McLean County news briefs

Learn what life was really life for servants in the 19th century at a daylong program at the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington on March 14. (Photo courtesy of David Davis Mansion)


YWCA gets state grant for anti-bullying program

The Illinois Prairie Community Foundation, Inc. has awarded YWCA McLean County a grant of $1,645 from Youth Engaged in Philanthropy (YEP). The grant money will be used to create and educate about anti-bias for YWCA Young Wonders Youth Development students.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, more than one out of five students reported being bullied, with 70.6 percent of young people saying they have seen bullying in their schools.

The project will educate children about racism, sexism and ableism with the goal of eliminating bullying and creating a more inclusive environment that understands and celebrates diversity not only at school, but also in the community.

This grant aligns very closely with the YWCA mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. With this grant, YWCA McLean County has the goal of: Increased recognition and prevention of bullying; educating students on how to stop bullying and being an informed bystander; and becoming more inclusive of all students at school and citizens in the community

“The anti-bias education is meant to create and build an inclusive environment for students,” said YWCA Young Wonders Senior Director Melissa Breeden. “This curriculum gives children a chance to have age-appropriate dialogue that encourages them to celebrate differences.”

For more information about YWCA Young Wonders and the anti-bias education program, please visit or call Melissa Breeden at 309-662-7826, ext. 255.



Miller Park Zoo hosts free Fridays this month

Miller Park Zoo  will open the doors to the Zoo for free on Fridays during the month of February.

“This will be a great way for all to enjoy what the Zoo has to offer,” said Anthony Nelson, Miller Park Zoo business manager. “Especially for those on a budget.”

Fridays, Feb. 14, 21, and 28 will all be free admission days at the Zoo.

Parking is also free at the Miller Park Zoo located at 1020 S. Morris Ave. in Bloomington.

For more information on Miller Park Zoo or any of the City of Bloomington’s Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts’ facilities, programs, classes, and events, contact the city of Bloomington’s PRCA Department at 309-434-2260, or visit


David Davis Mansion hosts Upstairs/Downstairs event

Fans of the behind-the-scenes intrigue of the television show “Downton Abbey” will want to visit the David Davis Mansion State Historic Site in Bloomington on Saturday, March 14 for a look at the lives of servants and their employers.

The free, family-friendly “Upstairs/Downstairs at Bloomington’s Downton Abbey” event runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Costumed storytellers will portray Irish servants who worked for the Davis family at their Victorian mansion during the 19th century. Visitors will have a chance to talk with staff and volunteers portraying servants rushing to complete their chores as well as members of the Davis family.

Visitors will meet characters including Bridget, the cook who occupies a special position in the household because she’s an expert with the Magee Range. She regularly gives the stove a workout preparing meals for the Davises and will describe how she prepares food and determines how many pieces of coal it takes to bake a cake.

The David Davis Mansion was built in 1872 for U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Davis and his wife Sarah. Davis who also served in the U.S. Senate was a friend and political ally of Abraham Lincoln.

The mansion is open each Wednesday through Saturday for free public tours and is located at 1000 Monroe Drive in Bloomington. For more information, call 309-828-1084 or visit


Mayor meets with federal railroad administer

Mayor Chris Koos welcomed Ronald Batory, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration FRA), to the Town of Normal on Thursday, Feb. 6.

In November, Normal received a U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant of $13 million for the Underpass Project at Uptown Station, which will be administered by the FRA.

The FRA is an agency of the U.S. DOT whose mission is dedicated to intermodal transportation and the safe, reliable and efficient movement of people and goods for a strong America.

The Underpass Project will provide a safer, more efficient, grade-separated route for pedestrians and cyclists moving between the Uptown neighborhood and the greater Bloomington-Normal area, according to the news release from the town.

The U.S. DOT received 666 eligible applications seeking a total of $9.6 billion in funding from the $900 million available. The Town of Normal was one of only 55 projects selected in 35 states.

Batory has ties to central Illinois from his career in the rail industry.  Following a 46-year career serving a variety of railroads including Southern Pacific Transportation Company, The Belt Railway Company of Chicago and Consolidated Rail Corp, he retired in 2017.

He was subsequently appointed by President Trump as administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration in conjunction with unanimous consent by the United States Senate.


 IDNR accepting applications for Earth Day programs

Applications will be accepted through Feb. 28 for Earth Day in the Parks events from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Events involve students and their teachers conducting natural resources stewardship activities, such as planting native wildflowers and grasses, building bird nesting boxes and removing invasive exotic plants at participating Illinois state parks. Participants are selected through an application process.

Earth Day in the Parks is held in April and May. Dates vary by location.

The application form is available at

Civil War Saturday at Old State Capitol

Visit the Old State Capitol in Springfield for a fun, family-friendly free program hosted by the Springfield Soldiers’ Aid Society Saturday, March 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Volunteers in historic attire will help those attending to learn about the women who worked in the building during the Civil War and experience history by trying crafts that were popular during the Civil War.

The Old State Capitol, a reconstruction of Illinois’ fifth statehouse, served as the seat of state government and a center of Illinois political life from 1839 to 1876. It is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.