040: Communities Surrounding Scott Air Force Base

St. Louis

St. Louis, one of the largest cities in Missouri, is on the bank of the Mississippi River just below its junction with the Missouri River, and its downtown is less than 20 miles from Scott AFB. The metropolitan area encompasses 12 counties — seven in Missouri and five in Illinois. In 2013, the population of the city was approximately 318,000, with about a million people in surrounding St. Louis County. Because of its historic role in the nation’s westward expansion, St. Louis is known as the “Gateway to the West,” and the 630-foot stainless steel Gateway Arch, the nation’s loftiest man-made monument, commemorates this role. The 50th anniversary of the Gateway Arch riverboats, the Tom Sawyer and the Becky Thatcher, was in 2014, and in 2015, a yearlong celebration kicks off to mark the 50th year of the Arch itself.

St. Louis supports internationally recognized institutions and organizations, and cultural and informational opportunities abound. Residents and visitors young and old enjoy the zoo, science center, opera, theater, art museum, symphony and more, and five-star restaurants and corner bistros offer fine dining and casual dinners alike. St. Louis has great fairs and festivals with themes that reflect the area’s cultural heritage and traditions: A sampling would include Fair St. Louis, St. Louis Strassenfest, the Blues Festival, Taste of St. Louis, the Greek Festival and the Great Forest Park Balloon Race and Festival.

Downtown St. Louis has surged economically in the past 20 years with expansion of the popular Scottrade Center (formerly the Savvis Center) as well as 1995’s opening of the Edward Jones Dome (at America Center), now a major city institution and home of the Rams. Riverfront gaming complements other downtown attractions, including Busch Stadium, Laclede’s Landing and the Arch Grounds. New and renovated hotels vie for increased convention and tourism business. Union Station, a redeveloped train station, and the St. Louis Center have the convenience of shopping malls while the historical Soulard Market is alive with the bustle of outdoor vendors. Lambert- St. Louis International Airport serves more than 12 million passengers each year, and the MetroLink transportation system that connects the airport with downtown extends all the way to Scott AFB. St. Louis ranks high for medical institutions, universities and quality of life and is a hub for industrial and corporate headquarters.

To learn more, go to the city website at https://www.stlouis-mo.gov, or that of the St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce, www.stlregionalchamber.com (314-231-5555).


Albers, a small community of approximately a thousand residents, is 16 miles east of Scott Air Force Base on State Route 161 in Clinton County, with easy access to Interstate 64, all Metro East communities and St. Louis. The quiet, family-centered town takes pride in its pleasant neighborhoods and friendly neighbors as well as its well-maintained park, the site of community activities year-round.

Albers Elementary School (www.albers.k12.il.us) is a well-thought-of institution with approximately 200 students from Pre-K through grade eight. The school was selected for a 2012 Academic Excellence Award by the Illinois State Board of Education, and garnered the 2011 School Search Bright Star Award, the 2011 Excellence Award from ISBE for Exemplary Academic Performance on the Illinois Learning Standards, and Recognition level for Financial Planning/Budgeting from the ISAB.

To learn more, go to the village website at villageofalbers@yahoo.com or www.albers-il.org.


Belleville, county seat of St. Clair County, is five minutes from Scott Air Force Base and 15 minutes away from downtown St. Louis. Founded in 1814, it recently celebrated its 200th anniversary as one of the oldest communities in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Farmer George Blair got things going on March 10, 1814, by donating an acre of farmland for a public square, and the former county seat then was transferred from Cahokia to the more central settlement. Blair got to name the town, and he chose “Belleville,” French for “beautiful city.”

Belleville rose quickly to prominence in politics and to economic growth in agribusiness, mining, banking, retailing and manufacturing. At one time it was known as “the stove capital of the world.” By the 1870s, coal mining was a growth industry and railroads were in place to haul materials and goods. By 1880, Belleville was a national supply center, serving not only the local market and St. Louis but points west from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.

By 2013, Belleville’s population had grown to 44,895 and the city had more than 300 miles of paved streets and the longest Main Street in the U.S.: 9.3 miles of continuous roadway. The municipality is the largest south of Springfield, Ill., a Sister City to Paderborn, Germany, and in June 2011 was named an All-America City by the National Civic League.

Belleville provides quality resources in both health care and education. Two major hospitals, Memorial Hospital and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, are located here, and schools range from preschool through graduate school with six school districts, Southwestern Illinois College and Lindenwood University.

The Belleville Public Library (www.belleville.net), a 178-year-old Carnegie Library, was the state’s first circulating library. The Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra (www.bellevillephilharmonic.org) has been performing for 147 years, and is the second-oldest in the nation.

The area’s largest employer, Scott AFB just to the east, has 13,000 employees. The military base and city have been part of each other for almost a century, and the Belle-Scott Committee, established in 1949, is the oldest continuing military-civilian partnership in the nation.

Business and economic growth has gotten a boost from the Business Assistance Program, an update of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, and required Business Occupancy Permits. Belleville’s Economic Development, Planning and Zoning Department teams with the city’s Health, Housing & Building Department and the Community Development Department on development issues and opportunities. The Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce also works cooperatively to advance business and community interests.

Belleville’s rich surrounding farmlands have consistently provided economic stability to the area and are famed for their white asparagus, horseradish, corn, strawberries, peaches and apples.

Downtown got a $7.1 million renovation in 2007 to become a shopping and tourism draw with restaurants, boutiques, arts and crafts, museums and Old Town Market’s fresh fruits and vegetables. Other points of interest include the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, a historic downtown movie theater, Eckert’s Orchards, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Cathedral (largest in Illinois), Skyview Drive (one of the few remaining drive-in theaters in the U.S.), golf courses, and annual events like Art on the Square, Oktoberfest, a Chili Cook-off, a Veterans Day ceremony, gingerbread festivities and the Belleville Santa Claus Parade, largest in southern Illinois.

MetroLink light rail runs from Scott AFB through Belleville’s three stations to St. Louis and Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Interstates 64 and 255 are adjacent, and Illinois State Highways 15, 159, 177, 13 and 161 all cross Belleville.

Residents can select housing in new subdivisions, established older neighborhoods, one national and three local historic districts.

The city’s approximately 20 city parks encompass more than 200 acres, which include six miles of bicycle trails. Residents also enjoy country clubs, bowling centers, and an outdoor skateboard park.

To learn more, visit the City of Belleville website at www.belleville.net (618-233-6810) or that of the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce, www.bellevillechamber.org (618-233-2015).


German farmers drawn by fertile prairie settled around what became Breese in Clinton County, part of the Metro-East region of Southern Illinois’ Greater St. Louis Metropolitan area, in 1816. The railroad arrived in 1855, the same year 20 blocks were laid out for the town, followed by a post office, businesses, schools and churches, a town improvement society, a volunteer fire department, water works and an electric power plant.

Residents named their new town “Breese” after county resident, U.S. senator and jurist Sidney Breese, a moving force behind the Illinois Central Railroad.

The town supports an elementary school, a high school, a busy public library, Bent Oak Golf Course and more than 25 active civic, fraternal, church, school and community organizations.

As for green space, Breese maintains several parks of 20 acres plus, including one dedicated to soccer, for residents of all ages, and a public pool with a splash pad. The historic Avon Theatre downtown, which opened in 1914 as the Grand Theatre, a 450-seat venue for the new silent films, is now home to the Clinton County Showcase, a theater company that screens movies in addition to producing plays and special events.

Residents of Breese, population 4,516 in 2012, espouse the motto, “Proud of our past, planning for our future.” Go to www.breese.org (618-526-7731) to learn more, or visit the Breese Chamber of Commerce website at www.breesechamber.org.


The French-flavored village of Cahokia, “Birthplace of the Midwest,” had its beginnings in May 1699 when French priests from Quebec founded Holy Family Mission. Its successor church, Holy Family Log Church of 1799, is still used for services and is the oldest church completely west of the Alleghany Mountains. It’s not the only historic structure in the area, though: The old Cahokia Courthouse, now a historic site, was originally a private home built by a French fur trader around 1740. Earlier yet, Native American Mound Builders inhabited the largest mound complex north of Mexico City from around A.D. 1000 to 1400, the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site near Cahokia.

The village itself, incorporated as a municipality under Illinois State Charter on March 28, 1927, is in the geographic center of the country on the east bank of the Mississippi River, across from the St. Louis central business district. The Mississippi Flyway passes overhead, a migratory thoroughfare, and the area has the greatest concentration of bird species in Illinois.

The community’s population was just under 15,000 in 2013. Cahokia Unit School District No. 187 offers education for children in kindergarten through 12th grade. Residents and visitors can enjoy the Cahokia Pool and Ice Rink, the Cahokia Nutrition Center, the Cahokia Fitness & Sports Complex and the 18-hole Prairies of Cahokia golf course. The Cahokia Library is just outside the entrance to the city park, which has a baseball diamond, a soccer field, covered picnic pavilions, horseshoe pits, a lake and a walking trail. Go to www.cahokiaillinois.org (618-337-9529) for more information, or visit the Cahokia Area Chamber of Commerce at www.cahokiachamber.org (618-337-4721).


A muddy Goshen Trail ford across the Kaskaskia River ultimately led to the forward-thinking city of Carlyle, population 3,281 in 2012, about 33 miles east of Scott Air Force Base and 50 miles from St. Louis in Clinton County. Around 1812 the first settler, John Hill, built himself a block house along the trail close to the ford and started a ferry service, and by 1837 enough people had joined him to make up a village. In 1859, the General Dean Suspension Bridge spanning the river went into service and carried traffic for the next 70 years, the only such bridge in Illinois and now a historic site.

A dam across the Kaskaskia northeast of town formed Carlyle Lake, the biggest man-made lake in the state and a recreational mother lode: hunting (waterfowl, white tailed deer, rabbits, turkeys, squirrels, quail, doves); bird-watching; fishing (32 species of fresh-water fish including largemouth bass and channel and flathead catfish); 18 holes of championship golf at the Governor’s Run Golf Course; four beaches; camping; boating and sailing; biking and hiking; and eight recreation areas. The lake draws more than 3 million visitors a year.

Carlisle works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain almost 20 miles of trails looping through the city and to the lake. In addition, the city supports sports and camps for kids, a fish hatchery and five city parks that include a pool, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, a Frisbee golf course, a stocked catch-and-release fishing pond for children and three fully equipped playgrounds.

