Hometown Profile

Hometown Profile

Francis Humphrey: Loving the many years of peace and quiet in a small community

Humphrey visits with her son David [left] during her surprise birthday party at the Elsberry Christian Church on Oct. 18.

Humphrey visits with her son David [left] during her surprise birthday party at the Elsberry Christian Church on Oct. 18.

This month’s edition of Hometown Profile features Elsberry resident Francis Humphrey.
Humphrey was born on Dec. 24, 1914 in East St. Louis, Ill. to Thomas J. and Mary Emily Burke.
After Humphrey was born her family remained in East St. Louis for approximately three years before relocating to Kansas City, Mo. where her younger brother Billy was born.
When Humphrey was five years old her father died of a heart attack.
“We eventually made our way to Elsberry where my mother’s twin sister lived,” said Humphrey. “Later on my mother married Charles Livengood.”
The house where Humphrey was raised in Elsberry is no longer standing and she said she is not entirely certain of its exact location.
She went to school in Elsberry and graduated from high school in 1932.
After finishing high school Humphrey attended Culver-Stockton College in Canton.
Rather than staying and completing her degree, however, Humphrey chose to return to Elsberry and marry her childhood sweetheart Ralph Humphrey.
She and Ralph moved to Alabama where Humphrey attended school again, this time with the goal of becoming a florist.
Humphrey eventually opened a flower shop in Alabama and Ralph and his family operated a sale barn.
The stock market crash forced Humphrey and her husband to move back to Elsberry where she once again opened a flower shop.
“When we came back here Elsberry was booming and there was hardly any place to even rent a house,” said Humphrey. “We found a house for sale on 3rd Street and I turned the garage into a flower shop.”
Humphrey ran that flower shop for approximately 10 years while Ralph worked as an auctioneer and sold cattle.
Later on, Ralph and his brother opened Humphrey’s Variety Store in the building that is now Elsberry Hardware.
Ralph was drafted during WWII and due to his advanced age at the time he served only limited duty at a military facility in St. Louis that Humphrey said may not even exist today.
Humphrey’s son David was born in 1955.
He attended school in Elsberry, but now lives in Milwaukee, WI where he works as a salesman.
David and his wife have two daughters, one of whom lives in Portland, Oregon and the other in St. Louis.
In her later life, Humphrey served on the city council during the administrations of five different mayors and at one time was the president of the Elsberry Chamber of Commerce.
She has also been a member of the Elsberry Historic Preservation Society since the day it was formed.
In addition, Humphrey has been an active member of the Elsberry Christian Church for her entire adult life.
In her free time, Humphrey enjoys traveling internationally and has visited most of Europe and portions of Africa.
She said she enjoys living in a town like Elsberry that can offer the peace and quiet of a small community but also is within driving distance of several larger cities.
“We get the best of both worlds,” said Humphrey.
Last week Humphrey was treated to a surprise 100th birthday party by her friends and family.
Humphrey won’t turn 100 until December but there was a concern that getting all of her relatives together during the holiday season might prove difficult so her birthday celebration was held early.
“It doesn’t feel any different to be turning 100,” said Humphrey. “Anybody can do it if they just keep breathing. I just love to live.”

Phyllis Cox: living in Elsberry is just in her blood

Phyllis Cox

Phyllis Cox

This month’s Hometown Profile features Elsberry resident Phyllis Cox.

Cox was born in Elsberry and has been a lifelong resident.

Born in 1934, Cox attended school in Elsberry and graduated with her high

school diploma in 1958.

“My father, Dr. P.C. Chamberlain, was a veterinarian here for 40 years,” said Cox. “He specialized in large animals and I used to ride around with him a lot when he would get calls. I was always interested in medicine and considered becoming a veterinarian but my father didn’t want me to do it because of the danger in working with large animals.”

That being the case, Cox decided to enroll in the Gradwohl School of Laboratory Technique in St. Louis after finishing high school.

She graduated from that institution in 1961 and then interned in Pittsfield, Ill. for a period of six months before taking her state board exams and becoming a medical technologist.

Following her certification, Cox took a job at Illini Hospital in Pittsfield.

“I worked there for 37 years and drove 100 miles a day,” said Cox. “My day started at 6:30 every morning.”

Friday afternoons brought little relief from the hectic schedule that Cox

maintained.

“Weekends are just like any other day when you work in a hospital,” said Cox.

In fact, the hospital that Cox worked for was understaffed and she often had to remain on call even after leaving the facility at the end of a long day.

In order to ensure that she could get back on time if she received a call, Cox often stayed with a niece who lived in Pittsfield at the time rather than attempting to make it all the way back to Elsberry just to get summoned back to work.

“We were extremely busy in those days,” said Cox.

Such a work schedule would be challenging enough for any single person, but Cox happened to get married in 1961, the same year she finished school and entered the workforce.

That meant that there were two people who had to adjust to the long hours that she kept, and when her son Craig was born that number rose to three.

In this regard Cox was very fortunate.

“I had a very understanding husband and my mother was Craig’s babysitter,” said Cox. “That was good in one sense because I knew he was safe but you know he probably got away with murder.”

Cox rose through the ranks at Illini Hospital and eventually became the manager of the lab.

She remained in this position for the next seven years before retiring in 1996.

