CARBONDALE — Leonard Wilmore passes his days gathering firewood and trying to earn a dollar.
CARBONDALE — The winter months are a prime time for thinking of others — schools and churches have food drives, people make more donations and plan volunteer hours.
Patty Mullen, executive director of the Good Samaritan House in Carbondale, said this is all a godsend. Housing insecurity doesn’t begin and end with the holidays, but she said it’s a busy time for shelters.
“Usually this time a year, our shelter fills up,” she said.
However, she said Good Sams’ guests aren’t all the chronically homeless — the ones with tattered clothes and cardboard signs — though they are there, too, and are equally welcome. She said also, the house fills in for a place to sleep and a hot meal are those who are experiencing housing insecurity for the very first time.
CARBONDALE — Leonard Wilmore passes his days gathering firewood and trying to earn a dollar.
This is almost invisible here, Mullen said.
“In a rural area, you don’t see it as much as you do in the city,” she said. “The homeless here are in the woods, they are in the parks,” Mullen added, saying this is a contrast to a big city where people are seen more frequently on benches and in alleyways.
She said the work she does is all she could ever imagine doing — there is no career for her outside of helping people, and this is punctuated this time of year.
“It’s a great feeling because you grow up thinking that a lot of people are taken care of at Christmastime, but the reality is, there are a lot of people out there who don’t have a place to go,” she said.
Throughout the month of December, Mullen said the shelter receives a steady stream of gifts, particularly holiday food that takes the burden off of their cooks.
Come Christmas Day, she said, for nearly two decades, Grace United Methodist Church has organized a gift-giving program that provides a gift to each person staying at the shelter.
Mullen agreed that it can be tough to find something for someone who has everything, but there is an alternative: Giving to someone who has nothing.
Mullen said regular donations can be set up at a person’s bank or Good Sams can do it through Paypal and a donation in a friend or family member’s name can be a great gift.
These cash donations, Mullen said, are “the largest things that people can do.”
“We have to afford the operations of the shelter, too,” Mullen said. Food donations are good — but they don't help keep the lights on.
Meals are served at 8 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. at 701 S Marion Street in Carbondale. The soup kitchen, one of five branches of Good Sams, serves guests of the emergency shelter, but also accepts community members who may also be in need of a hot meal.
“We serve until we run out of food, which isn’t very often,” Mullen said.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Fifty years ago on Christmas Eve, a tumultuous year of assassinations, riots and war drew to a close in heroic and hopeful fashion with the three Apollo 8 astronauts reading from the Book of Genesis on live TV as they orbited the moon.
To this day, that 1968 mission is considered to be NASA's boldest and perhaps most dangerous undertaking. That first voyage by humans to another world set the stage for the still grander Apollo 11 moon landing seven months later.
There was unprecedented and unfathomable risk to putting three men atop a monstrous new rocket for the first time and sending them all the way to the moon. The mission was whipped together in just four months in order to reach the moon by year's end, before the Soviet Union.
There was the Old Testament reading by commander Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders.
Lastly, there was the photo named "Earthrise," showing our blue and white ball — humanity's home — rising above the bleak, gray lunar landscape and 240,000 miles in the distance.
Humans had never set eyes on the far side of the moon. And a half-century later, only 24 U.S. astronauts who flew to the moon have witnessed these wondrous sights in person.
The Apollo 8 crew is still around: Borman and Lovell are 90, Anders is 85.
To Lovell, the journey had the thrill and romance of true exploration and provided an uplifting cap for Americans to a painful, contentious year marked by the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, nationwide riots and protests of the Vietnam War.
The mission's impact was perhaps best summed up in a four-word telegram received by Borman. "Thanks, you saved 1968."
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine — who at age 43 missed Apollo — marvels over the gutsy decision in August that year to launch astronauts to the moon in four months' time. He's pushing for a return to the moon, but with real sustainability this next go-around.
The space agency flipped missions and decided that instead of orbiting Earth, Borman and his crew would fly to the moon to beat the Soviets and pave the way for the lunar landings to come. And that was despite on its previous test flight, the Saturn V rocket lost parts and engines failed.
"Even more worrisome than all of this," Bridenstine noted earlier this month, Apollo 8 would be in orbit around the moon on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. "In other words, if there was a failure here, it would wreck Christmas not only for everybody in the United States, but for everybody in the world."
As that first moon shot neared, Borman's wife, Susan, demanded to know the crew's chances. A NASA director answered: 50-50.
Borman wanted to get to the moon and get back fast. In his mind, a single lap around the moon would suffice. His bosses insisted on more.
