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Herrin woman, an Italy native, is recognized by Italian Consulate for service to her home country

HERRIN — Sandra Colombo of Herrin has a new title: Cavaliere.

Colombo received the Cavaliere Fiocco di Nastro on Dec. 11 from Counsul General Giuseppe Finocchiaro at the Italian Consulate in Chicago.

The award Knight of the Order of Merit of the Republic, or Cavaliere Fiocco de Nastro, was given to as a reward for service to Italy.

Colombo wrote a short speech for the ceremony saying she was touched and honored to receive the Cavaliere.

“As for me, it’s been a wonderful cultural journey to be an ambassador for my native Italy,” Colombo said.

Several people joined Colombo for the ceremony, including her three children: Ray Colombo of Florida, Stephanie Detring of Milwaukee and David Colombo of Carbondale, friend and former co-teacher Michaelann Stanley, and Julia Mirabelli, a former Herrin resident who lives in the Chicago area.

Colombo came to the United States by ship as a 19-year-old bride of Harry Colombo in 1946. She smiled as she said Harry was very handsome and showed a picture of their wedding.

She arrived in Herrin speaking very little English. Colombo said there were no classes to teach English to immigrants, so she went to the movies.

“When I came, I had to learn the language. I had to communicate,” Colombo said.

She added that it has always been important for her to be able to talk to people and write letters. She says that desire to communicate motivated her to not only learn English, but learn proper grammar.

For example, she met a young woman on her trip to the U.S. in 1946. The woman moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Although they never met in person again, they kept in touch through letters and telephone calls. After the woman’s death a few years ago, Sandra stayed in contact with her son, Bob Cinabro. He sent Colombo a poinsettia when he heard about her award.

“He’s very thoughtful, and I have never met him. I regretted that I never saw her again,” Colombo said.

Colombo was nominated for the award at the suggestion of Barbara Klein, president of the board of directors of the Italian Film Festival of St. Louis. Stanley, who taught Italian with Colombo for years, wrote the nomination with the help of everyone from Herrin Mayor Steve Frattini to Colombo’s longtime students and friends to Flavio Polloni, mayor of Cuggiono, and others in Cuggiono.

“As a resident of Herrin, Sandra has always been and continues to be a locally recognized and appreciated ambassador of her native Milan and Italy in general. She seems to have tireless energy in promoting the culture of Italy in our community,” Frattini said in his nomination letter.

Richard Sitler, The Southern 

Sandra Colombo at her home in Herrin on Thursday holds a photo of her and her late husband Harry that was taken on their wedding day.

“When I have a question that involves Italy, Sandra Colombo is the first person I think to contact,” Peter Bondioli of Herrin said in his letter.

“Italy could have no finer daughter than Sandra Colombo … In short, she makes you feel like you are an Italian!” Dr. Allan Bennet of Carbondale wrote.

“We did all of this paperwork without telling her,” Stanley said. “After it was sent, I told her about it.”

Colombo said she did not believe she deserved the award.

Stanley highlighted some the activities that helped qualify Colombo for the award.

In May 1998, Colombo was lead organizer and translator for a group of 20 from Tornaco, Italy, and began working on the Sister City program with Herrin city officials. Since then, she has led numerous trips to Italy.

The Italian language course began in 2002 through the American Italian Council and International studies of University of Illinois, taught by Colombo and Stanley. She also hosted a tour for Italian Club of St. Louis to HerrinFesta and arranged film screenings with Barbara Klein.

She brought an Italian tenor to HerrinFesta in 2005. She served as grand marshall of the HerrinFesta Italiana parade in 2006 and sponsored a second tour to Italy.

Colombo traveled to Cuggiono, Italy, in 2007 for the opening of a new museum with genealogy information, some provided by Herrin residents. She also brought Italian films to Herrin.

She has assisted numerous Italian immigrants coming to Southern Illinois over the years by helping them find housing, furnishings, registering for school and assisted in marriages between Americans and Italians.

Colombo also has assisted those seeking dual U.S.-Italian citizenship. The process required official translations and trips to St. Louis, Springfield and Chicago.

In 2015 and 2016, the sister city link was established between Herrin and Cuggiono, Italy. Colombo, Stanley and Frattini were instrumental on the Herrin side, with a committee including Mattia De Marco, Oreste Magni and Ernesto Milani and the Cuggiono mayor in Italy.

“Italian is family,” Stanley said.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the Italian classes originally taught by Colombo and Stanley. Some of the original students still attend to keep their language skills sharp.

“We have a beautiful eight-course meal for Christmas,” Stanley said.

As you might expect, Colombo has trained the chef to prepare authentic Italian dishes.

Colombo celebrated her 90th birthday in June and remains active.

Richard Sitler, The Southern 

Sandra Colombo is shown in her Herrin home on Thursday. She was recognized for outstanding service from the Italian consulate.

Stanley said a reception is being planned for spring, maybe during HerrinFesta Italiana.

“We couldn’t be more proud of her,” Stanley said.

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Murphysboro Food Pantry is seeking more donations from Carbondale

MURPHYSBORO — Thus far this year, the Murphysboro Food Pantry has served almost 500 more individuals than it did at the same time last year, with as many of those coming from Carbondale as from Murphysboro.

Because of that increase in service from Carbondale, the food pantry's outgoing director, Jane Williams, wants to ask Carbondale-area residents and businesses to consider donating to the pantry, particularly as the year ends.

Not that Williams is trying to cause an issue with any other local food pantries.

