Illinois Extension, Year In Review - Fulton, Mason, Peoria, Tazewell Counties 2023

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2023 Year in Review Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit

UNIT AT A GLANCE Guiding Principle Making people and communities better.

Mission To extend research-based information, technology, and best practices from the university arena into public and private arenas in order to strengthen local communities and improve people’s lives.

Vision Photo by Anita Wilkinson

To adapt research-based knowledge into accessible forms so that every person we serve will experience and recognize a positive impact from our work.

Process Facilitated Engagement Collaborative Outreach

Direct Education Experiential Learning

Scope 4-H Youth Development Horticulture Natural Resources Agriculture Community & Economic Development Nutrition & Wellness

Photo by Katharine Girone

The People 36 Staff

941 Volunteers

299 Partners

The Methods PROGRAMS: 81,700 people 42% by Staff

58% by Volunteers

MEDIA: 196 pieces TV, news releases, newsletters, radio, blog articles

WEBSITES: 185,000 followers and website hits social media, blogs, and website reach

Financial Report Photo by Anita Wilkinson



$2.4 Million

Federal State University Local Other

33.9% 19.7% 18.8% 24.6% 3%

EXPENDITURES $2.4 Million Personnel Programming Equipment Overhead

71.2% 13.8% 0.3% 14.7%

Tazewell 4-H Show provided an avenue for youth to showcase new skills learned

Photo by Anita Wilkinson

New and old intertwined for positive impact

Earl Allen County Director

It struck me as we began compiling our 2023 annual report that many “new things” happened this past year in University of Illinois Extension’s FultonMason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit. At the same time, “old things” foundational to our mission and helpful to our local communities continued to deliver value as well. Both new and old happen every year. Old things can be relevant, effective, and satisfying. New things can be energizing, engaging, and catalyzing. As we intertwined new with old

this past year, and as we continue in the coming year, we strive for all we do to be viewed by our clientele, partners, and stakeholders as impactful. Please review this report in this light; and join us in reaching this objective as we work hard to serve the public. Things new to our unit in 2023 included: • Eight new staff in various permanent and part-time roles • New volunteers that extended our reach with 4-H and master volunteer programs

• New partners that expanded our ability to engage new audiences • New programs such as Conservation@ Home, Hybrid Master Volunteer Trainings, Clovers Around the Counties, Farmland Owners Conference, the Hunger Action Month toolkit, and the Farm Coach website We are grateful to each of you for your involvement in our work,

EXTENSION COUNCIL Shundell Broomfield, Peoria

Kim Dunnigan, Fiatt

Holly Koch, Tremont

DeAnna Thomas, Manito

Hector Corona, Lewistown

Melissa Gilson, Havana

Katherine Mueller, Peoria

Dinah VanDelinder, Topeka

Janine Donahue, Morton

Cindy Intravartolo, Dunfermline

Emily Rogier, Pekin

Patty Wiegers, Lewistown



New webinar series focuses on small businesses Illinois Small Business Development Center at Bradley University collaborated with Illinois Extension on this new program. Illinois Extension Community and Economic Development (CED) educators piloted a new Small Business Finance webinar series to gauge interest and meet finance educational needs for small business owners, operators, and managers. The series also targeted entrepreneurs considering starting a new business. The pilot series was conducted in partnership with Bradley University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Two sessions were held during the second half of 2023 and reached 59 participants during the live webinars. The recordings have been made available on the Illinois Extension Community Economic Development YouTube page and continue to reach more people. The first session held in July covered the State of Illinois’ new retirement program requirements for businesses with 5+ employees. Representatives from West Point Financial Group’s Peoria and Chicago offices, collaborated as presenters.

Representatives from both the IRS and Bradley’s SBDC presented at the November program and discussed taxpayer responsibilities and how to use tax laws to reduce tax liability and increase profitability. Results from post meeting surveys showed 75% of respondents learned considerable to a lot of information and understanding about the topics. Future plans, according to CED educators Richard Proffer and Mike Delaney, are to host quarterly offerings in 2024 with a new small business entrepreneurial theme. One of the goals of Extension’s CED team is to help local leaders and would-be business owners build local capacity to successfully create and operate small businesses. To this end, the team provides programming and tools which can, among other things, help assess small business development needs. Some of these materials, tools, and recordings can be found at


Grant funding is an important revenue source for many organizations, groups, and businesses. One service provided by Community and Economic Development Educator Richard Proffer is grant database searching. He provides clients with a listing of potential grant resources for financing projects or efforts for which they need stand alone or supplemental funding. A search results in a compiled list of potential funding sources based on needs and parameters defined by the seeker. A few examples of searches conducted by Proffer during the past year include: • Havana Park District - for playground equipment, adding personnel, trail development • Fulton County Farm Bureau - pollinator garden project • Peoria NAACP – for youth programming, food distribution to low income families, pollinator gardens • Pekin High School Ag Program – for field trips and classroom tools such as welding equipment • Bath, IL – conversion of FEMA fields into youth softball and soccer fields • Illinois River Biological Station – for government funding for new building, program resources, faculty salaries

