MATTOON — The city Planning Commission on Tuesday recommended that the city council approve a request to subdivide space in front of the Cross County Mall for the development of a Dunkin's doughnut and coffee shop.
"They are on a very tight timeline. They want to be open before the end of the year," Code Enforcement Official Matt Frederick said.
A franchiser plans to construct one of these shops on a now vacant lot in front of the mall where a Taco Bell had been located. The developer has requested that the overall mall property's plot be modified so that the Dunkin' can be built there. Mattoon-based Rural King owns the mall property.
The commission also recommended approving the Mattoon school district's permit request for developing a career training center in the former Consolidated Communications' building downtown.
Frederick said both recommendations will be forwarded on for final consideration at the Mattoon City Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall.
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Regarding the former Consolidated site, the school board voted April 13 to purchase this six-story building at 121 S. 17th St. for use as a Regional Innovation Center that would provide career training for area high school students.
The district is now seeking a permit to operate a special use, categorized as a vocational and trade school, in this service commercial district-zoned property.
In other matters, Frederick said the commission began talks with Truth & Grace Fellowship about using their existing special use permit to allow for parking at its church in a remodeled warehouse at 1304 Lake Land Boulevard and at an adjacent property it recently purchased.
Meet the extraordinary Coles County 'Heart of Health Care' honorees
Heart of Health Care: Shanti Barnes, Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center
MATTOON — After giving birth to her first son, Jasper, at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, Shanti Barnes had a million questions.
Luckily her postpartum nurse was patient and walked Barnes through everything she wanted to know.
“She didn’t seem rushed or annoyed,” Barnes said about her experience. “She answered all my questions and made me feel like I could do it, like I wouldn’t fail. She was the reason why I became a nurse.”
In the ten years since Jasper was born, Barnes became a registered nurse at the same hospital where he was born, helping women in their most vulnerable moments during labor.
“...It’s amazing what a woman’s body can do and how strong we are,” said Barnes. She has been a registered nurse for roughly seven years and is certified in a variety of areas including inpatient obstetrics, basic life support, advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support and neonatal resuscitation program. Earlier this year Barnes was awarded the 2021 Safety Star during Patient Safety Awareness Week.
One of the most difficult parts of her job is handling infant loss. Barnes described mothers losing their children as devastating and unforgettable. Staff tries to make the difficult time for mothers as smooth as possible “but it’s never easy.”
Which is why Barnes spent two years creating a bereavement program for the women’s and children’s unit staff to care for families dealing with the pain of infant loss.
“The goal was to make staff more comfortable taking care of these families, to make the families have the best possible experience they could have at that time,” Barnes said.
When she isn’t at work, Barnes is typically binging a Netflix show with her husband, Matthew. She also spends time with her sons, Jasper, 10, and Everett, 5.
"I also love cleaning," said said. "It’s soothing and is a stress reliever."
Those wishing to get into the nursing field should keep an open mind according to Barnes.
Heart of Health Care: Christina Couch, Eastern Illinois Area Special Education
MATTOON — Christina Couch helps young students understand the coronavirus pandemic and how they can protect themselves.
Couch is a school nurse at Eastern Illinois Area Special Education and said her greatest challenge during the global pandemic has been calming students fears and anxiety related to COVID-19.
“Nursing is hard but so rewarding,” says Couch.
She has been in the field for 20 years and was a certified nurse assistant for the first five years. Her main inspiration for pursuing a nursing career was her desire to help others in their time of need.
“I wanted to make a difference and touch lives,” she said. “I also wanted to have a career that not only I could be proud of, but that my children could look up to me for.”
Couch and her husband, Shawn, live in Mattoon. They have three children: Dakota, Caitlin and Mikala. The children were young when Couch was in nursing school, which she says is one of her biggest accomplishments.
Those who are planning to attend or are currently in nursing school shouldn’t give up, according to Couch.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself and never stop learning,” she said.
She is still learning on the job everyday so that she can fulfill her greatest hope — to have a positive impact in her students’ lives.
Heart of Health Care: Rachel Frederick, Mattoon School District
MATTOON — Ever since she was a little girl, Rachel Frederick loved to help people.
That is what made her decision to pursue a career caring for others an easy one.
Frederick, 36, has spent roughly the last decade in healthcare and currently works as a school nurse for the Mattoon Community Unit School District 2. She is a licensed practical nurse and vision and hearing screening technician.
“I love working with children and the staff at Williams Elementary,” she said. They are like a second family to her.
During the pandemic, Frederick’s biggest challenge has been trying to balance new COVID-19 guidelines along with the general duties of her position. Local health care facilities have made that process much easier.
“I am thankful that in such a small, rural area, that we have amazing health care,” says Frederick. “From acute to long-term care, I believe we are providing an impeccable service to our community.”
But Frederick also grapples with knowing that not all of her students have the same care at home. She said she prays that all of her students feel safe and loved, especially during this last year when lives were turned upside down.
