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Local
Mother Nature turns on the water tap; overnight storm dumps 3 inches of rain
 05.15.20

Kankakee County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Ken McCabe’s assessment of Thursday night’s storm is spot-on.

“We got a ton of rain,” McCabe said Friday morning as he was out observing the eastern part of Kankakee County.

McCabe said KanComm dispatchers were swamped with calls of flooded roads.

“We normally post them online but there were so many we didn’t,” he said.

There were roadways still flooded Friday morning and no shortage of flooded farmfields.

“There are roads that have the old corn stalks and other stuff from fields left when the water receded, McCabe said.

The National Weather Service posted a flood warning for the Kankakee River in Kankakee County and southeastern Grundy County and northeastern Livingston County. It remains in effect until Saturday afternoon.

According to NWS in Chicago, 2.8 inches of rain fell in the Herscher area in 1 hour, 15 minutes. As occurs whenever there is a deluge of rain, the viaducts in Kankakee, including Brookmont Boulevard and West Broadway Street, were flooded. Pictures posted on social media showed a Bradley police squad car stuck in water over its hood in the Broadway viaduct.

There were reports of roadways flooded in most communities.

Thursday night’s gully washer was the second punch for the day. Nearly 2 inches of rain fell earlier in the day.

The NWS reported 3.04 inches of rain fell in the 24-hour period that ended at 5 a.m. Friday. In Union Hill, located in western Kankakee County, 3.5 inches of rain was recorded.

Here are a few more highlights from the NWS:

• Rainfall amounts from this round of storms, along with rainfall earlier in the day on Thursday, brought some totals in excess of 4 inches in parts of the Chicago metro (including the official measurement at O’Hare International Airport), and also in/near Kankakee County.

• Illinois Route 115 near Herscher was closed during the peak of Thursday’s storm due to flash flooding.

• Trees and power lines were downed just west of Momence along River Road.

• Power poles were damaged northeast of Momence.

• There was a report of estimated 2 feet of water over 4000N Road.


Local
Brewing up COVID-19 relief funding: Local coffee roaster teams with Cubs player
 05.16.20

Connect Roasters founder Caleb Benoit and Chicago Cubs player Ian Happ have teamed up to use coffee as a vehicle to support COVID-19 relief efforts. Of every bag of Quarantine Coffee sold, $3 will be given to organizations that are providing essential aid right now.

A love of coffee and a desire to give back to others brought together local businessman Caleb Benoit and Chicago Cubs player Ian Happ.

The duo will raise funds for organizations aiding others during the COVID-19 pandemic through the sale of Quarantine Coffee.

Benoit is founder and CEO of Connect Roasters, which started in 2016. It offers coffee aficionados roast coffees from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Brazil and other countries.

A 36-year-old Kankakee County native, Benoit is a graduate of Herscher High School and Olivet Nazarene University. He previously worked as a reporter, editor and digital manager for the Daily Journal.

“We first connected over social media,” Benoit said. “Ian is a big coffee guy and particular about what he drinks. He also has a strong desire to give back to his community and make a difference off the field.

“Obviously, coffee is what we do, and giving back is part of the foundation of our company, so we’re both pointed in the same direction. Ian had the idea to use coffee as a vehicle to support COVID relief efforts, and we partnered to bring to market Quarantine Coffee, which donates $3 of every bag sold to organizations that are providing essential aid right now.”

The Quarantine Coffee is available online at CoffeeForCovid.com.

Why was Guatemalan coffee selected for the project?

“One [reason] is that it’s a place that’s known for approachable, delicious coffees,” Benoit said.

“It’s also the place where Connect Roasters got its start and has its strongest on-the-ground connections, so I’m kind of partial to it,” he said. “And obviously Ian is a big fan as well.”

Love of coffee

Happ is a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur who is passionate and particular about coffee.

“When I discovered Connect Roasters, I knew they would be the perfect partner for my first coffee project,” Happ said in a Facebook post. “I was immediately impressed with the smooth taste of their single-origin offerings and inspired by their mission to help fund projects in countries from which they are sourcing. Connect Roasters and I are partnering to bring Quarantine Coffee to everyone searching for the perfect morning cup.”

Quarantine Coffee is a medium roast from the Acatenango region of Guatemala.

In baseball terms, the effort is a grand slam.

“We started taking pre-orders on Monday, and we’re shipping the first round on Friday,” Benoit said.

“Bags are going to New York and to California and to all points in between — even two Canadian provinces. It’s a really exciting project happening in a time when it feels like everyone could use some good news.”

Benoit and Happ are the face of this effort, and it is Greg Rattin and Jordan Bergren who are responsible for the production.

“They are the ones who roast the coffee and do a lot of work behind the scenes,” Benoit said.

