers determined that Christensen tried to poison her three daughters, ages 12, 16 and 19, with a mixture of household chemicals. The daughters reportedly refused to drink the poison.

The press release also states that Christensen stabbed two of her daughters. All three daughters were transported to Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora, where they were treated and released to a grandparent.

Christensen was transported to Presence Mercy Medical Center in Aurora for self-inflicted stab wounds.

Christensen is the estranged wife of Vaughn Christensen, who is the former pastor of the Heritage of Faith Church in Sugar Grove. The church’s website is currently unavailable; calls to the church’s phone number went unreturned.

According to Montgomery Police, Pamela said she was sending the girls “home to meet Jesus Christ” because she had received text messages from her estranged husband stating that the world was ending and she needed to prepare the family to meet Jesus.

Just a month prior to the Sept. 25 incident, Pamela served Vaughn with a restraining order, stating that he had become increasingly violent toward her and their children.

Filed on Aug. 29 in Kendall County, the order stated that Vaughn had threatened to harm himself and the children. Police confirmed they had responded to the home several times.

The couple filed for divorce on Sept. 10 in DuPage County.

Pamela on Oct. 8 was released from the hospital to the custody of Montgomery Police and transported to Kendall County Adult Corrections.

Pamela appeared during bond call on Oct. 9 and was held on $1 million bond. She is scheduled to appear in court for arraignment on Oct. 16. During that court date, the judge will explain to Pamela the charges against her, and her rights.

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