Carlyle City Park is the site of October’s annual Harvest Thyme Festival and in late November glitters with thousands of lights to celebrate Christmas in Carlyle, followed in early December by the Christmas Parade and fireworks. Among other festivals and events are August’s Great Kaskaskia Duck River Race, benefitting the Healthcare Foundation; the July 4th Dam Jam, a day of live music, sand castle competitions and fireworks; February’s Polar Plunge to benefit the Special Olympics; and the IHSA Bass Tournament for students in May.

East-west U.S. Route 50 and north-south State Route 127 intersect in the heart of the city, and Carlyle has easy access to three Interstates: east-west Interstate 70 18 miles north and I-64 15 miles south, and north-south I-57 23 miles east. Four airports serve the area, the largest being Lambert-St. Louis International Airport northwest of St. Louis. Barge, rail and truck transport are available at the Tri-City Port District on the Mississippi River 50 miles to the west.

The City of Carlyle has set up a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district to encourage business development (www.carlylelake.com/incentives) augmented by state-sponsored EDGE credits (www.illinois.gov/dceo/Pages/default.aspx) and the Employee Training Investment Program (www.illinois.gov/dceo/Pages/default.aspx). Carlyle is a full-service community, providing a concentration of services not found in many municipalities its size, including grocery stores, restaurants, health care providers, general retail, hardware and auto and professional advisers.

Housing is plentiful and affordable, crime is low and children can attend Carlyle Community School District No. 1’s public elementary, junior high or high schools.

Go to www.carlylelake.com or call Carlyle City Hall at 618-594-2468 for more information.


Near St. Louis and less than 20 miles from Scott Air Force Base is the town that’s “close to it all.” With a population of 4,219 in 2012, the Village of Caseyville offers the tranquility of a small town yet draws on the economic and social activity surrounding St. Louis and the Mississippi River.

Once little more than an outpost, Caseyville is now a growing community of more than 1,800 homes. The town first gained fame during the Civil War as the base for the 22nd Infantry Illinois Volunteers. Mustered into United States service in 1861, they would later fall under the direct command of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant himself during reconnaissance in Kentucky.

Caseyville today is a pleasant suburban community. Public schooling falls under Collinsville Community School District No. 10 (www.kahoks.org), and young scholars attend Caseyville Elementary School.

The Caseyville Public Library has more than 24,400 items for patrons’ use including books, CDs, books on tape, DVDs and VHS, and a large collection of large-print best sellers. Thousands of people use the library’s print and electronic reference resources and tap into the Internet through the library’s fiber optic connection. Copy, fax, notary and printing services are available too.

Caseyville has reasonable housing costs, low crime rates, more than 10 churches and a four-seasons climate with 70 percent sunshine during summer months.

For more information go to the city’s website at www.caseyville.org, or contact the Caseyville Chamber of Commerce at 618-533-7305 or write them at P.O. Box 470, Caseyville, IL 62232.


Collinsville’s motto, “Wide-open spaces, close to city places,” sums up the hospitality district of Southern Illinois, just minutes from downtown St. Louis’ activities and attractions. Its seven major chain hotels range from economy to luxury, and its restaurants’ menus go from down-home family style to gourmet fare. All support services and conveniences for conventions or tourists are available in the safety and comfort of a hometown environment.

The Cahokia Mounds historic site, which is on the World Heritage List, is the city’s best-known attraction, along with Fairmount Park Race Track, with year-round horse racing, and Gateway Center, a premier convention center that meets the needs of groups from 25 to 2,500.

Collinsville is also known as the Horseradish Capital of the World. Two-thirds of the world’s horseradish is grown here in the American Bottoms, and an International Horseradish Festival is held in early June. Additionally, the annual Italian Fest, on the third Friday and Saturday in September, attracts more than 130,000 people who share a fondness for Italian food, entertainment, grape stomps, bocce ball tournaments, bike marathons, parades and street dancers.

The population of 25,059 is 10 miles from downtown St. Louis, six miles from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and 14 miles from Southwestern Illinois College. Four interstates and four highways including Interstates 64, 55/70 and 255 frame the former coal-mining town, which has become a quiet haven for many who work in St. Louis. Housing is plentiful and affordable, and lots tend to be large.

The city boasts a superior school system and state championship teams in basketball, baseball, wrestling and bowling. Collinsville Community Unit School District No. 10 draws 6,300 students from 57 square miles who attend classes in Collinsville, Caseyville, Maryville and parts of Glen Carbon, Fairmont City and Granite City. In Collinsville itself, there are six elementary schools (kindergarten through fourth grade), an intermediate center (grades five and six), a middle school (grades seven and eight), a high school (grades nine through 12), and the Collinsville Area Vocational Center for high school-age students.

In addition to its circulating collection, the Collinsville Memorial Library can provide reference assistance, Wi-Fi and networked computers and access, computer instruction, genealogy and local history, homebound delivery, exam proctoring, programming for children and adults, a community room, a programming resource center, an adult reading room, a book club, and next door’s Blum House, a Queen Anne-style Victorian home that can be rented for meetings and special occasions. Go to www.collinsvillelibrary.org or call 618-344-1112 for more information.

Perhaps the city’s most treasured attraction is the “World’s Largest Catsup Bottle” (aka the Brooks Catsup water tower), standing sentry over the crumbling Brooks Catsup bottling plant. The bottle celebrated its 60th birthday in July 2009 with a barbecue festival and car show in Collinsville’s American Legion park.

Go to www.discovercollinsville.com, the Collinsville Chamber of Commerce website, for more information, or contact the chamber at 618-344-2884. The City of Collinsville’s website iswww.collinsvilleil.org.


Columbia, Ill., is one of the St. Louis area’s fastest-growing suburbs. Located about 10 minutes away by car, southeast and across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis, the community is adjacent to Interstate 255, circled by Interstate 270 and about 25 miles from Scott Air Force Base.

The area has a rich history. In the mid-1600s, the French landed there as the first white settlers, followed by the British, who controlled the territory through most of the 18th century until American revolutionaries drove them out. The original town — starting with Fort Whiteside and Fort Piggott — was built by a handful of American settlers on high bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.

Today Columbia has a population of nearly 10,000, many of them descendants of hard-working German immigrants who came looking for employment in the 1840s. These days the service industries and construction are foundations of the local economy, though many people commute to St. Louis across the Jefferson Barracks Bridge, or take the daily MetroBus shuttle to the MetroLink station in East St. Louis. The city has a Community & Economic Development program that actively fosters business growth. Call 618-281-7144, ext. 118 for more information.

Columbia has amenities of a major city, beginning with a range of restaurants from Joe Boccardi’s and Thai House to Tequila Mexican and the Columbia City Saloon.

Recreational facilities abound, including a park system encompassing American Legion Park, Bolm-Schuhkraft Memorial City Park, Columbia Municipal Park, Meadow Ridge and Turner Park. The area is a haven for golf fans, with three courses offering various levels of challenge right inside town and seven other southwestern Illinois courses within a 20-minute drive. The Columbia Bath and Tennis Club, a major hub for membership recreation, offers a full-sized swimming pool and organized activities on its beautiful campus. For a more economical way of getting involved, there are leagues around town for bowling, volleyball, softball and, of course, golf. Columbia is also a place for horseshoe tournaments and a starting point for cyclists riding down the famous Bluff Road scenic river route. Miles of river bottoms await along this Illinois institution.

Young residents of Columbia generally attend school within the Columbia Community Unit School District No. 4, encompassing Parkview Elementary and Columbia Middle and High Schools. An abundance of community activities helps children and families stay involved both in and out of school. Instructional classes and leagues are available for all ages in such sports as softball and baseball, soccer, football, bowling, dance, swimming and gymnastics. The community is particularly proud of its Just 4 Kicks program, as well as the Khoury softball and baseball league. Southwestern Illinois College offers nearby satellite instruction for prospective community college attendees.

The Columbia Public Library, www.columbialibrary.org, 106 N. Metter Ave., can be reached at 618-281-4237. Their circulating collection gets heavy use, and the library offers as well research and reader assistance, online databases, downloadable eBooks, eAudiobooks and eMagazines, computer and Internet access, printing, fax and copier services, a public meeting room and free programs for all ages.

Visit the city website at www.columbiaillinois.com to learn more, or call the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, 208 S. Rapp Ave., at 618-281-7144, ext. 118.

East St. Louis

East St. Louis, on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River in St. Clair County, has a population of approximately 26,500. It sits just 15 miles west of Scott Air Force Base and 2 ½ miles from downtown St. Louis. The first bridge to span the Mississippi River, a combined road and railway bridge that opened in 1874, is still in use today to travel from East St. Louis to metropolitan St. Louis; at its completion the Eads Bridge was the longest arch bridge on Earth, and one of its believers led an elephant across it the year it opened to reassure a dubious public. Another bridge linking the two cities, the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, opened in February 2014.

Four Interstates are within easy reach: Interstate 70, I-64, I-55 and I-255; the city also is part of MetroLink, the Greater St. Louis area transit system, which connects East St. Louis to St. Louis’ Lambert Airport via two stations; Phase Two connected East St. Louis to Scott AFB.

The Gateway Geyser, at 630 feet the tallest fountain in the nation, mirrors St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, its stainless steel glittering across the river at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Check the website at www.nps.gov/jeff for more information about the memorial.

East St. Louis, which sprang up on river lowlands ringed by bluffs, developed as an industrial and transportation center thanks to its river frontage, a network of railways and ample warehouse space. More recently there has been an increase in commercial and housing activity, and in the summer of 1993, Arch Paddle Inc. launched the biggest riverboat casino in America, the Casino Queen, which sails several times daily from East St. Louis. The $30 million enterprise has been a huge economic boon to the city; in addition to providing hundreds of jobs, it generates substantial tax revenues.

Public schools come under the East St. Louis School District No. 189, which oversees one early childhood center, six elementary schools, two middle schools, a high school, an alternative high school and a detention home. Southwestern Illinois College has one of its largest satellite campus at the East St. Louis Community College Center where it offers classes to students of various ages and backgrounds.

The East St. Louis Public Library offers its services at 5300 State St., 681-397-0991, ext. 109. The library is open from 9 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 9 a.m. to 4:45 pm. Friday and Saturday. For more information, go to www.esllibrary.org.

The city’s Economic Development Department, operating out of the city manager’s office, has incentives for developers, businesses and entrepreneurs by way of Tax Increment Financing (TIFs), which can be used as well for business retention, and is both a state Enterprise Zone and River Edge Redevelopment Zone, and a federal Empowerment Zone, all with development resources. Another city entity, the Redevelopment Commission, considers tax-abatement requests for new development and also for renovations of existing structures.

