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VG holds goundbreaking ceremony

Members of the Villa Grove City Council “breaking ground” on the new community building coming soon to Villa Grove. The project is set to be complete in the next year. Pictured from left to right are Villa Grove Mayor Cassandra Eversole-Gunter and councilmembers Matthew Pangburn, Thelma “Boots” Blaney, Kerry Cheely, Derek Johnson, and Tony Hooker. Photo by Kendra Hennis.

The City of Villa Grove celebrated the beginning of construction of the new community building with a groundbreaking ceremony on August 13. Pictured in back are Brian Kesler, Byron Denhart, Lisa Corum, Lindsey Douglas, Derek Johnson, and Matt Pangburn. In the middle row are Jacqualine Athey, Miss Villa Grove Addisyn Wilson, Junior Miss Lilly Lynn Davis, Boots Blaney, Mayor Cassandra Eversole-Gunter, Kerry Cheely, and Tony Hooker. Little Miss Villa Grove Tatum Faust is pictured in front. Photo by Kendra Hennis.

The framing is set on the Villa Grove community center, coming soon to Richmond Park. Photo by Kendra Hennis.

By Tony Hooker
On Saturday, August 13, the city of Villa Grove hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the new community building, which is being built at Richman Park.  Representatives from all aspects of the project were on hand to discuss the project.   Here are the words of Villa Grove city administrator Jackie Athey, which perfectly capture the scope and emotion of the day.

Mayor and City Council, Invited Guests, Valued Partners, and Ladies and Gentlemen of our fair City:

 It is certainly a privilege for me to join all of you this morning as we officially begin a blueprint for growth, which has been long awaited but will serve the community for generations to come.  With the excellent cooperation between the City of Villa Grove, the State of Illinois and the Department of Natural Resources, our talented professionals and generous donors, I am confident we are creating a very fertile project, which will continue to grow and flourish in its existence.

The word Community is defined in several ways such as “a unified body of individuals” or a “group linked by common beliefs”.  However, the definition I most responded to was “an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location”.  This Community Center’s gymnasium and walking track will play a central role in improving our resident’s quality of life.  Those spaces, plus offices and conference rooms, will enable the City to deliver high standards for physical fitness opportunities, civic comradery and health education to young and old alike.  The kitchen, concessions and locker room/storm shelter areas will provide indoor safety for individuals using the entire sports complex.

Through all of the past 8-plus years of impediments at all levels of government and at all stages of conception, the Community Center has remained a goal for our City’s officials across a wide spectrum of different idealisms, political environments and economic times.  It’s been both supported and opposed, embraced and foiled, advanced and deserted at various times in my tenure with the City.  Yet the Community Center remains an endeavor to be advanced, a facility to be embraced, and a worthwhile project to be championed.  I imagine many supporters here today feel much as I do, like a child is finally being born or a long-lost family member or pet is returning to the fold after an extended absence.  This is a fantastic milestone; boy, will this be one good-looking center!

And so, while those years of delays were frustrating, I believe that this project has come to fruition at the right time…the time for bringing people back together.  Whether due to different philosophies, politics, religion or an unprecedented worldwide pandemic, we need to refocus on embracing our neighbors with respect and gratitude for their contributions to our community.  We can join with others here in fellowship, leading to growth of personal character as well as the social and economic ties that bind us with one another.

On behalf of the City of Villa Grove, I would like to express our sincere appreciation for the collaboration between current and former elected officials and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources which has committed over $2.1 million dollars to this phase of development (after previously giving nearly $800,000 for acquisition and development of the surrounding complex).  We SO appreciate their continued investment in us.

Thanks also goes to Architectural Expressions, who have designed, redesigned, coached and generally hand-held us throughout the years bringing this edifice from dream to reality.  We are honored to be working with Broeren-Russo Builders Inc to see them deliver the physical manifestation of so many years of planning.  The Union Pacific Railroad has not only invested their dollars, but their time in getting to know Villa Grove and the needs of our community – so we are excited to partner with them in this construction.  The Villa Grove State Bank has always maintained a wonderful and supportive partnership with the City in its financial planning, and we could not do this (or many other projects) without them.

Finally, we owe a debt of gratitude to countless other volunteers and anonymous donors who have helped carry us through and will continue going forward.  Please know that all of your contributions, whether big or small, were vital to the framework of the success we are witnessing today.

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