About derekfranke89

Journalism Major at Depaul University

Illinois teenager gives back to veterans

A teenager from Barry, Illinois is on a mission to honor America’s deceased veterans.

“We are taking donations for the Barry American Legion Flag Fund,” Caitlin Lee said. “In return for the donations, we handout bracelets that are red-white and blue like the one I have on and then they say “Freedom Isn’t Free.””

For the last two years, Caitlin Lee has dedicated her Memorial Day Weekends to a charitable cause.

All of the money she raises helps the legion preserve a special piece of Barry’s history.

“They help to maintain the flags that they hang up every year, all throughout town. And it just helps them to be able to replace flags or buy new ones for veterans that are deceased,” Caitlin said.

“Caitlin came up with the idea of having, selling these wristbands to help us with our fund. And it’s been a big help,” Tom Miller, finance officer for the Barry American Legion said.

Every Memorial Day weekend, flags are placed all around Barry to honor deceased soldiers.

Each flag has a soldier’s name embroidered into it. But after so many years outside; some flags became damaged.

That’s when Lee decided to start this project to help pay for flags that needed to be replaced.

“Every year we have to replace a few because some are World War I. Many are World War II. Now we’re getting some from Korea and Vietnam,” Miller said.

And this project holds a special meaning in Lee’s heart.

“Both of my grandfathers were veterans, and they passed away unfortunately before I was born, Lee said. When I was younger, my father and I use to walk around town and try to find the flags. And it’s just one of my fondest memories of childhood.”

Lee’s wristband slogan also holds a special meaning to her.

“My father use to work at KICK-FM for 30 years and on his show every night when he would sign off, he would say “Freedom Isn’t Free” and so I got the slogan from him, Lee said.

Lee said it’s important that we never forget the high price of our freedom.

“These veterans have fought for our freedom, they have sacrificed so many things. And we should always keep that in the back of our mind,” Lee said.

Lee estimates that she raised $4,500 over the last two years.

Lee will sell her wristbands Monday in Lafayette Park from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

By Derek Franke: Monday, May 26th 2014


Marion County family gifted free storm shelter

A Palmyra man won a free storm shelter at KHQA’s Storm Spotters class last month.

That winner, Anthony Williams, decided to give the Safe and Sound Storm Shelter to his brother-in-law, Josh Lee.

Friday morning, Hannibal Concrete Products delivered the shelter to Lee’s home in Marion County.

It’s not every day someone gets a free tornado shelter.

“It’s the best feeling in the world anybody could have, owning a manufactured home out here in the middle of rural Missouri,” Lee said.

A few weeks ago, Josh Lee and his family attended a storm spotters class to learn more about tornados and severe weather. They left with a free shelter.

“My brother-in-law actually won it for us,” Lee said. “He was sitting there, we were both pretty excited. It was just amazing to win it. It was definitely a praise that he won it and was able to give it to us.”

Lee made arrangements to have the shelter delivered and installed in his backyard as soon as he could.

“I called Hannibal Concrete Products, set the delivery up for Friday morning, and we started digging a hole Tuesday evening,” Lee said.

A two-man crew arrived Friday morning and had the shelter installed within an hour.

“Well, will back up to the hole, we make sure they dug it big enough, then we set the bottom half in seal it,” Hannibal Concrete Products driver Jim Lain said. “Then we just set the top half on it.”

Lee said the lives of his wife Cassie and six-year-old daughter Alyssa could be in danger if a tornado strikes.

“We use to have to drive 15 minutes to my parents house, get in the basement if there was a severe storm,” Lee said. “Now we’re three seconds out the back door.”

The time they save could be the time that saves their lives.

“You don’t have very much time, you know, if there is a storm. There’s no storm sirens to let you know that, all you have is a TV and radio,” Lee said. “So it’s very, it makes you feel great to have a storm shelter like this, to be able, right out your back door.”

In addition to being thankful for his brother-in-law’s generosity, Lee said, “We got this from the good lord. He put it in our hands, put it in our backyard for us.”

The Safe and Sound Storm Shelter that Lee received typically sells for around three thousand dollars.

By Derek Franke: Friday, April 11th 2014

Newborn baby discovered in dumpster

A newborn baby was found inside a dumpster in the 300 block of W. Lafayette Ave. in Jacksonville, Illinois Saturday morning.

Investigators are still trying to figure out who put it there and why.

Lt. Chris Johnson with the Jacksonville Police Department said a man made a lucky but sad discovery this weekend.

