Sister uses troubled past to help campus youth

Steffie Drucker/For — Sister Maryann Schaefer was dressed modestly in a simple gray habit and fleece vest, hands folded on her lap. Though the short, gray-haired Sister now has a reputation around St. John’s Catholic Newman Center for being especially kind and affectionate toward others, she once used her hands to hurt. “Boys would call me fatso and I’d let them know how fat my knuckles were, basically,” she chuckled, looking back on her childhood encounters. “Virtually 180 days for three years I was in the principal’s office after school, in trouble because I’d fight.”

In fifth grade, Schaefer’s father placed her in the Catholic school where he worked.

STI transmission ‘low-priority’ concern for residents, despite higher-than-average county rate

By Emma Weissmann/For — Champaign County residents see the transmission of sexually transmitted infections as among the lowest-priority health concerns in the community. Yet the county’s rate is higher than the state average. Indeed, the county rate for chlamydia is sixth highest in the state. It is seventh for gonorrhea and 15th for early syphilis, according to 2012 data from the state Department of Public Health. Obesity, heart disease and child abuse are all “high-priority” health concerns in Champaign County, according to the report, whereas infant death and dental problems joined STI transmission as “low-priority,” according to a county survey of approximately 1,000 residents.

Roaches and rodent droppings among October health violations

Claire Everett/ — Cockroaches, rodent droppings and flies were among dozens of violations that prompted health inspectors to fail four restaurants and shut down three last month. A health inspector found “numerous flies,” rodent droppings and a live cockroach in the dry storage area of Mandarin Wok at 403 1/2 E. Green St. in Champaign during its Oct. 22 inspection. The restaurant received an adjusted score of 29 out of 100 and a yellow “reinspection required” placard.

Central Illinois farmers rally against proposed water rule

By Robert Holly/ — Thousands of agriculture groups and independent farmers – including many from Champaign and other central-Illinois counties – are using a public comment window to express concern over federally proposed water regulation. The proposed Waters of the U.S. rule is a joint-proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. The rule aims to clarify which bodies of water the two federal agencies can lawfully regulate. The agriculture industry has largely opposed the rule, as farmers argue it will impede on their operations through unnecessary and unclear regulation. “It’s very concerning,” said Lin Warfel, a corn and soybean farmer from just outside Tolono.

Small business development lagging in Champaign County

Sarah Soenke/For— Champaign County small business development is still struggling under setbacks from the Great Recession and have not returned to pre-recession conditions, said a county economic development official. Small business start-ups are still often unprepared for the amount of owner investment required by local commercial banks, said Kathy Larson, economic development specialist for the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission. “In general, our clients have been struggling due to the lingering effects of the recession,” Larson said. “They are finding it more difficult to find the amount of financial support they would like.”

Lending regulations have changed to enforce higher criteria levels and a 20 percent to 25 percent down payment from business owners. But the lack of small business growth in the county can also be attributed to fewer applications for loans.

Cooking, trash spark dozens of university fires

By Robert Holly/ — There were 10 university housing fires last year, most of which were caused by cooking gone wrong. One housing fire, however, was intentionally ignited. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Campus Code Compliance and Fire Safety division detailed the fires in its Annual Fire Safety Report for 2013, which it released at the end of September. The University is required to update the public on campus security and fire safety each year under federal regulations and the Jeanne Clery Act. Mapping Fires on Campus

Click to see an interactive map showing where the most fires occur around the campus.

Volunteering helps keep seniors active and programs strong

By Lauren Cox/For — For Frank Bernhart, volunteering has made all the difference. Bernhart, 69, has worked as a volunteer at Stevick Senior Center, 48 E. Main St. in Champaign, since moving to Champaign nine years ago to be close to his son, who was then a graduate student at the University. Bernhart works as a receptionist at the center, sorting mail, answering the phone and greeting visitors. “It helps me be less depressed,” said Bernhart, whose son has since moved away from Champaign.

Questions arise about transportation for residents of new project

By Lauren Rohr/For — Future residents of a new affordable housing site in west Champaign who don’t own a car may have trouble getting around town because of limited public transportation access. The Housing Authority of Champaign County’s newest mixed-income housing development, Providence at Thornberry, is being built in the Turnberry Ridge subdivision on the far west side of Champaign. Currently, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District offers one route that services that location — the pink route — during the day on weekdays. But the pink route, which runs between the Duncan and Crestridge and the Country Fair bus stops, does not run after 7 p.m. or during the weekends. Esther Patt, director of the Champaign-Urbana Tenant Union, said she worries that tenants of the new development will have trouble getting around the Champaign-Urbana area and could struggle to efficiently get to work or to the store.

University health center says it’s ready if Ebola shows up

The head of the University of Illinois’ health clinic says the clinic is ready if an Ebola patient shows up.

Noting the large international population at the university, Dr. Robert Palinkas, director of the McKinley Health Center, said that if a student is experiencing Ebola symptoms, it is possible that the student will come to the health center for care.