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UPDATED: Habitat for Humanity hosting open house tomorrow

UPDATE: Due to weather, this morning's open house has been postponed until tomorrow, from 10 a.m. until Noon, at the same location as listed below:

Habitat for Humanity is one of my most favorite organizations in Champaign-Urbana, and tomorrow, they'll be showing off the great work they do in the community via an open house at their build site at 1403 N. Eads St. in Urbana. Stop by, and see all the good that Habitat is doing in C-U.

From Habitat's Press Release:

June 17, 2016 For Immediate Release


Renee Kirkton, Program Coordinator, Education for Employment System #330 Parkland College Room A113 309.261.1865

Kelly Hill, Development Director, Habitat for Humanity 217.819.5115 

Area high school students selected to participate in Summer Construction Education Program in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County Education for Employment (EFE) is hosting an Open House this coming Wednesday,  June 22, at the Habitat build site where 17 students from 9 area high schools are working this summer.  EFE System #330 is a K-12 educational cooperative, housed at Parkland College, which has collaborated with Habitat for Humanity in Champaign County for the past 5 summers; offering high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to learn construction related skills through classroom presentation and structured lab time. Students build a home with Habitat for Humanity construction staff, visit trad union halls, and learn how to apply for a Union Apprenticeship. Students also earn OSHA certification, $500 stipend, and 1 high school credit.  Nick Elder, EFE Program Director says, “One of the great aspects of career and technical education (CTE) is the partnerships that are established between the school, community, and members of business and industry.”  Habitat’s Executive Director Sheila Dodd adds “EFE has been a wonderful partner in helping to expose young people to the opportunities in the building trades.”  EFE’s  5-week summer construction program is guided by veteran instructors Alex Ramirez (Central HS) and Phil Durland (retired Villa Grove HS).

The open house will be hosted by EFE at the Habitat build site where students will be working at 1403 N Eads in Urbana, IL on Wednesday June 22nd from 10am-12pm.

For more information on EFE contact Renee Kirkton or visit the website

For more information on Habitat for Humanity contact Kelly Hill or visit the website:


Second annual BeeBlitz on June 25th

Join us on Saturday, June 25, 2016 for the second annual BeeBlitz!

Mark your calendar for the second annual BeeBlitz during National Pollinator Week. Nature lovers and concerned citizens in Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio are invited to get outside, snap pictures of honey & bumble bees on Saturday, June 25th, and upload their findings to BeeSpotter, the citizen science project run in collaboration between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Department of Entomology and the Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education.

The name BeeBlitz is derived from a BioBlitz, an activity in which all of the biodiversity in a specific area is examined to provide a snapshot in time of the flora and fauna present. We want to know what species of honey & bumble bees are seen, and where they are, on the 25th. We encourage veteran and aspiring bee spotters alike to venture out on a nature walk and participate in the blitz.

The BeeBlitz is a state-wide event, but you can attend these local events:

June 25, 10-11am: BeeBlitz at the Pollinatarium

Join us at the Pollinatarium (606 W Windsor Rd, Urbana, IL 61801) on June 25, from 10-11AM to celebrate the conclusion of another National Pollinator Week. We will venture out into the fields surrounding the Pollinatarium and photograph honey & bumble bees, then upload the photos to BeeSpotter. We encourage you to bring your camera or smartphone, though we will have cameras available for those who need one. We will also have computers available so you can upload your spottings immediately.

This event is free and open to the public. Feel free to come for the whole time or stop in for only part of the event. We'd love to have you join us, even if only for 20-30 minutes!

June 25, 11am-1pm: Local prairie excursion

Entomology professor Sydney Cameron will lead an expedition to either Buffalo Trace Prairie at Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve in Mahomet, IL (25 minute drive) or Meadowbrook Park in southern Urbana (3 minute drive). The expedition will leave around 11am from the Pollinatarium. Bring your camera or smartphone and be ready for an adventure!

You can help us plan by letting us know you're interested, though you're welcome to participate even if you don't sign up in advance.