After leaving work behind for good Cox finally had time to indulge her love of art and she began painting.

She also helped out every now and then at the old Cannon & Rifle Drug Store where Broadway Flowers & Fountain now stands.

Cox also found that she had more time to pursue reading and she eventually found herself volunteering to help Sarah Hunt, the librarian at the Joseph R. Palmer Family Memorial Library.

She has been an active member of the library board for approximately 15 years.

Cox said that she still enjoys living in Elsberry but regrets the fact that so many of the shops and businesses that she remembers from her youth and young adulthood are now gone and residents are forced to drive elsewhere for so many things.

“At one point in time we had everything here that you could possibly want,” said Cox.

After 16 years of serving this
community Lt. Jeffries considers Elsberry his second home

Lieutenant Brian Jeffries

Lieutenant Brian Jeffries

In the August installment of Hometown Hero The Elsberry Democrat has chosen to spotlight Brian Jeffries.
Jeffries, 39, currently holds the rank of Lieutenant with the Elsberry Police Department and has been acting as interim Chief of Police during Rob Bodley’s medical leave.
A 16-year veteran of the Elsberry Police Department, Jeffries came to this community right after graduating from the police academy and said it was quite a culture shift from his native St. Charles County.
“Growing up in St. Charles County you’re around one kind of person,” said Jeffries. “I think Lincoln County is more diverse. You have a rural community but people from St. Charles County and St. Louis County are coming out here.”
Jeffries is originally from Harvester and currently lives in O’Fallon.
He said he had to work hard to earn the trust and acceptance of the Elsberry community.
“People in Elsberry are leery of outsiders at first,” said Jeffries. “It took many years for me to develop a relationship with these people but after being here for so many years they now think of me as one of their own.”
Jeffries said that he has seen a lot of changes in the community during his tenure with the police department.
“There’s a lot more traffic and a lot more people now,” said Jeffries. “Also, hard drugs have found there way to Elsberry over the years. We’ve seen a major influx of heroin within the last several years. When I first started here back in 1999 that wasn’t an issue. Back then the issues were meth, marijuana and beer.”
In addition to getting these problems under control, Jeffries said he has other dreams for his adopted community.
“Hopefully Elsberry can expand and grow in terms of its infrastructure and businesses,” said Jeffries. “I’d also like to see the police department grow in terms of manpower.”
In terms of personal goals, Jeffries said he would like to become the Chief of Police one day.
With 16 years of experience and an excellent track record in his profession, Jeffries could pretty much write his own ticket [pun completely intended], but he said he has no desire to work anywhere else.
“I’ve developed a close relationship with a lot of the people here in Elsberry,” said Jeffries. “I consider a lot of them to be my close personal friends and I feel a sense of duty. I feel very responsible for their wellbeing. When you deal with the same people every single day you feel committed and you feel that they’re almost like family. People in Elsberry are a very unique and special kind of people and I’m very blessed and honored to be here.”

Elsberry IGA provides decades of heroic customer service

Elsberry IGA employee Rusty Simmons walks a customer to her car and helps load her groceries in her back seat.

Elsberry IGA employee Rusty Simmons walks a customer to her car and helps load her groceries in her back seat.

