Judith Valente | WGLT

Judith Valente

News Reporter

After traveling the country for PBS-TV for the past 15 years, Judy Valente was looking for a new challenge. She is delighted to have found one WGLT as a member of the GLT news team, allowing her to grow here in Normal where she is planted. Judy is also an award-winning poet and the author of two poetry collections. She recently completed a memoir of her regular visits to Mount St. Scholastica, a Benedictine monastery in Atchison, Kansas, called "Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home and a Living Faith." She is often invited to speak on how to slow down and live a more contemplative life.

In her free time, this New Jersey native likes to traverse the Illinois prairie and is a member of the Illinois Master Naturalist program. She enjoys theater, especially Broadway musicals and Heartland Theater's 10-Minute Play Festival. She is also a lay associate of the monastery in Atchison, having taken vows to live out the monastic values of listening, humility, hospitality, simplicity and stability in her life as a married woman – and as a professional writer and journalist.

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Baby Fold

The Baby Fold's Residential Treatment Center for children and teens who suffer emotional difficulties due to abuse and neglect will close at the end of the month -- another casualty of the Illinois budget impasse.

Judith Valente / GLT News

As part of their Social Work in Action class, a group of Illinois Wesleyan University students began interviewing people who have been arrested in McLean County.  

Julien Harnels / Flickr

Like many Americans, Gretchen Snow  was horrified at the photos of a drowned Syrian refugee child who washed up on the shores of Greece. Then there were the images of African families fleeing violence in their villages, walking on dirt roads, children in tow and their  belongings on their backs.

Snow decided she had to act. She was not alone.

Judith Valente / GLT News

Walking along Shady Hollow Trail at Comlara Park, Sherrie Snyder spots a small flowering plant in the underbrush that contains a series of delicate deep purple blossoms. She stoops to snap a photograph of it on her cell phone.

"I'm going take a picture of this little guy, the dwarf larkspur," she says.

It's all part of a citizen-science project called Flora of Comlara Park. She and other volunteers—you might call them plant Sherlocks—observe and photograph the current plant life so that botanists can compare the plants growing today with those that grew a hundred years ago in central Illinois. 

Judith Valente / WGLT

Normal Mayoral Candidate Marc Tiritilli said he is conceding the contest to Mayor Chris Koos.

Bruce Emmerling / Creative Commons

Recent political rhetoric aside, the majority of immigrants living in the US. come here legally, and each has a compelling story to tell. Those are among the messages members of Bloomington-Normal's immigrant communities hope to convey at a conversation Thursday evening at Bloomington Public Library.

East Indian, Mexican, Caribbean and Latin American immigrants will share their personal stories.

Devon Buchanan / Creative Commons

Anonymous websites like Anon-IB that post nude photographs of women are difficult to control because the law has not kept up with the technology that makes these sites possible.

Pete Sousa / Official White House Photo

A growing number of school-age children have experienced some form of trauma or emotional difficulty. That often translates into behavioral problems both within the family and at school.

Increasingly, however, schools are attempting to prevent and address those problems through a variety of services, according to Brenda Huber, director of the Psychological Services Center at Illinois State University, and Mark Jontry, regional schools superintendent for McLean, Livingston, Logan and DeWitt counties.

Justin A. Wilcox / Creative Commons

When a person is experiencing an emotionally difficult period, often the first stop in seeking help is with a pastor or another trusted spiritual adviser.

That's why churches and faith groups across denominations are increasingly focusing on the mental well-being of their congregation members, says Patricia Turner, outreach director for Center for Hope International Ministries, an independent, non-denominational Christian church in Bloomington.

"I'm glad that this is one of the stops people can make," Turner said on GLT's Sound Ideas.

Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

(This story has been edited to include comments from Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner and McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers.) 

What is it like to currently file a complaint of officer misconduct with the Bloomington Police Department?

Sophie Charles and Henry Dick, a couple from West Bloomington, did just that. They said they came away from the experience dissatisfied with the results and reluctant to approach the police in the future.

WGLT

Community support is mounting for an independent, citizen-led review board to monitor the actions of the Bloomington Police Department.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

The local chapter of Black Lives Matter is proposing a citizen-led review board to monitor and weigh in on the actions of the Bloomington Police Department.

Colleen Reynolds / GLT News

A new report on inequality in Bloomington-Normal shows that poor and minority residents live in neighborhoods that have more noise and air pollution, less quality housing, fewer places to buy fresh, healthy food, and less transportation opportunities.

Johnny Silvercloud / Creative Commons

Bloomington and Normal neighborhoods are more racially integrated than those of several other Illinois cities, including Peoria, Champaign, Urbana, Springfield, Rockford and Decatur.

Monica Elizabeth / Wikimedia Commons

President Trump signed an executive order this week he said would ease restrictions on the political activities of churches.

Although the order was signed to much fanfare in front of an array of faith leaders, and was touted as protecting religious freedom, it will have little effect.