Future nurses can take note of Fredericks positive outlook on the field.
“If you have a heart for helping others, nursing is a field with a vast variety of options that can fit your passion or calling,” she says.
Heart of Health Care: Melissa Gelinas, Petersen Health Care
MATTOON — Melissa Gelinas spent her 16th birthday shadowing her mother where she worked as a hospital nurse.
“I knew my calling in life was to become a nurse and to care for others,” said Gelinas, recalling how impactful that visit was. It has been 25 years since Gelinas entered the field of nursing and she has enjoyed every minute.
Gelinas, 45, currently works as a registered nurse at Petersen Health Care. During a six-month stretch of the coronavirus pandemic, Gelinas was working 80-84 hour shifts because of a staff shortage.
She overcame the challenge of having less people on her team because she was able to still service the patients to the best of her abilities. Gelinas says that is the most satisfying part of her job — knowing she “gave her all” to her patients.
Her mother’s advice carried her through challenging times.
“Don’t wait on someone else to do it; just go and do it yourself,” Gelinas said.
Those aspiring to become nurses can follow in Gelinas’ footsteps. She advises that nursing students take full advantage of all of the learning opportunities that come with clinicals.
Young nurses shouldn’t be nervous to ask for help according to Gelinas.
“Always trust your intuition,” she said.
Heart of Health Care: Merideth Goodwin, Odd Fellow-Rebekah Home
MATTOON — Merideth Goodwin, a registered nurse, always finds something positive to take away from each patient she serves.
“The best part of my job (are) the things I am able to take away from each patient,” Goodwin said. “Whether it be a story that they tell you to pass time during a procedure, the laugh and smiles they share with you or even holding their hand when they are scared or in their last moments.”
Goodwin became a licensed practical nurse in 2014 after seven years of being a certified nurse assistant. Last year, she became a registered nurse and currently works at HSHS St. Mary’s Decatur and Odd Fellow Rebekah Home Mattoon.
She was inspired to pursue a career in caring for others after she took care of her handicap brother as a young adult.
“The satisfaction I felt from helping inspired my interest in this field,” says Goodwin.
She has seen new challenges in this past year, but says the hardest part about her job is being the sole person who has to be there for patients mentally, emotionally and physically. Standing in for family members who couldn’t see their loved ones due to COVID-19 restrictions has been one of Goodwin’s key duties during the pandemic.
“I became many patients’ support person during those long months, the person who they relied one everyday to get them through,” she said. This meant she was also the one relaying information to family members who couldn’t be there. “I became the person to bring light and laughter to my patients during those long months of lockdown.”
She recalls one patient who always talked about how much they love snow. One day, Goodwin decided to help the patient get into a wheelchair, wrapped them up in several blankets and took her outside to catch snowflakes on their tongues.
“Her laughter and the light that shined in her eyes was something I will never forget,” Goodwin said.
She hopes future nurses remember to be compassionate to their patients, even during times when it feels like there is every reason not to be positive.
“...one little thing may change their whole day or make going through this tough situation much easier,” Goodwin says.
Heart of Health Care: Dwight 'Gene' Hardin, Odd Fellow-Rebekah Home
MATTOON — Things don’t always turn out how we expect them to. Sometimes they wind up being better than anticipated.
That was certainly the case when Dwight Hardin started his journey of becoming a nurse.
Hardin had just lost his job when two weeks later, his wife left him with his five children.
That was on a Friday. The following Monday, Hardin was in line at a registration office signing up for nursing classes.
“I prayed about it over the weekend and it was as different (of a) direction as I could have possibly taken,” says Hardin.
It didn't take long to learn he had made the right choice.
During his second night of women and children's clinical, he was assigned to a woman in labor.
"The delivery started progressing quickly. I paged the doctor but the baby came before he got there. It was just another nurse and myself," he said. "As I cleaned that baby up I told them that it was my birthday. too. That day I knew I was where I needed to be. It was amazing."
Hardin has been a rehab nurse for four years and currently works at Odd Fellow-Rebekah Home. The toughest part about his job is turning off his mind at night. He usually replays the day and goes over anything he could’ve missed and what more he can do for his patients.
Hardin faced even greater challenges when the coronavirus pandemic hit early last year.
“I was working the COVID unit when we had a breakout,” said Hardin, who contracted the virus. “I had to stay home for two weeks mostly asymptomatic. I hated having to quarantine.” He had patients to help.
The Mattoon and Charleston communities are well-serviced when it comes to healthcare, according to Hardin.
And he is proud to be a part of the healthcare workers helping the community, even though this career path was not what he initially planned to pursue.
“I’ve never been as fulfilled doing anything else.,” said Hardin.
Heart of Health Care: Lauren Haskins, Carle Foundation Hospital
MATTOON — As a nursing student working toward her bachelor’s degree at Lake Land College, Lauren Haskins said she knows she is pursuing a worthwhile career.