Havana, Illinois community leadership utilize research project to boost local tourism

Photo by April Burgett | Havana, IL

Havana benefits from Illinois Rural Tourism research

Research project resulted in rural tourism development toolkit utilized by Havana and other communities looking to grow local tourism sector. Many small rural towns in Illinois are experiencing an economic downturn due to reasons beyond their control. One town, Havana, Illinois, is taking the bull by the horns to turn its community around economically. The local chamber of commerce and city officials partnered with Illinois Extension and the U of I Department of Recreation, Sports and Tourism to participate in an Illinois Rural Tourism research project focused on outdoor recreation activities, led by Dr. Suiwen (Sharon) Zou, U of I assistant professor.

in the areas of leadership, community, and tourism. The report detailed strengths and challenges while providing recommendations in the areas of planning and developing tourism opportunities, adding individual attractions to improve profitability, learning how to best tell Havana’s unique story, working with volunteers, collaborating with outside partners to grow potential tourism opportunities, and integrating Native American history into to the story of the area.

The research project included an in-person visioning workshop and interviews with several sectors of the community to ensure a well-rounded picture was developed. They also surveyed visitors to Havana and the surrounding area with the goal to understand their expectations before their visit, their satisfaction after the visit, and their thoughts on how to attract more visitors.

Richard Proffer, Extension CED educator, is in the process of reconvening the initial volunteer group and adding more people to the project. “This group will work to find ways to implement the recommendations and keep the work sustainable for the future,” he explained. The group will use the findings of the research project to help make decisions, plans, and investments to grow Havana. Illinois Extension will take the lead in facilitating the project with community involvement. The long-term goal is to transfer the full leadership of the project to the community.

The preliminary findings address topics that can help the city of Havana be prepared for potential growth

“Overall, the report indicated that Havana is well positioned to capitalize on the growing trend of outdoor tourism because they have the assets to make it happen.”

The study was also conducted in the Illinois communities of Galena, Grafton, and Savannah.

Richard Proffer, CED Educator



Photo by Kevin Brooks

Extension brings back farm business management programming After an eleven-year hiatus, Kevin Brooks returned to Illinois Extension as the farm business management and marketing educator. Kevin Brooks, Extension farm business management and marketing educator, previously served in this role from 2000 to 2011 in Effingham and Champaign counties. He brings a wealth of expertise and experience with him. As a licensed real estate broker, he has professionally managed and consulted on over 25,000 acres of farmland and marketed grain for farm management customers as a professional farm management and trust officer. As a certified agriculture teacher, Kevin has taught farm management, agribusiness management, crop science, crop production, soil science, pesticide application, grain marketing, and general horticulture at the college level.

EDUCATIONAL FOCUS Throughout the year Kevin’s educational programming has included direct and indirect methods. Examples of his work include: • Farm management website development • Farm Coach blog and social media • Educational articles and videos • Farmland Owners Conference • Research projects about drones and farm drainage • One-on-one client consultations

His expertise also includes drones, agronomy, ag input sales, and farm loan analysis. He is a commercially licensed UAS (drone) pilot holding an FAA Part 107 license. He has worked in agricultural input sales (farm chemicals and seed) and is trained in agronomy through Purdue University and Iowa State University. Early in his career, he worked for USDA as a Farm Management Specialist, working primarily on farm loan analysis.

“Our unit is leading the way in bringing the agribusiness team back to Illinois Extension. Kevin’s prior experience and in-depth expertise in farm management is allowing him to quickly launch a strong program.” Earl Allen, County Director 6 2023 YEAR IN REVIEW FULTON MASON PEORIA TAZEWELL


Photos by Emily Schoenfelder

4-H Embryology in the Classroom program helps students learn about food systems and STEM Over 80 classrooms and homeschool groups, with over 2,000 students, in Peoria and Tazewell Counties participated. Knowing where your food comes from is vital information for anyone who consumes it. The 4-H Embryology in the Classroom program provides young people with an opportunity to get handson learning about food systems and it increases STEM skills in the process. This year, the 3rd-grade class at South Side Christian Academy (SSCA) helped pilot special embryology enrichment activities that sought to further deepen this learning. As part of the pilot program, 4-H staff facilitated a variety of in-school enrichment activities. Through these activities, students were introduced to the fascinating field of food science through kitchen chemistry experiments with eggs. They explored the engineering design process with an egg-drop challenge. They delved into the scientific method as they learned how to formulate hypotheses, design experiments, and

analyze data about the strength of eggshells. In addition, the students learned about related careers. The class went on a field trip to Linden Hill Farms, where the students interacted with poultry, sheep, and dairy cows, and witnessed the connections between animals, farmers, the land, and our food system. Throughout all of this, they watched, cared for, and learned about incubating chicken eggs in their classroom. They also shared lessons they learned through this experience with other classrooms in their school. The students were equally divided about their favorite part of the program, between watching the eggs hatch and holding the baby chicks! Perhaps most importantly, all students indicated they had fun during school time and now have a positive connection with agriculture.