"My main concern in this whole flight was to get there ahead of the Russians and get home. That was a significant achievement in my eyes," Borman explained at the Chicago launch of the book "Rocket Men" last spring.
Everyone eventually agreed: Ten orbits it would be.
Liftoff of the Saturn V occurred on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 21, 1968.
On Christmas Eve, the spaceship successfully slipped into orbit around the moon. Before bedtime, the first envoys to another world took turns reading the first 10 verses from Genesis. It had been left to Borman, before the flight, to find "something appropriate" to say for what was expected to be the biggest broadcast audience to date.
"We all tried for quite a while to figure out something, and it all came up trite or foolish," Borman recalled. Finally, the wife of a friend of a friend came up with the idea of Genesis.
"In the beginning," Anders read, "God created the heaven and the Earth ..."
Borman ended the broadcast with, "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth."
On Christmas morning, their spacecraft went around the moon for the final time. The engine firing needed to shoot them back to Earth occurred while the capsule was out of communication with Mission Control in Houston. Lovell broke the nervous silence as the ship reappeared: "Please be informed there is a Santa Claus."
Back in Houston, meanwhile, a limousine driver knocked on Marilyn Lovell's door and handed her a gift-wrapped mink stole with a card that read: "To Marilyn, Merry Christmas from the man in the moon." Lovell bought the coat for his wife and arranged its fancy delivery before liftoff.
Splashdown occurred in the pre-dawn darkness on Dec. 27, bringing the incredible six-day journey to a close. Time magazine named the three astronauts "Men of the Year."
It wasn't until after the astronauts were back that the significance of their Earth pictures sank in.
Anders snapped the iconic Earthrise photo during the crew's fourth orbit of the moon, frantically switching from black-and-white to color film to capture the planet's exquisite, fragile beauty.
"Oh my God, look at that picture over there!" Anders said. "There's the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!"
Before the flight, no one had thought about photographing Earth, according to Anders. The astronauts were under orders to get pictures for potential lunar landing sites while orbiting 70 miles above the moon.
"We came to explore the moon and what we discovered was the Earth," Anders is fond of saying.
By July 1969, Apollo 8 was overshadowed by Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin moon landing. But without Apollo 8, noted George Washington's Logsdon, NASA likely would not have met President John F. Kennedy's deadline of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
Borman and Anders never flew in space again, and Soviet cosmonauts never made it to the moon.
Lovell went on to command the ill-fated Apollo 13 — "but that's another story." That flight was the most demanding, he said, "But Apollo 8 was the one of exploration, the one of repeating the Lewis and Clark expedition ... finding the new Earth."
MURPHYSBORO — Plans are underway for the 25th annual Murphysboro Community Christmas Dinner.
“We still need volunteers, especially delivery drivers who would need to be at the hall at 10 a.m. Christmas morning,” Jennifer O’Donnell said. “We prefer to have two adults per vehicle.”
She said each year they deliver around 100 meals to those who cannot attend the dinner. It helps to have someone to navigate to the address and help carry items along with the driver.
She also would not turn away volunteers to help with the dinner and clean up at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
“If you want to volunteer, 10 a.m. Christmas is the time to show up, too,” O’Donnell said.
This year’s menu will include turkey, ham, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, rolls and dessert. A commercial restaurant in town cooks the turkeys and hams. It is reheated at the KC Hall, and the rest of the food is cooked there.
She said they plan to serve around 400 meals. Last year, volunteers made 100 deliveries and served between 200 and 250 meals at the KC Hall.
“We picked up 16 turkeys,” O’Donnell added.
Desserts are donated by individuals. O’Donnell said they could use a few more desserts, but cannot serve anything with dairy in it or that needs to be refrigerated. Desserts should be taken to the KC Hall on Monday.
“This is the 25th year for the dinner. James Chambers started it as his Eagle Scout project 25 years ago. Ed and I have been doing it for four year,” O’Donnell said.
Jennifer and Ed O’Donnell coordinate the event. Murphysboro United Methodist Church is the home for the event and the main sponsor. They solicit donations from Murphysboro Chamber of Commerce members and Murphysboro churches. A few individuals also contribute to the dinner each year.
“It is a pretty big party,” O’Donnell said.
Donnie Falknor of Herrin and his wife come. He provides music and sings. Door prizes are given away throughout the event. That jolly old elf from the North Pole will make an appearance, and everyone will go home with a small gift.
“It’s a lot of fun. People come and they don’t go home until the end,” O’Donnell said. “That was my surprise the first year we did it. It is a Christmas party.”
Donations for the dinner are accepted throughout the year. Checks may be sent to Murphysboro United Methodist Church, 1500 Pine St., Murphysboro, IL 62966. Put Christmas dinner on the memo line.