For more information about the City of East St. Louis, visit www.cesl.us.

Fairview Heights

Appropriately called the “Crossroads of Prosperity,” the longtime community of Fairview Heights was incorporated in 1969 and has gone from what was once a quiet area surrounded by farms and coal mines to the retail shopping hub of the Metro East region. Only eight minutes from Scott Air Force Base, Fairview Heights had grown to almost 17,000 residents in 2013.

Shopping drives the economy. Fairview Heights is home to St. Clair Square, a shopping mall with more than 140 stores that has stimulated additional growth in all directions, including the Crossroads Center Mall, Fairview Heights Plaza, Market Place, Winchester Plaza, restaurants and an ever-expanding executive office park to the north. The city has more than 3 million square feet of retail space.

The Fairview Heights Economic Development Department (www.cofheconomicdevelopment.org) maintains an up-to-date community profile, a marketing brochure, an inventory of available buildings and sites, and a Business Assistance Program that lays out financial incentives for businesses seeking to locate, relocate or expand in the city.

Fairview Heights has become a haven for tourists with 75 restaurants and eight hotels and motels that provide convenient, quick access to downtown St. Louis and numerous other attractions throughout the area. Fairview Heights provides much for its out-of-town visitors who come to shop, eat or stay overnight, but it also offers its residents a full range of services intended to make it an ideal place to live — and with no city property tax.

East-west Interstate 64 conjoined with U.S. 50 passes through town, and the MetroLink light rail service carries passengers between Fairview Heights and St. Louis to the west.

Elementary and middle school students belong to one of two school districts. Those living on the west side of town are in Grant-Illini School District No. 110 and attend Illini Elementary School or Grant Middle School. Those on the east side are in the Pontiac-William Holliday School District No. 105 and go to Holliday Elementary School or Pontiac Junior High School.

Moody Park (aka Longacre Park) is the site of major regional baseball tournaments and other special events throughout the year on its 80 acres. It has picnic pavilions, a 1.5-mile fitness trail, a large lake, tennis courts and plenty of parking spaces. The city’s 95-acre Pleasant Ridge Park is for more passive recreation, and other mini-parks are scattered throughout residential neighborhoods.

A Beautification Commission under the Parks & Recreation Department organizes regular Clean-Up Days and has charge of Business Appearance Awards.

Fairview Heights boasts outstanding law enforcement to keep up with its rapid growth and influx of visitors, and is served by two volunteer fire departments. The city also offers numerous services including senior, adult and youth programs, a public library, events like the Fall Festival, and much more.

Go to the City of Fairview Heights website at www.fairviewheightscity.com for more information, or tap into the resources of the Metro-East Regional Chamber of Commerce (for both Fairview Heights and Swansea) at www.metroeastchamber.org (618-233-3938).


Dynamic Highland has 9,860 residents just 30 miles to the east of metropolitan St. Louis and a little over 24 miles from Scott Air Force Base. Highland is surrounded by farmland and has strong agriculture roots, but the community settled by Swiss and Germans in the early 1800s also has a long history of being a progressive municipality — successfully blending business and industry with a small-town atmosphere.

Highland’s quality of life stems from people filled with community spirit and pride. Visitors can’t help but notice the well-maintained parks, streets, lake, homes and yards. The 11 parks and playgrounds range from Kaeser Park, a historical stagecoach stop, to the Tot-Lot playground for toddlers, to Silver Lake, which offers boating, fishing, waterfowl hunting, archery, pavilions, a playground, sand volleyball, nature and walking trails and a climbing wall. With numerous annual festivals and fairs, among them Peanut Butter & Jam summertime festivals, the Goomna Adventure Race and the Madison County Fair, band concerts, art events and community theater from Hard Road Theatre Productions, there is always something new to experience.

Highland is also well-known for the high quality of its schools, as evidenced by the high test scores and numerous award-winning curricula, programs and educators. Highland Community Unit School District No. 5 has a high school, a middle school and two elementary schools in town, plus elementary schools in nearby Alhambra and Grantfork.

The Louis Latzer Public Library has operated out of its handsome stone neoclassical building since 1929, and has more than 48,000 print volumes, a substantial media collection, access to subscription databases, a genealogy collection, and special programs.

With completion of the new state-of-the-art St. Joseph’s Hospital and medical campus, residents can take advantage of local high-quality health care.

The city has quality services and infrastructure at reasonable rates, and the balanced economy includes clean manufacturing, agriculture, health care, service industries and retail. Among major employers are Basler Electric Co.; Cooper B-Line Inc., Highland Machine; one in the Wall Street Journal’s nationwide network of printing plants; and Highland Supply Corp., a pioneer in the floriculture industry that makes grass for Easter baskets. The inventor of Pet Evaporated Milk was from Highland, and the Wicks Organ Co., founded more than a century ago by three brothers in the back of a jewelry and watch-making store, is still going strong. The town celebrated its 175th year in 2012 with a Jubilee.

Interstate 70 to the north is within easy reach, as are Illinois 160 and 143, and U.S. 40.

Residents and businesses alike benefit from Highland’s fiber-to-the-home system, Highland Communication Services (HCS); it’s the state of Illinois’ first municipally owned telecommunications company. The fiber-optic network provides advanced high-speed Internet, HD television, and phone services to local businesses and residents.

To learn more, visit the city’s website at www.highland.gov, or that of the Highland Chamber of Commerce at www.highlandillinois.com.


Many military and civilian residents of Lebanon, a small, pleasant college town seven miles northeast of Scott AFB, are employed at the base. Settled in 1814, this town of almost 4,500 is noted for its old, established homes, many dating from the 1800s, as noted by the St. Clair County Historical Society. The oldest surviving structure is the Mermaid Inn, built in 1830, which British author Charles Dickens visited and praised in 1842. A large portion of the city, including the entire Main Street, has been designated a historic district and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Many of the city’s antique and specialty shops and restaurants reflect its mid-Victorian architecture and support an unhurried living and shopping atmosphere. Downtown St. Louis is only 30 minutes away via Interstate 64 or Interstate 70.

Lebanon is the site of McKendree University, the first college in Illinois, founded in 1828. The private four-year liberal arts Methodist college offers undergraduate and graduate degrees with 46 majors and 37 minors, and an average class size of only 14. Historic buildings dating back to the mid-1800s dot the 100-acre campus alongside new state-of-the-art buildings that include the $5 million Piper Academic Center and the $10 million Hettenhausen Center for the Arts, which opened in the fall of 2006.

McKendree University is also proud to have Coach Harry Statham, a 1960 alumnus, named the “most winningest active basketball coach” with more than 1,000 victories. Coach Statham also has claimed the American Midwest Conference (AMC) President’s Cup for 11 consecutive years and was inducted into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame in 2014. During his career, Statham has been named AMC Coach of the Year eight times. Lebanon is also the hometown of Craig Virgin, world cross-country champion in 1980 to 1981, who often trains on town streets.

Recreational facilities include Horner Park and lake with fishing, tennis courts, baseball diamonds and meeting facilities. The Hills Golf Club at McKendree University is a challenging 18-hole golf course, and the Looking Glass Playhouse community theater includes many members from Scott.

The nonprofit Help for Mom is a preschool/day care center with morning and afternoon sessions within walking distance of Lebanon Elementary School. Lebanon Community Unit School District No. 9 offers traditional courses and operates an elementary, junior high and high school, which has a high percentage of graduates who go on to college. A comprehensive curriculum is offered at the high school, which was built in 1984 to 1985, and a new elementary school under construction will open in 2015. The district has a learning disability program and can accommodate handicapped students.

The Lebanon Public Library www.lebanonpubliclibrary.org, (618-537-4504) has thousands of books, magazines, newspapers, periodicals, high-speed Internet, free Wi-Fi, seven public-access computers, homework help, a teen reading program, a Books to Go service for homebound adults and summer reading programs.

There are approximately a dozen churches, a dentist, optometric center, a chiropractic clinic offering acupuncture and nutritional counseling and at least 30 civic and benevolent organizations, from the Dickens Fellowship to the Garden Club to the Emerald Mound Lebanon Fire District.

To learn more, go to the City of Lebanon website, www.lebanonil.org/city (618-537-4976). The Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, www.lebanonil.us, can be reached at 618-537-8420.


Mascoutah, a community of almost 7,900 residents, is 4 miles southeast of Scott Air Force Base, which is both responsible for about 50 percent of the town’s population and served by the Mascoutah school district. A useful informational guide to the city is on the city website, www.mascoutah.com, go to “New to Mascoutah?” in the left panel, then click on “Welcome Packet” to learn everything from how to contact city officials to the speed limit in alleys (15 mph).

The first settlers named their town “Mascoutah” after the Mascouten Indians after being informed by the postal service that another Illinois town had beaten them to “Mechanicsburg,” their first choice.

The city actively seeks new businesses that create jobs while creating a strong, balanced economy, especially retail, logistics, advanced and aerospace manufacturing and export-based industries. Incentives include two TIF (Tax Increment Financing) districts; several attractive loan programs for qualifying business applicants from state and federal sources; industrial revenue bonds; and local sales tax abatements. The Illinois Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville offers low-cost or free consultation, and help developing a business plan, and the Mascoutah Public Library maintains DVDs and books about business equipment and training, thanks to a grant from the federal Small Business Administration.

The Mascoutah Chamber of Commerce is a hands-on group working to improve the community, in addition to more traditional Chamber activities. For years it operated the bowling alley and used the profits to build a municipal swimming pool, buy and pave downtown parking lots, help bring doctors to the community, beautify downtown, and even maintain the Santa hut; its involvements continue.

North-south Illinois Highway 4 that passes through Mascoutah links the city to Interstate 64 to the north and Illinois 177 to the south. MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, Mascoutah’s public use airport, is on the grounds of Scott AFB; Allegiant Airlines provides limited service to and from Orlando Sanford International Airport and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport in Florida. A new cargo terminal and customs facility is intended to attract international cargo. Travelers can hop MetroLink light rail at the Shiloh station northwest of Mascoutah to get to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

The district’s mixture of rural, suburban and military communities provides a rich and diverse educational experience for its approximately 3,700 students. About 57 percent of the district’s students are affiliated with the federal presence at Scott AFB, and an active AFJROTC program is in place at the high school.

The district includes two elementary schools — Scott Elementary and Mascoutah Elementary — with a third elementary school planned to open in 2015-2016 in Shiloh on the western boundary of the school district. Mascoutah Middle School recently expanded, and a new Mascoutah High School opened in 2011.