Urban Peoria youth experienced in-depth embryology program to enhance STEM

“Embryology in the Classroom is a popular 4-H program. We were excited to pilot our new enrichment activities with South Side Christian Academy.” Katharine Girone, 4-H Program Coordinator



6,390 YOUTH REACHED   974 in 4-H Clubs   2,501 in Extended Programs 1,870 in Short Programs   1,045 in One-day Programs 82 CLUBS

39 Multi-project Clubs 18 Special Interest Clubs 25 Cloverbud Clubs


98 Extended Programs 159 Short Programs   12 One-day Programs

691 ADULT VOLUNTEERS Photo by Anita Wilkinson

82 Club Leaders   437 Program Volunteers 30 SPIN Club Leaders   116 Fair Superintendents 26 Cloverbud Leaders

Illinois 4-H Alumni Honoree Barb Knake Barb Knake (center) with her husband Bill (left) and her mother Martha Schoen (right), was presented with the 4-H Alumni Award. Her model of 4-H participation and volunteerism, along with her personal accomplishments including completion of higher education, career success, plus exemplary citizenship, leadership, and community and public service are the ideals of this award.

Photo by Joli Pierson

Over the course of 24 years, Barb has served with 4-H and Extension as an Extension Council member, auditing committee member, 4-H Show judge and superintendent, and 4-H club assistant. She provides current 4-H youth with an example of dependable, purposeful citizenship, which gives her the opportunity to share with 4-H youth how to continue their involvement in 4-H and Extension programs.

Spanglers’ 50th Anniversary as 4-H Leaders Fulton 4-H honored Sharon and Bruce Spangler for 50 years of volunteer work as the leaders of Checkrow Volunteers 4-H Club. These years do not reflect the years prior in which each served their community as 4-H volunteers. As club leaders, they have impacted an estimated 250 4-H members. One of their goals as leaders was to teach young people to give back through community service projects. They’ve taken 4-H into local schools and brought members into their home to learn sewing and textiles skills. They’ve taught young people to care for animals and to develop good stockmanship and showmanship skills. They’ve taught the value of hard work and the joy of new skills. Photo by Holly Spangler


Sharon was inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame in 2008, and the Spanglers won the 2015 4-H Family Spirit Award.

Through specialized training, 4-H Teen Teachers develop leadership and teaching skills

Photo by Rebecca Crumrine Photo by Anita Wilkinson

Mental, Emotional, Social Health Programs The need for education and support around youth mental health is an unfortunate reality. Statistics show mental health disorders and suicidal behaviors are rising among young people. 4-H Youth Educators Judy Schmidt and Emily Schoenfelder used their expertise to help address this vital concern.

Programs inspire youth and families to explore nature Photo by Anita Wilkinson

Natural sciences are focus of two new 4-H programs The pilot Junior Master Naturalist program was a success while Adventures in Nature inspired families in its second year. The benefits of spending time in nature are well-documented, including improved physical and mental health, reduced stress, and enhanced academic success, especially for children. JR. MASTER NATURALIST CLUB The new Fulton 4-H Junior Master Naturalist Club launched in January 2023. Extension Master Naturalist (EMN) Jenny Beal and Canton Park District Superintendent of Recreation and new EMN intern Amanda Atchley collaborated with Illinois Extension to form the club. As a retired teacher, Jenny understands how outdoor, active, hands-on learning is a perfect way for youth to gain a better understanding and appreciation for nature. Both Jenny and Amanda want to share their experiences knowing that kids thrive when they spend time outdoors. In addition to local staff, State Master Naturalist and Climate Change Specialist Duane Friend and Natural Resources and Shooting Sports 4-H Specialist Curt Sinclair assisted with the

launch of this new club as part of the state-wide pilot program. The six monthly meetings focused on wildlife in Illinois; fossils and geology; climate change & weather; insects, wildflowers, and trees; pond explorers and aquatics; and camping adventures. Club leaders engaged five guest speakers and one other Master Naturalist to share their knowledge with 16 youth. ADVENTURES IN NATURE The Adventures in Nature program provided monthly nature-based challenges, April through August, that were designed to engage youth and their families in fun and educational outdoor activities. It was an excellent way to help families bond with each other and connect with the natural world. A total of 68 families with 269 members engaged in activities with the monthly themes of air, earth, plants, water, and fire. Participating families could pick and choose the challenges that interested them, making it flexible and accessible for everyone.


