Thumbs Up/Down for Monday, July 21, 2014

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Thumbs up to volunteer action days. Do you have time, energy and a desire to help your community? Then check out the Walworth County Day of Action on Thursday, July 24, or the United Way Blackhawk Region's annual Day of Caring on Wednesday, Sept. 17. This is the third year for Walworth County's event. Preregistration was encouraged by Friday, but walk-ins will be welcome Thursday. About 100 individuals and business employees helped local nonprofits each of the last two years. This year's goal is 125. For information, call Walworth County Volunteer Services at 262-741-4223 or Volunteer Connection at 262-723-5383. The Blackhawk Region United Way serves Rock County and northern Winnebago County in Illinois. Groups or individuals can call Linda Williams at 608-314-8426 or email Beth Gliebe at bgliebe@lubr.org. Nonprofit groups can propose projects by Aug. 1 at liveunitedbr.org. These volunteer days help tackle bigger projects and open people's eyes to community needs year-round.

Thumbs up to the CareLIVING Conference. Wednesday's conference organized by KANDU Industries will benefit those who care for the elderly or people with disabilities. Julie Smith, KANDU program director, says the day is designed to give caregivers hope and strength through knowledge, support and even humor. Some caregivers are employed in their roles. Others devote their free time or even their entire lives to caring for loved ones. Often, they get little thanks or appreciation. Their roles can be overwhelming. This conference will offer a needed break, chances to bond with others so they realize they're not alone, and tips and information about respite services. For more information or to register, call 608-755-4123 or click on kanduindustries.com.

Thumbs down to lack of progress on Grafft's buildings. Instead of serving as historic icons of downtown Janesville, the former Monterey Hotel and what's left of the Park Place Theater loom as eyesores. They don't inspire others to redevelop properties. Grafft Investments owns the buildings. Jim Grafft clashed bitterly with the city's code officials in 2007, and little has happened since. The back wall of the theater has been missing since at least 2008. Weeds choke the backs of both lots. Grafft hopes to rebuild that wall yet this year and convert the theater into two apartments. He would like to create an apartment complex and commercial space out of the hotel. However, daughter Britten says other business ventures in Janesville have kept them busy. As owner, Grafft is under no obligation to redevelop the buildings, and any project would need reasonable odds of a payoff. The city must ensure they're maintained to minimum code levels. It would be great if another developer offered to buy them. Absent that, with much new leadership at City Hall, the hope here is that officials and the Graffts can work in harmony so residents who remember the heydays of the Monterey Hotel will soon see light at the end of this dark era.

Thumbs up to UW-Rock County's College for Kids. Last week, Janesville's two-year university attracted kids in grades 2-8 for hands-on programs designed to promote critical thinking. Courses included shoebox science, aquatic field biology, stained glass, fencing, Photoshop and show choir. Many of the 13 classes filled quickly, and a record of almost 135 kids took part. Reasonable prices ranged from $100 for half days of classes to $170 for older students attending full days all week. The annual College for Kids gives youngsters a valuable way to spend a week, can help them avoid that “summer brain drain” and introduces the campus to potential future students. If kids in your family missed out this year, watch for announcements of next year's program.

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