The Mascoutah Public Library (www.mascoutah.lib.il.us) provides a circulating collection, eShelf and other research tools, magazines, databases, reading recommendations, digital exhibits from the Illinois State Library, Titles of Note (best sellers and award winners) and story times.

There are seven churches, and the community has three parks: Scheve Park, Maple Park and Prairie Lake Park, and the Leu Civic Center. Seventy-acre Scheve Park has two swimming pools, a walking path, six baseball diamonds, two lighted tennis courts, a lighted sand volleyball court, lighted horseshoe pits, two soccer fields, 10 pavilions, several playgrounds and a restored railroad caboose and dining car. Maple Park has outdoor basketball courts, a ball-playing area, a playground and a pavilion. Prairie Lake Park has two fishing lakes, a fountain, a pavilion, and walking paths.

Recreational activities and programs are held at the Leu Civic Center, a United Way Agency. This community center houses a gymnasium, a large auditorium with stage and kitchen, indoor horseshoe pits and meeting rooms. The center is open for physical fitness, meetings, social and fundraising activities, and many volunteers help with local civic projects. The 21 organizations in town range from scouting programs and civic groups to women’s clubs and conservation organizations. The Mascoutah Improvement Association sponsors the annual three-day Homecoming and Augustfest the first weekend of August, and many local organizations work together then for the benefit of the city’s park system.

For more information, visit the City of Mascoutah website, www.mascoutah.com, or call 618-566-2964. Chamber of Commerce information can be accessed at www.mascoutahchamber.com or by calling 618-566-7355.


Millstadt, with a population of just under 4,000, was laid out in 1836 and incorporated in 1875 in southwestern St. Clair County. Many of the original settlers were from Germany and the village continues to build on this heritage by preserving historic buildings, its Sister City program with Gross-Bieberau, Germany, and efforts to create a unique, charming St. Clair County community.

Much of the character of the village comes from this heritage, including many of the well-preserved, 19th-century brick buildings. The 1931 “Tin Man” water tower with its hemispherical bottom and conical roof with a ball finial now has been replaced by a newer, larger water tower but is one of the few surviving in Illinois, and the Friends of the Old Millstadt Water Tower have organized to save it. Numerous Millstadt residents are direct descendants of the original early settlers and can share stories of long ago.

The village’s location 14 ½ miles from Scott AFB at the intersection of Illinois State Highways 158 and 163 fosters both business and family development. Millstadt is just 15 minutes from the Jefferson Barracks Bridge across the Mississippi River and 25 minutes from the Arch, and recent business expansions, retail developments and new housing opportunities are providing new amenities.

The Millstadt Chamber of Commerce is a marketing, coordinating and leveraging group of 80 local businesses that include machining, advertising, printing, food services and nonprofits. The chamber has set up a community grant program for nonprofits, awards an annual scholarship and sponsors forums for political candidates, in addition to helping plan events such as the annual Wiehnachtsfest (German Christmas Festival), complete with German food, dancing, music, holiday crafts and a noon parade featuring St. Nikolaus himself to benefit the Millstadt Sister Cities’ Youth Ambassador Exchange and other programs with Gross-Bieberau, Germany.

Millstadt offers many opportunities to get involved and help the community, such as the Chamber, American Legion Post 502 and its Auxiliary, the Historical Society, the Lions Club, the Millstadt Civic Club, the Millstadt Commercial Club, the Millstadt Optimists, the Millstadt Sports Association, Sister Cities, the Sportsmen’s Club, and school and church organizations.

Millstadt Consolidated School District No. 160 accommodates students from pre-K through eighth grade. Children from pre-school through second grade attend the Millstadt Primary Center, and those from grades three through eight go to Millstadt Consolidated School. High school students attend either Belleville West High School (District 201) or Freeburg High School (District 77).

The Millstadt Library, part of the Lewis and Clark Library System, has served the village and its surroundings since 1964. The library receives new books, adult and youth spoken-word CDs and audiobooks twice each month, and in addition to its circulating collection provides Internet access, fax and copy services, special reading programs for preschoolers in March, the Summer Reading Hour for children older than 4, and other reading programs throughout the year.

Two parks and a walking trail offer recreational opportunities for young and old. City Park on the north side of town has a children’s play area with a rocket slide, five pavilions, the village pool, horseshoe pits, a grandstand and two ball fields and an entrance to the Pine Street Nature Trail on the east side. The Nature Trail’s paved pathway is mostly shady, and its wood-chip path mixes shade and sun. Elm Street Park on the south side has a combined softball and soccer field, a basketball court, a children’s play area and a pavilion and picnic tables.

The city takes pride in its small-town atmosphere and safe environment. The Millstadt Police Department (www.millstadtpolice.org) partners with the community, and the Millstadt Fire Department, founded in 1871 (www.millstadtfire.org), is the oldest existing volunteer fire department in Illinois. The Millstadt Ambulance Service (www.villageofmillatadt.org/fire.amb/htm) is staffed by licensed Emergency Medical Technicians and ambulance drivers.

To learn more, contact the city at www.villageofmillstadt.org (618-476-1514) or the Chamber of Commerce at www.millstadtchamber.org (millstadtchamberofcommerce@gmail.com).

New Baden

New Baden, a village of 3,361 residents that straddles St. Clair and Clinton counties, is 11 miles east of Scott AFB on Route 161. With Interstate 64 at its doorstep, it’s about 30 minutes from downtown St. Louis. An increasing number of military families are taking up residence in New Baden, drawn by its excellent schools, safe neighborhoods and affordable housing.

In 1855, German immigrants founded the prairie town and it prospered until 6:15 p.m. on May 27, 1896, when a tornado ripped through more than half its 60 buildings, damaged others and killed 16 people. Residents of surrounding villages fought their way over debris-clogged roads to their stricken neighbors and spent that night searching and caring for the injured. By 1913 the determined community had rebuilt itself with sturdy brick into a lively mercantile center of about 50 businesses, among them a bank, a large hotel, a movie theater, two doctors, a dentist, a veterinarian and three gent’s furnishing stores.

The New Baden Chamber of Commerce’s 48 business members span the village’s interests, including, for example, two banks, a brokerage, attorneys, computer services, construction firms, groceries, florists, doctors, Realtors and a photographer. The city promotes economic development with the 400-acre I-64 Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and Business District at Exit 27 on Interstate 64. New Baden can offer financial incentives to businesses through property and sales tax rebates for eligible project costs.

The New Baden Police Department (www.newbadenil.com/police_department.html), the New Baden Fire Protection District (www.newbadenfiredept.org) and New Baden Ambulance and its paramedics (www.newbadenil/ambulance.html) all work to keep the village safe.

Students on the Clinton County side of New Baden enroll in Wesclin Community Unit School District No. 3 (www.newbadenil.com/schools.html or www.wesclin.k12.il.us). New Baden Elementary School has pre-K through fourth grade; St. George Elementary School teaches grades five and six; Wesclin Junior High School between New Baden and Trenton has grades seven and eight; and older students attend the new Wesclin High School that opened in Trenton in August 2014. The school district also has special education learning disability programs in the elementary and secondary schools.

Students on the St. Clair County side of New Baden attend Mascoutah Elementary, Mascoutah Middle School and Mascoutah High School in Mascoutah, to the southwest.

The O.W. Billhartz Civic Center houses a gymnasium, a cafeteria and community meeting room and the New Baden Public Library with its circulating collection, searchable databases that range from legal self-help to pricing antiques, its audiobooks and eBooks and its book club.

The 41-acre community park has a swimming pool, tennis courts, ball diamonds, soccer field, a hockey rink, a skate park, a paved walking path, playgrounds, a sand volleyball court, a basketball court, a gazebo and picnic facilities, and is the site of the annual June Jamboree and Fall Festival Chili Cook-off.

Civic organizations include the New Baden Chamber of Commerce, New Baden Lions Club, Jaycees of Illinois, American Legion Poelker Post No. 321 and Western Clinton County Senior Services.

To learn more, go to the New Baden city website, www.newbadenil.com (618-588-3813) or that of the New Baden Chamber of Commerce, www.newbadenchamber.com.


O’Fallon, right next door to Scott AFB on Interstate 64, is just 15 minutes from downtown St. Louis and five minutes from MidAmerica Airport. Scott has always been a significant provider of civilian-market jobs, stimulating O’Fallon businesses that supply many of base’s goods and services. Families moving to Scott are the foremost contributor to the area’s booming homebuilding market, one of O’Fallon’s largest industries. The Air Force base supports a direct and indirect payroll of almost $2.4 billion and has an annual $3 billion impact on the region. With 29,143 people and counting, O’Fallon is one of the fastest-growing communities in Southern Illinois and the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Col. John O’Fallon, a businessman, philanthropist, military officer, railroad magnate, nephew of explorer William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame and, at the time, the richest man in St. Louis, gave his name to the city at its founding in 1854.

There are more than 1,300 businesses in O’Fallon, from big box stores to local employers. Three new hospitals are in the offing, and the Mid-America Commerce Center at the new I-64/Exit 21 Interchange is part of O’Fallon’s push to expand its commercial, industrial, distribution and technology industries. The city has the ability to offer incentive packages to new or existing businesses by using a mix of local, state and national programs, and has three TIF districts, one enterprise zone and an AA+ bond rating.

Interstate-64 runs east-west, as does the CSX rail line, connecting the area to the St. Louis barge and shipping industry. MidAmerica Airport, on Scott AFB, is adjacent to O’Fallon, and MetroLink light rail links the city to Scott, downtown St. Louis and Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

The policy of the O’Fallon Police Department (www.ofallon.org/police-department) is to proactively fight crime and protect life and property through education, prevention and enforcement. The O’Fallon Fire Department (www.ofallonfire.com) focuses on fire prevention, fire protection and vehicle extraction. Its new Fire Headquarters and EMS facility will be completed in 2015. Emergency Medical Services (www.ofallon.org/emergency-medical-services) also offers community education classes in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, the automated external defibrillator, school seminars and Career Day events, blood pressure screenings and ambulance tours.

O’Fallon’s public school system is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as among the best. In 2013, the graduates of O’Fallon Township High School District No. 203 included 93 Illinois State Scholars, three National Merit finalists, a National Achievement Scholarship Program finalist and five appointees to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Scholarship offers for the 2013 graduates were over $23,892,000. Typically of the graduates, 67 percent enroll directly in four-year colleges and 27 percent in community colleges. The community has several private schools, seven elementary schools, three middle schools and two campuses of O’Fallon Township High School. O’Fallon joins the largest schools in the area for sports competition.