The duo made this a high priority in their youth development program planning. In addition to incorporating the topic in typical 4-H programs, the team presented the following programs and resources: • Afterschool Wellness Workshop which included training and kits for 20 afterschool providers representing 15 agencies where they experienced two 4-H curricula, Mindful Mechanics and Your Thoughts Matter • A pilot of Mindful Mechanics conducted with 15 youth at Harold B. Dawson School • Youth Mental Health First Aid programs at three sites • Walk in My Shoes programs at afterschool sites • Mindfulness programs at Dream Center, Annie Jo Gordon School, and Salvation Army • Connection Corner blog connection-corner


Photo by Anita Wilkinson

New Clovers Around the Counties 4-H workshop series opened doors to topics, friendships, and new places Throughout the winter, 86 youth participated in at least one of eight workshops offered through Clovers Around the Counties. Trying new things is not always easy, but the benefits often outweigh the initial discomfort. The unit 4-H Youth Development team created a new workshop series to engage youth across county lines and expose them to 4-H project-focused topics and activities. Clovers Around the Counties focused on providing 4-H members with hands-on workshops throughout the four counties to help them learn more about the wide array of 4-H projects they may exhibit at the 4-H show. Youth attending three or more workshops in at least two different counties received a special prize. This challenge was accomplished by 16% of the participating youth. “We wanted to provide 4-H members with meaningful workshops that allowed them the opportunity to learn more about their current passions, explore new possibilities, and make new 4-H friends from around

the counties,” explained Emily Schoenfelder, Extension 4-H youth development educator. When participants were asked about the most beneficial thing they experienced, they shared: • Knowledgeable presenters • Socialization with others already interested in the topic • Great to have project-focused activities • Being able to do different projects with friends • How welcomed they felt The workshops focused on a variety of current 4-H project areas, such as foods, visual arts, horticulture, geology, and livestock. Presenters included University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists, Peoria Art Guild volunteers, livestock industry specialists, and 4-H volunteers and staff. Youth also had the opportunity to tour Raber Packing in Peoria, as part of the Livestock Day workshop.

Photo by Krista Gray

Cake decorating and geology were among the eight workshops offered through Clovers Around the Counties

“Being able to provide realworld connections to 4-H members and their project areas was a positive bonus to this workshop series. These workshops may have opened the door to someone’s future passion and career.” Emily Schoenfelder, 4-H Educator


Morton Library is one of many sites of Master Gardener native pollinator gardens

Photo by Anita Wilkinson

Master Volunteer Stats


145 Master Gardeners   93 Master Naturalists

16,616 VOLUNTEER HOURS REPORTED 9,247 Master Gardeners 7,369 Master Naturalists

5,213 CONTINUING EDUCATION HOURS REPORTED 3,164 Master Gardeners 2,049 Master Naturalists

$528,400 VALUE TO COMMUNITIES $294,000 Master Gardeners $234,400 Master Naturalists

Project Spotlight Videos 20 VIDEOS | 6,000 VIEWS 80% via ILRiverHort Facebook 11% via unit YouTube   9% via ILRiverHort Instagram It is easy for University of Illinois Extension staff to see the amazing work Extension Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists do in and for the community. However, it is not common knowledge for the public to know about all of the projects. Thanks to the work of two interns, 20 Extension Master Volunteer Project Spotlight videos were created this year and are helping to share the impact of the volunteer work to a broader audience. “The idea for the spotlight videos came from the initial work the interns did conducting annual project reviews,” explained Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle, horticulture educator. “They interviewed the volunteers and documented details about their individual projects, how they were progressing, and the best ways staff could support them. Their work is so impressive we wanted to tell everyone about it.” The videos highlight the work done by Extension Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists in local communities. Through the videos, a wider audience can see the passion volunteers have for their projects, which increases the impact of the program. The two interns instrumental in getting the videos created and shared were Ellie Bourwieg and Maria Gottemoller. These two young ladies stepped into their intern roles with a strong work ethic and excitement for learning. They caught the excitement of the Master Volunteers and leveraged it to create informative and engaging videos.

