March is Red Cross Month
In 1917, the United States entered World War I. After declaring war, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the American Red Cross to raise funds to support its aid to the military and civilians affected by war, as Congress had mandated. In response, the Red Cross held its first national War Fund drive in June 1917 and set $100 million as its goal, an astoundingly large sum at the time. The public response was immediate and overwhelming.
In November 1941, with war in Europe, the Red Cross conducted a highly successful 25th Annual Roll Call. A few days later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. The American Red Cross responded immediately by declaring a War Fund campaign. By June 1942, it had raised more than $66 million.
In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the month of March 1943 as “Red Cross Month.” The Red Cross set a goal of $145 million, the largest amount ever requested in one campaign by an American
organization. Again, the response was overwhelming. It took less than six weeks to reach the target. By June 1943, donations totaled nearly $146 million. Roosevelt called it “the greatest single crusade of mercy in all of history.”
As part of the tradition, the President customarily issues a proclamation each year declaring March as Red Cross Month. This Red Cross Month go to www.redcross.org and learn more about how you can get involved.
You can help shape the future of rural broadband
Illinois residents have the opportunity to participate in a survey that will help shape the state’s future broadband plan. The statewide survey is being conducted by Broadband Illinois, and will reach out to households, colleges, hospitals and community organizations throughout Illinois.
“By participating in this survey, rural residents can make their voices heard about the need for broadband services in their area,” said Ed VanHoose, IT Manager for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives.
A major goal of this survey is to ensure that residents of rural Illinois will have access to better broadband, said Drew Clark, executive director of Broadband Illinois. “By developing a statewide strategy for better broadband, we’re creating a future that includes enhanced economic opportunities, increased availability of educational tools, and higher-quality health care for Illinois residents.”
Broadband Illinois is working with the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs (IIRA) and Strategic Networks Group (SNG) to conduct the survey and develop the plan. The ultimate goal of the plan is to find opportunities for the best available broadband technology and high-speed Internet throughout Illinois.
To take the survey, visit www.broadbandillinois.org, click the “Research” tab, and then click the “Broadband Availability Survey” link. Anyone with questions can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Illinois Recreational Access Program
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is implementing a new program to increase public access on private land for outdoor recreational activities. Through a three-year grant from the USDA-FSA, the IDNR will lease land from private landowners to provide acres for youth turkey hunting, fishing and boating, as well as birding, outdoor photography, and other similar activities focusing on young outdoor enthusiasts and families.
The goal is to provide more places for outdoor recreation and activities for youth and families. With more than 95 percent of the land in Illinois privately owned, and Illinois ranking 46th among states with public lands, there is a great need to provide additional acreage for public access. With IRAP, private landowners who own at least 40 acres of ground and/or a pond(s), and/or have river and stream access on public waterways can enroll in the program and receive a financial reimbursement from IDNR to allow the public to access these areas for the purpose of youth turkey hunting, birding, outdoor photography and fishing and/or boating.
Information, as well as commonly asked questions,
about the program can be found at www.dnr.illinois.gov/
conservation/IRAP. For more information you may
contact Tammy Miller at (217) 524-1266 or via email at
M.J.M. Electric Cooperative receives job creation loan
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in January announced that loans and grants will be provided to applicants in 10 states to support businesses, improve the quality of medical care, and create or save hundreds of jobs. Funding is provided through USDA’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program.
“During his State of the Union address last week, President Obama laid out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last – an economy built on American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values,” said Vilsack. “The funding announced today will help support the President’s vision by providing our rural communities with resources to support small businesses, improve public facilities, and create new, sustainable jobs.
M.J.M. Electric Cooperative, Inc., Carlinville, received a $740,000 loan that will be reloaned for construction of a new implement dealership.
USDA’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant
program (REDLG) loans are being provided to cooperatives
and utilities that will then lend the money for projects that will
create jobs and improve rural economic conditions. The public/
private partnership is an effort to bolster rural communities.
Under the program, USDA provides zero-interest loans to local
utilities that they, in turn, pass through to local businesses
for projects that will create and retain employment in rural
areas. For more information go to www.rurdev.usda.gov.
Illinois electric co-ops win energy efficiency award
For the second year in a row the electric co-ops of Illinois have won the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance’s (MEEA’s) “Inspiring Efficiency Marketing Award” while competing against similar programs from the region’s largest investor-owned utilities.
