Unity, Pride & Culture & Economy: Downtown Rockford Christmas event officially sets record, has big money impact

ROCKFORD (WREX) – The numbers are in: this year’s Stroll on State was a big success.

‘Merry and Bright A Downtown Holiday’ was the theme of this year’s event.
It drew in 60,000 visitors, that’s double the numbers from 2013.
Eighty-five percent of attendees made a purchase with an average of $25, said officials.
It means there was an estimated $750,000 economic impact from this year’s event.

Source: http://www.wrex.com/story/27980027/2015/01/29/downtown-rockford-christmas-event-officially-sets-record-has-big-money-impact

Economy & Jobs: Career and Internship Fair

Career and Internship Fair

Please save the date for the Rockford University and Rock Valley College Career and Internship Fair.

Where: Rockford University Burpee Center
When: Wednesday, March 25th from 1 to 4pm
Registration Cost: $60 – This fee includes a light lunch and refreshments for two employees as well as one eight-foot skirted table and two chairs per employer.

Why a Career and Internship Fair?
The Career & Internship Fair provides employers with an opportunity to meet talented students and alumni, collect resumes, and interview candidates. It also allows employers to reach a large pool of potential candidates.

Employer registration will begin on Monday, February 2, 2015 and end on Friday, March 13, 2015. Registration will be available on each of our institutions websites and through a hard copy form. Employers interested in participating in this event are encouraged to register on-line as early as possible. There is limited capacity for the event.

To register online, click here

Click here to download a hard copy 

Education: Pilot program graduates 11 public housing students

A collaborative pilot program finished its first phase when 11 public housing residents graduated from a three-week job-training course at Rockford Health System on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. Six entities worked together to create “Economic Empowerment Initiative: Improving Lives through Community Collaboration,” which provides training, jobs and housing to eligible candidates.


Andra Taylor, a class instructor, escorts Gerri Simmons to the stage during the Workforce Development Initiative class of 2015 graduation ceremony Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, at Rockford Health System. 

Read more: http://www.rrstar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Site=IR&Date=20150129&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=129009998&Ref=PH&Profile=10447#ixzz3QJ67dWiY



Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 12.07.25 PMEach of the three segments runs for 56-57 minutes, followed by discussion.  We will start on time and end on time.  Should some folk wish to extend the conversation beyond, Bob will stick around for a little longer, but we aim to respect folk’s time.  Hence (again!) we start and stop on time.

You may want to arrive a little early to order a beverage or a sandwich or soup, so you will be seated and ready for the program.

Katie’s Cup
502 7th Street
Rockford, IL 61104

Katie’s Cup is one of Rockford’s great places for meeting, in the midst of a revitalizing Midtown!
The coffee, food and staff are terrific!  See you then and there!

Katie’s Cup Event Page: click here


Arts & Recreation: Improvements coming to Sinnissippi Park in Rockford

ROCKFORD — The Rockford Park District is going to upgrade its oldest and busiest park.

The Phantom Regiment performs in the Music Shell Tuesday, June 12, 2012, at Sinnissippi Park in Rockford. SCOTT MORGAN/RRSTAR.COM

The Phantom Regiment performs in the Music Shell Tuesday, June 12, 2012, at Sinnissippi Park in Rockford. SCOTT MORGAN/RRSTAR.COM

Commissioners on Tuesday approved a $94,280 contract with Custom Playgrounds to renovate the playground at Sinnissippi Park and to construct a new music-themed playground for 2- to 5-year-olds with a synthetic turf surface. Custom Playgrounds will also install a hexagon picnic shelter and shade structure near the music shell.

Commissioners also awarded a $95,900 contract to Sjostrom & Sons, Inc. to complete work at a restroom building near the music shell. The restroom will feature the eco-friendly Greenflush Technologies, which allow for flush toilets without the need to install an expensive service connection to a sanitary sewer.

Sinnissippi Park, 1401 N. Second St., was the first land the Rockford Park District purchased in 1909. More than 270,000 people visit the park each year, making it one of the district’s most heavily-used parks. Some of the special events that draw people to Sinnissippi include the Festival of Lights, Snow Sculpting competition, Imagination Station and Sounds of Summer.

In May 2013, the district was awarded a $400,000 state Department of Natural Resources grant to improve the park. The contracts approved Tuesday represent a portion of the overall upgrades, which also include improved accessibility, expanded amenities for the music shell, recreational paths and drainage improvements. The project is expected to be complete in June.

Kevin Haas: 815-987-1410; khaas@rrstar.com; @KevinMHaas

Source: http://www.rrstar.com/article/20150128/News/150129429?template=printart

Responsibility: Youth health care enrollment event at NIU Rockford Jan. 29

Online Staff Report (Rock River Times)

A National Youth Enrollment Day enrollment event will be at Northern Illinois University’s Regional Center, 8500 E. State St., from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 29.

