Recap of August ’15 Meeting with Visit Champaign County

Our guest presenter was Terri Reifsteck, the VP of marketing from Visit Champaign County (Champaign County’s tourism division).

She shared with us how Visit Champaign County markets the area attractions.  They advertise through traditional advertising, trade shows, visitor’s guide (70,000 printed!), as well as their website which is actually being redesigned right now!  They seek to bring conventions, meetings, motor coaches, travel writers and sports groups to the C-U area.  They also help people get grants to events.

How can Homer improve with the help of Visit Champaign County?

  1. We can submit our events to their calendar, and request that they use social media to promote it.  Christmas in Homer, Krazee Daze, and our 4th of July celebration are all good events to ask them to promote.
  2. Create 5-10,000 rack cards that promote Homer.  Visit Champaign County will distribute them at the mall, their office, and at tradeshows.
  3. Create a “tour package” for Homer.  By grouping together a few attractions, and creating a flyer for these, they will promote the tour package to the local travel agencies!  For example: Visit Historical Society, shop at Ms Becky’s, pick up lunch at Belly Deli, eat lunch at Homer Lake.
  4. Sign up for interstate and directional signage for Homer.

Recap of October 2nd ’14 meeting

Special Guest: Mike Hunter of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission.

We were very pleased to have Mike come and share with us information regarding the weatherization program offered to residents of Champaign County.

Details of the 3 programs.

1) LiHeap.  If you are having trouble paying your utility bills, they will provide you with a one time payment to help you pay a percentage of your bills.

2) Emergency Furnace.  If your furnace goes out this winter, you can apply for emergency help!  You might be eligible for a replacement furnace!  You must be under 200% over poverty level, and they do not handle oil or propane furnaces.

3) Weaterization Program.  With this program, you might qualify to have improvements to your home performed to help make your house more prepared for winter weather.  Types of things examined: Air seals, insulation, clear furnaces, even perhaps the replacement of your furnace.  There are some restrictions.  There must not be any unresolved insurance issues, no ongoing remodeling project, less than 10 sq ft of mold or mildew, and the property can not be for sale.  If you are a tenant, you can still apply but must do so with cooperation of your landlord.  Once a property has undergone this program, it will not be available to do it again for 15 years

To learn about any of these programs, contact Mike Hunter or Dawn Rear, 217-819-4079

We were also thrilled to hear the news that the South Homer Township is willing to donate a lot in Homer to Habitat for Humanity!  We can’t wait to hear the progress on this!


The next meeting will be November 6th at 7pm.  We will be finalizing plans for Christmas in Homer!  There will be a break for the Holidays and the next informative meeting will be in February.


September 4th ’14 Recap

Our Special Guest was Kathy Sweedler from University of Illinois Extension.  She shared with us a plethora of information about U of I Extension, their goals and their programs.  One of their classes is on money management and they offer several programs to teach budgeting and money mentoring.  They have numerous programs on gardening, including the Master Gardeners program.  There are cooking classes, including wonderful classes taught by licensed dietitians that teach about healthy cooking.  There are programs centered around food preservation such as canning.  We were very inspired by their immense offering, and we will be working to schedule these types of offerings for early 2015.  If you are interested in this, please contact us.

We are preparing for the Christmas in Homer!  We are looking for bakers to donate cookies for the cookie walk, vendors for the main hall, and volunteers.  If you’d like to get involved, please contact and we will direct you to the right person.

August 7th ’14 Meeting, Habitat for Humanity & Parkland Classes

August 7th, 2014

Guest: Sheila Dodd from Habitat for Humanity

Sheila Dodd presented the group with a plethora of information. She walked as through the process of the Habitat for Humanity family. She also provided us with additional resources that are available to Homer residents.

How Habitat for Humanity works

Habitat for Humanity typically builds new homes for those in need, they also do exterior work on an existing home, and they have started a new program of purchasing derelict homes and rehabbing them.   They do not give away homes!  An individual or a family applies to Habitat for Humanity.  They then attend an orientation meeting where they learn about the process and meet with advisors who talk to them about their needs.  Housing is typically just one of many needs, so the advisors connect them with credit report counselors, legal aid, and other services to help them holistically.  The advisor will also do a home visit to access their current housing situation and their need.  All families are chosen based on three things: 1) Willingness to partner with Habitat, 2) Ability to pay back the loan, 3) The need for secure housing.  The application then goes to a Family Selection Committee who votes on which family to help.  Once selected, the family goes through about 30 hours of classes to teach them about home ownership, and more classes about resume writing and job application process.  They are also required to volunteer 250 hours (in addition to their house project) and they are required to be at their house build project at least 50% of the time.  The entire project is about 12 months.  Once the house is complete, they purchase the new home with a 0% interest loan provided by Habitat for Humanity.  These homes are not given away, the homeowner works very hard for it, but the process educates them and certainly gives them a hand up instead of a hand out.

What we can do in Homer.