When she wrote on one of the organization's social media accounts that her nonprofit had given as much food to residents in Carbondale as to Murphysboro and was looking for more donations from that city, she said someone countered her post by posting inaccurate information.

She said she's not interested in engaging in a debate about which food pantry serves more local people or why, but that she was only interested in trying to get those considering or looking to make an end-of-year donation.

"It was not meant to imply that one pantry is doing a better job or not or one is doing a worse job, it was just (we wanted to draw attention to the need we have)," Williams said.

Murphysboro Food Pantry staff believe they will come close to serving, if not exceeding, the 37,500 individuals they provided food to this past year. Once every 30 days, on average, a family of four can get $120 to $150 worth of free food from the pantry.

"That translates into mega-tons of food," she said.

"So we're holding steady because I really do believe for Jackson County, that we're serving just about everybody that knows about us and can use us," Williams said.

The food pantry runs on a $110,000 budget, the vast majority of which goes to purchasing food to give to those in need, Williams said.

Early afternoon on Tuesday, the food pantry's new director, Megan Austin, was making calls to inform patrons who are 60 years and older of their selection for additional food through what staff call the Senior Box Program. Austin succeeds Williams, who is leaving the pantry after nearly 13 years of volunteering to care for her mother.

SouthernEnviron / STEPHANIE ESTERS The Southern 

Megan Austin is the new director of the Murphysboro Food Pantry.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Murphysboro Food Pantry, located at 906 N. 14th St., is empty, closed for the day, having just received a shipment of food from the St. Louis Area Food Bank. That is the main source from which the Murphysboro Food Pantry buys the food it gives away.

The main section of the Murphysboro Food Pantry is like a small grocery store and waiting room, where patrons take a number for service, then sign in to receive the food. When their number is called, they can select a pre-packed box of food and then take a shopping cart to finish picking up other items they may need or want, such as rice, beans, raisins, breads or the fresh produce — milk, juices, vegetables, for instance — from the pantry's new produce cooler. Patrons can also choose from two to three choices of meat, which are stored in the pantry's new $50,000 commercial walk-in freezer, which was secured with grant money.

Surplus food waiting to be put in the main shopping area is stored in the pantry's warehouse, where there are at least two freezers and one stainless steel industrial type freezer, also purchased with a grant, Williams said.

Williams said the bulk of her time was spent fundraising and otherwise seeking donations to buy food for those who visit the pantry. The Murphysboro Food Pantry was incorporated in February 2004; donations are tax-deductible to the 501(c)3 organization.

Each year, Williams said her goal has been to be able to offer more food to the families and individuals seeking it.

The food pantry is open 9 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday and serves those who meet federally established income guidelines.

In addition to cash donations, pantry staff are also seeking volunteers to help manage the facility and keep costs low.

Franklin county man charged in Union County with child sexual assault given second attorney

JONESBORO — Jeremy Lloyd, who is the attorney representing Curtis Carr, was granted a motion Monday for secondary council in Carr’s pending predatory sexual assault of a child case.

Lloyd — a state-appointed defense attorney — told Union County Judge Mark Boie that because of the voluminous nature of the evidence, he would need additional help to provide a quality defense for his client. Boie noted that Carr’s was likely the most complicated case he has yet attempted to try in his career. Lloyd said there were 35 subpoenaed witnesses for the state alone, as well as 37 DVDs of evidence.

Lloyd also pointed out to Boie that the state would have two attorneys working for their side and said while it was not his goal to “bankrupt the country,” he felt having the court appoint another lawyer to his team was “necessary” for him to defend Carr to the best of his ability.

After the state declined to comment on the motion, deferring to the court, Boie agreed with Lloyd about the sheer volume of evidence in the case — he pointed out two docket pages almost entirely dedicated to state subpoenas.

“And that’s not even your own (witnesses),” Boie said to Lloyd.

Boie said he knows there could be even more evidence added as he has made rulings allowing evidence to be submitted from other charges in and out of state. He also said the court has blocked out two weeks to try the case.

Boie said despite tight finances in the county, he would grant the motion for secondary council, citing a need for fundamental fairness for both sides.

Carr’s scheduled Jan. 22 jury trial is a retrying of charges dating back to 2013. Carr was arrested Aug. 16, 2013, and indicted in Union County on Sept. 10, 2013, on two counts of predatory sexual assault of a child and one count of aggravated kidnapping.

In a December 2013 jury trial, Carr was found not guilty of the kidnapping charge, but the jury was deadlocked on the last two charges. Another jury trial is scheduled to resolve the remaining two charges in the case. Carr was in custody during the 2013 trial and was bonded out, over the state’s objection, on Dec. 24, 2013.

Carr was arrested again in 2016 after it came to light he had broken the terms of his bond in Franklin County, where he is charged with three counts of child pornography.

Also taken up by the court was a complaint by the state regarding discovery. Assistant State’s Attorney Heather Heaslett said the state had a filed a motion for discovery in August of last year and was only given a response this past November. Heaslett said as well as taking a year and a half to get a response, it also did not meet minimum requirements — the state had asked for a witness list and were given a list of first names and cities. She said they should also have received witnesses' last names and last known addresses, among other information.

Lloyd said he was not trying to play “hide the ball” and would help in any way he could, however, he said there was some information he himself did not have.

Boie set a deadline for the defense to supply the state with the added information by Jan. 4.

Carr is scheduled to reappear in Union County Court for a pretrial conference at 9 a.m. Jan. 4. In Franklin County, Carr is scheduled to appear for a pretrial conference at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 1 on the child pornography charges.