May 17, 2014

What's going on in west Belleville? Neighborhoods have big plans

Residents in four neighborhoods of west Belleville are ramping up improvement work and service projects, which is one of the city's goals for its bicentennial year.

Belleville is encouraging residents to help complete 200 service projects citywide this year in honor of the city's 200th anniversary.

To learn more about planned projects or suggest an idea, visit

The Ogles, Signal Hill, Harmony and Granvue neighborhood associations and watch groups each have a variety of volunteer projects open to its residents and the public.

For instance, Ogles is fundraising for a 5K run and walk in the fall; Signal Hill is partnering with Harmony Emge School District 175 for a new kids summer camp; and Granvue is envisioning streetscape improvements.

In the past year, organizers have reported an increase in participation, especially through the help of the Belleville Neighborhood Partnership program that organizes the city into zones and help bridge resources.

Here are the highlights from each neighborhood:


About nine months after activating a Neighborhood Watch group in the Ogles area of Belleville and St. Clair County, residents are getting the attention of a Belleville nonprofit that promotes healthy living.

During a cleanup, recycling and barbecue event on Saturday, residents gathered for a ceremony to recognize Ogles as a "Get Up & Go!" community.

Ogles is the second neighborhood in Belleville to receive this distinction, which recognizes residents who work together to be more active, exercise and eat healthy.

Last year, the Signal Hill Neighborhood Association was the first in St. Clair County to earn the designation.

Cindy Radden-Bingham, one of the Ogles organizers, said the Get Up & Go! title will help the area get grants for work such as bicycle paths and sidewalks.

"We're hoping to get a safe way to school route from Ogles to Emge School across 74th Street," Radden-Bingham said. "It's a dangerous intersection. There's no crossing signals and there are railroad tracks right there."

Radden-Bingham helped to start the watch group in response to a home invasion and shooting in unincorporated Belleville.

To increase police presence, residents in the Ogles area launched in April a substation of sorts on 74th Street.

The facility will not be manned by cops, but police officers from the Belleville Police Department and St. Clair County Sheriff's Department are invited to stop there whenever they need a break, or need space to complete a police report or meet with residents.

"It's been phenomenal," Radden-Bingham said. "We went from 30 people in my living room last October to a Facebook membership with more than 450 people and our email list is in the 200s. We got an overwhelming response."

Radden-Bingham, 46, said she has lived in the subdivision since she was 14 years old and never met much with her neighbors until now.

"We know each other and we talk constantly," she said. "It's just being aware of the people in our neighborhood and talking back and forth, sharing if you see a strange car or even a lost dog."

The neighborhood group will have a food drive in July for the Community Interfaith Food Pantry. Residents can drop off food at St. Matthew United Methodist Church, 1200 Moreland Drive, from 9 a.m. to noon on July 12 and noon to 3 p.m. on July 13.

The group is also raising money for beautification work, such as new street signs, and looking for sponsors for a Ogres and Princesses 5K Run/Walk they're planning with Belleville Boy Scouts Troop 12 in October.

To get on the Ogles mailing list for news, events and donations, send an email to


The Signal Hill Neighborhood Association, Harmony Neighborhood Community Association, Harmony Emge School District 175 and Signal Hill School District 181 are partnering this summer to launch a new summer camp for kids.

Depending on the success of the pilot program, organizers hope to expand the academic enrichment summer camp to all kindergarten to eighth-grade students in the west end of Belleville.

This year, 40 students will attend the West End Neighborhood Community Summer Camp at Ellis Elementary School between June 9 and Aug. 1.

The eight-week program is for students in first- to sixth-grades and includes an equal number of students already selected from each district

Barb Ducey, president of the Signal Hill Neighborhood Association, said the camp is meant to help low-income and at-risk students fill the achievement gap that occurs during the summer months when school is not in session.

There will be an academic component, such as reading and math help, as well as character-building workshops and recreation. Students will be picked up by a school bus and given meals.

The program will be operated by a camp coordinator who is a certified teacher and eight counselors who are AmeriCorps members.

Ducey said the partnership between the schools and neighborhood groups, grants, in-kind donations and individual and corporate gifts allows organizers to keep the program affordable.

The per person cost to run the program is $567, Ducey said, but organizers will charge $40 per student.

Organizers have enough money at this point to pay the full cost for 22 students and need sponsors for 18 students.

For more information on the camp and how to donate, contact Ducey at or 398-6435, or Signal Hill 175 Superintendent Pam Leonard at or 397-8444, ext. 1.


In the next year, residents of the Granvue neighborhood hope to revitalize the area from Illinois 157 to Signal Hill Boulevard/95th Street with some beautification projects.

Longtime Granvue resident Dovie Vowell-Steele said her vision for the area includes more light fixtures, decorative shrubs, perennial plants in clay pots and pebble epoxy coating on sidewalks.

"I think it will lift people's spirits," Vowell-Steele said. "None of these are big projects or major innovations. It's decorative but it will make a difference."

For more information on how to help, send an email to Steele at

One of the biggest changes will be tearing down the building that previously housed the Loflin Furniture store, Vowell-Steele said.

The Belleville City Council will vote on Monday whether to accept the low bid of $26,000 from S. Shafer Excavating to demolish the building at 10610 W. Main St.

Mayor Mark Eckert said demolition typically occurs within 45 days after approval of a bid.

Eckert said the city will help with the projects proposed by Vowell-Steele as the city's budget allows.

For now, Eckert said the city continues to invest in the western border of the city by maintaining Mount Hope Cemetery, investing in the new bike trail in the area and working on road improvement in the area.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at

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