This month’s edition of Hometown Hero features the male employees of Elsberry IGA.
That isn’t meant as any form of disrespect to the female employees in any way.
Rather, the reason this month’s focus is shining specifically on the men is due to the fact that, despite a movement away from old-fashioned values in American society, they still choose to honor all IGA customers by offering to walk their shopping carts out to their waiting vehicles and load groceries into the trunk or the back seat.
While not every shopper opts to take advantage of this service, they all readily admit that it isn’t a courtesy often found in the consumer world these days.
“It’s nothing that I necessarily try to hammer into my employees,” said owner Don Phillips. “We do it out of respect for other people. It gives you a good feeling at the end of the day.”
Phillips said that when he first entered the workplace the treatment customers receive at IGA was the norm rather than the exception.
“Years ago I think people were more inclined to respect each other more and help each other more,” said Phillips. “When I started in the grocery business we weren’t too far removed from World War II and for people back then it was just natural to help somebody. It wasn’t taught. It was handed down when children watched their parents conducting themselves. Everybody took care of each other. Now days it’s more of a ‘me, me, me’ world.”
Tim Phillips, Don’s son and the store manager since 2008, said he doesn’t think that people in the community should be all that surprised by the treatment they receive at IGA.
“That’s what IGA stands for,” said Tim. “At the same time, we’ve been lucky with regard to the workers we’ve had. They have had the same values that our family wants to portray. We try to enjoy our jobs and then pass that along to the local people.”
Tim added that being a small store in a small town makes it easier to provide personalized service.
“It’s easy to be personable with the people because we see them every day,” said Tim. “Some of our really loyal customers come in as often as three times a day. You see those same faces every day and they almost become like part of your family. With a big supermarket you’re not going to get that. When you have a bigger store you’re less personable.”
Tim said he believes his father’s personal approach to the grocery business makes it easy for IGA’s employees to stay focused on the customers.
“Don has been in the Elsberry community for over 30 years,” said Tim. “While he is the owner of IGA, he still does all the little things like bagging, carrying out groceries, stocking, etc. I think it’s safe to say that you wouldn’t see an owner of a Wal-Mart carrying groceries out for a customer.”
Phillips humbly waved off his son’s compliments, but said he agreed with him regarding the idea that IGA’s customers are more like family members than just shoppers.
“If and when we ever do leave I’m going to miss a lot of nice people here that I’ve become close to,” said Phillips.
That’s not to say, however, that Phillips is planning on leaving any time soon.
“I hope that we’re here for many years to come,” said Phillips.
Like his father, Tim said he regrets that society seems to be becoming more self-centered and that the approach to customer service typified by IGA’s employees is atypical rather than common.
“I think the biggest problem is the generation,” said Tim. “In particular my generation. It seems like the work habits and the ethics of my generation are just getting worse. I’m not really sure where that stems from but I definitely see it among my peers. People don’t seem like they care as much about their jobs. I think our entire society is seeing the repercussions of that.”
Rusty Simmons, who has worked as a store clerk at IGA for 29 years, said it’s just natural for him to want to take care of the people in his community when they visit the store.
“The customers are always first and you do everything you can to take care of them,” said Simmons. “Each one that comes in the door is very important to this business. At a lot of other places you’re just a face. Here we know our customers by name and we really appreciate everybody that comes in. They feel like family.”
Tim said he feels that Simmons deserves more credit for the personal qualities he possesses that make him an asset to the store.
“Rusty has been with IGA for over 28 years and I can honestly say he is the nicest man I’ve ever met,” said Tim. “He genuinely cares about everyone he comes in contact with. The IGA family is lucky to have him represent us.”
Charles Simpson has worked for IGA for the last eight years and said it’s one of the better jobs he has ever had.
“I work with a great crew here,” said Simpson. “I really appreciate working for Don and Carol [Carol Phillips, Don’s wife and co-owner of IGA].”
Like Simmons, Simpson said the type of customer service embodied by IGA is so firmly in line with his own value system that it just comes naturally.
“I like to treat everybody the way I like to be treated,” said Simpson.
This is an attitude that both Simmons and Simpson hope to pass along to newer employees like Zae Lyskoski and Brennen Slaughter.
Lyskoski is a student at Elsberry High School and has been employed at IGA for less than six months.
He said the store’s customer service approach is something that he has had to get used to.
This is Lyskoski’s first job and while he said he loves IGA and feels that it is important to prioritize other people and their needs rather than just showing up to work merely for the paycheck, he also fears that his introverted personality is an obstacle for him.
“I’m not the most social person,” said Lyskoski. “I’m trying to better myself and become more of a team person [rather] than hanging out in the back of the crowd.”
Having been at IGA for just over a year, Slaughter has a bit more experience than Lyskoski and said he thinks small towns have the edge on big cities in terms of maintaining good customer service.
What’s more, he said a lot of people who come in from elsewhere seem surprised when he walks them to their car and loads their groceries.
He said he believes that people are less friendly these days and that the customer service provided by IGA is the exception rather than the norm, which is why many people don’t know how to react when they receive it.
While all of the IGA employees interviewed by The Elsberry Democrat said that they loved their jobs and enjoyed helping people, it was clear that none of them wanted to be described or thought of as heroes.
“The real heroes are the ones that risk their lives every day for our country,” said Tim.
In addition, Don and Tim both made it clear that the female employees of IGA are their personal heroes.

Giving back through laughter, tears and action

Senate Theater

This month’s edition of Hometown Hero features Bob and Sandra Sinnett, owners of The Senate Theatre in Elsberry.
The theatre first opened in Elsberry under the name “The Jem” in 1911 and was originally on the second floor of the building rather than ground level.
“We’ve been told that there was a restaurant on the first floor,” said Bob. “I think it originally housed the town post office too.”
The theatre’s move to the first floor was the result of a fire.
The Sinnetts are currently celebrating their 40th year in the locally famous one-screen movie house and they have established a tradition of offering free movies to members of the community during the Christmas season and again in the heat of the summer.
“We’ve always shown a free Christmas movie,” said Sandra. “This past year, however, we started something for the kids called ‘Countdown to Christmas’. Those movies are free as well.”
Three years ago the Sinnetts also began offering free summer movies to children.
Those movies have traditionally been offered in the morning and they have proven to be so popular that Bob and Sandra have now added free afternoon movies as well.
“This is the first summer that we’ve had a free 5 o’clock movie,” said Bob. “The reason we did that is because we figured that some of the older kids as well as some of the adults would rather come in the evenings.”
Sandra said the theatre usually has a packed house for the free summer movies.
This has been a very different year for the Sinnetts, however, and they said they aren’t quite sure what to expect this summer.
“This is the first year that we haven’t made calendars,” said Bob. “For 40 years we made calendars and we put them out everywhere. That way everyone in the community knew exactly what was playing and when. We even went to places like St. Peters, Bowling Green, Louisiana and Vandalia. The reason we stopped this year is because the studios that own our movies have gotten kind of tight. It’s getting harder to book things with them in advance. Also, we had a bad winter and it was difficult to get out and try to deliver show bills.”
Ordinarily, such a lack of advance publicity would have the Sinnetts worried.
Instead, they decided to adapt in order to survive.
“We’ve started using Facebook and the Internet to post our movies,” said Bob. “Our youngest daughter Dawn manages those things for us.”
The Senate Theatre is fully handicapped accessible and is available to any group upon advance request.
“We like to have groups come from schools, churches and other organizations,” said Bob. “All they have to do is to contact us and let us know when they want to come out. If what we’re showing at that time isn’t to their liking we have a film library and we can pull something that might be more suitable for them. They can also arrange special viewing times as well.”
The Sinnetts said that while they are happy to accommodate these groups in any way they can, advance notice of 5-10 days is usually required in order to provide for special and unique requests and/or situations.
“Our main purpose in having this theatre is to give our community the opportunity to see the latest movies without having to go out of town,” said Bob. “Our community has always taken care of us so we want to give something back to them. There’s nothing greater than seeing the smile on a child’s face when they’re watching a movie they’ve been waiting to see.”

