By Steve Robinson | August 24, 2020 - 10:38 pm
Posted in Category: Hudson Quill, The Normalite

HUDSON – The memories of swimming, hiking, making crafts, and doing things all Girl Scouts do when at camp while cementing lifelong friendships still resonate with the women who attended a set of special farewell ceremonies at Camp Peairs on Lake Bloomington Saturday. For decades, the rustic surroundings and tents played host to many Girl Scouts who were in kindergarten through 12th grade five decades.

For Nancy Kelly Brady, being a Girl Scout and attending Camp Peairs as a result had some historic significance. Her late mother, Loretta Hundman Kelly, had the distinction of being the first Girl Scout leader of McLean County in the 1940s. Kelly’s debut troop had just three girls of which Brady was the youngest, she explained. The other girls in the fledgling troop were Brady’s sisters, Mary Kelly and Pat Kelly Pence. Hundman Kelly said she remembers being age 7 when the troop made its debut.

“I just wanted to come over and see the place because it was such a big part of her life,” Brady said, referring to her mother.

Anna Watkins Richmond is now in her 60s but can share similar experiences of her times being at Camp Peairs. She said she attended the camp as a Brownie troop member and all the years growing up after that. Once she became an adult, she became a troop leader, too. She said she benefitted from the experience because “I learned how to cook outside, I learned how to camp, and I learned more about nature.” Those experiences, she said, included swimming in the lake and even signaling to the Boy Scouts at Camp Heffernan across the lake with flashlights.

“We always kept busy,” Watkins Richmond remembered. “We’d do a lot of crafts and we’d take hikes, and we’d do our own cooking. And we earned a lot of badges out here.” Watkins Richmond said she still has her Scout Sash as proof of the badges she earned as a girl.

Watkins Richmond called coming out to Camp Peairs a final time very tough for her.

Chloe Machula, director of programs for camp and events for the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois, anchored a camp closing ceremony, one of three scheduled for the day. The ceremony included mention of all the things girls received from being at the camp: Increased confidence, bonding with other girls which forged lifetime friendships, girls singing favorite camp songs, and interest in potential career choices.

The ceremony finished with the women gathering for a “friendship circle,” but with social distancing being a priority due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ladies used yarn to maintain their distance while still maintaining their close bonds. As they gathered together, although distantly, the women sang another camp song, “Make New Friends.”

Machula said it will be tough to not have Camp Peairs to be available to future Girl Scouts to share the same experiences the girls and women at the ceremony have had, but she said there are three other camps in central Illinois, including in East Peoria. Machula added for girls who were able to come here, “It was more about the people that you knew here and the memories you made rather than the property itself.” At its height, a number of camp sessions were held over eight weeks with potentially as many as 50 campers per session.

Kevin Kothe, public works director for the City of Bloomington, explained that, last year, representatives for the local branch of the Girl Scouts were interested in getting out of the lease they had with the City for the camp.

Up until the closing on Saturday, the local Girl Scouts organization had leases with the City since 1969, explained Kelly A Day, Chief Operating Officer for Girl Scouts of Central Illinois.

Kothe said the City had always owned the property and always had a lease with the Girl Scouts. He added representatives with the Girl Scouts approached the City about the purchase explaining they sought to get out of their lease and there had been improvements made upon the 88 acre camp facility located 15 miles from the Twin Cities and situated on Lake Bloomington.

Camp Peairs Started in 1969: Camp Peairs was named for Myra Peairs, born Myra Anne Long in Milwaukee in 1906. According to an obituary on legacy.com, she graduated from Normal Community High School where she was active in girls’ athletics and a member of the national Junior and Senior Honor Societies.

She graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1937, where she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. She obtained a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Southern California.

Peairs’ marriage to Canadian Fred A. Long in September 1941 lasted 46 years until he died in 1987. She died on Jan. 19, 2007 at the age 100.

At a June 24 meeting, Bloomington City Council members approved an ordinance allowing the City to purchase the Camp from the Centrillio Council of Girl Scouts of Bloomington for $40,000. The ordinance also terminated the lease of the camp the Girl Scouts had with the City. Since 1969, the Girl Scouts have leased approximately 70 acres from the City at Lake Bloomington for the camp. The facility served an overnight camp for the Scouts.

