Rotary Club of Sycamore, Illinois

We meet Wednesdays at 11:45 AM
Blumen Gardens
403 Edward Street
Sycamore, IL  60178
United States of America
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Brian Reis
Mar 27, 2019 11:45 AM
Ellwood House
 
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Sycamore Rotary News
Today's speaker was Heather Du Vall, executive director for Pay-it-Forward House, a not-for-profit organization that provides lodging for individuals and families that have a loved one being treated in one of the local health care facilities. The Pay-it-Forward house opened in 2005 after purchasing the house next to Kindred Hospital and receiving a special use permit from the City of Sycamore. To date, they have provided more than 20,000 nights of rest, all possible due to the donations of financial support and time from local volunteers. 
 
Heather, who studied psychology at UW-Eau Claire, comes to Sycamore from Green Bay, Wisconsin. She previously worked with the Ronald McDonald House Charities, one of the inspirations behind Pay-it-Forward House. 
 
More information about the Pay-it-Forward house can be found at their website: http://www.payitforwardhouse.org.
Bill Nicklas, former Sycamore Rotarian and recently hired as the DeKalb city manager, shared with us his vision for his new role and the challenges faced by DeKalb as they look to revitalize the town to be more business friendly. Bill has a lot of insight into city management, having previously been the city manager for Sycamore but most recently coming from a position at Kishwaukee College.
 
John Papas and Cohen Barnes have made substantial investments into the downtown and others are prepared to do so as well. Additional funding is being earmarked by the city to support additional downtown rebuilding efforts as they see the downtown as the City’s doormat to the rest of the world and something that can’t continue to be neglected. 
 
Responding to a question from Mark Spiegelhoff, Bill addressed some of the initial measures he has taken in his first two months on the job to shore up the city, financially, to address pension obligations by finding $1.1M in savings. An additional hot topic he addressed from the club was crime, a hot topic due to the recent visit from the DeKalb Targeted Response Unit. He also spoke briefly about changes that have been made to incentivize residential building through the elimination of impact fees as well as efforts being undertaken to retain current businesses.
Thomas Mangan joined our club last August, a meeting that he warmly remembers happened to coincide with the debut of the “Old Folks Boogie,” a song led by Bob Hammon and originally performed by Little Feet. Thomas is a consulting geologist with Geothink, a company that provides environmental and natural resource consulting and contracting services in the greater Chicagoland area. He came to Sycamore in 1988 from Ohio. 
 
Thomas’ journey to Sycamore originally arose out of a working relationship that he had with Gary Stapleton, who encouraged him to explore Sycamore as a possible relocation area. Thomas and his wife, Nancy, have been married for more than 34 years and 4 children and 7 grand boys. His dad was a builder (Mangan Builders), and because of that, Thomas grew up working in the trades. He attributes his good work ethic to the time he had working with his father. On a more solemn note, Thomas’ father recently passed away at the age of 92. 
 
Thomas wrapped up his classification speech by giving a brief history of the Blumen Gardens building and his involvement with the environmental cleanup of some of the waste materials that used to be stored there.
 
The club learned much about DeKalb’s gang activity during today’s presentation from the DeKalb Police Department’s Target Response Unit (or TRU). The team consists of officers Steve Parsons and Jason Goodwin. The team specializes in gangs and narcotics. In 2018, there were 457 gang-related arrests, of which 220 were felonies.
 
A gang, by their definition, consists of three or more people who have a unique name or identifiable organization and are actively engaged in an unlawful activity. Gangs are broadly defined as associatin with one of two factions, named the People Nation and the Folk Nation, who typically don’t get along, though there are signs that has begun to recently change. The officers employ many tactics to identify and track gangs and gang member activity, but rely heavily on social networks.
 
Some of the more prominent gangs in Dekalb include the Latin Kings, Gangster Desciples, Vice Lords, Ambrose, and Insane Deuces, though there are many more. By population, the Latin Kings and Ambrose are the largest. Many of their tactics rely on the recruitment of kids at a younger age because the system is usually more lenient with them than adults. The officers shared background information on the various gangs, including their associated hand signs, visual symbols, colors (including sports team associations), among other facts. For more information on gangs, you can visit Chicagogangs.org.
 
If someone suspects gang activity or sees gang-related graffiti in the public, they are encouraged to reach out to the officers at:
 
Officer Steven Parsons #33
Steven.parsons@cityofdekalb.com
 
Officer Jason Goodwin #55
Jason.Goodwin@cityofdekalb.com
Sycamore Rotary Club’s short term exchange program continued this year with the arrival of Laureanna Bagliani and Martin San Emeterio.  Illinois’ brutal winter weather did little to welcome our Southern Hemisphere visitors who, during today’s presentation, mentioned that they are used to summers of 110 degrees and no snow. So far they say they are “surviving the weather shock.” So far, they’ve visited Starved Rock, where they witnessed a frozen waterfall, commenting that it was a very pretty park. Martin comes from a family of 5 with parents who work as a nutritionist and a doctor. Laureanna comes from a family of 4 and her family are ranchers. Both Martin and Laureanna are planning to go into medicine. Next year they plan on attending college about 6 hours from home. 
 
Also joining us was Sebastian Colmenares, our long-term exchange student from Valencia, Venezuela. He too has been surviving the cold weather but took a small break from thinking about the snow to help his dad celebrate his dad’s birthday last week. He talked to him on the phone and enjoyed a ceremonial cake eating simultaneously with his remote father. Sebastian commented that of everyone he knows, his father is the person Sebastian would like to be, and that his father has made his life “so special”. The club sang Happy Birthday to Sebastian’s dad.
We were joined by Jim Elliott, President of Diveheart and Rotarian from Downers Grove, IL. As a youth, Jim’s daughter struggled with blindness. In figuring out how to help her through her struggles, Jim started working with blind downhill skiers and now works with adaptive schools to help students around the world through Diveheart. Jim shared a video that highlighted some of the work that he’s done with students as a part of their water-based therapy programs that enable individuals of a broad range of physical ableness to participate in life changing experiences. Diveheart’s programs have benefited individuals ranging from ages 10-87. For more information, visit www.diveheart.org.