 

 

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Given the fact that May 26 is Memorial Day, this month’s edition of Hometown Hero is dedicated to each and every patriot who has ever left the Elsberry community and subsequently given his or her life in an effort to defend their homeland as a member of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard.

Since its formation in the early 1870s, the city of Elsberry and its surrounding areas have seen men and women tearfully yet bravely wave goodbye to family and friends and solemnly march off to provide much needed service and support in World Wars I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq.

After a number of provocations courtesy of the German military and government brought America’s previous policy of non-intervention to an end, the United States passed the Selective Service Act and proceeded to draft 2.8 million men.

This was America’s entry into the First World War.

By 1918, the United States was sending approximately 10,000 troops per day to aid the fighting already underway in France.

America and her allies won that war, of course.

Their victory would not have been possible, however, if not for the sacrifice of many young men who were willing to pay the ultimate price in defense of their country, and some of those courageous soldiers called Elsberry their home.

President Wilson had hoped that a victory in WWI would end forever the threat of any future wars by “eliminating militarism from the globe.”

His optimistic dreams as they related to the future of his country could not have been further from the reality that America and the rest of the world have experienced since that first global conflict.

After roughly a quarter century of peace, the United States was once again thrust into war, this time on two fronts.

Most historians generally agree that WWII began in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland and France and the United Kingdom then declared war on Germany.

Once again, America’s initial policy was one of non-intervention.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 changed all of that, however, and the United States was soon sending the flower of its youth overseas to fight against either Hitler’s German Army in Europe or the Empire of Japan in the Pacific.

Just as in the previous war, Elsberry’s mothers, fathers, wives and children were forced to undergo the gut wrenching experience of watching their loved ones march off to war.

Commonly accepted statistics indicate that some 16.1 million Americans served in WWII.

Of those, it has been reported that 291,557 perished in that effort.

WWII ended in 1945, but not before a number of Americans had once again given their lives to preserve freedom.

As in the First World War, many Elsberry residents had to learn to enjoy and appreciate that freedom in the absence of their friends, family and other loved ones who had died to earn it.

That freedom would need defending again in a mere five years when American soldiers went to the aid of South Korea in its battles against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [North Korea], which at one time was supported by China and the Soviet Union.

The conflict ended in what most people would consider a stalemate, but not before some 33,600 Americans were killed in action.

Once again, Elsberry wasn’t spared heartache, proving that freedom is anything but free.

Roughly a decade after the conflict in Korea had ended America was embroiled in Vietnam, a war that was never declared such and that never enjoyed the shift from non-interventionism to patriotism that the two World Wars had seen.

Despite the war’s lack of popularity, the distrust of the government it engendered, the protest marches and the burning of draft cards, the United States contributed approximately 2.7 million men and women to the cause over a ten year period.

Of those, 58, 220 U.S. service members died in the conflict.

In that war, Elsberry natives like Denis Galloway gave up their lives so that people thousands of miles away could enjoy the same freedoms that many Americans take for granted on a regular basis.

When Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 once again threatened the rights of those unable to defend themselves, 34 nations led by the United States launched an aerial bombardment and ground assault that expelled Iraq’s troops from Kuwait.

This effort required some 700,000 American troops from all corners of the United States.
Although the draft didn’t factor into that particular war, there were young men and women from Elsberry who had enlisted in the armed services prior to the conflict and they soon found themselves committed to the cause.

Still others may have joined for the specific purpose of fighting in the Gulf.

Regardless, they are to be commended for offering their lives in the defense of freedom just like nearly 150 other U.S. servicemen and women.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the ensuing war on terror, America committed its blood and treasure to fighting in Afghanistan and later Iraq.

The war in Iraq was declared over in 2011, but the battles continue in Afghanistan.

Between 2003 and 2012 4,486 American soldiers were killed in Iraq.

To date, tens of thousands of people have been killed in Afghanistan, including over 4,000 ISAF soldiers and civilian contractors and over 10,000 Afghan National Security Forces.

Regardless of how many of these losses have affected Elsberry directly, this small bedroom community undoubtedly has its dogs in the fight.

So to all those who have honored Elsberry by offering their lives in the defense of the rights of others at home and throughout the world The Elsberry Democrat salutes your bravery, devotion and selflessness.

Thank you.

Elsberry Historic Preservation Society fights to save the town’s history

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This month’s edition of Hometown Hero features the Elsberry Historic Preservation Society.