“He was taking some trash out to the dumpster of the business that he works at, and he observed something moving in the trash can. And when he removed that item, he discovered that it was a baby,” Johnson said.

Police responded to the scene just after 8:14 a.m.

The baby was transported to Passavant Area Hospital for treatment.

Johnson said doctors told police the baby was less than 12 hours old.

“It’s not nothing short of what we’ve called a miracle that, that baby was found that quickly after its birth,” Johnson said.

Police have gone door-to-door asking residents if they saw anything.

They’re also following up on every tip.

“One thing that keeps coming up, is the woman or the man or whoever did this, doesn’t want the baby to be found; because they were so close to a safe haven here. The police department, the fire department,” Johnson said.

Lori Deskovich lives close to where the baby was found.

“I think a lot of people are really surprised that, that did happen,” Deskovich said.

She was shocked to hear about it.

“I wish they would have really found the resources that they needed, you know, to help the baby instead of just leaving it,” Deskovich said.

Now, police officers and detectives have centered their investigation on locating the baby’s parents.

“The main part of our focus now, is finding the mother,” Johnson said. “One of the things that we’re concerned about is the aftercare.”

But this story has a happy ending.

Johnson said the baby is going to make it.

“The one thing that a lot of people have had on their minds is the health of the baby.” Johnson said. “We are letting people know that the baby is healthy.”

Johnson said once the baby is released from the hospital, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services will find a place for it.

If you have any information that can help investigators, you’re asked to contact the Jacksonville Police Department at 217-479-4630.

Police have not released the gender of the baby.

Read about Illinois’ Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act by clicking here .

By Derek Frank: Sunday, August 31st 2014

Some residents wait, some leave as Pontoosuc ravaged by flood

Multiple communities across the Tri-States have been hit by recent flooding.

Almost half of Pontoosuc, Illinois is flooded with around six inches to a foot of water.

Some residents have decided to pack their bags and move out before the water rises even more.

“Three times enough, totally enough. I’ve learned my lesson,” Dunn said.

Bill Dunn has seen this before.

His community, which is just west of Dallas City and off of Hwy. 96, was flooded in 1993 and once again in 2008.

“I’ve been around here for 20 years,” Dunn said. “It’s enough and it just gets worse and worse every few years.”

Over the weekend, his Pontoosuc home right next to the river, started to flood.

Every time it floods, his home gets wiped out.

“We started moving stuff out yesterday, finished a few things today and tomorrow it will be under water,” Dunn said.

Dunn’s neighbor, Bob Anderson, was a little more fortunate.

The area around his home only received about six inches of water.

“What did it was all of the rains, the heavy rains up north and in Iowa,” Anderson said.“Basically, flood the tributaries that flow into the Mississippi.”

He plans to stick around to see if he can wait out the rising tide.

“Well, until the electric company comes in and shuts the power off,” Anderson said.

“It just keeps coming up, you know. Last year it was 22 and half feet,” Dunn said. “This year it’s going to be 24 feet. You just … forget it.”

Dunn plans to leave a for sale sign outside of his house.

“I’m not coming back. I’ve done this three times and I ain’t doing it again.”

Another Pontoosuc resident told KHQA that 12 homes were wiped out by the 2008 flood.

To get additional information about local flooding including links to River Stages, the National Weather Service, FEMA, Road Conditions and more.

Hope rises from the ashes of Perry church

It’s been four days since a historic church burned down in Perry, Illinois.

Now members of the community are making plans to remove the rubble that remains.

Kristine Camphouse spent almost every Sunday as a kid entering the front doors of the Church of Christ in Perry, Illinois.

“It was a weekly occasion and, you know, Sunday school and church and Sunday dinner afterwards,” Kristine said.

Looking at old pictures instantly reminds Kristine of cherished memories inside of the church along with the harsh reality that it’s gone.

“Throughout the decades, it’s been a large congregation and it was very active within the community,” Kristine said.

Kristine and her family were dedicated members of the congregation.

Her parents maintained the church for several years.

“With their passing, that seems to have come our direction. So our role at this point was to make sure that the building was viable,” Bill Camphouse, Kristineâ??s husband, said.

Services ended at Church of Christ about four or five years ago.

Since then, Kristine and Bill have watched over it.

Bill still can’t believe it’s been reduced to nothing but ashes and debris.

“When I sat up there the other night at three o’clock watching the smoke die down; sort of have this mental image of what it was like walking in the front door,” Bill said.

A few pieces of the church have been recovered since Wednesday’s fire, but Kristine hopes the church bell will be found during the cleanup.