“The project spotlight videos not only spread the word about the impact of the projects, they highlighted the diversity of projects in our unit. The volunteers work on everything from grant writing to prairie installations to food donation gardens and more.” Tara Heath, Horticulture Program Coordinator 2023 YEAR IN REVIEW FULTON MASON PEORIA TAZEWELL 13

HORTICULTURE & NATURAL RESOURCES Gardeners’ BIG Day For the past 23 years, Extension Master Gardeners have coordinated Gardeners’ BIG Day. This year the team planned a fun-filled conference for 125 people, that included 11 speakers, vendors, a silent auction, door prizes, and networking with gardening enthusiasts. “Our Master Gardeners are passionate about helping others improve their gardening skills and inspiring them to try something new,” stated Tara Heath, horticulture program coordinator. “It was wonderful to see so many of our volunteers work together to make it happen.”

Photo by Anita Wilkinson

The event is a partnership with Spoon River Garden Club in Canton. Spoon River College serves as the host site. The workshop presenter list included Tippy Creek, Luthy Botanical Garden, Jubilee Prairie Dawgs, Kipling Lavender Farm, Illinois Central College, HyVee, and Giving Gardens.

Pollinator Efforts Native plants that attract native pollinators have tremendous benefits to the environment and the gardener. Volunteers and staff understand their importance, and extra efforts were made in the areas of pollinator continuing education and special projects. EXAMPLES OF CONTINUING ED PROGRAMS: Native Pollinators and Native Plants workshop by Horticulture Educator Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle, Sustainable Landscape program and tour of downtown Havana by Amy Wilson of Farnsworth Group, and A Little Patch of Prairie program by Master Naturalist Paul Resnick.

Photo by Anita Wilkinson

EXAMPLES OF MASTER GARDENER AND NATURALIST PROJECTS: New pollinator plot at Lakeland Park in Canton (pictured left), Morton Library pollinator garden, Wildlife Prairie Park butterfly habitat, and Fulton County Farm Bureau demonstration landscape.

State Master Gardener Conference Local Extension Master Gardeners and staff welcomed 300 guests to East Peoria for the Illinois Master Gardener State Conference. The two-day event included tours, a trivia night, educational sessions, and awards banquet. A team of volunteers and staff from the unit worked together to coordinate this special event.

Photo by Anita Wilkinson


The conference extended into the community with tours, offering participants the opportunity to explore a variety of gardens and learn from experienced horticulturists. A full-day tour embarked on a journey to the Mason State Tree Nursery, Dickson Mounds State Museum, Black Sheep Flower Farm, and St. Ann’s Garden of Hope. Morning and afternoon half-day tours delved into the Illinois Central College Gardens, Wildlife Prairie Park (pictured left), and Luthy Botanical Garden.

Photo by Anita Wilkinson

U of I Extension brings Conservation@Home program to West Central Illinois Homeowners learn and implement easy, but impactful things on their property to improve conservation efforts. The “typical” yard can easily be improved to help reduce water run-off, increase wildlife habitat, and improve the soil, which ultimately improves the environment. Conservation@ Home is the ultimate everyonecan-do-something program. By making some earth-conscious choices in a home landscape, such as replacing some turf grass with beautiful and drought-resistant native plants, installing a rain barrel or two, and reducing or eliminating chemical use, homeowners can enjoy environmental benefits such as reduced water usage, more birds and butterflies in their yard, and less lawn mowing. CERTIFICATION PROCESS The local Extension horticulture and natural resources team worked with The Conservation Foundation to introduce the program in late April. Since that time, a group of 18 Extension Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists have gone through

C@H evaluator training and certified 18 yards with more scheduled for the coming spring. C@H members receive access to continuing conservation education opportunities and a quarterly newsletter. DEMONSTRATION GARDEN In May, phase two of the local C@H education program began as volunteers installed a native plant demonstration garden at the Fulton County Farm Bureau. EMN & EMG Carla Presnell did the landscape design. The demonstration garden serves as educational, inspirational, and environmentally beneficial. This phase of the program was thanks to additional support from the Fulton County Farm Bureau, BH Materials, Inc., Mason State Tree Nursery, Wilcoxen Construction, Fulton FS, native plant donations from EMG Susan McCabe, and Extension and Farm Bureau volunteers who labored to install and maintain it.

“Visitors will be able to see native plants in a typical home landscape setting and hopefully be inspired to add some to their yard. In addition, the Farm Bureau will be able to reap the benefits of reduced water runoff, low maintenance, and a beautiful landscape that attracts beautiful pollinators.” Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle, Horticulture Educator


NUTRITION & HEALTH SNAP-Education Stats PARTICIPANTS: 93% youth and 7% adults 7,695 Direct Education 8,495 Indirect Activities RACE: 54% white, 40% black, and 6% other ETHNICITY: 10% identified as Hispanic POLICY, SYSTEMS, ENVIRONMENT IMPACT: 18 Coalitions | 8 led by Extension staff 196 changes adopted ~ 193,000 potential impacts $19,531 raised by grants or donations to 13 partners

Photo by Anita Wilkinson

PARTNERS: 221 unique organizations 95 direct education 70 policy, systems, environment 29 layering direct ed and PSE 111 in coalitions

Pekin High School Life Skills Class The Illinois Junior Chefs program not only helps youth develop cooking skills, it also opens the door to trying new foods. Julie Dantone, SNAP-Ed instructor, enjoys working with the kids in the Pekin High School Life Skills class. She incorporates additional life skills such as table manners and polite bites into the lessons. Over the course of the school year, Julie noted avocados, celery, peppers, and fried potatoes were among the foods that students tried for the first time. Some were won over and others were not.