The group was formed in 2002 and since then its members have been fighting to preserve as much of Elsberry’s local history as possible.

“Knowing that everybody was getting older and all the history was disappearing really motivated some of us to try and preserve it before it got out of our hands,” said Pat Mesker, president of the society.

Mesker said the group’s initial project was to try and save the old elevator once owned by the Galloway family.

“After Mr. Galloway passed away his daughter was going to donate the building to us,” said Mesker. “We wanted to preserve it and use it as a place to have our meetings.”

That project turned out to be somewhat of a lost cause, however.

“We had it studied,” said Mesker. “A man came out to look underneath it and he said it was in such bad repair that it would be too costly for us to even start on it.”

A fire ended up consuming the elevator before the society could make a final decision on whether or not to accept the donation.

“That ended our quest for that building,” said Mesker.

It wasn’t long, though, before Mesker and the other members of the group had a whole new project on their hands.

“Jenny Patterson was going to have an old house on her property torn down but she offered it to the society instead,” said Mesker. “She said that if we could arrange to have it off of the property by a certain date she would give the building to us at no cost plus provide $1,000 toward the cost of having it moved.”

Unlike the old elevator, the building on Patterson’s property proved to be extremely structurally sound and it was easy to move.

“It was moved in just one hour,” said Mesker.

Mesker said that obtaining the necessary permits and easements from the city was a relatively smooth process as well.

The structure that Patterson and her family donated is now the Claude Robinson House, which is located at 106 N. 2nd St. in Elsberry.

“We still have work to do on the plumbing, the floor and the post out on the front porch,” said Mesker.

The Robinson House has required quite a bit of time, labor and financial resources and as such it has made it difficult for the society to pursue other buildings and/or structures in the area.

“We really operate on a pretty close budget,” said Mesker. “We have a fundraiser once a year that brings us maybe between $4,000 and $5,000. That money goes right back into the Robinson House.”

Going into the future, Mesker said he would like to see an increase in the group’s membership and a renewed enthusiasm community-wide in terms of preserving Elsberry’s history.

The society is currently in the process of trying to acquire a number of buildings along Main Street in Elsberry.

“It looks like it’s going to be a go,” said Mesker. “We don’t know where the funds are going to come from but we don’t want to see those buildings torn down and I don’t think the people who currently own them want to see that either.”

The group is also looking forward to the day when they are able to have a museum, additional office space and a consistent place to hold meetings.

“We’re sort of cramped for space right now,” said Mesker. “We have a lot of items that we can’t display anywhere until the floor and other issues are taken care of at the Robinson House.”

The Robinson House is currently open for tours during the Christmas season and in combination with other town-wide events such as the annual car show.

In addition, Mesker said that the society is open to the possibility of renting out the buildings on Main Street should their attempt to acquire them prove successful.

Elsberry Paraprofessionals strive to increase community awareness for special needs students

Helen McDonald

Helen McDonald

Karla Rimel

Karla Rimel

Susan Painter

Susan Painter

March is disability awareness month, a time set aside to promote ideas and activities designed to increase society’s collective understanding with regard to individuals who have unique and special needs.
Because these individuals have such unique and special needs, those who devote their professional and/or personal lives to assisting them must be somewhat unique and special themselves.
The Elsberry R-II School District is fortunate in this regard.
Students in this district who have special needs are able to get off the bus or out of their cars every morning knowing that paraprofessionals like Helen McDonald, Karla Rimel and Susan Painter are there to help them.
Paraprofessionals, at least here at Elsberry, work on a one-on-one basis with students who have special needs.
“My focus is on making sure my student gets all of the services he needs,” said McDonald. “I love the good feeling I get when I see the improvement and the gains he makes. It’s such a rewarding experience to see him make such leaps and bounds in his abilities.”
McDonald, who has worked as a paraprofessional for the Elsberry School District for approximately 18 months, feels the public in general sets low expectations for those within the special needs population.
“I think the assumption is that since people aren’t ‘the norm’ then they shouldn’t be expected to perform to the norm and they should just be allowed exceptions,” said McDonald. “Even if someone is labeled as ‘disabled’ they’re still able to do a lot of the same things other people can do. When working with kids who have special needs it’s always better to set your expectations high. That way they strive to achieve those high expectations. If you set low expectations then that’s pretty much as far as they’ll go.”
McDonald believes that the media has historically done a poor job of portraying individuals with special needs, but she sees some improvement as of late.
“I think the media has done a better job recently than they did in the past,” said McDonald. “However, despite the increased acceptance and awareness I think there’s still a long way to go.”
Karla Rimel, who shares a room with McDonald for most of the school day, also believes that society’s expectations for the special needs population are too low, but agrees that things are improving across the board.
Rimel, who has worked as a paraprofessional for the last seven years, said her motivation to do this type of work comes from the feeling she gets when a child is finally able to do something that she has been helping them work on.
Rimel has been with her current student for the last four years and she believes it’s that level of familiarity that makes her efforts so successful.
McDonald agrees that familiarity is important, but said it’s consistency that really makes the difference.
“My day is always better if we can stick to a routine,” said McDonald. “Of course certain things will vary from day-to-day depending on the mood my student is in, as well as any distractions that the school day might present.”
McDonald and Rimel both work in the elementary school and they said there have been some major changes over the years in terms of how the special needs population is treated.
“Back when I was in school I don’t remember any of the kids with special needs getting involved in extracurricular activities,” said Rimel. “They didn’t play ball or anything like that. Now we’ve got kids here at Elsberry who participate in sports and everything else.”
“Anybody with really significant special needs didn’t even go to school with us back then,” added McDonald. “They were sent to a different school.”
Rimel said the one thing she wants people to be aware of is the fact that while kids with disabilities are special, they actually thrive on socializing and making friends with the rest of the children at school.
“I don’t think it’s a good thing for people to think of kids with special needs as needing to be separated,” said Rimel. “I want people to treat these kids just like they would treat anybody else for the most part. You have to make accommodations for certain things, but not so much so that kids with special needs will expect to be treated differently.”
Susan Painter, a paraprofessional in the high school building, came to her current profession after spending years working at a job where she didn’t feel that she was making a real contribution.
“When I was working down in the city prior to this job I kept thinking that I wasn’t really doing anything to give back,” said Painter. “This job gives me the opportunity to do that.”
Painter had already left her previous job and was working as a substitute teacher at Elsberry when she was approached about the possibility of being a paraprofessional.
“I knew I liked working with kids,” said Painter. “I also liked the idea of working with a student one-on-one and with a set schedule, so I went ahead and applied for the position.”
This is Painter’s fifth year to work with her current student and she said she has really seen a lot of growth over the years.
“I like to see growth in all of the students, but seeing the stuff she’s able to do sometimes makes it even more fun and rewarding,” said Painter.
Painter said schools had little to offer children with special needs back when she was growing up.
“A lot of them just stayed home,” said Painter. “I think society in general is so much more aware of these kinds of things now.”
Much like McDonald and Rimel, Painter believes that society and the media are continuing to improve in terms of their viewpoints and attitudes regarding the special needs population.
However, there is one key change that she would like to see when it comes to stereotyping.
“People in the special needs population come from all walks of life just like anybody else,” said Painter. “I’m a big advocate of avoiding stereotypes and I hope that disability awareness helps people understand that we’re all individuals. People shouldn’t assume that one child with a disability is just like another. They all have different abilities, different interests and different skills.”