The beginning

Benoit said he developed his taste for coffee over time.

“My first ‘ah ha’ coffee moment came while drinking a coffee from the Dominican Republic, and it became first a bit of an addiction and then a business,” he said. “One of the great things about coffee is that it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. In that way, it’s a drink for anyone and everyone.

“The spark came as a result of a couple mission trips I took to the Dominican Republic. It was my first time seeing extreme poverty, a very tangible problem, and we’re building Connect to be part of the solution,” Benoit said.

“A portion of the sales from our coffees support community development in countries we source coffee from. We’ve been in business four years now, and we’re proud to be making an impact abroad and at home.”


Local
44 coronavirus cases reported at Del Monte
 05.15.20

KANKAKEE — Del Monte Fresh Produce Inc. has confirmed that employees at its plant in Kankakee have tested positive for the coronavirus.

A media statement released Thursday by the company said a total of 44 confirmed cases have been reported. Initially, nine cases were recorded, mostly from asymptomatic team members, the company said. After conducting mass testing — all employees of the facility were tested, including those off-site — with assistance from Riverside Hospital in Kankakee, an additional 35 cases were reported.

The company did not release timelines of the original cases or when the mass testing occurred.

“We have very strict contingency plans in place for cases where an employee tests positive and we have implemented these policies at our Kankakee facility,” read the media statement emailed to the Daily Journal by Andrea Beron Hoyos, senior director of global corporate communications for Del Monte.

“During this unprecedented time, we have diligently requested a mandatory isolation period for employees who may have been in direct or indirect contact to a COVID-19 positive case,” the statement continues. Also, through a “long-standing practice,” any employee who feels unwell or unsafe is asked to go home and remain home as needed.

Other precautions in place, according to the media statement, include temperature screenings for anyone entering the facility, required disclosure of COVID-19 symptoms or contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus, mandatory use of facemasks by all employees and visitors at the facility, and use of full personal protective equipment (PPE) and smocks in all production areas.

Also, a “full, daily sanitation [is] conducted 7 days per week, including 5+ hour sanitation in our production environment and weekly silver citrate fogging/misting process for the entire plant.”

According to a March 24 press release, the company activated its Global Executive Crisis Management team and regional response teams at the emergence of COVID-19. Those teams were tasked with keeping the company “continuously abreast of the situation and communicate the latest developments, proactively monitoring and adjusting business processes and procedures as necessary to ensure business continuity.”

That same press release said, “To increase social distancing, steps have been taken to reduce the number of employees in farm locations, packing houses, port operations and production facilities, while ensuring business continuity.”

It’s part of the company’s stated desire to continue to deliver an uninterrupted supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, there is currently no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food, it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety, the CDC says on its website.


Local
Kankakee High School plans for socially distanced graduation
 05.16.20

KANKAKEE — Kankakee School District is moving ahead with plans for socially distanced graduation ceremonies for Kankakee High School seniors on three separate days in June.

Administrators announced plans to parents in a Zoom webinar Wednesday.

“We do understand that the timeliness of the information is slightly behind other area schools,” Senior Class Sponsor Leigh Cordetti said. “However, we had decided to wait a little in hopes that the state of Illinois would open up a little bit more and we would be able to do several mini-graduations with families present. At this time, that is not an option.”

Seniors will be able to pick up caps and gowns from the high school from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 29. The district is asking people to decorate their vehicles to show school spirit during cap and gown pickup, with winners of the decorating contest to receive one of three prizes: a 55-inch TV, a mini fridge or a Poor Boys gift card.

Seniors can also pick up a personalized yard sign from the school starting May 14.

Graduation will take place on June 3, June 5 and June 10. Students will be able to individually walk the stage and have a picture taken.

Each family will receive a 5-by-7 inch picture of their graduate crossing the stage, and a video recording of the ceremony will be available for families to view after July 1.

Per Illinois State Board of Education guidelines, only the graduates themselves and a limited number of staff will be able to enter the building for graduation; any family members present will be asked to wait in their vehicles.

Seniors will be able to pick up diplomas from the high school from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the week of June 22.

Superintendent Genevra Walters said the original plan was to host a graduation ceremony on Olivet Nazarene University’s campus May 22.

The district considered options to reschedule a traditional ceremony or host smaller graduation ceremonies where a limited number of family members could have been present.

A socially distanced, virtual graduation ceremony seemed like the best option that is currently being allowed by the Illinois State Board of Education, Walters said.

“I completely understand if this is not the graduation that any of us anticipated, but we hope to do the best that we can to make this as memorable as possible in a positive way,” she said.

The district also attempted to reschedule prom but couldn’t make it happen this year with restrictions still in place. School officials will be seeking input from seniors about whether they would want to attend next year’s prom, Walters said.