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WJBD - Local News - Centralia Chamber Members Learn More About Depew and Owen, South Central Transit, and a Food Program

Centralia Chamber Luncheon Speakers (left to right) Paster Quinton Runyon of the First Baptist Church, Alan Owen of Depew and Owen Builders, and Sherri Bassen of South Central Transit. Photo by Tim Ferguson.

Centralia Chamber Members Learn More About Depew and Owen, South Central Transit, and a Food Program

By Tim Ferguson

Several Centralia area businesses were featured at the Centralia Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at the Centralia Elks Wednesday.

Alan Owen, President of Depew and Owen Builders, gave a brief overview of Depew and Owen from its humble beginning in 1962 by Alan’s father to incorporating with Ralph Depew in 1972 to become Depew and Owen. Although it began as a residential construction company, Depew and Owen has become a major player in the commercial construction market throughout the state, not only in buildings but also replacing and building many area bridges for the Illinois Department of Transportation, and in the installation of major equipment at plants in Centralia’s Industrial Park, as well as the installation of overhead cranes for major construction projects. 

Two of Depew and Owens most memorable projects were the construction of the new Old National Bank building and drive-up on North Elm, which has since been replaced by Walgreens and US Bank, and the construction of the Centralia Carillon Tower in Carillon Park downtown.

Owen is also responsible for bringing national hydroplane boat races to Centralia’s Raccoon Lake each summer, entering its tenth year this summer, and something that will be featured on the cover of Yellow Book this year.

Sherry Bassen, Marketing and Public Relations Director of South Central Transit, updated Chamber members on South Central including several major expansions already this year.  South Central Transit provides general public transportation within a six county area from Marion County to Franklin and Perry Counties.  Everyone is eligible to ride, which is not limited to senior citizens or the disabled.

 South Central Transit began operating several “intra-city” shuttles within Centralia in January which allows the public to ride for as little as 50 cents a trip in either direction from downtown west to the shopping center and onto Christ Our Rock High School and Kaskaskia College, or, from downtown east making stops at various points along the way to Biggies at the I-57/Route 161 interchange where passengers can transfer to other shuttles to Mt. Vernon south or Salem on the north.  Riders can get on and off at regular stops along each route. 

Transportation is also provided between St. Mary’s Hospital in Centralia and the new Good Samaritan Regional Health Center in Mt. Vernon for those needing services at either hospital. A special shuttle also runs west from Centralia to the Centralia Correctional Center, Christ Our Rock High School, and Kaskaskia College, then west to Posey and south to Nashville and back.  Passengers can also transfer at Posey to other Clinton County shuttles.  And a shuttle travels south from Centralia to Ashley and then east to Mt. Vernon or west to Nashville.

More information can be found at www.southcentraltransit.org.

Reverend Quinton Runyon, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Centralia, then detailed for the Chamber a program piloted by the church five years ago after seeing a need caused by the number of students whose only meals come while at school, at breakfast and lunch, who also often arrive at school malnourished on Monday morning from not having eaten over the weekend. The “Brown Bag Program” began by providing 30 brown bags of nourishing food to the Field Kindergarten Center in Centralia to distribute to students to take home with them at the end of the day.  The program has grown from 30 bags a week the first year to 250 the second year and to over 460 bags a week this year to kindergarten students in Centralia, Central City, North Wamac, and Willow Grove schools as well as first grade students at Jordan and Schiller schools in Centralia for 30 weeks during the school year. 

Many of students today, especially at the lower grade level, according to information supplied by Runyon, are losing one day a week due to being under or malnourished upon arriving at school on Monday morning and often take a day or two to recoup that loss.  This amounts to a quarter of the school year students who are so malnourished are missing in education a year.

Runyon welcomes inquiries into the program at the First Baptist Church in Centralia at 532-5659.

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