Local Boy Scout honored for poise and bravery

Carson TrammellElsberry student Carson Trammell was awarded for meritorious action by the Boy Scouts of America at the Greater St. Louis Area Council; Boone Trails District Recognition Dinner on Jan. 24 in St. Charles.
Trammell, who has been a Boy Scout since the fifth grade, was nominated for the award by Tammi Jones, the wife of his previous Troop 54 Scout Master in Kansas City in recognition of the poise and bravery he displayed while dealing with a crisis situation.
“Carson reacted as we all hope we would in an emergency situation,” said Jones. “The amazing part is that he did it while so young.  If Carson is an example of our country’s future Eagle Scouts, we will be in great hands.”
One afternoon in February of 2012 Trammell and his father Dean were baking cookies when Dean fell to the ground and began having a seizure.
Trammell exhibited some quick thinking and even quicker reflexes in responding to his father’s medical needs.
“I ran around to the other side of the dinner table and lifted his head off the ground,” said Trammell. “After I got him up on the couch and knew he was stable I called 911 and the EMTs came.”
While that particular incident ended reasonably well, it was unfortunately the beginning of a very tragic time for Trammell and his family.
After some further testing it was determined that Dean had Melanoma and was suffering from several brain tumors, hence the seizure.
“Dean lived another 20 weeks,” said Trammell’s mother Joni Weis. “Carson was very brave during the whole thing. That bravery is one of the reasons he was nominated for the award. It was a complete surprise to him. He didn’t know he was going to receive it.”
Although Trammell was nominated for the award while he and his mother were still living in Kansas City, the family had relocated here to Elsberry by the time the presentation was made.
By that time, he was in the Troy Boy Scout Troop 390.
While both Trammell and his mother wish that his previous troop could have been present for the award, they’re thrilled to be part of Troop 390.
“The move from my old troop to this one was an easy transition,” said Trammel. “I work well with everyone else here and everybody has been very nice and made me feel welcome.”
Prior to his death in 2012, Dean and Carson participated in Kansas City’s first annual Melanoma Run.
The following year, Carson was able to organize a team for the run in honor of his father’s memory.
Dean had always loved the Kansas City Chiefs and Sammy Hagar, otherwise known as “The Red Rocker”.
This inspired Carson to name his team the “KCRed Rockers”.
This past May, Carson and his team were given the “Most Funds Raised by a Team” award.
Carson Hammell dreams of becoming an Eagle Scout.
Prior to becoming eligible for such a rank, he must first spend between six and 12 months working on a project of some significance.
His goal for his Eagle Project is to help bring the Melanoma Race to the St. Louis Area.

For more on this and other stories pick up your copy of The Elsberry Democrat today  from one of our several locations.  

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Strength and Courage can be found in the most difficult situations

1186197_661356857209398_27972166_n‘Cancer’, a word that can evoke many emotions…fear, anger, sadness and frustration are just a few.
However, it is also a word that brings out some of the best in people showing strength and courage like no other.
For 12-year-old Madison Olson and her family, strength and courage is a way of life now.