“I love taking care of people, learning new things every day, and being able to actually use all my nursing skills each day,” said Haskins.
Haskins, 31, is a registered nurse at Carle Foundation Hospital. Prior to becoming a registered nurse, Haskins worked as a licensed practical nurse for over three years.
The biggest challenge of being a student during the pandemic was having to navigate remote classes. Professors tried to fill gaps where they could, but the classes can’t substitute for in-person experience.
“Nursing school can only teach you so much, building onto my knowledge happens on the job,” Haskins said.
Which is one reason why Haskins has been working in a nursing home during COVID, a job that comes with its own set of challenges.
But when she is facing difficult times, Haskins keeps words of encouragement in the back of her mind.
“Never give up on your dreams and goals,” she said.
For those considering nursing as a career, Haskins encourages people to get a job in health care. "I would start there," she said. "The nursing field is not for everyone, but there are so many options for nurses."
Heart of Health Care: Tanisha Johnson, Palm Terrace of Mattoon
MATTOON — Tanisha Johnson knew she wanted to be a nurse after spending several days as a child watching her mother work at a nursing home.
“I knew that I wanted to take care of people just seeing the joy that it brought to patients’ faces,” Johnson said.
Now she has been in the field for almost a decade and currently is a licensed practical nurse at Palm Terrace of Mattoon. Johnson says making patients happy is the best part about her job.
“The laughter, the smiles and the joy they have is inspiration to make it through the day,” she says.
Johnson’s coworkers also inspire her. One colleague, Elaine Roley, has been instrumental in mentoring Johnson. When Johnson first stepped into the world of nursing, Roley showed her the ropes and was helpful in moments of frustration.
Opportunities to learn even more about the field excited Johnson. In her free time, she reads "Gerontology for Health Care Professionals." She is making the most out of her time and is trying to be the best nurse possible.
“You only have one life to live,” said Johnson, echoing what she said is the best piece of advice she has ever received.
She hopes that those who want to get into nursing always remember the reason they fell in love with the field.
“There will be hard days, but never give up.”
Heart of Healthcare: Kay Wheeler, Lincolnland Hospice of Sarah Bush Lincoln
MATTOON — Kay Wheeler treats each day like a blessing, even after 28 years as a nurse.
Wheeler, 66, is a registered nurse at Lincolnland Hospice of Sarah Bush Lincoln.
“I care about people and wanted to make a difference in their lives,” Wheeler said. One of her greatest accomplishments in the field has been learning about hospice and passing that knowledge along to nurses entering the hospice arena.
Her best piece of advice to those entering the nursing field is to talk with people who work in the area that you might want to work in.
“Listen more than you talk,” says Wheeler.
The coronavirus pandemic challenged Wheeler and nurses across the globe. Wheeler could see her patients face-to-face, but she still managed to support families who were unable to be with their loved ones.
She said the quality of healthcare in Mattoon and Charleston is always evolving, even during the pandemic.
“We are fortunate to have caring physicians who are about making their patients’ lives better as well as a hospital that is always looking for ways to provide high quality care without going out of the area,” said Wheeler.
Helping people is the name of the game and Wheeler is proud to be a team player.
All nurses have special stories to tell about their interactions with patients. Wheeler shared a time when two patients she was caring for lived on the same street but didn't know each other. Both were being cared for by their daughters and were 106 years old — the oldest patients she has cared for.
"There are many stories in the hundreds of patients I have been blessed to care for over the years," she said.
Heart of Health Care: Brandon Wilson, Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center
MATTOON — Careers in medicine run in Brandon Wilson’s family.
His grandmother was a nurse and his mother works in health care as an X-ray technician.
Wilson, 30, is a registered nurse working at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center. He is currently earning his bachelor’s degree in nursing.
“It was always in my nature to help people and I fell in love with nursing while working as a (certified nurse assistant) in long-term care,” said Wilson.
Between work and school, Wilson has to juggle time management and self care, two things several nurses say are essential to being successful.
“We have to use time management, critical thinking and prioritization to make sure our patients receive the very best care while also taking care of ourselves and thinking on our toes,” Wilson said.
Self care has been especially crucial during the coronavirus pandemic that has health care workers overworked and exhausted. For Wilson, the pandemic challenged him socially more than it did physically.
“I am a very social person and I hate not seeing my family,” he said. Many frontline workers have gone months without seeing their families to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
“I grew up going to grandmas every Sunday for dinner but when COVID hit I felt so terrible even leaving home. I was caring for these sick patients and seeing them decline and just knew I could not be the reason that someone in my family or someone else's got sick.”
Wilson didn’t see his family for over six months. Connecting with patients was his main source of socialization.
“...being able to make that connection that just makes someone beyond happy is the best reward. I have gotten cards sent to me at work from grateful patients and to me, that’s why I do this,” Wilson said.
Even with the many challenges, Wilson can’t see himself doing anything else.
“As someone who did not enter health care until I was 26 years-old, my advice is go for it,” he said.