Northern Illinois University, in partnership with Enroll America and the Get Covered America Campaign, along with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the Winnebago County Health Department, will host the event.

The event aims to educate uninsured young adults about health insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

This event is open to students and the general public. Admission is free, but space is limited. Free, in-person assistance will be available from trained representatives who can help participants sign up for coverage and answer any questions they have about the ACA.

Those seeking to get enrolled at the event should bring the following documents:

• Government I.D. (driver’s license, state I.D., or military I.D.);

• Social Security number/immigration documents (residency or citizenship);

• Employer income verification for household (W2, income tax or pay stubs); and

• Policy numbers for any current health insurance plan.

One in five young adults in the United States lacks health insurance, and young people end up in the emergency room more than any other age group, aside from the elderly.

National Youth Enrollment Day is an annual day of action featuring dozens of national, state and local organizations hosting events to educate young people about their health insurance options.

The deadline to enroll in the health insurance marketplace is Feb. 15, 2015. Those who choose to go without health insurance will face paying a fine of $325 or 2 percent of the household income, whichever is higher.

People seeking to get enrolled before the deadline can call the Winnebago County Health Department ACA Enrollment Office at (815) 720-4247, or the Get Covered Illinois Office at (866) 311-1119.

The Winnebago County Health Department maintains an ACA walk-in Enrollment Center office year round that can assist with enrollment and ACA questions. The center is at 555 N. Court St., Suite 204, Rockford, IL 61103. The ACA Center is open 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Call (815) 720-4247 for additional hours available during the evening and weekends.

Source: http://rockrivertimes.com/2015/01/28/youth-health-care-enrollment-event-at-niu-rockford-jan-29/

Families & Neighborhoods: New Program Working to Reduce Number of Vacant Homes in Rockford

ROCKFORD (WIFR) – The number of vacant homes in Rockford has been piling up over the last few years which is why the Forest City is assisting in a new program in an effort to fill them.

“Just tired of moving. Just want a permanent place.”

Vacant homes may not be abandoned much longer as the Illinois Housing Authority, the City of Rockford, and HomeStart have teamed up to help people buy these homes and fix them up.

“Someone that is looking for a vacant house in the city of Rockford could get either $3,000 or $5,000 to purchase the property and then they can get up to another $20,000 to fix that house up.

The program is being funded through grants provided by the IHDA trust fund and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Free workshops are also being provided at City Hall for people like Todd Carmen who have never been able to purchase a home.

“I just want to get an empty house that I can move into to fix up, you know just to help the city out.”

HomeStart will also be providing pre and post-purchase counseling classes to every homebuyer in order to make them feel comfortable with the process.

“If someone thinks they are not ready to buy and are concerned about their credit, they can call HomeStart and they can actually work with a representative one on one and get them prepared to buy.

Currently, Rockford has about 700 condemned properties, with recent fires and other crimes affecting them and costing the city extra money. The IHDA Homebuyer Rehabilitation Program could be a key solution to bringing that number down.

“When they’re vacant like that, it leads to more crime in the neighborhoods. So if we can make sure that people are living there as their home, you’re reducing that possibility of crime. Plus, you’re making more stabilized neighborhoods.

Andrea Hinrichs also says that after the home buyer purchases a vacant home is when they will receive the up to $20,000 to rehabilitate the house.

The City of Rockford is also willing to provide up to $15,000 dollars making the total available for rehabilitation at $35,000.

Source: http://www.wifr.com/home/headlines/New-Program-Working-to-Reduce-Number-of-Vacant-Homes-in-Rockford-290144071.html

Economy & Jobs: ‘Uber Rockford’ Expected to Launch Soon

ROCKFORD (WIFR) — You may have heard the word Uber before; it’s an alternative to taxi service, where people use their own vehicles to provide rides. The service is expected to launch in Rockford soon.

Toby Niedermeier is ready to work out of his own car. He’s signed up to be an Uber Rockford driver, after getting laid off from his full-time job.

“It opens up a lot of opportunities for people to get out there on the road,” said Niedermeier.

Approved, freelance drivers will be able to give people rides throughout Rockford and surrounding areas.

Connecting with an Uber driver is pretty simple, all you do is download the Uber App on your smartphone, and tell the driver where and when you want to be picked up.

“The GPS on your phone already tells the Uber driver where you’re at,” explains Niedermeier.

As a rider, you’ll see a picture of the driver on your phone, so you know who to expect and when.

“You’ll know where the Uber driver is at, it will pick out the one closest to you,” said Niedermeier.

Niedermeier says we should only have to wait about five to ten minutes. As a driver, you have about 15 seconds to accept a ride request, otherwise it goes to the next, closest driver.

Niedermeier says he met with Uber reps about a week ago and they told him Uber Rockford would be ready in about two weeks. The City tells 23 News that Uber has talked about a kick off, but hasn’t given them an official date yet. We’re still waiting to hear back from Uber.