Sheila will help us to assess the village.  Based upon census information, most Homer residents are considered low-income families.  Low income is designated by under $38,000 for singles and $54,000 for a family of 4.  We should determine a long-term plan, and then target small sections of Homer at a time and work our way through the town over the course of several years.  Sheila suggested an approach that they just began using in Champaign.  While doing a build, they will access the houses around the build area and will do small projects on those homes.  For instance, they will replace siding or a roof, or even just help clean up a yard.  This is much easier to do when you have teams of volunteers already in the neighborhood working on a build project.  She suggested that we work hand in hand with the Village Board and South Homer Township, especially to have empty lots donated to Habitat for build sites.  We will follow up with Sheila in early September after we done some research on the empty lots and she’s had a chance to drive through Homer.

Additional Resources

Sheila suggested several more resources for us to explore.

  • Rural Development.  They offer programs to help rehab homes, 1-2% loans, and down payment assistance.
  • Champaign County Regional Planning (217-328-3313).  They offer deferred payment loans (works like a grant) for rehab (she suggested including a preservation clause that includes keeping up the yard and house exterior).  They also have weatherization program to help with windows, furnace and air and power bills.
  • University of Illinois School of Social Work.
  • University of Illinois School of Planning.
  • Illinois Power.  Security lighting programs for dimly light areas of town.
  • Farm Bureau.  Planting trees where ones have been torn down.
  • Empty Tomb.  Volunteers for projects.
  • Federal grants instead of State grants, more stable.
  • Habitat for Humanity trailer can be parked in Homer during garage sale weekend to take back donations of unsold merchandise.


Parkland Classes

We reviewed the survey data (available online as well). After evaluating the data, we decided on classes that were both popular (had interest of at least 8 people) and also available exclusively through Parkland.

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Zumba
  • Food Service Sanitation
  • Quickbooks
  • Excel
  • Email & Internet
  • Beginning, Beginning Computers
  • Medical Coding
  • Senior Care (series of 4 classes)

We have submitted this to Parkland. The next steps:

  1. Parkland will evaluate our space to confirm that is it suitable to the classes we chose.
  2. Parkland will find the instructor
  3. Parkland will confirm the classes available and provide us with the date & times
  4. HCIA will then advertise the classes



Other educational opportunities

We discussed the popular classes from the survey that could be taught for free through the extension or for a small fee from local experts.

If you know of someone who would be interested in teaching any of these classes, please have them contact!

CPR (Red Cross)

Automotive safety, How to change a tire on the side of the road, how to add fluids, etc

Computer Clean Up, how to rid yourselves of viruses

Finance (U of I Extension)

Gardening (U of I Extension)

Canning (U of I Extension)

Cooking (U of I Extension)

How to write a resume

How to write a business plan








8:55pm, Official Call to Order for HCIA members



Sheila Dodd

Diane Boyer

Becky Smith

Kris Brown

Arlene Higginbotham

Kate Boyer

We review the minutes typed up by Christine.

Kate makes a motion to approve the minutes, Becky seconds the motion

We review the financial report. Kate makes a motion to approve the report, Kris seconds the motion.

Kate makes a motion that we offer the classes listed above through Parkland, Becky seconds the motion.

We discussed working with the farmer’s market to create an indoor market through the winter as a part of our cookie walk.

Becky shared about the possibility of doing a shop hop, which works similar to a poker run but with small store across the area.

Kris requested a donation to sponsor the inflatables for Krazee Daze. Becky makes a motion to donate the same as last year, Kate seconds the motion.

9:23pm meeting adjourned


Next Meeting…

September 4th, 2014


Village Hall

Kathy from U of I Extension will come and discuss free classes and opportunities through the extension!

July 10th ’14, Parkland Classes in Homer

We discussed the type of classes that might be of value in Homer.

  • Resume Improvement Classes (Computers, Excel, Quickbooks)
  • Fitness Classes
  • Fun Classes (Art, Music, gardening)
  • Financial Classes
  • Career classes (Food sanitation, medical coding)

We decided to put out a survey to the community to help decide which classes might drawl the most interest.

We also decided to investigate other resources beyond Parkland for less expensive options, such as the Red Cross for CPR and U of I Extension for gardening and cooking classes.

See the follow up here.



June 12th ’14, Brainstorm about how HCIA can be involved more

June 12th, 2014



What are the needs of the residents of Homer?


  1. Financial Assistance (short term); rent & utility assistance



  1. Financial Responsibility (long term); host a Dave Ramsey Program



  1. Feed people; Satellite Food Pantry, free dinners (One Church is already doing this monthly)



  1. Education; Work with Parkland for an off-campus GED program and other education credits. Work with a technical institute to teach skills.



  1. After school program childcare for working families. Crisis center for desperate families



  1. Clean up the section 8 housing and begin programs to help families into safe homes.



  1. Home repairs, yard work, grocery shopping, transportation (CRIS)



  1. What resources are available to us? USDA grants


The follow up to this discussion will take place July 10th at 7pm at the Village Hall. We can bring in experts to talk about their programs and how to implement them in Homer (i.e. Directors from the Food Pantry, Empty Tomb, Restoration Urbana Ministries, Habitat for Humanity, DACC, Parkland, Etc).