Thumbs down, once again, to former Alexander County Housing Authority directors James Wilson and Martha Franklin. In a civil complaint filed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Wilson and Franklin are accused of falsifying lead safety compliance reports. Wilson and Franklin previously have been charged with living large on the taxpayer dime, paying for vacations, meals and drinks on the taxpayer dime. All of that is certainly reprehensible, but placing vulnerable children at risk by ignoring their exposure to lead, that takes the depravity of their actions up a notch. Among other things, Wilson and Franklin are accused of not warning residents about the dangers of lead, and failing to abate the problem.

Thumbs up to John Hathy of Mill Creek and the Marion Medical Mission. Hathy recently returned from a three-week trip to Africa in which he helped in the construction of water wells. The Marion Medical Mission builds wells in villages in Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania. During his three-week trip to Africa, Mathy assisted in the construction of an incredible 151 wells. The African communities provide bricks, gravel, sand and unskilled labor. Marion Medical Mission provides pump parts, tools, transportation and skilled labor. Volunteers work with African staff to complete the wells.

Thumbs up to the Poshard Foundation for their annual efforts in providing Christmas gifts for needy children throughout Southern Illinois. The foundation raises money throughout the year for needy children, some of which is used to distribute Christmas gifts. “These are children who are not on any list and are not picked up by any other Christmas program,” said Jo Poshard. This year the group distributed 1,500 gifts. Each of the children on the Poshard Foundation’s list received three toys — one large gift and two smaller items.

Thumbs up to Tilden “Tim” Parks, who donated $1.3 million to Southern Illinois University Carbondale to be used as scholarships. The money is to be allocated to the journalism school ($515,000), Saluki athletics ($515,000) and Morris Library ($270,000). Parks’ father took him to a Salukis' basketball game when he was 8 years old, and Parks has been a fan ever since. He graduated from SIUC in 1976, earning a degree in journalism while being employed at Morris Library. “Tim’s extraordinary gift is matched only by his incredible loyalty to the Salukis. His generosity will benefit student-athletes for generations to come,” said SIU athletic director Tommy Bell.

Thumbs down to the unknown thief that pilfered a donation jar from the counter at Tequila’s restaurant in Carterville. It’s inconceivable that someone would steal money being collected to aid another person in need, especially during the holiday season.

Thumbs up to Chris Mohrman of Murphysboro who is retiring after a 28-year career with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources as a Conservation Police Officer. Mohrman spent the majority of his career serving residents of Jackson County and southwestern Illinois. During his time as a CPO, Mohrman said incidents of organized poaching have gone down. He cited the effect of hunting safety programs and more liberal hunting laws in Illinois.

Thumbs up to the New York Times for taking an active interest in life in Southern Illinois. The Times partnered with this newspaper to hold a forum in West Frankfort on Thursday to focus on problems and issues facing Southern Illinois. Times Chicago bureau chief Monica Davey, who reported on the deportation plight of West Frankfort restaurateur Juan Carlos Pacheco Hernandez, returned to Southern Illinois to discuss “immigration, the future of coal, the economy, taxes and the mood now in the town that rallied around Carlos.”

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