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Monthly Archives: July 2016

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Unity, Pride, Culture: Rockford residents brainstorm community improvement solutions for Transform Rockford


In a room filled with people of different ages, genders and races; a common goal puts everyone on the same team.

Rockford residents from all walks of life poured into Pilgrim Baptist Church for Transform Rockford’s latest idea exchange.  The group came up with ideas to strengthen neighborhoods, the arts, and to unify the community.

“Great cross section of our community, diverse ideas, that’s really what we like to see,” says Transform Rockford Communications Manager Patrick O’Keefe.

Reverend Kenneth Board is the senior pastor at Pilgrim Baptist.  He says people need to trust in Transform Rockford’s process.

“90% of execution is planning,” says Rev. Board.  “A lot of people are disturbed in our community that its taking so long for Transform Rockford to get going.  We are in the planning stage right now. I believe once we get through the next year or so we’re going to see an explosions of ideas and projects and strategies.

“The input was great,” says participant Jim Corbett.  “Everyone at the table contributed a couple of ideas each. Everyone knows what the issues are. The questions aren’t what the issues are, it’s what we’re going to do about it. I think that’s the value of bringing people together.”

Some of the input focused on building stronger communities. For example, the idea churches adopt neighborhoods and schools. Others focused on building stronger families.

“There’s so many fathers so many men in our city and across our city who have children but don’t know how to raise them,” says Rev. Board. “We need to come up with some type of program that will encourage, coach, and mentor fathers to become more effective parents.”

By putting more heads together on community issues, the hope is to come to a faster solution.  Which leaders say starts with the community taking the first step.

“Unless you come out of your house and out in the community you’re not going to be able to improve it and we need everyone to guide this to where we want to go,” says Rockford Fire Chief Derek Bergsten.

Transform Rockford has more community idea exchanges planned for August.  You can find a list of those here.

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Quality: Rockford Public Library launches app

ROCKFORD — The Rockford Public Library recently launched its new app, RPL.

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The app features storyt time with Liliana Padilla, who reads children’s books in both English and Spanish. Four stories will be featured each month.

Users also can use the app to look at the library’s events calendar, register for events, take spelling tests, search the online catalog and check out e-books and e-audiobooks.

The app is compatible with both Android and Apple smart devices.

For information:


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Safety: Rockford Police holding conversations with community

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) – Rockford Police Officers want to listen to what we have to say and they’re stepping up their efforts to understand our feelings, thoughts, and concerns.

July 26 starts the first of what Chief Dan O’Shea hopes will be many open and honest public conversations. Anyone is invited to attend and possibly speak tomorrow at Ellis Elementary School. The 75-minute discussion starts at 5:00 p.m. People will be given about two minutes to get whatever they want off their chests and police say they will do as much as they can to respond.

“We’re not there to direct the conversation. It’s not about the police giving direction and telling people things, we’re there to listen and try and provide feedback as to why we do things; as to how we try and avoid any racism or perceived racism with the community; or talk about biases. Biases are there, I mean everybody has them,” says Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea.

Pastor Jermel Flannigan will moderate the discussions. Chief O’Shea says he hopes to hear a lot of teenagers and young adults talk. Police say they hope this will show the human side of their officers.
Doors open to the event at 4:30 p.m. Ellis Arts Academy is located at 222 South Central Avenue, Rockford, 61102.

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Arts & Recreation: ‘Come hear the music play!’ Rockford University theater students present free show before Edinburgh Festival Fringe performance

ROCKFORD — Rockford University performing arts students are in the final throes of preparing for what could be the opportunity of their lives — an 80-minute performance of song, dance and stagecraft at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the hilly Scotland capital city.

The Fringe, as it’s more commonly known, is the world’s largest and perhaps most prestigious annual performing arts festival, but it’s also an exclusive affair. Performers are hand-selected by festival organizers, and an invitation last year came as a surprise to Deborah Mogford, the university’s performing arts chair.

She and about 20 Rockford University students and staff travel to Scotland on Aug. 4 and will return about 10 days later. The public is invited at 7:30 p.m. Friday to Maddox Theatre at Rockford University to see a free performance of the 80-minute show they’ll stage at the Fringe.

Students will perform composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb’s “2 By 5,” which the university describes as a dark and classy sung-through revue of songs about money and sex, love and loneliness that are gritty yet fragile, with a wink for the man at the bar. Kander and Ebb are best known for their stage musicals, which included “Chicago” and “Cabaret.”

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Education: Mobile tech lab program in Rockford is growing

ROCKFORD — About 125 children each week race to grab a seat inside the mobile tech lab to play math and reading computer games, create graphic designs and make original music on an electronic keyboard.

The Rev. Samuel Sarpiya, who had the idea to take a donated Rockford Police Department RV trailer and convert it into a mobile tech lab, wants to reach more children.

Next month, he will unveil another donated Rockford police trailer that is being converted into a mobile arts lab.

