BataviaPlus Voices


Do you know someone that would make an interesting interview subject for BataviaPlus Voices? Submit suggestions to ccudworth@cityofbatavia.net. 

Aug 02

Jamie Saam leads Batavia MainStreet to success

Posted on August 2, 2017 at 10:54 AM by Christopher Cudworth

Batavia MainStreet Executive Director Jamie Saam delivers on promise to make Batavia feel like home for residents, businesses and visitors. 

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Jun 19

Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry: making life normal for many

Posted on June 19, 2017 at 12:08 PM by Christopher Cudworth

Batavia Pantry tooSee those shelves filled with food at the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry and Clothes Closet? It's all donated and processed for distribution to members of the community in need of groceries for daily nutrition. 

See, hunger in Batavia doesn’t look like bloated stomachs or skin and bones.  It is more often about making a choice between paying the electric bill, the medical bill or going to the grocery store.  It is part of the stress of trying to get the bills paid and the home duties done while you parent and work. It’s just like all of us but there is ZERO room for error in many households.

Unexpected financial emergencies put many people in a bind.

  • You get a flat tire and then what?  How do you get to work?  If you skip work to fix the car, you lose that day’s income and maybe the job itself.  You come to the food pantry until the car is fixed.
  • Your tooth hurts and the cost of the dentist bill causes you to be late on rent again. You get an eviction notice.  You need to pay the landlord or lose your home, so you come to the food pantry because every last penny needs to pay the landlord.
  • Your wife left you and the four kids.  It was tight before and now the family has one less job. You go to the food pantry because the kids need healthy food and clothes.
  • There is a new baby and the baby needs diapers, which aren’t cheap. You come to food pantry because we have the food you need to feed a growing family.
  • You live in a $500,000 house with your husband and kids with two nice cars and all the fixings.  Everything is working well until someone loses a job, there is a major medical problem and someone can’t work.  Income drops.  Expenses rise.  Debt payments remain the same.  You come to the Food Pantry and Clothes Closet until income rises or the house and overhead can be cut.
  • Divorce brings folks to the pantry until expenses and lifestyles are settled.

For others, the supplementary services provided by the pantry and clothes closet are a regular part source of support. There is no particular triggering event. Here are a few examples:

  • You are retired on a fixed income.  You know exactly how much money there is to go around. You come to the food pantry monthly for full service shopping, every Saturday for extras and sometimes midweek for bread and apples.  You’re not here because it’s an emergency. You are here because your budget won't work without these supplementary groceries.
  • You are working over 40 hours a week at minimum. Paychecks don’t cover the expenses so you are a pantry regular as well: once a month, every Saturday.

The pantry and clothes closet helps folks hold it together, be part of their community and carry on a life that has normalcy.


Over the course of the year, the pantry and clothes closet serve close to 700 families.  They are welcome to receive full service grocery shopping once a month (almost a week's worth of groceries) and clothes shopping twice a month. Yet most only take what they need. Some we serve only once. On average, clients visit 11 times a year. That includes about 6 visits to the food pantry and 5 visits to the clothes closet.  

Of the individuals we serve, 40% are children, 52% are adults, and 8% are elderly. The volume of food and clothing that goes in and out of our little building each month is amazing.  

We rely on the help of150 volunteers a month process both clothing and food donations. In May alone our volunteers processed 52,000 pounds of food donations

This article for Voice was provided by Betsy Zinser, Executive Director of the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry and Clothes Closet. 

Batavia PantryThe Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry and Clothes Closet is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, volunteer agency directed and operated by community and local church volunteers residing throughout the greater Fox Valley area. It is also a member of the Northern Illinois Food Bank. Those who visit and use the Food Pantry are our neighbors and friends, people with disabilities, seniors, low income families, and families whose member(s) have lost their jobs.

Once a client/family has been 
certified they may use the Pantry once a month. In addition, all clients may come during the last half hour of operation on any day the Pantry is open for produce and bakery items. The Pantry is also open to all clients each Saturday morning, see right column for hours and available items.
The Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry has been open for over 30 years. It is currently serving over 1,200 individuals each month. This would not be possible without the active support of community volunteers and donors who so selflessly donate their time, effort, and money. Our pantry requires 900 worker hours each month to fill our client shopping hours and food collection and stocking needs.