(Who is Madison Olson?)

Madison, better known as ‘Maddie O’, has attended the Elsberry School District since Kindergarten. She played basketball during fifth grade and wants to play soccer.
Her mother Jessica said that ‘Maddie O’ has always been a very loving and giving child.
“She does not like to see anyone upset or hurting and is always the first to see if there is anything she can do to help that person,” said Jessica.
Around the holidays, Madison always goes through her things to see what she can give another child who has to do without. She started doing this around the age of five. She never liked seeing anyone hurting and came to her mom one day and said “Mom I want to start giving these kids my toys”. To this day she continues to do this.
‘Maddie O’ is also a country girl through-in-through.
She loves to ride four wheelers, boating, fishing and shooting. She has tried hunting but did not like killing the animals.
Madison has developed a very strong love for animals. Her favorite animals are reptiles especially  snakes and alligators. She plans to become a reptilian veterinarian so she can work with alligators and of course snakes will be a bonus.
“If I would allow her, she would have an alligator farm in our backyard,” said Jessica. “We have been told about an animal shelter here in Lincoln County that will allow her to volunteer there. We will get her started with this once her treatment is done and she is completely healed.”

(Remember how this story began, ‘Cancer’?)

Well, during the July 4th weekend, ‘Maddie O’ started having severe headaches and after two weeks of suffering the doctors were seen and initially diagnosed them as stress headaches.
After a week and a half of visits to a Physical Therapist, her condition got worse and a visit to the Emergency Room was needed. The doctors still thinking it was migraines ordered a CT Scan.
Their findings evoked all of those emotions in the Jameson’s, fear, anger, sadness and frustration.
“They found a brain tumor at her brain stem and transported her to Cardinal Glennon,” said Jessica.
The type of tumor/cancer, Medulloblastoma. On July 26 the tumor was removed and the only side effect was double vision, which cleared up soon after.
Other CT Scans and MRI’s have located a second tumor located in the center of her spine. According to doctor’s, surgery is risky and could result in permanent physical damage.
Instead of risking it, the family chose an aggressive treatment plan to kill this cancer.
“This is going to be a very long hard year of treatment for Madison,” said Jessica. “But in the end this is going to save my little girls life.”
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(Remember earlier when we mentioned strength and courage?)

‘Maddie O’ is the epitome of strength and courage.
First she chose to name her tumor Ted.
She along with her family chose to let Cardinal Glennon and the Unversity of Cancer Research diagnose the tumor in hopes of finding ways to keep this from happening to other children.
She has made numerous trips for radiation and chemo-therapy treatments, all time knowing that she had a good chance of being sick afterwards.
However, for ‘Maddie O’ it’s not just drawing from within and from family that she gets her strength and courage.
A community has come together to show how much love they have for a child hurting.
That community is Elsberry.
A community known for pulling together when it’s needed, whether it be natural disasters here or in other cities, benefits for those who may have lost their home to fire or organizations that send packages to troops overseas.
Now Elsberry has taken on a new cause, letting ‘Maddie O’ know that they are here for her.

(We hear it all the time, “Good Ole Elsberry”)

Within 48 hours after a Facebook page called “Prayers for Maddie O” started over 500 likes and hundreds of messages with prayer and support started filling the page. It is now up to 660 likes.
To like the page go to https://www.facebook.com/prayersformaddieo
Organizations, individuals and people that didn’t even know the family was working to find ways to show their support and show it they have.
Broadway Flowers & Fountains received a donation of blue ribbon, Madison’s favorite color, and started offering blue ribbons for a minimum $5 donation. Within hours those blue ribbons could be seen all around town on windows of businesses like the VFW Post 9064.
The VFW Post is also sponsoring a paid membership for the Air Evac Lifeteam, in case of an emergency. They have also started a 50/50 raffle, which will be drawn on Oct. 26, and will be making and selling blue ribbons.

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Both locations are hoping that one day soon Broadway can be lined with blue ribbons.
At the Elsberry Schools, a Hat Day was organized by Jeanne Ogden, a neighbor and Madison’s fifth grade teacher. The hat day raised close to $900.
“Maddie is a very brave girl and has a very big heart,” said Ogden. “I have become very good friends with her parents during this time and will start home bound tutoring within the week.”
On Sept. 27, at the Clopton-Elsberry IndianHawks football game a “Pink Out” will be held. The two schools sold a combined $230 shirts. The idea came from a Clopton High School Librarian.
Also parents of classmates of ‘Maddie O’ are doing what they can to help.
“In honor of ‘Maddie O’ 100% of my commission on any Scentsy order submitted through Oct. 1st will go to ‘Maddie O’,” said Dawn Mooney.
To order go to www.savorthescent.scentsy.us/Scentsy/Buy.
During the 13th Annual Classics on Wheels and Elsberry School Fall Festival a booth will be set up taking donations for ‘Maddie O’. There will be raffles including a hometown basket and two Lenova Tablets.
Senate Theater will be having a ‘Maddie O’ night were all admissions taken that night will go towards the ‘Maddie O’ fund.
A “Prayers for Maddie O” fund has been set up at Peoples Bank & Trust in Elsberry.
Numerous other events are also being planned.
Madison has kept a very positive outlook through all of this.
“Her feelings are let’s just do what we have to do so we can be done with all of this and move on,” said Jessica. “One thing this nightmare has taught us, is life is too short to be unhappy. We don’t want people to know Madison just by the child who has cancer but also for the loving and caring person she is.”
“I want to thank everyone for all the love and support we have already received. Madison made the comment to me the other day she did not realize so many people cared,” said Jessica.

