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AMITA Health splits; St. Mary's remains with Ascension

KANKAKEE — The parent organization for AMITA Health St. Mary’s Hospital Kankakee is splitting, and the Kankakee hospital and its affiliated locations here once again will become part of Ascension.

News regarding the breakup was made public Thursday.

It was reported AdventHealth and Ascension — joined in 2015 — have decided to end their partnership, in which they were operating as AMITA Health, a network of 19 Illinois hospitals.

AMITA spokesman Tim Nelson told The Journal there will be more information to share as decisions are made and communicated across the organization. The timeline of the separation has not been stated.

AMITA noted there will be no disruption to patient care during the transition.

Formerly known as Presence St. Mary’s Hospital, the Kankakee hospital joined Ascension in 2018 when Presence Health was acquired by Ascension and became part of the merger under AMITA.

When the merger between AdventHealth and Ascension took place, AMITA Health, based in Lisle, became one of the largest hospital systems in Illinois. AMITA Health became the third largest healthcare system in Illinois in terms of revenue, behind only Advocate Aurora Health and Northwestern Medicine.

The Kankakee hospital along West Court Street has a workforce of about 760, according to an AMITA spokesperson.

In an AMITA news release issued Thursday, the organization stated leadership of both sponsoring networks determined that going forward separately is in their “collective best interest in order to more nimbly meet the changing needs and expectations” in the rapidly evolving healthcare environment.

According to published reports, sites that were formerly part of Alexian Brothers Health System and Presence Health, such as St. Mary’s, will be integrated with Ascension. Other sites will become part of AdventHealth.

Chenoweth officially inaugurated as ONU's 13th president

BOURBONNAIS — Nearly five months after Gregg Chenoweth took office as president of Olivet Nazarene University, he was officially welcomed Friday morning with an inauguration ceremony at Hawkins Centennial Chapel.

Chenoweth was elected as ONU’s 13th president Jan. 13 after a 16-month national search after the August 2019 announcement of 30-year president John Bowling’s retirement. Bowling concluded his tenure at the end of the 2020-21 academic year, and Chenoweth started June 1.

Vice President for Academic Affairs Stephen Lowe noted that, although Chenoweth is the 13th president of ONU, he is only the fourth university president in the last 72 years, “making this event rare, as well as historic.”

Lowe also introduced Chenoweth and overviewed his career background and connections to ONU.

“In one respect, Gregg Chenoweth has always been a member of the Olivet community,” Lowe said, noting he was born in eastern Michigan to two ONU alumni, Arlene and Robert Chenoweth.

Chenoweth arrived at ONU as a freshman in 1986, graduating four years later with a bachelor’s degree in communications. He then earned a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University in 1993 and completed his PhD in organizational communications from Wayne State University in 2003.

After working as CEO of a private Christian school and serving as a faculty member in Korea, Chenoweth returned to ONU as a full-time professor of communications before becoming the university’s first dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and moving up the ladder to vice president for academic affairs in 2008.

In 2013, he left to become president at Bethel University in Mishawaka, Indiana, for eight years before returning to ONU.

Chenoweth also has given addresses in 50 cities across seven countries, including a lecture at Oxford University, published works in 30 media outlets and just this year released his first book, “Everyday Discernment.”

During Friday’s ceremony, John Bowling, the longest-serving president in ONU’s 114-year history, assisted ONU Board of Trustees Chair Ronald Blake in presenting Chenoweth with a presidential medallion.

“May this medallion remind you often of the faithfulness of God and of this university’s strong heritage …” Blake recited before presenting Chenoweth officially as president for the first time.

Students, faculty, alumni and guests filling the chapel gave a standing ovation following the ceremonial gesture.

Chenoweth also took the microphone and addressed the crowd.

He urged students to “strive for calling, not career” and noted this year, Olivet has students from every U.S. state and 27 countries.

“Calling is what you feel compelled to take responsibility for,” Chenoweth said.

He went on to expound upon ONU’s mission to “populate the professions with faith-integrated people.”

“A Christian education is a very powerful thing,” Chenoweth said. “It gives a student a love for a world that would inevitably fall into ruin if not for a professional, prepared, Biblically rooted, virtuous generation, and Olivet’s been doing this for 114 years.”

The ceremony also included songs, Scripture readings and prayers along with the presentation of the 19th Maggie Sloan Crawford Award, which was named after ONU’s first graduate, to Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

Another $570,000 in COVID funds receive first-round approval

KANKAKEE — The Kankakee County Board’s Finance Committee gave first-round approval to 12 requests totaling more than $570,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds at its meeting Thursday at the county administration building.

Included in the requests were a park district, small businesses, local government departments and several nonprofit organizations. All requests must receive final approval by the full county board, which next meets Nov. 9.