The city-supported O’Fallon Public Library with more than 80,000 materials is a portal to the entire Lewis and Clark Library System’s resources and holds children’s programs all year. In fiscal year 2013-14, patrons checked out more than 350,000 items, and thousands more visited the library to use print and electronic reference resources, access the Internet, take advantage of Wi-Fi service or computer and Internet training, take in an exhibit or attend an event.

The Arbor Day Foundation has recognized O’Fallon for 16 years in a row as a “Tree City USA.” Several charming parks are located within the city, highlighted by a 200-acre Family Sports Park and a 40-acre community park. Facilities include a swimming pool, basketball and tennis courts, state-of-the-art tournament baseball, softball, soccer and football fields, and T-ball diamonds, along with many outdoor pavilions and walking/biking trails. Sports enthusiasts will find golf, bowling, tennis and fitness facilities. Youth sports programs available throughout the year include soccer, baseball and basketball. In addition, the Parks and Recreation Department offers classes, the community center has been renovated and the YMCA has an indoor swimming pool and rock wall.

To learn more, go to the city website at www.ofallon.org (618-624-4500) or the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce at www.ofallonchamber.com (618-632-3377).


In 1807, what is now Shiloh had no inhabitants but did have a name — “Three Springs” — from three gushing freshwater springs at the foot of a hill where church camp meetings were held. The first home was built there 38 years later, in 1845, and the name “Shiloh” appeared when the area was laid out and recorded in 1845. Farmers and miners, mostly Germans, moved in and prospered and in 1905 organized into a village. They believed in education: Shiloh had the first one-room schoolhouse in St. Clair County.

The village landmark, Shiloh’s red and white water tower, is 145 feet tall, on one of the highest points in St. Clair County, and can be seen for miles. Shiloh, population 13,107 in 2012, has the closest residential neighborhood to Scott Air Force Base, with many homes less than a mile from the main gate. The village is about 16 miles east of St. Louis, and Interstate 64 runs along the northern edge of town. MidAmerica Airport is minutes to the east, and it takes less than a half-hour to get to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Bus and light rail service link residents to St. Louis and the rest of the Metro East region. Belleville lies just to the southwest, and O’Fallon to the north.

Everything is close to Shiloh: professional baseball, football and hockey, the St. Louis Zoo, museums and theaters just over the river in St. Louis, golf courses, and colleges and universities, among them McKendree University, Southwestern Illinois College and Southern Illinois University.

Shiloh and nearby O’Fallon collaborate on economic development with their joint O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce. Police protection is local, and the department’s website iswww.shilohil.org/police-department.

Shiloh shoppers have plenty of choices, what with the local Green Mount Crossing Shopping Center and other malls and centers close at hand.

Children attend elementary and middle school in the village, then go on to high school in nearby O’Fallon or Belleville.

For recreation and get-togethers, there’s Shiloh Park with its pavilions and 9/11 Memorial, as well as the 3-mile Three Springs Walking Trail, the Senior Center and Klucker Hall. Hunters, fishers, campers and boaters will find ample opportunities, too. The landmark 1835 Engelman Farm, one of the oldest intact farmsteads in Illinois, has two historic homes, farm fields, woods and family cemetery, and an effort is underway to make it a public park.

To learn more, visit the city website at www.shilohil.org (618-632-1022), or the website for the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce, www.ofallonchamber.com (618-632-3577).


The Village of Swansea, in what was becoming a major agricultural resource for the nation, really started thriving in the late 1800s as the site of the manufacturer of that time’s most efficient grain drills, which greatly reduced waste and increased crop yields by planting seeds uniformly. This bustling industry drew in a population that included farmers, industrial workers and businessmen.

Swansea grew rapidly as coal mines were constructed underground and brickyards built. Even as workers poured in and began to build homes in the area, the community remained just an adjunct to Belleville for years, without its own government. Then in 1886, a handful of residents circulated a petition to form their own town and gave it the name of Swansea. An independent community formed, and by Dec. 20, a formal municipality was established. Since that day, Swansea has consistently been one of the fastest-growing communities within the Metro East area and today has a population of almost 13,800.

Swansea serves as a bridge between southwestern Illinois communities such as Belleville and St. Louis, enjoying the benefits of a metropolis while maintaining a small-town atmosphere. The largest shopping mall in the area, St. Clair Square, is just north of Swansea in Fairview Heights. Two major hospitals and a variety of restaurants are in neighboring Belleville. Scott AFB is just minutes away, and St. Louis is only a 15- to 20-minute drive.

There are two elementary and middle school districts within Swansea: High Mount and Wolf Branch. Some Swansea residents also attend Franklin Elementary or Whiteside Elementary, both in Belleville. The Belleville Township High School District No. 201, including Belleville East and Belleville West High Schools, serves many Swansea students. Residents seeking higher education have multiple choices: public and private, community colleges and major universities, and trade academies.

The Village of Swansea has two major parks. The 30-acre Centennial Park, located off Route 161, is one of St. Clair County’s largest nature preservation parks. Within the park are a fishing lake, hiking trails and excellent picnic areas. The 24-acre Melvin Price Memorial Park, at the 1500 block of Caseyville Avenue, has a community center, several athletic fields including baseball and softball diamonds, a soccer field, a hockey arena, a dog park and picnic pavilions. The park also includes a Veterans Memorial, a 9/11 Memorial and a Korean War Memorial.

Swansea residents enjoy the protection of both a local police department (618-233-8114) and a fire department (618-234-3291).

Chambers of commerce in Swansea and nearby Fairview Heights combined forces in 2013 in a single organization, the Metro-East Regional Chamber of Commerce, to encourage development, particularly of transportation and communication facilities, support a healthy economy and tax base and promote laws beneficial to businesses.

To learn more, visit the Village of Swansea website at www.swanseail.org (618-234-0044), or that of the Metro-East Regional Chamber of Commerce, www.metroeastchamber.org (618-233-3938).


Troy is one of the oldest communities in Madison County, being entered in the U.S. Land Office in 1814 and laid out in 1819.

Its fortuitous location turned out to be in the path of America’s transportation corridors, and it began to thrive in the second half of the 19th century with the arrival of a stagecoach route that came only to be replaced by the St. Louis and Vandalia Railroad. However, Troy’s biggest growth was between 1970 and 1980, thanks to what was then the new Interstate highway system. Troy is at the crossroads of two Interstates, north-south I-55 and east-west I-70, and has access as well to I-270, U.S. 40 and U.S. 162. Lambert-St. Louis International Airport is 32 miles to the west, and two Amtrak stations are less than a half-hour drive away, one in St. Louis and another in Alton, Illinois.

Today, Troy’s population of almost 10,000 enjoys its small-town atmosphere but is only 20 minutes away from big-city attractions — professional sports, theaters, museums, fine restaurants, etc. The community is 12 miles north of the main gate of Scott AFB, and the commute is a pleasant one, with no traffic problems.

Troy has affordable homes in every price range, from neat two-bedroom dwellings downtown, to five-bedroom homes on lakefront lots, to houses on tracts of various sizes.

The Triad School District consists of elementary, middle and senior high schools, offering bus service to outlying areas and a complete curriculum including industrial arts, agricultural programs and all major sports.

Library patrons can draw on the resources of Troy’s Tri-Township Public Library (www.troylibrary.org), which has more than 40,000 items, among them books, electronic databases and periodicals, audiobooks, eBooks, music, movies, homework and research help, activities and Internet access, and serves Troy and the townships of Collinsville, Jarvis and Pin Oak. The Troy Genealogical Society holds its meetings there, and so does the Troy Historical Society. The library is part of the Illinois Heartland Library System.

The Tri Township Park has lighted softball, baseball and soccer fields, lighted tennis courts, a fishing lake, pavilions, a community center and a skating center. The park is the home of the Troy Soccer Club as well as boys and girls baseball and softball. A senior center offers numerous activities for area senior citizens, including bingo, educational classes and day trips.

The Troy/Maryville/St. Jacob/Marine Area Chamber of Commerce consolidates support for businesses in all four of the sister communities with Morning Mingles, Networking Luncheons, Business After Hours and other activities and projects.

The city has local police and fire protection with the Troy Police Department (618-667-6731), and the Troy Fire Protection District (618-667-6721).

To learn more, visit the Troy website at www.troyil.us (618-667-1040) or that of the Troy/Maryville/St. Jacob/Marine Area Chamber of Commerce at www.troycc.com (618-233-8114).

Village of Maryville

Founded in 1902 on rich seams of coal, the Village of Maryville, population 7,782 in 2013, is one of the fastest-growing areas of the Metro East area of Illinois. Its central location allows for easy access anywhere in the region. Downtown St. Louis is 12 minutes away, and Lambert-St. Louis International Airport can be reached in less than a half hour. The town is bordered by Interstate 55/70 on the south and by I-270 on the north.

Because of its central site, many organizations have chosen to locate in Maryville, among them Anderson Hospital, gas and electricity supplier Ameren, Charter Communications, the regional office of the YMCA and five banking institutions.

The full-service community has a progressive local government, a fully staffed police department (618-344-8899), and 24-hour fire, ambulance and emergency medical services (618-344-8099). Maryville owns and maintains its own water treatment facility.

Public school children in Maryville attend Maryville Elementary School, then go on to middle school and high school in Collinsville,
12 minutes away, as part of Maryville-Collinsville Community Unit School District No. 10.

The Maryville Community Library (www.maryville.lib.us) is a member of the Illinois Heartland Library System and has ready access to its millions of materials. At the library, patrons can find story hours, summer reading programs, a teen book club, two adult reading groups and numerous activities and presentations.

Golfing, fishing, archery, arcades, a winery and specialty restaurants provide something for everyone in Maryville, which also is home to one of the area’s largest baseball and softball Khoury Leagues.

Of the city’s five parks, two are established, one, Pleasant Ridge Park, is under development and will have pavilions, a playground, a walking trail, horseshoe pits, volleyball and game fields and restrooms, and two more are in the works. Drost Park has a seven-acre lake, a boat ramp, 3 miles of walking trails, pavilions, picnic tables, barbecue grills, benches and playgrounds, and Fireman’s Park, in front of the Fire Department, is a popular gathering place with its pavilion, tables and barbecue pits.

Businesses work together with others in nearby towns to foster development in the Troy/Maryville/St. Jacob/Marine Area Chamber of Commerce.

Home-shoppers can choose among single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and villas, and an assisted living facility for retirement-aged residents. Maryville has one of the highest median household income levels in Metro East, but more important, a hometown atmosphere where people know their neighbors, and children can play in safety and security.

