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There’s an African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go fast, go together.”  Whether it’s events like Workation in Lanark every June, or the Pecatonica River Clean Up at the end of this month, there are good things happening throughout Northern Illinois.

With summer in full swing, it is important to continue recognizing and celebrating our communities’ achievements, successes, and contributions.  I had the unique opportunity to attend two events in Northern Illinois this past week that I would like to share.

The first event, was an Open House for National Park Service representatives of the U.S Department of Interior and was hosted by Galena City Beautiful and The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design in Galena, Illinois.  The National Park Service was doing a site visit and is considering designating the City of Galena as a “National Historic Landmark.”

When talking about the opportunity, Museum Vice President Kieran Conlon stated, “The City of Galena certainly fits these criteria because of our city’s importance in the early growth of the United States… the development of the Upper Mississippi River Valley and for the one-of-a-kind collection of superior landmark buildings in the country.”

There are currently 87 National Historic Landmarks in Illinois including Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium, Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Starved Rock in LaSalle County, and the John Deere Home and Shop in Grand Detour.
Rock Island is the site of the Rock Island Arsenal, which served as the site of a Union prison during the Civil War.  And of course, Galena is home to the only National Historic Landmark in the 89th Legislative District, the Ulysses S. Grant home.

Conlon said, “As a National Historic Landmark, the designation would position Galena on an equal national par with The Historic Districts of Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, Williamsburg, Virginia - for sure, other important American Landmark Cities… (and) will have significant economic and prestige impact on our community and on our developing tourist industry.”

Rose Noble, President and CEO of Greater Galena Marketing Inc., agrees with Conlon that National Historic Landmark status for Galena will have a major impact.  She has said, “This would be a great recognition for Galena and Illinois… travel impacts many jobs in Jo Daviess County, and this recognition has potential to draw significant visitors to our area.  We also know every traveler who visits Galena, comes back on average 3 times!”

This is great news for Galena and Northwestern Illinois.  It was my privilege to attend the Open House, share in the excitement, and offer my support.

After leaving Galena, I traveled down US Route 20 to The Rafters in Lena, Illinois where the Northwest Illinois F-4 Jet Memorial Committee hosted a fundraiser to bring an F-4 Phantom fighter jet to Lena’s Northwest Illinois Aerial Combat Memorial.  Committee Chairman, Terry Yount, said the project started with discussion between friends on Facebook, one of whom was a former Air Force mechanic. The gentleman was lamenting how one of the F-4 Phantoms he had been responsible for had been shot down for “target practice.”

*** Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better”***

As I shared last week, we celebrate our nation’s birthday on July 4th because it is the date at the top of the Declaration of Independence.  Choosing Independence Day serves as a reminder that the American experiment is most of all about freedom.  Our second President, John Adams, when writing about the Declaration of Independence and its anniversary, said, “It will be celebrated … with pomp and parade … bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”  He was right!

Why the Founding Fathers chose to declare independence in the middle of the summer heat eludes me.  Thankfully, this 4th of July was not the hottest one we’ve had.  I remember a few short years ago in 2012, temperatures were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit which makes this year’s Independence Day temperatures of 90-93 degrees seem a bit cooler in hindsight.

I love the 4th of July.  I love how we as Americans choose to celebrate our freedom.  I love family picnics.  I love the fireworks.  And most of all, I love the parades.  I love seeing our communities come together to celebrate freedom and to show the next generation what celebrating freedom looks like.

Take a moment to remember the most recent 4th of July parade you saw.  Maybe it was years ago.  Maybe it was this past week. What did you see?

***“No act of kindness… is ever wasted. –Aesop”*** 

On a quiet street in the city of Lanark, Illinois sits a quaint white building.  The bell and sign in the front herald the Lanark First Brethren Church.  This small community congregation has a history of serving Lanark for 130 years even raising funds to send a team of volunteers to minister in Alaska until 2015.

In 2016, the Church was at a crossroads.  The congregation chose to try a different sort of ministry project right in their own backyard.  They called it Workation - giving volunteers an opportunity to take a week to volunteer right in their own proverbial backyard while still having the opportunity to sleep in their own beds every night.

Organizers wanted three things.  First, they wanted to provide the opportunity to volunteer to more people.  Second, they wanted to help more people.  And third, they believed Workation should be non-denominational.

They estimated that Workation would attract 8 to 10 volunteers and conduct 10 to 12 projects a year, estimating roughly 200 volunteer hours each year.  They were wrong.  No one anticipated that it would develop into the single largest community service program in the Church’s history.