That's according to Illinois State University politics and government Professor Meghan Leonard. Leonard said Congress decades ago prohibited tax exempt religious groups from endorsing political candidates

Gail Franklin / Western Avenue Community Center

Many social service workers burn out long before the quarter century mark. Not so Socorro Alvarez, the Hispanic Outreach director for the past 25 years at Bloomington's Western Avenue Community Center.

Mary Jo Adams

Two years ago, a female eagle was found shot dead in Normal. Her mate soon died -- killed apparently by another bird. Then their three orphaned eagles died. Bird watchers feared it would be the end of eagles in McLean County. But there is good news.

A new pair of the white-topped, hooked-beak creatures has taken up residence in the nest the dead eagles left behind and they are raising three eaglets there.

Judith Valente / GLT News

You don't normally expect to hear the words cancer and gift in the same sentence. But that is how Marcia O'Donnell, a Community Cancer Center patient, describes her life since her diagnosis of advanced breast cancer.

O'Donnell is a former mental health professional and mother of two small children.

She credits her positive outlook, in part, to being able to share her questions, fears and sometimes overwhelming emotions with Cancer Center chaplain Cheryl-Peterson Karlan.

Initially, though O'Donnell didn't even want to meet with the chaplain. 

Judith Valente / GLT News

Cheryl Peterson-Karlan, the chaplain at the Community Cancer Center in Normal, says her job is about listening to people, meeting them where they are, and if possible, helping them find hope.

Carlos R / Pexels

How much skin is too much skin to show at school?

That's a question swirling around Kingsley Junior High School in Normal after the principal sent out a dress code edict prohibiting clothing that reveals bare shoulders, bra straps, midriff or cleavage.

 

Hospice Chaplain Kerry Egan says she doesn't know if listening to people's life stories as the confront death can make a person wise.

"I do know it can heal your soul. I know this because the stories healed mine."

Henri Huet / AP

As an expert in international affairs, Harvard University Professor Fredrik Logevall considers it crucial to study the Vietnam War, a complicated and controversial part of American history. 

Logevall was a child living in Canada when the United States pulled its combat forces from Vietnam in 1973.  He has since written widely about the war and shared his insights recently at Illinois State University as a guest of the History Department.

Illinois Wesleyan University

There were few books in Cornelius Eady's household when he was growing up in Rochester, New York.

"We barely had a radio," he recalled on GLT's Sound Ideas.

Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

The future of Planned Parenthood across Illinois is far from certain. But its services don't appear to be under immediate threat from a recent directive from President Trump.

That measure would allow state and local governments to withhold Title X family planning funds from health facilities that also provide abortion services.

McLean County's sole Planned Parenthood clinic would not be affected because it doesn't perform abortions. Additionally,  all Planned Parenthood clinics statewide receive Title X funds as a direct grantee of the federal government and not through the state, said Julie Lynn of Planned Parenthood of Illinois. 

However, women's reproductive services, especially for low income residents, remain a target of many federal and state officials, Lynn said.

GLT News

At a public forum last December sponsored by Black Lives Matter, several residents of the Bloomington's west side complained that their neighborhood is under a police microscope, with officers making unfair stops and arrests.

Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner says  he sends additional patrols to areas of the city that have a higher rate of incidents. 

The practice is a  common one known as "hot spot policing."  It is used by departments across America in cities both large and small to address high crime areas. But does hot spot policing work?

Flickr

There's and old joke that goes like this: a prison guard asks an inmate what he's in for. "Talking," the inmate replies.

Law Professor James Duane says it's no laughing matter.  He's the author of the book "You Have The Right To Remain Innocent" and is featured in a video titled "Don't Talk to the Cops" that's garnered thousands of views on You Tube.

Duane says innocent people sometimes get convicted based on information they provide to police in an effort to be cooperative.

Colleen Connelly

It's time once again for community gardeners to begin planting.

The West Bloomington Active Garden has added 12 news beds this season for residents to plant for free, making for a total of 32 plots.

However, all of those plots are already spoken for. Colleen Connelly, who oversees the garden, says there will be a waiting list. Connelly says she's not surprised by the interest the gardens have generated.

Judith Valente

At a bank of desks near an arched window streaming sunlight, a farmer does Internet research on one of the computers at the Carlock Public Library. Another patron reads the newspaper in one of the newly- remodeled reading areas. The scent of fresh woodwork and new carpeting fills the room.

These days, many public libraries face cutbacks in funding or even closure. That's not the case in the small farming community of Carlock,  population 569, near the border of McLean and Woodford counties. 

wikimedia.commons

She disguised herself as a male hoping to study at a university. Her personal collection of books is said to have numbered 4,000. She once said women "can perfectly well philosophize while cooking supper. "

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz was a 17th century Mexican nun who wrote poetry and plays and championed a woman's right to study, learn and think for herself.

Travis Meadors/GLT News

Conscientious objectors -- those who refuse to fight in the military based on religious, moral or ethical beliefs -- have existed since the birth of the nation.

During the Revolutionary War, George Washington allowed conscripts from peace churches to return home.

At the start of World War I, conscientious objectors received some protections. Those were expanded and became official policy during World War II.  

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