Photo by Anita Wilkinson

The classes celebrated the completion of the program with a “graduation” party which included the honor of receiving their official cookbook while donning their personalized chef hat, and enjoying a selection of finger foods.

Summer CATCH Camp Music was the theme for this year’s Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) Camp held in Mason County. For three days a week, during June, July, and August, youth enjoy nutrition lessons, active games, and handson activities. Some weeks guest speakers join the fun to support the theme and nutrition lessons. This year, the campers got to make different musical instruments, write a song together, create a dance as a team, and make a music video. They heard presentations about string instruments, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. They also got to see real instruments and learn more about how to play them. Photo by Anita Wilkinson 16 2023 YEAR IN REVIEW FULTON MASON PEORIA TAZEWELL

This is the third year Skye Mibbs, SNAP-Ed instructor, has coordinated this engaging summer camp.

PJs and Pancakes is a program designed to provide nutrition education for the whole family

Photos by Anita Wilkinson

Special PJs & Pancakes event created to reach both youth and adults with healthy living lessons By combining multiple programs into one event, SNAP-Education staff have created a family-friendly event that quickly became a favorite activity that youth and adults enjoy together. PJs and Pancakes is just as it sounds...participants come dressed in their pajamas, enjoy a healthy pumpkin-pancake breakfast, and participate in lessons that focus on healthy living.

Cents. The kids enjoy a lesson and activities from the CATCH curriculum. Throughout 2023, Extension has offered three PJs and Pancakes events that have impacted 43 youth and 31 adults.

“The uniqueness of wearing pajamas to a class creates a sense of excitement, not only with the children but also the adults,” explained Julie Dantone, SNAP-Ed instructor. “As soon as people walk in the door, they are checking out all of the PJs and laughing with people. It gets everyone in good spirits.”

Pekin First Church of God has hosted two of these events in their all-purpose room and provided food and supplies from their food pantry.

THREE PROGRAMS IN ONE Julie and her SNAP-Ed colleagues coordinate to provide three different SNAP-Ed programs at the PJs and Pancakes event. Everyone has an encounter with the Eat. Move.Save (E.M.S.) booth that is set up near the registration table. The adults participate in a lesson from a curriculum called Healthy


“The church is amazing to work with,” Julie continued. “They love the event too and have several volunteers who look forward to helping make and serve breakfast and have fun with all of the participants. I have been told that two volunteers have already purchased new, special pajamas in anticipation of the next event.” The large open space at the church allows staff to incorporate lots of exercise and games that the kids love to do. A craft table is also a favorite spot for kids

to create projects that reinforce lessons such as eating fruits and vegetables that are colors of the whole rainbow. OUTREACH OPPORTUNITIES In addition to SNAP-Ed topics, participants also benefit from special guests who are invited to share about their own programs. Recently, Ameren Illinois Energy Efficacy Program was on hand to educate participants on their free program and offer sign-ups. “This is a nice social hour for everyone,” Julie said. “The families usually stay for a while. After the kids eat, some go back to the activities they were just doing. It is a great morning of fun and learning for all ages.”


Focus groups help identify and address needs related to health equity SNAP-Education, 4-H, and local partners worked together on a multi-year project targeted in Peoria’s highest poverty rated area. The team’s work generated two new pilot programs. Staff from Illinois Extension and University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria (UICOMP) collaborated on a multi-year project with community groups to expand public access to health and wellness resources. The health equity project was made possible through special funding from Extension’s SNAP-Education grant. Extension staff connected with a group of interested partners to form the Peoria Youth Wellness Community Partnership (PYWCP), which includes Extension SNAPEd, Extension 4-H, UICOMP, Peoria Public Schools, and Peoria afterschool providers. The partnership identified a need for gaining a better understanding of barriers to and necessary supports for improving participation in afterschool programming. The collaboration worked to create equitable solutions driven by the community. FOCUS GROUPS Over the course of six months, the team conducted one focus group with community afterschool providers, nine with care-giving adults, and six with Peoria Public School youth. Survey data from the groups were analyzed by UICOMP staff and categorized into

three key themes: 1) the benefits of socialization with peers, 2) the role afterschool programs can play in being an extended learning environment, and 3) the need for more mental health supports and activities to help youth better manage emotions and behaviors. PILOT PROGRAMS Based on the information gathered by the partnership, two pilot programs were launched. Pilot #1 - Activity Kits 4-H Youth Development educators assembled various activity kits for afterschool programs that focused on yoga, cooking and nutrition, physical activity, and team building. Initial feedback from afterschool sites was very positive. Increased child bonding was observed and

