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IN THE NEWS
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Southwestern Illinois Captures Prestigious Abilene Trophy
EDWARDSVILLE, IL, (SWI-News.com), April 19, 2015 - The coveted Abilene Trophy is returning to Southwestern Illinois for a second time in just three years in recognition of the extensive support demonstrated during 2014 for Scott Air Force Base's military members and their families.

Also known as the Air Mobility Command Community Support Award, the prestigious award is presented annually to recognize the community that provides the finest support to an Air Mobility Command unit. The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois spearheaded this year's nomination on behalf of the St. Louis region, submitting an application that highlighted a series of "firsts" that really brought to life the depth of the region's ongoing commitment for the men and women at Scott.

In a release, Ellen Krohne, executive director of the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, stated "2014 was a remarkable year in "Scott Country," during which new programs, initiatives and milestones, combined with ongoing efforts, helped to build on the region's solid foundation of support for the men, women and families of Scott Air Force Base and further strengthened the unique bond we share."

"As with the win in 2013, it was widespread regional support that propelled us into the #1 slot again, and we thank the many individuals, businesses, organizations and communities whose continuing passion to serve our military families has us now looking forward to bringing the Abilene Trophy back to Scott Air Force Base."

Gerry Schuetzenhofer, chairman of the Leadership Council's Military Affairs Committee, commented, "It's impossible to truly understand the depth of the sacrifices made by the airmen of the Air Mobility Command Unit at Scott Air Force Base without walking in their combat boots. We are thankful for the Abilene Committee's consideration of our year of 'firsts' and the role they play in helping the heroes at Scott Air Force Base, and their families, to thrive."


Nature-Based Play Area Takes Shape in City of Belleville
BELLEVILLE, IL, (SWI-News.com), April 19, 2015 - The City of Belleville has been selected as a Building Better Communities grant recipient from the American Water Charitable Foundation and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). Belleville is one of four communities awarded this grant in 2014 out of 150 applicants.

Through the Building Better Communities grant program, the City of Belleville will create a "nature play" area adjacent to the Stone Lodge at Bellevue Park. The nature play area will consist of over 25,000 sq. ft. natural play/nature based play area.

>On Saturday, April 18, 2015, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the community is invited to help fulfill our grant obligation and work together to landscape and plant within the nature play area, including several park beautification projects in Bellevue Park, which is Belleville's 1st City Park, established in 1922.

On April 18, members of the community and several organizations assisted the Parks staff with the final stages with this project development.

In a statement, Mayor Mark Eckert said, "The nature play area at Bellevue Park will be unique within the region. It will be a destination for those seeking both active and passive recreational opportunities that are different from a typical park setting. There will be something for all ages to enjoy and this project will greatly enhance our existing park system. We would like to thank the American Water Charitable Foundation, the National Recreation and Parks Association, Illinois American Water Company, and all those who supported the City's application for this grant!", Eckert said.

The project includes an embankment slide, taking advantage of a natural hillside; stepping stumps; interpretive signage regarding water fowl, fish & butterflies; a notched log stepper; log benches; landscape beds & educational garden, a hank drum; a thunder drum. climbing wall; rock scramble stairs; sand play area; water pitcher hand pump with cistern; duck & fish food dispensers; a gazebo, tree tables; drinking fountain; numerous trees; and butterfly attracting plants &smp; bushes. The Parks and Recreation's summer day camp, Camp Quackers, will also use the area for play & outdoor education sessions on various topics such as water, water fowl, butterflies/insects, trees, plants, etc.

"Parks and public lands are integral in conserving natural resources, but it is experiences and interactions that foster a strong sense of responsibility and appreciation for nature - especially among children," said Barbara Tulipane, President and CEO of NRPA. "This project will provide community members the opportunity to interact and learn about nature right in their own neighborhood forming an interest in the natural world that can last a lifetime."


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