Kristine said it’s an important part of the church’s legacy.

“The last part of the church standing was the main tower with the bell house and it was pushed down at the very end,” Kristine said.

Kristine said it will take some time before this village community will move past this tragedy.

“I’m sure many things are running through the minds of many community members,” Kristine said.

Kristine said the community has contacted the church’s insurance company.

Now they’re waiting to receive bids to help pay for its clean up.

October 5th 2014

New beginnings for the Ralls County 911 Center

For more than a year, the Ralls County 911 Center has been disconnected.

An incident at the facility forced it to be closed and since then all emergency calls have been taken by the Marion County 911 Center.

But there’s hope on the other end of the phone line.

In June, a new executive director, Michael Arnold, was hired to help reopen and run the Ralls County 911 Center.

“I want to bring respectability and accountability back to this office,” Arnold said.

Since Arnold came on board, he’s metaphorically had to rebuild the center from the ground up.

“We’re just giving the building a little TLC. We’ve done some work inside and out,” Arnold said. “We’ve facilitated new servers, new computers for the dispatch area to upgrade them to the FBI’s standards.”

He’s still attempting to knock a few obstacles off his list.

“We’ve successfully applied for our (MULES) circuit or Missouri Uniformed Law Enforcement (System) circuit and it’s in the works and we’re waiting, currently waiting on parts from Motorola to update our radio system,” Arnold said.

Arnold has brought in some fresh ideas and began creating a specialized mapping program.

Arnold and the existing staff have laid out a standard procedure guideline.

He’s already administered an aptitude test to more than 40 people for dispatcher positions.

He’s trying to hire at least 10 dispatchers.

In the future, the center will be open 24 hours a day with two dispatchers working at all time.

“We’re going to be starting our training process in the next three weeks hopefully. And we do want to have a high level of integrity here,” Arnold said. “We’re going to hire the best possible people to do the best possible job.”

But he’s asking one favor from residents to help make their service more efficient.

“One of the main things the people or the citizens can do for us, is please mark your address clearly with some numerics or some kind of numbering for your house,” Arnold said.

Arnold said he’s making appointments to receive feedback on the center’s standard procedure guideline from Ralls County firefighters, police and other emergency services.

He also said the center will hopefully open sometime later this year.

By Derek Frank: Friday, August 29th 2014

Last wish leaves a legacy for Quincy parish

If you drive by Blessed Sacrament Church in Quincy, you might see some of the windows boarded up. The church isn’t closed, there was no fire, and it’s not an act of vandalism, but an act of charity.

There’s a reason the parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Church feel blessed. The church just finished a $600,000 renovation to its gathering area.

Next on the list, was replacing it’s stained glass windows.

The problem?

There was no money.

Then the church got word of a bequest by Arlene Middendorf.

“She loved Blessed Sacrament Church,” Mary Ann Middendorf said. Mary Ann Middendorf is Arlene’s sister-in-law.

Arlene left the church $340,000 … more than enough to pay for this project.

“Some of the windows are in pretty bad shape,” Bill Preston with Jacksonville Art Glass said. “If we hadn’t taped some of them together, they would have broken into a hundred pieces.”

“We’re lucky we got to them when we did,” Jeremiah Birdsell another worker with Jacksonville Art Glass said.

“The cost for the entire project is $250,000 to $260,000,” Father Michael Kuse with Blessed Sacrament Church said.

And it’s a pretty detailed process. Crews from Jacksonville Art Glass come to Quincy, take out the windows and drive them back to Jacksonville.

“We take apart each panel piece by piece and we clean every piece. We put them all together it’s such an extensive process,” Jeremiah Birdsell said.

The windows have been in the church since 1892, and Father Michael Kuse says when the project done in May, he hopes it enhances the worship space. Miss Middendorf’s family is happy their loved one is being remembered.

“She deserves to be recognized for this tremendous gift that she’s given and I’m happy she’s getting that recognition,” Mary Ann said.

Mary Ann says Arlene fought a long battle against a brain tumor, but never lost faith in God. That’s why she wanted the money to go to the church. But she wasn’t specific on how the church used the money. It just so happens this project was needed and Father Kuse thought this was the perfect way to honor a long time parishioner.

“Thanks Arlene, you know, you’re giving us something that’s going to live on in your memory for decades,” Father Kuse said.

Arlene Middendorf also left a portion of her estate to Quincy Notre Dame.

By Derek Franke: Thursday, January 23rd 2014