The most pressing request that was approved was $156,854 to repair and replace a sewer lift station on Main Street in Hopkins Park. It includes pumps, rails, an electric panel and associated components as well as a lift station bypass.

The pump has been inoperable for more than a month.

“I appreciate the board for considering this request,” said board member Sam Payton, who is also the Pembroke Township supervisor. “It’s a needed request. It is an emergency, but it’s not the county emergency; it’s a Pembroke Township emergency. We have waste that is backing up as I speak. And we need to get this work done as fast as we can. I will be meeting with [Intergovernmental Agreement] this afternoon to clear up any labor responsibility of Kankakee County.”

Board member Steven Hunter said it was a pragmatic decision by the county to approve the request.

“This governmental unit is working with an under-served community in this particular instance,” he said. “There has been substantial interface with the chairman and the mayor of the village of Hopkins Park, and the duly elected township supervisor, Mr. Payton, on this particular matter. It’s a public health situation. ... I’m just really pleased because [the county] is taking this proactive approach and addressing this particular matter.”

Other fund requests and the amount approved were:

• Momence Park District, $5,000 for lost revenue

• Chiropractic Associates of Kankakee, $5,000 for lost revenue

• Merchant Street Art Gallery of Artists with Autism, $5,000 for lost revenue

• Good Shepherd Manor, $10,000

• Chatterbox Cafe in Bradley, $5,000 for lost revenue

• Options Center for Independent Living in Bourbonnais, $5,000 for ramp assistance program for residents

• Garden of Prayer Youth Center in Kankakee, $5,000 for broadband internet services

• Child Network of Bradley, $5,000 for lost funds

• Kankakee County Recorder’s Office, $48,000 for digital indexing and roller shelving for books

• 21st Judicial Circuit Court, $6,100 for rental of Knights of Columbus space for juror assembly

• Kankakee County Circuit Clerk, $315,000 for digital conversion of about 1,895 boxes of court case files

The Board capped the nongovernment requests at $10,000 or $5,000 (50 percent match) if the business or agency was located in a municipality that also received ARPA funds. The board also will reconsider its policy at next week’s executive committee meeting on the 50 percent match if the nonprofit serves people outside of its municipality.

Among this batch of approvals, those affected are Garden of Prayer Youth Center, Options Center for Independent Living and the Merchant Street Art Gallery of Artists with Autism, which all serve residents throughout the county.

“We don’t have an official policy that spells it out,” board chairman Andy Wheeler said. “We didn’t consider that when we started, and I think it is a consideration. There is a delineation because where are the services that they provide, where are they directed?”

If the policy is revised, then those nonprofits could be approved for the full $10,000 when the full board makes the final approval.

Reaching out to the Hispanic community

KANKAKEE — The recent violence near the Kankakee County Courthouse led Kankakee resident Alex Quezada to want to engage the Hispanic community.

Two Hispanic men died in the shootout, and a third is facing second- degree murder charges.

“We have to do something for the families,” said Quezada, who emigrated to Kankakee with his family in 2001.

Quezada took an English as a Second Language course at St. Teresa Church and earned his GED at Kankakee Community College.

He and his wife, Irma, are the parents of five children who are past and present students of Kankakee School District 111.

“I call Kankakee my home,” Quezada said.

Now 45 years old, Quezada works as director of Hispanic ministry at St. John Paul II Church on the westside of Kankakee, where 50 percent of the parishioners are Hispanic.

He said the time has come to bring the community together and work to end the violence. To that end, he founded Families United of Kankakee (Familias Unidas de Kankakee), which aims to end the patterns of violence and educate Hispanic families.

“We want to deviate from the pattern,” Quezada said, speaking of parents who must work two or three jobs to support their families. This leaves less time to quality time to spend with the family, which Quezada calls “the fabric of the community.”

“We need time to invest in prevention,” he said.

That’s what the Families United of Kankakee aims to do. It will accomplish that goal by focusing on health care, education, parenting, English as a Second Language, addictions, reunification and immigration aid, interacting with police, drug addictions, domestic violence and the rights of workers, Quezada said.

It is looking to meet on the third Saturday of every month from February to November 2022 at the Kankakee Public Library, which is one of 14 local organizations Quezada has reached out to. The sessions will aim to achieve a common good so every person can live and thrive in Kankakee, Quezada said.

“We want these families to feel welcome, to feel incorporated [and] to feel integrated,” he said. “They are afraid. They are afraid to access the services, afraid to ask for help, afraid to make mistakes with the English language and afraid of law enforcement. We must collaborate. Educate the people as well as groups, organizations and others. We need to challenge everyone.”

Quezada said he is hopeful the program will grow annually and will be evaluated to see what direction it should be heading.

“It’s not me,” he said. “It is the public that will succeed.”