Uber Rockford would travel as far north as South Beloit, but won’t cross into Wisconsin. It would cover Rockford, Loves Park, Machesney Park, Cherry Valley, Belvidere, Poplar Grove, Rockton and Roscoe.

If you’re interested in a free ride with Niedermeier once Uber launches, click the attached link.

To apply to be a driver with Uber Rockford, click the other attached link. You must pass a background check and your driving record must be approved. There are also certain vehicle requirements.

Uber sets the prices for rides and they may vary depending on demand and time of day.

Uber riders and drivers can rate each other between 1-5 stars. If a rider or driver gets a 3 or less, that rider and driver will not be paired up in the future.

Uber Website: https://www.uber.com/

Source: http://www.wifr.com/home/headlines/Driver-Uber-Rockford-Expected-to-Launch-Soon-289980521.html

Quality: Rockford Park District recognized at Illinois Park and Recreation Association Conference

Online Staff Report

Friday, Jan. 23, the Rockford Park District was recognized multiple times at the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD) and the Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA) Annual Conference Awards Luncheon.

Rockford Park District receives 2014 Exceptional Workplace Award

Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners accepted a plaque that recognizes agencies for having an Exceptional Workplace. The award recognizes the Park District’s commitment to its employee wellness program and for demonstrating a work culture that promotes physical activities and healthy behaviors.

“We watched health care costs rise year after year, and in an effort to slow the rise and save the district and taxpayers money, we introduced a Health Risk Assessment program through Interactive Health Solutions in the fall of 2011,” said Director of Human Resources Debbie Gass. “We believe the information our employees gain during the course of this program will provide them with the knowledge and direction needed to address areas for improvement in their personal health.”

During the three years of partnership with Interactive Health Solutions, the district is seeing positive results both in district-wide health care savings and in the significant number of employees who have improved their personal health factors. As of November 2014, the district has saved $1,298,945.51 on health care.

The Rockford Park District’s wellness program includes four tracts: nutritional, physical, financial and general. Employees can earn a $100 incentive bonus each year by completing annual physical and dental checkups, and attending one class in each tract. The district’s wellness committee has incorporated several new programs this year, including FitBit, Just Bike, and Fun Fitness Fridays. These programs have encouraged healthy movement and activity in both the workplace and at home, ultimately leading to overall healthier and more active employees. The Wellness Committee also holds semi-annual giving campaigns, coordinating opportunities for our staff to give back to our community through clothing, food, and holiday gift drives to benefit families of Rockford Park District programs.

Additional recognition received at Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA) Conference

The Rockford Park District submitted entries in eight categories to the IPRA Agency Showcase, a spirited competition spotlighting bright ideas exhibited by park, recreation and conservation agencies. This professionally judged competition recognizes Illinois agencies for their marketing and communication efforts ranging from print to multimedia. The Rockford Park District’s entries featured marketing materials developed for the newly remodeled Sapora Playworld, along with the new Lorikeet Exhibit at Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens.

The Rockford Park District was awarded the following:

• First place Overall Agency Showcase

• First place Marketing Campaign (Sapora Playworld)

• Second place Large Format Marketing (The Lorikeet Exhibit banner)

• Third place Electronic Communication (Sapora Playworld e-blast)

• Third place Integrated Photography  (Sapora Playworld poster)

• Third place Paid Advertisement (The Lorikeet Exhibit TV commercial)

Park District Executive Director Tim Dimke said: “This is the second year in a row the Rockford Park District received first place for Overall Agency Showcase, on top of being recognized in several additional areas. The IPRA Agency Showcase is a chance for our Marketing & Communications team to display unique ideas and creative concepts that are brought to life, thanks to the great leadership by the park board, commitment of the district’s team members, valuable partners, and involved citizens who believe in the impact that parks and recreation have in their lives.”

Posted Jan. 27, 2015

Source: http://rockrivertimes.com/2015/01/27/rockford-park-district-recognized-at-illinois-park-and-recreation-association-conference/

Unity, Caring & Respect: Transform Rockford on RHA Concerns

ROCKFORD (WIFR) – After the Rockford City Council voted down a proposal to knock down and move the Fairgrounds Housing Complex, the CEO of the Rockford Housing Authority is calling for change. He’s planning to invite the public to join a discussion on how to transform housing options.

“It’s been said many times that the conditions are unacceptable, there’s not necessarily clear next steps so we want to see that they are established and that we commit as a community to address this,” says Transform Rockford Executive Director Mike Schablaske.

Aldermen had voted down the plan Tuesday that included funding to tear down Fairgrounds and rebuild housing possibly on the city’s east side.

Source: http://www.wifr.com/home/headlines/Transform-Rockford-on-RHA-Concerns-289863201.html