To learn more, visit the Village of Maryville website at www.vil.maryville.il.us (618-745-7027) or that of the Troy/Maryville/St. Jacob/Marine Area Chamber of Commerce at www.troycc.com (618-667-8769).

039: Handyman Tools Every Apartment Dweller Should Own

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to own a house to make home improvements. There are plenty of DIY and redesign projects renters can enjoy as they personalize their living spaces. Whether you want to remodel your rental kitchen, evenly hang wall art or simply avoid calling your property manager, every apartment needs a toolbox. Beyond the absolute basics — a hammer, screwdriver, pliers, wrench and measuring tape — here are eight handy tools you need to own.

1. Laser Level
Never hang a picture crooked again. A laser level allows you to hang décor like pictures and wall shelves without the help of another person. Laser levels can be placed on the floor, put on a tripod or simply mounted on your wall. Use the laser to find an even line, and once you’re done drilling or nailing, simply step back to admire your evenly hung painting.

2. Utility Knife
A utility knife is one of the most basic and essential tools in a handyman’s kit, and it will help you avoid crooked edges or an injury from a pair of scissors or a dull blade. A utility knife makes it easy to cut heavy materials, including plastic and linoleum, as well as simpler materials like cardboard boxes. If you are thinking of updating your cabinets with contact paper, a utility knife will make it a breeze.

3. Allen Wrench Set
Also known as Allen keys or hex keys, an Allen wrench is an L-shaped tool used to secure bolts and screws with hexagonal heads. A set of Allen wrenches in different sizes is essential for repairing your bike or assembling and disassembling furniture. It can even help you pick a lock if you accidentally lock yourself out of a room.

4. Stud Finder
A stud is an important part of your apartment — it supports the framework of your home and is how your drywall is attached. There’s no easier way to lose your deposit than by drilling multiple holes in a wall because you can’t find a stud. A stud finder will help you locate a stud so you can securely nail or screw in shelves, televisions, cabinets or oversized pictures without worrying about the item ripping through drywall.

5. Crosscut Saw
A crosscut saw is a standard saw that DIYers love. It’s small, easy to store and works best for simple projects like DIY planter boxes and shelves. Make sure you use a blade guard when storing the saw to protect the blade, your other tools and yourself.

6. Garbage Disposal Wrench
Got yourself in a jam — literally? A garbage disposal wrench is a necessity for any apartment or home with a garbage disposal. With a swivel head design, you can safely dislodge garbage disposal shredder plate jams. It’s an easier and less expensive solution than hiring a plumber and possibly having to replace your disposal.

7. Vise Grip
A vise grip has a myriad of uses and is capable of doing the jobs of pliers, pipe wrenches, wire cutters, clamps and ratchets. Also called locking pliers, vice grips can remove broken or stripped screws, loosen jammed nuts, clamp items in place and open a zipper if the pull breaks off.

8. Electric Drill
An electric drill might sound like a luxury. However, once you use one, you’ll wonder how you ever completed a project with only a screwdriver. Not only does it make it quick and easy to drill holes and drive screws, but it also provides better and more accurate results than a manual drill.

Now that you have your collection of essential tools, it’s time to get started on a few DIY projects. Begin by hanging that picture you’ve been putting off for weeks or making your own bookshelf.

Credit: For Rent

038: 5 Tips for Decorating Your First Rental

So you’re moving into your first apartment! You finally have a place to call your own. You can arrange the furniture however you like, and you can get started making all those projects saved on your pin boards! But before you jump in and decorate every last inch of your new place, consider these five tips for creating a space that is both high in style and perfectly you!

Hone In on Your Personal Style

Shabby chic. Modern. Eclectic. Rustic. Traditional. Bohemian. There are so many different styles you can include in your home. Before you go shopping and start filling up your space, spend some time collecting inspiration. Peruse Pinterest, clip pictures from magazines and snap photos of any rooms, styles, displays, fashions and imagery that inspire you. Consider creating a dedicated pin board or make a binder to help tease out the styles and looks you like best. While you can (and should!) include elements from a variety of different styles, it is best to nail down a primary style for your space before you start to fill it!

Pick a Color Palette

Don’t know where to start with color? Check out our color eGuide!

Just as you should try to nail down a predominant style for your space, also use your inspirational images to determine what colors you are drawn to most. Do you find yourself pinning the same color combinations over and over? Do you gravitate toward certain colors in your wardrobe? Do you prefer soft and muted, or high contrast and bold? Don’t stress about solidifying specific colors and combinations. Instead, pick one color to be your predominant color, then two others to be a light and heavy accent. As you shop or collect items for your home, pick items that work within that scheme.

Start with Function

While it may be fun to shop for decorative accessories and throw pillows, start first with large, functional items. Large pieces, such as furniture, bear the weight of the design and style of a space. As such, try to pick larger elements that convey the look and feel you want in your rental. Space is often at a premium in apartment living, so focus primarily on items that are necessary and/or multi-purpose. Once you have added in the solid, functional elements of the room, next layer in smaller items that have more color, personality and flair!

A coffee table is often a “must” for any home! Check out these functional coffee table solutions to determine what will work best in your space!

Shop Around

It may be tempting to walk into a single home store (ahem, IKEA) and leave with everything you need to set up and decorate your apartment. And while this method is certainly efficient, achieving a stylish, well-designed look often requires bringing in items from a variety of sources. Combine high-end and used pieces. Shop new stores, thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales. Incorporate DIY where you can. Don’t rush to fill your home with random, meaningless stuff. With the functional bones of your space in place, take all the time you need to find the items you truly love and feel like you!

Be Mindful of Your Budget

While it is indeed much fun to set up and decorate your first place, remember that this is your very first place. Even with proper research and the best of intentions, your style will most likely evolve, your tastes may change, and it might even take a while to fully settle on a style that truly feels like you. Resist the urge to blow your bank account furnishing your first apartment. There will most likely be other apartments or homes in your future, and you will get a chance to try different looks, colors and styles as you go. Set a realistic budget and stick to it.

Setting up and decorating your first home is a fun and exciting endeavor, but it can also be overwhelming and challenging! Before you start, do some research! Use magazines and the Internet to help you hone in on your preferred style and color palette. Shop a variety of stores for functional items first, then add in decorative elements to tie your style together. By sticking to these easy and fool-proof steps, you’ll be well on your way to a personal and stylish first home!

Credit: For Rent

037: Celebrate Summer With Patriotic Décor

Summer is winding down, and that means it’s time to add some patriotic décor to our homes. Whether you want to go all out with red, white and blue, or you just want a few simple touches, we have the ideas that will bring Americana into your home for the season.

Add some festive flair to any room with these ideas.

You can, of course, add an American flag to your home décor, and this can be done in a variety of ways. Here we added a large painted American flag to a patriotic mantel. You can easily paint any board to look like a flag, or purchase one online. This type of patriotic décor can be used year after year in a variety of ways.

You can also use versions of the flag itself as décor. Here we purchased a replica of an old version of the flag and trimmed it to work as a table runner. This idea works great for your home décor or just for a Fourth of July party.

Marquee signs are all the rage, and décor that lights up screams Americana to me! Here we turned a box into a fun patriotic marquee sign. Light it up for a fun and festive addition to your patriotic décor. Make a few of these for outdoor parties during the summer. They’re perfect for lighting up the night!

You can also use red, white and blue string lights around your home for parties and more. Here we used the string lights in mason jars for a cute display. This is perfect for the center of a table at any patriotic party you’re hosting this summer.

If you love to party during the summer, patriotic décor is definitely the way to go! Make sure you serve up your dishes on patriotic-themed plates and serving trays. Add your napkins, straws, silverware and more to patriotic-themed containers.

You can even add patriotic-themed labels to the food. Kick your Fourth of July party up a notch by trying a few of these ideas. Your guests will love the additional festive touches, and you may be able to use a few of them around your home even after the party ends.

However you add patriotic décor to your home, it is sure to liven up your space over the summer months. Use a few of our ideas for the entire summer or just for those great summer parties. Either way, celebrate America this summer by adding a little red, white and blue to your home!

Credit: For Rent

036: Tips to Save Time When Packing for a Move

At one point or another, everyone has to make a move. Whether it’s your first move or a move for a job, we all have to take that step eventually. Moving comes with plenty of challenges, but today let’s talk about a few ways you can not only save time but save your belongings.

Gather Supplies Ahead of Time
You can never prepare too early for a move. Once you know your move is definite, it’s time to start picking up your supplies. Make a checklist and start purchasing those things when you’re out running errands. You will always run across other items you need, but these will get you started!

-Boxes (of different sizes)
-Packing tape
-Sharpie for labeling
-Bubble wrap, newspaper and old towels

Pack in Tubs When Possible
After many moves, I have determined that tubs are a great way to pack up. If you have items you plan to keep in closets or your outdoor storage closet, you might consider using tubs to keep from transferring these items after the move. This will keep them safer from the elements, including potential water damage and any insects that might be lurking in your new location.

Organize by Room
Try not to mix items from different rooms in the same box. This helps tremendously when unloading and unpacking. Once you pack each box, label it according to the room it will be in so that when you’re unloading, you can put it in the correct spot without moving it all over your new home.

Don’t Pack Empty Space
When packing, the goal is to get all your belongings into as few boxes as possible. To do this, make sure you fill any awkward spaces in your boxes with smaller items. It’s always best to start with your larger or heavier items on the bottom and work your way up, filling those empty spaces with smaller, lighter items.

Pack Breakables Well
We all have things that are breakable, and this is the one exception to mixing items from different rooms. When packing anything delicate or glass, I like to use towels and washcloths for padding. This helps protect your items while eliminating boxes that would otherwise be filled with just towels.

Credit: For Rent

035: Personalize Your Entryway With a DIY Doormat

Your entryway is the first impression friends and family have when they visit your home. It sets the tone for what they can expect when they enter your space. Unfortunately, it’s also a part of your home that is sometimes forgotten. If you’re like me, you focus so much on the interior that the front door is sometimes forgotten.

Lately, my husband and I have been focusing on the exterior of our home. I’ve added new potted plants near the front door to add a nice, cozy and lively welcome. This new custom owl doormat also is sure to bring a smile to my guests as they step up to the door.

I wanted the doormat to be whimsical and cheerful. As a child, I loved knock, knock jokes! I was known to read joke books over and over so I could memorize them and amuse my brothers. So I thought it’d be so fun to add one of my childhood memories to this project.

