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PAXTON — An Army veteran from Paxton outlined her plans for a Veterans Assistance Commission to the Ford County Board at its meeting Monday night.

Rebecca Rutledge told board members that someone needed to step up to help create an agency to support veterans, so she decided to do it.

Her plans call for a food pantry and hygiene closet and direct financial assistance to veterans.

She estimated needing an annual budget of $80,000.

State law mandates that if a board of representatives from at least half the veterans organizations in the county request such a commission, the county must allow it.

Rutledge, vice commander of American Legion Paxton Prairie Post 150, said she needs three people from county organizations to serve on that board, which would then need to approve formally notifying the county board that it wants the commission be created.

She included plans for an office superintendent, saying she would likely fill that role.

The county is obligated to fund the commission, and many do so through a tax levy or from the general fund.

Rutledge said she believes much of the funding can be obtained from grants, many through the Illinois Department of Human Services.

She said she is willing to help fill out those applications.

Currently, Rutledge is covering utility bills and painting the walls at the proposed office site, the Commandery Building space at 151 N. Market St. in Paxton that was once occupied by Mena’s Mercantile.

She said she has received donations of furniture and two computers.

She said volunteer help will be appreciated, and perhaps those on probation who need to complete public-service hours could be used as well.

Rutledge has lived in Paxton for five years, is retired and is renovating her house.

In the Army, she served as a track vehicle mechanic.

“A lot of good can come from this,” she told the board.

In October 2019, Piper City resident Anthony Damon Guarino outlined the need for such a commission.

Guarino said there are 1,000 veterans in Ford County who could benefit, and the commission could help in many ways, such as advocacy and transportation to doctor and counseling appointments.

An initial informational meeting was held in January 2020 at the Roberts Village Hall.

It was attended by veterans from Gibson City, Paxton, Loda and Kempton, along with several Ford County Board members and Ariel Ochoa, court officer for Ford County veterans.

The pandemic put preparations on hold until Rutledge stepped forward.

In other business:

  • Terri Tincher, a career planner in Iroquois County for East Central Illinois WorkNet under the umbrella of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, addressed board members about her duties in Ford County.

She said her office, where she assists displaced workers in need of training for new jobs and high-schoolers preparing to enter the workforce, is in the east portion of the old sheriff’s residence/jail, and walk-in hours will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.

She said the first items on her to-do list in Ford County are to contact Gibson Area Hospital about its employee needs and speak with the Paxton Area Chamber of Commerce about services she can offer.

  • Board Vice Chair Cindy Ihrke said expressed concerns of herself and a resident she was communicating with via email about developments in the case of Timber Creek Bed & Breakfast, which has been ordered sold to pay the fines accrued by owner Jim Walder in a case where he refused to allow a same-sex couple from Tuscola to hold a civil-union ceremony there in 2011. She said she sees this as government taking private property.
  • Board member Tim Nuss said he and fellow District 2 representatives will work with law enforcement to better communicate with residents during manhunt, one of which recently happened in Roberts.
  • Zoning committee Chair Ann Ihrke said it will meet at 5 p.m. Aug. 16 in the board meeting room at the jail to look at the finalized copy of the proposed revamping of the wind-farm ordinance.

For the first time in nearly a year and a half, all board members were present in person Monday night, and the meeting was not streamed virtually.

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