“Early on the PYWCP identified and targeted their efforts on three Peoria zip codes with some of the highest poverty rates in the state. Peoria schools in these zip codes have 79% of students living in low-income households and 17.7% experiencing food insecurity. We know many social drivers in these communities affect child health and well-being.” Rebecca Crumrine, SNAP-Education Educator 18 2022 ILLINOIS EXTENSION IMPACT REPORT

overall health and wellness were supported by the greater variety of activities. Pilot #2 - Social, Emotional, and Ethical Learning Curriculum Specialized training and curriculum around mental health and trauma informed practices was presented to afterschool providers. The PYWCP brought on UICOMP Child Psychologist Dr. Tiffany Abrego to facilitate the training, that included in-person and virtual learning sessions. The curriculum was launched in August and the training is ongoing. Initial feedback has shown positive effects as youth are better regulating their behaviors and staff find the trainings to be extremely useful in better understanding strategies to address the mental health needs of the youth in their program. “One of the outcomes we hope will be achieved by the pilot program and the broader afterschool staff training is to help equip youth with the skills and support to manage their emotions, navigate relationships, and make healthy decisions,” stated Judy Schmidt, 4-H youth development educator.

Local community heroes inspired youth to make healthy choices at Health Heroes program



Photo by Anita Wilkinson

City of Havana Fire Department Havana Rural Fire Department Both the City of Havana and Havana Rural Fire Departments go above and beyond when it comes to serving the community. That same servant leadership is extended anytime Illinois Extension reaches out for programming help. The City of Havana Fire Department is comprised of 17 paid on call members and a full-time Fire Marshal/ Chief, Matt Fliege (pictured above). Their services include fire suppression, auto extrication, and high angle rescue, confined space rescue, water fire/rescue and fire prevention activities. The Havana Rural Fire Department is comprised of volunteers whose mission is to prevent the loss of life and property. In addition to fire calls, they also respond to medical emergencies, vehicle accidents, rescue calls, and incidents involving hazardous materials. Both departments have worked with Mason 4-H to provide presentations at Farm Safety Day. For the past several years, Havana Rural Fire Department has provided meeting space for special 4-H Shooting Sports Club meetings and Extension staff meetings. These first responding units provide an extra layer of readiness and protection during the 4-H Show and County Fair, as well as offering the fun opportunity for fair-goers to see the fire truck up close. The Rural Department has also been a big supporter of the new SNAP-Ed program called Health Heroes, and our summer CATCH Camp. 20 2023 YEAR IN REVIEW FULTON MASON PEORIA TAZEWELL


Photo by Anita Wilkinson

Phoenix Community Development The Sow to Grow Community Garden located at Glendale Commons was established five years ago in partnership with Phoenix Community Development Services (CDS). Glendale Commons are apartments for homeless families or persons transitioning out of institutions, located in the North Valley neighborhood near downtown Peoria. Sow to Grow is a fenced garden aimed at educating families and youth about healthy and nutritious food, as well as involving them in planting the garden. Extension Master Gardeners (EMG) are involved in this aspect of the garden. The harvested produce is provided free to residents. It also increases biodiversity in this urban area with flowers and plants that support pollinators. And the addition of these spaces brings people and communities together. While Sow to Grow is targeted to Glendale Commons residents, Phoenix Community Garden is meant to provide produce and green space for all surrounding community members. EMGs Janine Donahue (pictured above), Anthony Tiraboschi, Sarah Smith, Jaime Dooley, and Sister Anna Flanigan won an Illinois Master Gardener teamwork award for their volunteer efforts in the Sow to Grow garden. In connection with our local SNAP-Education program, Sow to Grow and Phoenix CDS have been involved with Hunger Action Month planning and are members of the Community Garden Network.