What’s cool about this easy-to-make project is that this doormat is a perfect way to add your personality to your space (even a DIY beginner can do it). Are you snarky, silly or classic? Paint a saying that fits your style. Not into owls but love dogs? Paint a dog on your mat instead. Just Google “stencil template” with your animal of choice and you’ll find a bevy of options.

When choosing a paint color, go lighter. I played with darker colors and they didn’t pop like the white did. So I chose to go all white with the paint, but of course you can paint whatever color goes with your theme and color palette.

-Natural doormat
-Craft paint
-Sayings printed out from your home computer (I used Cooper Black font, size 230)
Printed-out owl template
-Craft knife
-Straight pins (not shown in photo)


Step 1: Use the craft knife to cut out the printed sayings and owl. I used a cutting board as a backdrop for this part of the project.

Step 2: Pin the words onto the doormat with the straight pins.

Step 3: Paint inside the stencils. Originally, I thought a stencil foam brush would work. I was wrong. I realized a traditional brush was better suited for the texture of the doormat.

Step 4: Place your owl stencil in the center of the doormat.

Step 5: Paint three owls and let dry.

Credit: For Rent

034: IKEA Hacks for Your Apartment

Apartment living most often means limited space — and although that might sound like a disadvantage, it helps free you from the “too much stuff” curse while also teaching you to be clever about what you keep and buy. And that very cleverness is where IKEA products can come into play for apartment dwellers — the pieces are so versatile that a little customization can make them feel entirely unique.

Here are our favorite IKEA hacks to help you make the smartest use of your space:

Faux Built-Ins

Built-in bookcases are on pretty much everyone’s wish list, but not many apartments come with such a luxury. IKEA cabinets to the rescue! The hack pictured above involves disassembling and reassembling cabinets, such as the HEMNES or BILLY sets. The job requires some sweat, but it can be completed by a novice. Skip calling a carpenter and paying thousands of dollars for built-ins; do it yourself instead!

Shoe Holder as a Craft Supply Station

Let’s face it: Most apartments don’t have a spare room that can be used as a craft paradise. And since craft supplies aren’t necessarily crucial to everyday life, you may end up shoving them to the top corner of the closet. At that point, it’s such an ordeal to retrieve them that it’s tempting to buy new supplies rather than dig the old ones out. But don’t despair; you can use the BISSA shoe cabinet and PLUGGIS container set to keep yarn, thread, craft paper, paint, buttons, etc. within reach — and well-organized. Check out the hack here.

Clear Counters

Kitchen storage is absolutely crucial. When you don’t have much cabinet and pantry space, you have to get vertically creative. The wall space above counters is often wasted space in most apartments — but not with this clever fix: Use one of IKEA’s rail systems to hang cooking utensils, paper towels and spices in order to clear up cabinets and countertops. And if you need even more heavy-duty storage, transform the GRUNDTAL drying rack into overhead pot and pan storage. Check out other kitchen storage options to make your space even more ideal.

DIY Bar Cart

Bar carts are the perfect entertaining solution for apartment dwellers. If you’re already having to create more storage for your cooking utensils, you definitely don’t have the space to spare for cocktail, martini, wine or Moscow Mule glasses, much less the stock of alcohol and necessary fixings. But before you go drop a couple hundred bucks on such a piece, consider this DIY: Make a colorful bar cart out of the VITTSJO laptop table. It’s small enough to hide in a corner when not in use, but its tiered storage allows for much more storage room than pre-made models you would find for three or four times the price. Or paint it for a pop of pretty color you won’t ever want to roll out of sight.

Wardrobe Storage

Out of closet room? Of course you are. But instead of continuing to jam things in an overstuffed closet, buy a simple luggage rack and hang a bright and friendly SKUBB organizer from the rod. Use it to store seasonal clothes and shoes that you find yourself wearing most often. That way you have convenient access to your favorite and most versatile pieces.

Credit: For Rent

033: Entertaining Guests in a Small Space

Have you ever wanted to host a holiday or birthday party, or just a simple get-together, but feared you didn’t have the space to do so in your apartment? Don’t let a tiny apartment stop your party plans in their tracks. With a little creativity and imagination, you can throw the ultimate get-together or social affair without letting small living quarters stand in your way. Try the tips below to tap into your apartment’s party potential.

No Table? No Problem

If your kitchen has an island or breakfast bar, set up food buffet-style for your guests or use a desk in the corner of your living/dining area for the same purpose. Want a unique table setting? Cover a coffee table with a stylish tablecloth and place an assortment of comfy pillows around it for your guests to recline on.

Make Room to Move

Whether you’re living in a studio or a two-bedroom apartment, space can always feel limited, especially when guests are over. Consider moving your furniture around to better suit the party’s needs. Pushing your couch or other large pieces of furniture up against a wall can create additional space and make your home feel larger.

Keep Dishware Simple

Use disposable plates and utensils to keep dishes from pilling up in the sink, as dish clutter can make a tiny space feel cramped. This tip will also make for an easier clean up after the party has ended.

Put Coats Undercover

Smaller apartments may not have a coat closet for your guests to store their belongings. Designate your bedroom for guests to store their jackets, coats and purses to keep clutter at bay.

Use the Kitchen Sink

Afraid that a cooler might take up precious space? Instead of bringing in a cooler to chill your beverages, maximize your space by filling your sink with ice and placing drink assortments there. Not only does this save space, but it also allows for an easy cleanup due to being able to drain the ice water when finished.

Set the Mood

Go with soft lighting — like lamps, candles or string lights — to give your home an inviting glow. Adding music in the background can set the party’s tone, but keep it low so it doesn’t drown out conversation or become too overwhelming in your space.

Welcome in the Breeze

Small spaces warm up fast, which can be great in the winter. For the summer months, though, make sure your guests keep cool — finish cooking before they arrive and consider leaving a window open to keep fresh air circulating.

Credit: Apartment Guide

032: Deciding Between The City vs. The Suburbs

Location is everything when it comes to apartment hunting. It’s important to choose an area of town that fits your lifestyle — so you can enjoy the most from your new home and the surrounding neighborhood. Consider these tips to help you find a great location that meets all of your needs:

Space: Big vs. Small

You get the most bang for your buck as far as square footage the further away you live from the city center. So if you have your eye on more square-footage or additional bedrooms, the suburbs tend to offer space that won’t break your budget. Living in the city will put you closer to everything that is happening, but your trade-off will be smaller spaces for more money.

Amenities: Close By vs. Drive By

The best shopping, dining and entertainment are at your fingertips when living in the city — with nightlife right in your backyard and everything else within walking distance for the most part. Some rental communities in the city also tout amenities like a gym and a pool on-site that are steps away from residents’ doors. A place just outside of city limits will be able to offer more trails, parks, and surrounding space and while shops and restaurants may not be walking distance, they are still accessible.

Commute Times: Long vs. Short

If you cringe at the thought of bumper-to-bumper highway traffic during your work commute into the city, consider moving closer to work to save time and gas money. Being a city dweller also means having robust access to public transportation — like buses and trains — to get you where you need to go more smoothly. Some people choose to live in the city center although they work in the suburbs – it all depends on how far you’re willing to drive.

The View: Cityscape vs. Tree-lined Neighborhood

Skyscraper views can be stunning if it’s high enough and in the right corner of town, otherwise there’s a good chance of it being a stark brick-and-mortar view of the next building door, with little sunlight coming in. Alternatively, living just outside the city can offer you more of nature’s beautiful views. If you know you’re the type of person that likes being surrounded by nature, then a high- rise might not be for you.

Whichever area of town you choose, make sure you weigh all the pros and cons of peace and quiet, safety, costs and lifestyle, so you can find the best place that suits your needs.

Credit: Apartment Guide

031: How To Find A Roommate

Finding a roommate is a lot like dating. There has to be chemistry and common ground to create a match that’s made in heaven. At the end of the day, a good roommate should be someone you can enjoy coming home to — whether it’s a friend, a family member, an acquaintance or a total stranger. Finding the right fit can be the difference between living happily ever after and living in a nightmare. These tips will help guide you on choosing a suitable roommate:

Get a Taste of Their Lifestyle

Early riser or night owl? Friends over often? Parties soft, hard or not at all? Finding out about a potential roommate’s lifestyle and daily habits can help you figure out what you don’t mind living with, what you can compromise on and what are deal breakers for you beforehand. Meet over coffee or drinks to break the ice — especially if it’s a multi-roommate situation. Don’t forget to ask about the little things, too — like housekeeping styles and how they manage the thermostat.

Set Expectations

Are you looking for a non-smoker? Someone who loves pets? Be upfront about what you’re seeking in a roommate — including sharing household chores and sharing toiletries or food. More importantly, let a potential roommate know when rent is due so there are no misunderstandings. Knowing what expectations are from the beginning will help you avoid any conflicts during your time together.

Reliability Matters

Make sure he or she has a history of paying rent on time, with a steady job or another source of income. College students may have parents or a stipend that can help cover costs, but beware of a non-college student who jumps jobs often — it could mean trouble for you down the road.

Get a Second Opinion

If you are deciding whether to live with a stranger, ask for references from past roommates to vouch for someone’s character, reliability and livability. If you don’t have another roommate that can weigh in, ask a friend who is a good judge of character to help you vet him or her. A trusted friend may be able to spot any red flags that you may have missed.

Don’t Rush It

If possible, give yourself at least one to two months in advance to find a roommate. Otherwise you could rush right into sharing a space with someone who pushes your buttons — and your sanity.

Above all, make sure a roommate is someone you can trust — who can respect your space, personal items, food and — if you have any — your pets. Remember that most typical leases are for a year, so once you sign with this roommate, it’s usually a done deal. Lastly, be the kind of roommate that you’re searching for. Follow all of the tips above!

Do you have any additional tips on finding someone to live with? Share yours in the comments below!

Credit: Apartment Guide

030: Make a Rental Space Feel More Like Home

Home is where your heart is — even if your next home is temporary. Though it may seem challenging to make a rental space home, whether you plan to live there a few months or a few years, it can be done. The good news is it doesn’t take a lot to make it happen. A few inexpensive, small changes can go a long way. Try these simple tips to transform anyplace into your own special space:

Create the Fragrance of Home

Your favorite scented candles, air fresheners, Incense or potpourri can easily awaken the feeling of home. Whether it be a favorite scent from your past home, or a new scent that you choose for this new home, it can make you feel that much more at peace while living there.