The City’s water department oversees the Lake Bloomington property, and a memo presented to City Council members stated that due to “increased financial restraints,” the Girl Scouts approached the City in 2019 to discuss possibility dissolving their current lease.

McLean County Easter Seals Crippled Children’s Camp Was Here, Too, For Three Years: It wasn’t just the Girl Scouts who had fun at the lake and enjoyed being outside with friends here. For two weeks each year during the summers of 1972 through 1974, the McLean County Crippled Children’s Camp, as it was known then, operated by Easterseals, brought roughly 40 kids and 60 counselors and staff to enjoy two weeks together while their camp’s original home base since the 1950’s, Boy Scouts’ Camp Heffernan across the lake, was undergoing renovations.

By Steve Robinson | May 7, 2020 - 3:15 pm
Posted in Category: Hudson Quill, News

NORMAL – Could Normal Fire Department emergency medical technicians be coming to the aid of someone in Hudson needing to get to a Twin City hospital? That could happen under discussions between Normal Fire Department and Hudson Fire Protection District (HFPD). NFD Chief Mick Humer told Normal Town Council members during a work session prior to the May 4 Council session NFD officials had discussions with Hudson Fire officials last summer which began mentioning the possibility of NFD entering into a contract with Hudson Fire Protection District to respond to emergency calls within the district.

If an agreement between the parties is worked out, this would be the second smaller community NFD EMT units would respond to, as Towanda began receiving such service in 2014. HFPD responds to calls covering roughly 50 square miles, including the Village of Hudson, Humer told Council members. Their territory includes Lake Bloomington, Lake Evergreen, and surrounding areas, Humer explained.

In 2019, Humer said, there were between 140-150 calls for assistance made to HFPD, of which NFD lent assistance 47 times assisting with “paramedic-level transport.” He said if the patient required IV’s or medication, NFD was able to assist, in addition to getting the patient to a hospital.

“We’re only talking about 100 more calls per year,” if this is agreed to, Humer told Council members. He added Hudson receives money courtesy of a tax levy for emergency medical services of roughly $300,000. He said Hudson would need to use some of those dollars for training new EMTs, equipment, and manpower. He said depending on which part of Hudson or the county a call comes from, it could take anywhere between 12 to 18 minutes to respond. NFD Station #3, located on Raab Rd. on Normal’s north end, would get to Hudson in 12 minutes, He added.

NFD and HFPD “are still in the process of negotiating the contract, and we’re very close,” Humer told Council members, with cost being the current sticking point between the two sides. He added patients would be billed for transportation to the hospital, adding HFPD billed patients for trips to hospitals for close to $65,000 total. Of that total, roughly $42,000 was recovered through private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid.

For NFD, the additional service would not involve an increase in manpower, Humer said. He added ambulance calls for Normal residents will feel no difference in response times with other NFD stations in town able to respond should there be a call to Towanda.

Normal City Manager Pam Reece told Council members the Town would propose to HFPD an initial three-year agreement. She added NFD receives over 5,000 calls for EMT service annually. “If Hudson has 140 to 150 calls a year, the number of new calls for us to respond to would be about 100. That sounds like a lot of calls, but when you’re doing over 5,000, it’s basically not a significant impact to our calls for service.”

Humer added that when a contract is finalized, a clause which would see the fee Hudson pays for the service would go up three percent annually during the life of the contract. Reece said the Town “is proposing a relatively short term agreement which gives us chance to see how this works.”

Reece added the Town would make sure Hudson maintained its first responder program. Once an agreement between NFD and HFPD is worked out, it will be sent to Normal Town Council members for a vote.

In discussion which followed, Council Member Kevin McCarthy verified with Humer whether he was not anticipating any staff changes as a result of what was proposed to which Humer and Reece confirmed. Council Member Stan Nord added he would like a mechanism be put in place by NFD in case a retirement community were to be place in the Hudson area, so that additional calls from there could be handled.