Photo by Anita Wilkinson

The HOPE Chest The HOPE Chest of Pekin is not just a thrift store, it is a faith-based organization that exists to Help Other People Excel (HOPE). They supply tangible needs to support those in crisis, near or in poverty, or experiencing a lifechanging event. The HOPE Chest has been a long-time partner of Illinois Extension’s SNAP-Education program, especially with their food pantry, The HOPE Cupboard. In 2022, The Cupboard served 11,930 individuals, plus provided 450 holiday meals. The Cupboard supplies food and personal hygiene items donated or purchased from such groups as Midwest Food Bank, Peoria Area Food Bank, and local business and personal donations. The SNAP-Ed staff first got involved with The HOPE Chest when they were in their location on Derby Street in Pekin. Thanks to a solid partnership, when it was time to plan and set up their new location on 8th Street, The HOPE Chest administrators worked with SNAP-Ed educators to design a “client choice” layout for The Cupboard. The Cupboard’s setup is unique in that it feels very much like a grocery store and even has its own storefront. In the past year, they continued their commitment to providing healthy foods by writing a nutrition policy for their food pantry. They also received funds from the HEAL Food System Partners team for their commitment to good nutrition and nutrition policy. They were honored at the Hunger & Health Regional Conference for their Healthy Pantry Initiatives. The partnership with Illinois Extension includes nutritional display posters, recipes, and handouts; a monthly Eat.Move.Save nutrition education program; membership in the Food Pantry Network-HOI coalition; and involvement in several Hunger Action Month activities.

Photo by Krista Gray

Jacob’s Field Jacob’s Field of rural Canton has been the host to Fulton County 4-H Shooting Sports since the club’s inception in 2012. Dave and Shelby Hill formed this trapshooting club after a vehicle accident took the life of their son Jacob Hill in 1998. Dave and Shelby Hill let Fulton County 4-H Shooting Sports use the facility free of charge each session; the only fee the club pays is for the cost of targets. When Fulton County 4-H first started the Shooting Sports club, both air rifle and shotgun disciplines were conducted at Jacob’s Field. Now the club meets there for the shotgun discipline which is offered in both the spring and late summer/fall. Over the years, Dave has built a shed with a bathroom and a covered pavilion. The Hills’ hospitality make it a family-friendly location, perfect for the 4-H club members and parents. The Hills are also great supporters of local schools and community organizations. Many people have been touched by the Hills’ generosity and graciousness. Partners like the Hills and Jacob’s Field are a key reason the Fulton 4-H Shooting Sports program has grown into a strong program that develops talented youth.




Earl Allen County Director

Anita Wilkinson Communications

Karen Weigelt Special Projects Asst.

Dina Pettit Special Projects Asst.

Richard Proffer CED Educator


Christine Belless Ag & Natural Resources Coordinator

Kevin Brooks Farm Business Management Educator

Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle Horticulture Educator

Tara Heath Horticulture Coordinator

Joli Pierson Mason Coordinator

Judy Schmidt Metro Educator

Emily Schoenfelder Youth Educator


Krista Gray Fulton Coordinator

Lynda Sharp-Lower Tazewell Coordinator


Kristi Smith Peoria Coordinator

Rachel Van Cleve Fulton Coordinator


Tara Agama SNAP-Ed Instructor

Nate Anton SNAP-Ed Instructor

Rebecca Crumrine SNAP-Ed Educator

Julie Dantone SNAP-Ed Instructor

Katherine Ellis SNAP-Ed Instructor

Elexus Gray SNAP-Ed Instructor

Angela Jimenez SNAP-Ed Instructor

Mari Martinez SNAP-Ed Instructor

Skye Mibbs SNAP-Ed Instructor

Jo Elyn Smith SNAP-Ed Instructor



Deb Balagna Fulton Office Support

Paula Lane Mason Office Support

Angie Sassine Peoria Office Support

Ellie Bourwieg Master Volunteer Assistant

Maria Gottemoller Master Volunteer Assistant

Julann Schierer Tazewell Office Support

Jane Frazier Sub-Office Support

Nancy Hebb Sub-Office Support

Bailey Rogers Special Projects Asst.

Anna Soupos STEM Project Assistant


Front cover photo: Autumn and So’Miah enjoyed the cooking skills learned at Illinois Junior Chef held in Peoria. Back cover photo: Master Naturalists Ed Coleman, Carla Rich Montez, and Frank Duryea and Master Gardener Gloria Smith-Duryea had fun with the hands-on activity at the native pollinators workshop. Photos by Anita Wilkinson, Extension communications program coordinator

TAZEWELL MAIN OFFICE 1505 Valle Vista Blvd Pekin, IL 61554 309-347-6614

FULTON BRANCH 15411 N IL 100 Hwy Lewistown, IL 61542 309-547-3711

MASON BRANCH 127 S High St, Ste 1 Havana, IL 62644 309-543-3308

PEORIA BRANCH 4810 N Sheridan Rd Peoria, IL 61614 309-685-3140





College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences University of Illinois, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Local Extension Councils Cooperating. University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate call 309-347-6614. Early requests are strongly encouraged to allow sufficient time to meet your needs. The Illinois Nutrition Education Programs are funded by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the US Department of Agriculture by the Director, Cooperative Extension Service, and University of Illinois. ©2023 University of Illinois Board of Trustees. For permission to reprint, revise, or otherwise use, contact

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