Last year, Prairie Power Inc. and its electric distribution co-ops won for a 16-foot “Energy Efficiency Wall” that illustrates various opportunities for air infiltration or leakage within the common home due to poor construction practices and materials.
Utilizing the display at member cooperatives’ annual membership meetings, Touchstone Energy regional events, community college workshops and educational classes, homebuilder shows, county fairs, and even legislative briefings in Washington D.C., the “energy wall” helped educate over 400,000 consumers.
This year’s winner was the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC) and the HomE program, which helped 25 distribution co-ops perform nearly 3,500 home energy audits and deliver more than 3,000 energy efficiency rebates to help pay for efficiency improvements.
The HomE program ran from May 2010 to September 2011. More than 90 percent of participating homeowners followed through with at least some of the audits’ recommended improvements.
The program covered 30 percent of the costs of insulation and weatherization, with rebates of up to $1,500 for heating and cooling system improvements. The funds were available from a grant of $2.5 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and it spurred $25 million in energy efficiency improvements. In addition to creating jobs, the program will help co-op members save nearly half a million kWh annually. EEA.
Free tax preparation for veterans
The Military Service Tax Preparation Project will once again offer free personal income tax return filing assistance to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have recently returned or are still serving on active duty in a combat zone or qualified hazardous duty area. The Illinois CPA Society, in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), will match military personnel and/or their family members with CPA volunteers in their area. Spouses or family members can request assistance for those currently overseas. For more information, visit http://www.icpas.org/militarytaxrequest/.
Kirk says he believes in reuse of coal ash
First-term Republican U.S. Sen. Mark
Kirk met with the Association of Illinois
Electric Cooperatives’ Board of Directors
on Jan. 19, asking members to share input
on ways to “spend less, borrow less and
tax less to help the economy recover.”
In the approximate 30-minute visit, Kirk was direct in his endorsement of public-private partnerships to help mend the state’s economic woes, comparing Illinois to other adjoining states such as Indiana and Wisconsin, particularly in regards to transportation. He compares his plan to that of Abraham Lincoln, calling it the Lincoln Legacy Infrastructure Development Act for current times.
On point with his audience, Kirk addressed the “clean coal” issues so prominently placed before Congress.
“I’m backing proposed reform legislation by Senator Manchin dealing with clean air. I think his legislation is pro-power and pro-coal in a way that makes sure coal is part of our energy future,” he said, noting that he is well aware of the proposal from the President’s administration to treat coal ash as hazardous waste.
“I’m with you guys … on that,” he said. “My goal is to fix a lot of things like infrastructure upgrades and to promote common sense regulations.” If he can help stabilize those things, he believes small business will recover.
“My job is to make sure the rules aren’t changing every month and we let this economy roll,” he said.
Duane Noland, CEO of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, thanked Kirk for his position and support on coal ash.
“Thank you for understanding … that we are trying to reuse coal ash in a fashion that is both environmentally friendly and which also makes good economic sense for our members/
consumers,” Noland said.
Unfortunately, two days after Kirk’s
visit, he suffered a serious stroke. He
underwent surgery and is still recovering.
Noland said, “We really appreciated
Sen. Kirk and his staff for taking the
time to visit with our board members,
who represent so many down-state elec-
tric co-op members. It just proved how
much he cares about his constituents all across the state. Our prayers go out to Sen. Kirk and his family and we hope he makes a speedy recovery.”
Local food, local farmers
Illinois is increasing markets for local foods. By creating “food hubs,” or processing and distribution centers where independent, local farmers can market their products to larger entities (schools, government agencies), making locally-grown food more widely available.
To help meet food demand, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has partnered with the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA), FamilyFarmed.org, and the University of Illinois’ Business Innovation Services to create a guidebook, “Building Successful Food Hubs: A Business Planning Guide for Aggregating and Processing Local Food in Illinois.” The guidebook will serve as a resource on how to establish food hubs. DCEO has already invested in several early food hub projects
around Illinois. DCEO Director Ribley also announced
a new website to help farmers find the way to larger market
channels. For more information about the website, please visit
http://isupply.illinois.edu/. The guidebook is also available to download for free at www.FamilyFarmed.org.