 

 

 

Changing communities

one word at a time

 

Tommy Georgie, four-years-old, has worked with Brandy Harrelson since April 2012. Shown here is her working with Tommy on his “S” and “M” sounds and how they blend.

Tommy Georgie, four-years-old, has worked with Brandy Harrelson since April 2012. Shown here is her working with Tommy on his “S” and “M” sounds and how they blend.

Being a hero isn’t just being in the right place at the right time, it can also be what a person decides to do with their life and what impression they make on those throughout it. For Brandy Harrelson, it was a no brainer.

“I am a speech language pathologist, which means I work with kids, ages two to six, who have speech and language delays or problems,” explained Harrelson. “I work with them one on one and all of our sessions are one on one.”

Harrelson said she sees kids once a week for an hour or twice a week for half hour and either she’s helping them learn certain sounds that they can’t say or they’re working on language such as how to ask a question or how to answer questions correctly.

“The younger ones, like the two-year-olds, they may not be talking a lot or you can’t understand them,” said Harrelson. “So we work on building their vocabulary, or help them form the phrases they should be able to.”

Most two-year-olds should be able to say at least 200 words, according to research. However, some research say’s they should have more. But what Harrelson say’s is that most two-year-olds should be at least combining words. For example they should be able to form phrases like, “Daddy work,” or “Mommy drink.” If a two-year-old comes in and they’re only saying maybe 10 words, then they would consider them to be delayed.

“Normally when a child is able to say 30-50 words is when they start combining them,” said Harrelson.

It’s her expertise and passion for working with kids that has made her such an asset to the community. According to Don Bower, Scottish Rite Clinic Liaison, Harrelson’s drive and personality have made such an impact on the lives of families throughout all four counties they cover, which is Lincoln, Pike, St. Charles and Warrenton.

One of the things Harrelson does, which the kids seem to love, is using games to teach them proper speech.

“We just bombard them with language, in hopes that they will start to imitate you,” explained Harrelson. “And a lot of times,

Brandy Harrelson standing with Scottish Rite Liaison Don Bowers in front of the Scottish Rite Clinic in Elsberry at the corner of Broadway and Sixth Street.

Brandy Harrelson standing with Scottish Rite Liaison Don Bowers in front of the Scottish Rite Clinic in Elsberry at the corner of Broadway and Sixth Street.

even if the parents are doing the same thing at home, it takes that outside person, that new place for it to click and really take off.”

Harrelson went on to say she felt this was her purpose at a fairly young age. When she was a freshman in high school, she just knew working with kids was something she had to do.

“I don’t think there was a deciding factor for me,” said Harrelson. “I knew I loved working with kids. I used to babysit all the time and it may have been somebody saying, ‘Hey you should do this,’ and me being like, ‘Yeah, I should.

By the time she made it to high school, Harrelson didn’t need some of her classes, as she already had them, so during her junior and senior year she job shadowed her speech/language pathologist, who worked with elementary and middle school children. It was the two hours a week she spent doing this that left her with the idea of, “This is what she should be doing.” According to her, it was a great feeling knowing at that early of an age what she wanted to do. Following her graduation from high school, she only applied to two colleges.

“I decided to go to Fontbonne University which was a great thing because I didn’t have to change my mind about what I wanted to do in life,” said Harrelson. “My last semester of graduate school I did my practicum, which you have to be a different places and get certain hours working with different kinds of people, and my last practicum was with the Scottish Rite Clinic in St. Louis.”

Harrelson went on to say, it was from there she was offered a full time position and eventually made her way to Elsberry in March of 2006. Bowers said it didn’t take long for him to like the work she was doing.

“When I first saw her I was stressed, wondering why I was losing Kate Bockhold,” said Bowers. “But I’d say less than a month later I was so impressed with her abilities my worries just disappeared. She has such a great personality, work ethic and wining demeanor with these kids and families, I’m just in awe with her and what she does.”

One of her most memorable moments throughout her career was when she was able to help a student that suffered from a severe case of stuttering.

“In school I had only worked with one client, so I was a little lost as to what to do with this child,” explained Harrelson. “But by the time he left, I had helped him manage his stuttering to where he went from severe to mild and it left me thinking that maybe I really do know what I’m doing.”

One of the first things Harrelson said she hears parents say after their child has been with her for a few months is how high their confidence has become.

“They’re not scared to talk to people or the kid who wasn’t talking starts to,” said Harrelson. “Just being able to see them from where they started to what they become is such a reward to see.”

Harrelson is able to accommodate approximately 18 cases at a time and is currently accepting new cases in the Elsberry area. For more information or to schedule screenings either call 1-800-358-5656 or visit http://srclinic.org.

For more on this and other stories pick up your copy of The Elsberry Democrat today  from one of our several locations.  You can also sign up for the online edition by visiting http://elsberrydemocrat.com and clicking on Subscribe …