May 31

Batavia track team achieves greatness at state

Posted on May 31, 2017 at 2:15 PM by Christopher Cudworth

Batavia's track program for both boys and girls has been enjoying great results for years under direction of Coach Dennis Piron and staff. Recently the team took a first place trophy in the 4 X 200 relay while other athletes qualified for finals and two high jumpers took third and sixth in state. We asked Coach Piron to fill us in on how the year progressed both with his BHS kids and his own children competing in track and field and soccer. 

State 4 X 200Batavia's 4 X 200 Relay won the Illinois State Championship. When did this goal start to come together? 

The athletes on the 4 X 200 team were Jordan Birkhaug, Jay Hunt, Jeremiah Evers and Michael Stanley.

One of our athletes Reggie Phillips helped the team qualify for state and was replaced on the 4 X 200 by Stanley. Phillips then ran lead off for our 4x4 and ran an exceptional time that got the 4x4 into the state finals as well.

It all took place because Michael Stanley talked to me right after Sectionals about dropping out of the 400 at IHSA even though he had qualified in that event and won sectionals. But he believed he could really help the 4 x 200 team get in "high" medal contention. So we made a switch at state by moving Jay Hunt to the 2nd leg and Michael to the anchor. The other kids that ran on that team all year include Reggie Phillips, Chad McMarrow, Tom Stuttle, Julian Davis and Josh Young. So in many ways the state championship really was a team effort. 

Ironically the relay team- which has been made up of 8 or 9 different kids this season- had not "won" a first place at Conference or Sectionals (3rd). We qualified with a very good time at Sectionals but honestly I felt our 4x4 was our strongest relay overall. They did not have a goal of winning state but believed they could compete with anyone. Michael ran a legendary anchor (I timed 21.0) and the rest is history! 

What is the hardest part about winning a relay? 

EXCHANGES! But I believe they key to that group was the long sprint strength they all possess and the ability to charge the exchange zone. Chemistry between all the guys was a big theme all year and they definitely had that! We did not have the ability to do alot of exchange work this season outdoors with issues at BHS so video of prelims at State were used to make adjustments and the guys did an incredible job of improving.

What are the athlete's names on the team, and what other events do they do? (PRIMARILY ALL SPRINTERS/400)

Jay Hunt actually qualified in 4 events along with the state champs relay. He also did the HJ, 200 and 4x100. Jordan Birkhaug made it in the 4x100, 4x200. Jeremiah qualified in the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x4oo, Stanley made it in the 4x100, 400, and 4x400- but switched to 4x2.

You also had two high jumpers place in the state meet. How high did they jump, and did they set any school records. 

State High Jumpers
Jay Hunt and Peter Rudelich are tied at 6'8" with our school record and Jay jumped 6'9" indoors. They placed 3rd and 8th at the State meet. It goes all the way back to 1912. 

How many years have you been coaching track now in Batavia? 

Since 1989-1990 season. 

Do you keep count of how many athletes place at state? 

On our website we have a complete list of all the athletes from Batavia that have placed at the state track meet. 

How did your son Peyton do at NCAA Division III track and field nationals? 

He placed 4th in the 400 Hurdles at Nationals- his first time in an individual event- he has had a great experience there so far! (Now a 4 time All-American and Indoor National Champions!)

He was another example of how kids can grow up in a sport like track & field and improve greatly from middle school through Senior year- Coach Di- our retiring hurdle coach- coached him well!

You coach football, but your daughter Alex played soccer at Batavia. Any advice for dads and moms on kids involved in other sports? 

Just love them and enjoy watching them play and build relationships through athletics.They will be done with sports before you know it and hopefully your relationship with them and athletics is a positive learning experience- good or bad.

What does a coach think about while up in the stands watching kids compete at that level? 

That they are successful and perform at their best on that date- at that moment.  I am usually excited and cheer alot although they probably never hear- makes me feel better.

Piron INCubatorWhat advice would you give if a parent wants their child to have a good experience in sports?

That's a book right there. Honestly it seems like the best experiences are built around friendships and relationships. My advice- just love them and get to know the kids they are sharing time with. Support the "team" and enjoy the time because it is over quick!

Do ever take a break between seasons? 

Kind of- the first and last week of Summer usually although in the day and age you are usually always working on something related to your programs (Track & Football) and any given time. I love what I do and I have the support of an amazing wife Joanne and my kids- and have been incredibly blessed to work at the school the go to for High School. Tyler- my youngest- will be a freshman next year and looking forward to watching him grow up here!

In the photo at right, high school instructor Dennis Piron leads a student in one of the INCubator classes where students conceive and develop products from idea to execution.