“My goal is to have them side by side,” Sarpiya said. “So if kids are not into computers, they might be into the arts. We will do music, art and dance.”

Sarpiya, pastor of Rockford Community Church, is a Rockford police chaplain and a founding member of The Center for Nonviolence and Conflict Transformation.

The Nigerian-born South African national has a master’s degree in peace and conflict transformation. Computers, music, dance and art programs are the carrots to attract at-risk grade school and middle school children to the labs. But Sarpiya said underlying goals are providing young people with alternatives to crime, introducing them to role models, and helping them develop conflict-resolution skills and a mutual respect for each other.

Anne O’Keefe, Rockford Area Arts Council president and CEO, is partnering with Sarpiya to provide artists who are willing to volunteer their time to work with the children.

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Transform Rockford events to determine ‘how’ change gets made

ROCKFORD — Transform Rockford will host a series of community events to help determine what projects and initiatives can turn the city into a top tier community.

The nonprofit organization unveiled strategies last month to make Rockford a top 25 community by 2025. Now it must decide exactly how to put that vision into motion. Transform Rockford is holding a series of Community Idea Exchanges open to the public to identify potential projects.

The events “create interactive opportunities for community members to identify and sequence projects tied to those strategies — the ‘how’ we are going to achieve our vision for the future,” said Emily Hartzog, a Community Idea Exchange team member for Transform Rockford. “It’s an exciting transition, and one that requires representation and participation by organizations, businesses and individuals across our region.”

Aside from suggesting new projects or feedback on the strategies unveiled last month, community members can also suggest metrics for success, said Scott Anderson of Transform Rockford.

“Broad community engagement and input is critical to all steps of the process,” he said.

Here’s the schedule for the upcoming events and the topics that will be covered.

Economy and jobs, funding and alignment, physical infrastructure, planning: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at RMAP, 313 N. Main St.

Unity, pride, culture, family and neighborhoods, arts and recreation: 5:30 p.m. Thursday  at Pilgrim Baptist Church, 1703 S. Central Ave.

Leadership and youth, quality: 5:30 p.m. Aug. 3 at Boylan Catholic High School, 4000 Saint Francis Drive.

Living the brand, communications: 5:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at Anderson Japanese Gardens, 318 Spring Creek Road.

Safety: 5:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at Klehm Arboretum, 2715 S. Main St.

Community members can also give feedback ONLINE: Give feedback on draft strategies and submit transformational project ideas by visiting

Kevin Haas: 815-987-1410;; @KevinMHaas

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Unity, Pride, Culture: Illinois Office of Tourism touts Rockford Art Deli’s maker spirit

ROCKFORD — Graphic design business partners Britney Lindgren and Jarrod Hennis are exemplifying Rockford makers in a new initiative aimed at drawing visitors to Illinois.

Jarrod Hennis prints a new Illinois-themed shirt Thursday, July 21, 2016, at Rockford Art Deli in downtown Rockford. The business was named an official Illinois Maker by the Illinois Office of Tourism. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM

Jarrod Hennis prints a new Illinois-themed shirt Thursday, July 21, 2016, at Rockford Art Deli in downtown Rockford. The business was named an official Illinois Maker by the Illinois Office of Tourism. MAX GERSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER/RRSTAR.COM

The Illinois Office of Tourism features Rockford Art Deli in its new Illinois Made program, which showcases Illinois craftsmen and businesses that make unique products. Rockford Art Deli is a custom design screen printing shop that also hosts workshops and art shows. It’s been at the corner of East State and First streets in downtown Rockford since 2012.

“We’re just really thankful to have a community that supports us in doing what we love every day,” said Lindgren.

Illinois Made touts custom bike makers, breweries, creameries, wood-workers and glass-blowers, and Hennis said he was humbled that his business was highlighted.

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Community Idea Exchange ~ 7/27/2016 @ RMAP


  • To view the strategies for Economy & Jobs, visit here
  • To view the strategies for Funding & Alignment, visit here
  • To view the strategies for Physical Infrastructure, visit here
  • To view the strategies for Planning, visit here
  • To view ALL strategies, visit here
  • Please join us for more Community Idea Exchanges! For dates, visit here

Use hashtag #TRIdeaXchange

(RMAP) Rockford Metro Agency-Planning
313 North Main Street, Rockford, IL

Link to Calendar Event & Map to RMAP

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Community Idea Exchange – 7/28/16 @ Pilgrim Baptist Church


  • To view the strategies for Unity, Pride, Culture, visit here
  • To view the strategies for Families & Neighborhoods, visit here
  • To view the strategies for Arts & Recreation, visit here
  • To view ALL strategies, visit here
  • Please join us for more Community Idea Exchanges! For dates, visit here

Use hashtag #TRIdeaXchange

Pilgrim Baptist Church
1703 S Central Ave, Rockford, IL

Link to Calendar Event & Map to Pilgrim Baptist Church