Rusted Root announced as headliner for Allerton Festival

Allerton park has announced the headliner for the Allerton Festival, coming in September. Rusted Root is a roots/alternative band originally from Pittsburgh and has toured nationally with well-known acts. Tickets to the fest will be available for sale on Friday. For more information, see the press release below: 

 Allerton Festival will feature national talent

Monticello – Allerton Park & Retreat Center has announced that Rusted Root will be the headliner for their Allerton Festival, presented by the U of I Community Credit Union. The band, which has sold more than 3 million albums worldwide, will perform on Friday, September 16 at 7:30pm in the estate’s 14-acre Meadow at 515 Old Timber Road, Monticello.

Rusted Root was formed in Pittsburgh by singer/guitarist Michael Glabicki in the early ‘90s, and quickly charmed fans of roots music and world rock. After debuting with their self-released album “Cruel Sun,” Rusted Root signed with Mercury Records and released the 1994 platinum-selling breakthrough “When I Woke,” featuring hit songs “Send Me On My Way,” “Ecstasy” and “Martyr.” The band has been on tour with Santana, The Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band, The Allman Brothers Band and on the Jimmy Page/Robert Plant reunion tour.

Known for creating a unique fusion of acoustic rock, world and other styles of music, Rusted Root’s sound uses a strong percussion section that draws from African, Latin American and Native American influences.

“We think Rusted Root’s distinctive sound and upbeat tempo will fit nicely with the atmosphere and space in the Allerton Meadow,” explains Derek Peterson, Associate Director at Allerton Park. “Our Concert Series has been growing steadily over the past few years, and we’re looking forward to bringing nationally-known talent to the community.”

Tickets ($15/person) will be for sale on Allerton’s website starting June 24, and at the gate ($18/person), if available. Food and drink will be available for purchase and guests should bring blankets or chairs.

The concert is made possible with the support of presenting sponsor, the University of Illinois Community Credit Union, as well as: the News-Gazette, The Ayers Family, Illinois Public Media, Country Arbors, The Friends of Allerton, Kirby Medical Center, AHW LLC, The Atkins Group, Champaign Surplus, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD), The Herbold Family Trust, Kelly’s Accounting Service, Inc., Kennedy Hutson Associates, and Sterling Wealth Management.

For the complete 2016 concert schedule and more information visit or call (217) 333-3287.


American Association of University Professors continues U of I censure

The University of Illinois's contentious decision to terminate Prof. Steven Salaita's job before he arrived on campus was settled months ago, but the University continues to face the consequences of its decision.

This past Saturday, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) voted against lifting its censure of the University of Illinois.

In their statements, two delegates from the local AAUP chapter, Prof. Harry Hilton and Prof. Bruce Rosenstock, urged the AAUP to defer the decision to lift censure until next year.

According to Rosenstock, "It would a disservice to our three Campus Senates to essentially discount" work these bodies have done to amend the University's statutes, which they are undertaking in the hopes of preventing future hiring debacles.


Former MTD Managing Director selected for American Public Transit Association Hall of Fame

Former Managing Director of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, Bill Volk, is set to earn one of the most prestigious honors for someone in the public transportation industry this September, when he will be inducted into the APTA's (American Public Transit Association's) Hall of Fame.

Given the continued robustness of CUMTD, Bill, who retired in 2014, is one we all have to thank for the expansion and continued growth of our bus system in C-U, and apparently national entities feel that way too. It's always great when C-U gets some national shine, and this, of course, is no exception.

For more information, check out MTD's press release below:


Bill Volk, retired Managing Director of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD), will be inducted in the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Awards Hall of Fame. The award will be conferred at the APTA Annual Meeting in September 2016 in Los Angeles.

