McLean County news briefs

Learn about pruning fruit trees during the dormant season and training the direction of limb growth and other crucial information at upcoming workshops in Normal and Bloomington. (Courtesy of U of Illinois Extension)


City sets new hours for Citizen Convenience Center

Beginning this week, the Citizen Convenience Center will be open from 7 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. It will be open on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. It will be closed on Sundays and Mondays.

For more information about the City’s solid waste program, please visit:


Health Dept. names Employee of the Year recipient

The nomination for this year’s recipient of the Alice J. Olsson Employee of the Year Award describes this person as someone who embodies the mission of “Protect and Promote Health.” “They are incredibly kind; they demonstrate flexibility with change and help others embrace change; they’re collaborative in their work with others to ensure that each task is completed, leaving no loose ends behind. They go above and beyond whether dealing with the public or a coworker. They are honest and candid in their relationships. They always have a smile to share and willing to set aside their work to help others,” according to the McLean County Health Department website.

This year’s recipient of the Employee of the Year award goes to Ashley Smith.  Smith will celebrate 16 years with McLean County in January; she started at the McLean County Nursing Home in January 2004. She has been with the Health Department in the Family Case Management program since July 2007 as office support.

Alice J. Olsson was a much-respected registered nurse and supervisor in both the Parents Too Soon Program and Communicable Disease section at MCHD.

She worked at the health department from 1981 through 1989 and was named Employee of the Year in 1985. When Olsson lost her fight against breast cancer in 1990, this award was named in her honor.

“She went above and beyond what was expected of her in her job. Even while ill, she strived to help others by allowing her doctors to use any findings to learn more about the disease and treatments,” according to the statement on the health department web site.


 Extension holds backyard fruit tree workshops

University of Illinois Extension is hosting two sessions for backyard gardeners on how to grow and care for fruits at The Refuge Food Forest in Normal, an outdoor, hands-on classroom. One session will focus on pruning and training apple trees, the other on pruning brambles like raspberries and blackberries.

Shirley Blackburn, Partridge Point Orchard in Metamora, will demonstrate how to plant, prune and train young apple trees. Yearly pruning during the dormant season and training the direction of limb growth can increase fruit quality, reduce the occurrence of diseases, and improve the longevity of the tree.

Get more information on Saturday, Feb. 8, at 12:30 p.m. at the University of Illinois Extension Office in Bloomington at a lecture, followed by a trip to the food forest for a hands-on demonstration. Find specific event details and registration at under Feb. 8 or by contacting the Extension office at 309-663-8306.

Kelly Allsup, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, will also demonstrate planting, pruning and caring for brambles in a second workshop in February.

Most varieties of blackberries and raspberries need to be selectively pruned to ensure healthy growth, reduced the occurrence of diseases and ensure lots of berries.

Some require rejuvenation (cutting them to the ground) each season. Learn more on Saturday, Feb. 29, at 12:30 p.m. at the University of Illinois Extension Office in Bloomington for a lecture, followed by a trip to the food forest for a hands-on demonstration.

Find specific event details and registration at under Feb. 29 or by contacting the Extension office at 309-663-8306.

Ashley Smith

Annie’s Project presents spring seminars for women in farming

Annie’s Project courses have successfully reached more than 9,000 farm and ranch women in 33 states.  The next Annie’s Project is being co-sponsored by University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit, and Fulton County Farm Bureau starting in March.

Annie’s Project is designed to help farm women develop their management and decision making skills in the dynamic, complex world of agriculture.

Pre-registration is required by Feb. 1.

Dates for the six-session series will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, March 17, 19, 24, 26, 31, and April 2, with each session running from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Fulton County Farm Bureau, 15411 N IL 100 Hwy, Lewistown.

Check-in will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a lite supper being served each evening.

The cost of the program is $50 and is payable by the registration deadline on March 2. If you are an Annie’s Project Alumni and would like a refresher, the cost is $30.

Checks should be payable to the University of Illinois. Online registration is available at

For more information contact, Christine Belless at or call 309-547-3711.

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in any event listed in this news

release, contact your local Extension office.

Red Cross urgently needs donors for type O shortage

The American Red Cross has extended its urgent call for donors of all blood types to give blood or platelets. With influenza escalating across the country and preventing some donors from giving, and winter weather threatening to cancel blood drives, the Red Cross now has a critical shortage of type O blood and urgently needs donors to restock the shelves.

Currently, the Red Cross has less than a three-day supply of type O blood available for patient emergencies and medical treatments. Type O positive blood is the most transfused blood type and can be given to Rh-positive patients of any blood type.

While just 7 percent of the U.S. population has type O negative blood, it can be transfused to patients with any blood type and is what hospital staff reach for during emergencies when there isn’t time to determine a patient’s blood type.

Every day, the Red Cross must collect nearly 13,000 blood donations and more than 2,600 platelet donations for patients who rely on blood to survive. Shortfalls in donations can cause delays in essential medical care for patients like 12-year-old Dagan Hawkins.

Donors of all blood types — especially types O positive and O negative — are urged to make an appointment to give blood or platelets now using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.