Summer 2009...Liz and I are seated in The Civic Center in the heart of Benld, IL during a benefit for a local organization. Gradually, I notice the noise from conversations in the room get louder and louder. Just then I get tapped on the shoulder and a women says "Hey, did you guys hear about the new school?" I said "No, what's up?" She says "Mine subsidence. It's done. It sunk. No students can go back in the building, EVER!"
July 30th, 2011...I log on to Facebook and quickly see hundreds of posts and pictures of Benld's most well-known landmark, The Coliseum Ballroom, engulfed in flames. By the following morning the building along with all it's priceless history and mystique had burnt to the ground.
April 8th, 2015...During my usual commute to work through Benld I notice several vans from large St. Louis, MO based news channels parked near the center of town. As soon as I arrived at my destination I learned they were there because an entire section of Benld, several blocks wide, had experienced mine subsidence which damaged many roads and homes. It was so bad that some residents were forced to evacuate due to gas leaks.
Present Day, May 2016...Drive down Main Street in Benld, and you'll see empty buildings up and down the block. The vernacular architecture of the buildings and the folk tales surrounding them serve as dusty reminders of the boom town days of decades past.
To say that the city of Benld and it's residents have been hit square in the jaw with adversity harder than an upper cut from Sugar Ray Robinson would be a gross understatement.
But as Rocky Balboa famously said "Life isn't about how hard you can hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward."
And this is exactly what the people of Benld are doing. They aren't leaving. They are pulling together tighter than ever and have created an organization called "Build Benld" to band together to rebuild and revive the community they love.
The volunteer members of Build Benld work tirelessly to host events that generate funding used for community projects. Because of this organization I believe that in the coming years we aren't going to see this city fade into the sunset.
Rather, I believe that Benld is rising from the ashes of adversity to once again become the flourishing small town economy once dubbed by Al Capone as "Little Chicago!"
This Saturday, May 7th from 9am - 2pm, Build Benld will be hosting it's 6th Annual Craft Fair & Vendor Show at The Benld Civic Center. Proceeds from the event will benefit Build Benld.
Our full Fight the Fight product booth will be set up at the event along with over 40 other vendors. We invite you to come out, say hello, and grab a snack at the concession stand for a good cause!
More Event Info: Build Benld Craft Fair
"Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny." - C.S. Lewis
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