The APTA Awards Hall of Fame began in 1983. This special honor is reserved for individuals who have long and distinguished careers in the industry; who have made extraordinary contributions to public transportation; and who have actively participated in APTA activities. “Congratulations to Bill Volk, the longest serving head of an American public transportation system, for his acceptance into the APTA Hall of Fame,” said APTA Acting President and CEO Richard A. White.  “An effective advocate for public transportation, he advanced funding for public transit systems on the local level and the national level.  Due to his efforts, funding for public transit systems in Illinois and across the country was increased.” This esteemed award has been granted to fewer than 150 men and women.

Across the US few transit managers have had a larger impact than Bill Volk. MTD’s Managing Director for 40 years, he redefined transit locally and led innovations impacting cities nationwide. After graduating from Indiana University and working for several years in transit in Indiana, Bill accepted the Managing Director position at MTD. He inherited a transit system in turmoil and became its third manager in the three years since its creation. There were just 13 buses and annual ridership was 555,000. Today, ridership is more than 13 million and there is a fleet of 102 buses.

“Bill Volk was a pragmatic visionary who worked to put his dreams into action. Always ahead of the time, he saw accessibility to transit as a civil right and was an early adopter of the use of low-floor buses,” said Valarie McCall, APTA Chair and board member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. “Volk also started the Illinois Public Transportation in 1975, where he served as president. He was also instrumental on the national level where he served on many APTA committees including the Executive Committee, Vice Chair of the Small Operations Committee, and Chair of the Legislative Committee.” Bill was involved in every piece of legislation affecting Downstate Illinois during his tenure. In 2013, he was honored with IPTA’s first lifetime achievement award -- named in his honor.

With the added revenue from a successful 1977 local tax referendum, service doubled and Sunday and evening service were reintroduced. Full accessibility for those with disabilities was achieved in 1983. The opening of Illinois Terminal was a major development in downtown Champaign and helped herald a renaissance with infill development, employment and residential growth, and new construction.

Perhaps no idea of Bill's has been copied as much as unlimited access. In 1989, the University of Illinois approved a transportation fee that would fund unlimited access to students, faculty, and staff. Scores of communities across the country, both large and small, have adopted similar programs.

U.S. Senator Richard Durbin said, “Bill’s innovative accomplishments have been ongoing throughout his career. His vision for the future was often ahead of his peers… Bill was always my first call when I was thinking through the issues that downstate transit providers were facing. His knowledge and understanding was always a great resource for me and my staff.”

Bill researched and authored the initial concept for the Federal Small Transit Intensive Cities funding tier. His efforts led the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to study the issue and conclude the concept was valid. APTA then supported the provision until it became law. It is arguably the most important legislation that has ever been enacted for small transit systems.

MTD twice received APTA's Outstanding Achievement Award. In addition to the APTA participation Ms. McCall mentioned above, Bill served as APTA Vice President-Marketing and, as a result of his efforts to initially establish funding in the APTA budget for marketing transit, he received the 1991 Jesse Haugh Award.

“In the early 70’s, transit was not a field people were clamoring to enter. Valuable mentors and minimal experience made me marketable enough to lead a transit system at the age of 25,” Volk said. “Positive outcomes, a Board not averse to risk taking, and talented employees resulted in a 40+ year tenure without a promotion. This recognition is an affirmation of the value of public service and a legacy that I feel fortunate to be able to share with my family.”

Over his 44-year career, Bill contributed greatly to his community, his state, and the transit industry.

Photo of Bill Volk by Mass Transit Magazine


Thee Death Tower hosting final show June 30th

DIY venue Thee Death Tower will be closing its doors permanently on June 30th. The venue will be hosting its last show on Sunday, June 26th, with featured performers still to be announced. In fact, it could be you. The venue is taking offers from bands to play on their final night. Here’s their Facebook post on the matter:

As some of you already know, Thee Death Tower will officially be giving up the ghost on June 30. We've decided to have one last show in a week from today (Sun. 6/26). This post is (more a less) an open invitation- would you or your band like to play this last show? Please contact us. More importantly, this post is meant to serve as an open question to the community- what steps can we take to ensure that show-goers are safe and feel comfortable at the show? FB event and flier will be posted tomorrow.

CUDO Plays through summer

Even though they're in the hiatus between the Grand Exhibition and Fall Submission, CUDO's gamers are still playing on. 

Tonight, and the 3rd Monday of every month, you can join them for free in the Hyatt Place lobby in downtown Champaign at 6:30 p.m. to learn a new game or share a favorite. 

June's game is Antidote, a semi-cooperative card game where you have a vested interest in success, because it means you don't die. Players take turns discarding cards until they each only have one. Hope it's the antidote! 


Neutral Cycle announces BikeNet Kickstarter campaign

If you're like me, your bike was stolen this weekend.

It was violating and frightening, but also a staggeringly common occurrence here in Champaign-Urbana. Luckily, the good folks at Neutral Cycle are trying to combat bike thieves with an electronic database called BikeNet, which operates in an app. In order to bring BikeNet to C-U, Neutral has also unveiled a Kickstarter fundraiser to help fund the project, which can be found here.

For more info, check out Neutral's Kickstarter video and press release below:


For more information, contact:

Ricardo Pierre­Louis

Phone: (773) 512­7725


Community Bike Shop Fights Bike Crime

Champaign, IL (June 20, 2016)​­ For some people, bicycles are a path to a better life: they are access to food, knowledge, opportunities and a future. Previous research conducted by Neutral Cycle found that $143,107 worth of bicycles were reported stolen over a two­ year period inChampaign­Urbana alone. On a campus as large as the U of I, searching for a missing bike is not only cumbersome but also highly inefficient. Even if a stolen bike is found, figuring out how to return it to the proper owner is nearly impossible.

The current system of fighting bike theft is broken. Criminals are using this to their advantage to easily steal and sell bikes across campus. BikeNet is a bike crime fighting app designed to improve and fine­tune the bike ­recovery system. It uses the eyes and ears of the community to facilitate tracking, reporting and recovering stolen/missing bikes.

With this convenient app, BikeNet users will be able to:

● Register their bike(s) on the website/mobile platform

● Report missing bikes through the app

● Notify the community about witnessed bike thefts or found bikes

A KickStarter for BikeNet was launched June 17 and will run for 30 days. It can be accessed at

the following URL:

Kurtis Blow and Vertical Horizon to headline Taste of C-U

The Champaign Park District has announced this year's headliners for the Taste of Champaign-Urbana, which you can check out below.

From the press release: 

The Taste of Champaign-Urbana is bound to have something for everyone – especially music fans! Happening at West Side Park on August 19 & 20, attendees from far and wide will get the opportunity to try the huge variety of area restaurant offerings while listening to free music from nationally-recognized musical acts.

On the first night of the festival, August 19, the headlining act is “the original King of Rap from Harlem” Kurtis Blow. Kurtis Blow has been instrumental in raising up a generation of MC’s, and he will soon carry the torch for hip hop music into new arenas. In 1979, at the age of twenty, Kurtis Blow became the first rapper to be signed by a major label. Hits include "The Breaks" and "Basketball."

Saturday night’s headlining act is the Billboard-topping and nationally-recognized pop rock band Vertical Horizon. Event-goers will sing along to huge hits like “Everything You Want,” “You're a God,” and “Best I Ever Had." In the fall of 2013 Vertical Horizon released their latest album, Echoes From The Underground. The first single, “Broken Over You,” is available for download on 

Taste of Champaign-Urbana is the area’s premiere outdoor summer festival featuring delicious menu items from CU’s best restaurants, frosty beer, diverse arts and crafts from local artists, the 3.14 mile Pie Run, and high-quality music and entertainment for the whole family – in Champaign’s beautiful West Side Park.  All proceeds from the festival go towards Champaign Parks Foundation's youth scholarship fund which provides hundreds of local youth with the opportunity to go to camp, learn to dance, take swimming lessons, play baseball, and much more!

For up-to-date information about Taste of Champaign-Urbana,