Let the Walls Speak to You

Fill empty walls with pictures of loved ones and favorite places to make you feel right at home. Try grouping pictures together in different rooms. Hanging paintings or other artwork to add personality to your space can make a space feel more like yours, too, depending on your style. If you don’t feel like putting holes in the wall or simply are not allowed to, use temporary stickers and decals for décor.

Display a Few of Your Favorite Things

For many people, cherished items bring comfort. The same can be said for favorite décor items like throw pillows, a special quilt or even a favorite decoration. Having a few items like these on display can not only evoke happiness but make your space feel more personal.

Spend Time in the Kitchen

Nothing says “home” like a good, home-cooked meal. Put your kitchen to good use by preparing your favorite dishes or comfort foods to create a stronger sense of home. Inviting friends or family over to enjoy a meal can also help you to feel more at home.

Get Comfy

If your space doesn’t come furnished, invest in a few pieces of furniture. The key is to buy for quality not quantity. For example, if budget is an issue, splurge on a comfy couch but forgo the coffee table for now. If you have hardwood floors, buy an area rug to add a touch of personality. As for storage containers, don’t go for the plastic ones. Instead, opt for earthy, natural materials like baskets, linen bags and wood crates for an appealing look.

Remember, making the most of your space with a few personal touches can definitely help it feel more like home sweet home wherever you go.

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029: Moving With Families

Packing and moving into a new home can seem like an unmanageable task when you first begin. The planning and organization that goes into the move seems to be endless and the stress that goes along with it can make you question your decision to move in the first place, and moving with a family in tow only adds to that stress. More people and more items to keep track of during the entire process can be daunting, but not to worry, below are some helpful moving tips to keep in mind during your moving process to help ease your worry.

Prepare to Pack

Before you even begin to box up the contents of your home, take advantage of the perfect opportunity you have to empty out that hall closet or finally get rid of clothes that have been outgrown. Taking the time to go through your things and getting rid of what you don’t need will save you both time and energy when both packing up your old home and unpacking at your new home. If you’re downsizing, or moving to a home where you have less storage, consider organizing a garage sale to make a little extra money on items you no longer need.

Hire a Babysitter

Moving is a long process, and trying to find a way to entertain the kids while doing so will really only add stress to the overall process. So when you’re planning for the big day, ask yourself if hiring a babysitter would be the best decision for everyone involved. That way, you can focus on making sure everything gets to where it needs to be in your new place. Taking care of this early on in the process can ease your worry and help you concentrate on everything else you need to get done on moving day.

Make a Moving Checklist

Keep track of important tasks by making a checklist that works for everyone involved in the move, from the family to the movers. Unfortunately the reality is that moving is a time-consuming process and trying to get it all done too fast can add stress where it isn’t needed, it’s important to plan out the move by making a schedule and trying to stick to it as much as possible. This goes for both before and during the move. Setting a timeline for when you will have certain rooms of the house packed up can keep you easily in check and help you avoid trying to pack everything in one day. You can even go so far as to have a timeline detailing when you plan to have everything unpacked in the new home so you don’t end up with boxes that go unopened for too long.

Label Boxes

Any move with a family can quickly get confusing, and the last thing you want to realize is that the boxes you just carried upstairs to the bedroom actually belong downstairs in the kitchen. The easiest way to tackle this issue is to label by writing on the boxes or using color-coded tape to denote certain rooms. This makes it easy to identify what goes where and will help you to avoid breaking anything in an unlabeled box. Take the time to figure out exactly how many boxes and what packing supplies you’ll need so you’re not forced to stop the moving process to make trips to the store.

At the end of the day, moving into a new home is bound to be part of each and everyone’s lives. As long as you plan ahead and make the right choices for your move, both you and your family will stay calm and collected. If your family recently made a move, what were some things you wish you knew? Share in the comments below!

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028: What's Your Apartment Type?

One of the first questions you should ask yourself when beginning the search for an apartment is the following: What are my needs? Having the answer to this question before you start your search can easily help you narrow down your vast number of options, and make the overall process less stressful for you. When apartment hunting, we first break down the search by deciding the type of apartment we are looking for:

The Studio vs. The One-Bedroom

Do you need separation of space or do you prefer to live in one big open room? If you are moving into an apartment alone, this is a crucial question. Studios are typically one large room with a kitchen and full bathroom. On occasion, there is a dividing wall, but no doors except on closets and the bathroom. One bedroom apartments are usually larger than a typical studio with a bedroom, kitchen, and living room that are separated by both walls and doors. The one bedroom offers more privacy while the studio allows for an open concept space.

The High-Rise vs. The Mid-Rise

This is especially important if you live in a city location. If you love being away from the noise and hustle and bustle, then a high-rise may be the perfect fit and the type of apartment you need to focus your search around. Many high-rises offer great views of the city and have high security standards. Looking for something not as high up? A mid-rise may be the right choice for you. Due to mid-rises being less in the city and more in suburban settings, it could be the perfect fit for a family, with options like parks and play areas nearby.

Live and Play vs. The Duplex

Are you interested in having other amenities and commercial business nearby? “Live and Play” apartments feature great additional properties that can enhance your living situation by offering restaurants and shops, however these apartments also mean increased foot traffic in the area. If you don’t want as many people in or around your space, duplexes are another living option. They can have 2-3 separate units or a single apartment with multiple floors. A duplex will have stairs connecting the different floors and will still offer the privacy that you desire.

Although it may not seem like a big deal, figuring out which type of apartment suits your needs is crucial in the apartment hunting process and can save you time and effort in the long run. What type of apartment do you live in? Has it met all of your needs? Share your story below!

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027: Apartment Storage Hack

Under-bed boxes are a great place to store sheets, blankets, and off-season clothes. Check out this great option from Ikea!

Bed not quite high enough? Use risers under your bed legs, available at any department or home store, for additional space.

Credit: Skyline Living

026: What To Look For In A Team Sport

Getting involved in a team sport is a great way to exercise, enjoy the weather, and meet new people. Finding the right one will make sure you and/or your kids have fun! If you’re interested in sports, these are some things to keep in mind:

  1. What’s your sport? Figure out what interests you. Try a few drop-in or recreational sports to see what you like before signing up for a whole season.
  2. What’s your budget? Consider uniforms, equipment costs, registration fees, transportation, and insurance. 

    TIP: Many organizations, such as Canadian Tire’s JumpStart and KidSport Ontario, offer funding to offset the costs of kids’ sports. Some local businesses and community organizations also sponsor teams – it never hurts to ask!
  3. What’s your skill level? If you have no experience, look for the words “fun,” “no skill required,” “open,” etc. Kids are usually signed up based on age. Meet with the league organizers or coach and ask what the skill expectations are. Make sure you’re comfortable with how competitive the other players are.
  4. What’s your commitment? Consider what level of commitment you can make. If you can’t be on a team that needs you every week, look for a drop-in league.

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025: The One Pot Vegetable Garden

A one-pot vegetable garden is a great option for apartment patios and balconies:

  • Select several different veggies to grow together (look for similar sun and water needs)
  • Start separately in small pots indoors from seed, or just buy started plants from your local garden centre
  • Once chance of frost has passed, plant your veggies in a large container (2’ x 3’ is a good size)
  • Keep the soil evenly moist, place the container in the sun, and enjoy!

WINNING COMBINATION: One tomato plant, one or two pepper plants (sweet or hot, up to you!), two green onion plants, a few basil plants, and a cilantro plant. Fresh salsa and spaghetti sauce all summer long!

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024: Emergency Grab Bag

The recent tragedy in Fort McMurray forced over 85,000 people from their homes. Many had less than an hour warning that they would need to evacuate. How prepared would you be if this happened to you?

You never know when an emergency will force you to leave in a hurry. Consider keeping an emergency bag in an easy-to-access location near the exit.

Some things you may want to include:

  • Bottled water
  • First aid kit (include any prescriptions, extra glasses or contact lenses you may need)
  • Copies of your driver's license, emergency phone numbers, and other important documents such as your passport, will, insurance and bank documents
  • Clean clothes, jacket and hat
  • Toiletries
  • Extra chargers for electronics (e.g. phone)
  • Spare keys to everything (car, apartment)
  • Money (small bills and/or traveler's cheques)

No one ever wants to be in a situation where they need these things, but being prepared can make things easier if it does happen.

TIP: True emergency preparedness also includes renter's insurance! Make sure yours is up to date.

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023: Finding Your First Apartment

Searching for your first apartment can be an overwhelming experience if you don’t know what to look for, or where to begin! Your apartment search is much easier if you stay organized, get informed, and establish some standards for your new living arrangements.

Tut and Tut Properties has a few suggestions to help you get started.

Set your standards:

Give yourself enough time to find the right place for you. Rushing at the last minute can lead to desperation! Begin your search a few months before you need to move by creating a wish list that includes the following:

  1. Need to have

  2. Want to have

  3. Wish to have

Start searching:

Once you know what you’re looking for, you can search for one that will satisfy almost all of your needs, most of your wants, and, if you’re lucky, a few of your wish list items.

Be sure to consider the following when you’re starting your search:

  • Location: Carefully pick a location that is close to your needs (school/work, grocery stores, bus stop, etc.) in a safe, friendly neighbourhood. The further away you move from your needs, the more important it is to have easy access to public transportation. If you have a car, ask if a parking space is available and/or included with the rent.

  • Appliances: Not all appliances are new, so it’s important to ensure they work properly. Consider if the kitchen is large enough for small appliances you may want to bring along, such as a microwave, toaster oven, or coffee maker.

  • Amenities: Laundry facilities are a necessity for any renter. If there are no on-site facilities, you will need to visit a laundromat or lug your dirty clothes to a friend’s or family member’s place. Other amenities may add convenience and value to your living situation, such as a common room, pool, fitness room, or storage area.

  • Living space: Bring a tape measure with you on your apartment tour and don’t be afraid to measure the space. You will want to ensure there is enough room for your desk, couch, chair, coffee table, and other furnishings. Ask the building staff if they have a floor plan you can take with you.  

  • Natural light: An apartment with plenty of natural light will help cut down on utility costs by using less electricity during the day. Also, check the window seals to see if the caulking is adequate. Inadequate sealing will allow cold air into the apartment to avoid costly heating and cooling bills.

  • Security: Choose a building with secure entrances and well-lit grounds. Inspect the apartment’s locks – the deadbolt should be in good working order. On-site management add to the security of a building, as they are always available to address any concerns.

Now that you have an idea of what to look for in an apartment, you will be able to recognize the perfect place when you see it. Be ready to take some notes and snap a couple pictures while you’re touring your options, so you can remember the details later.

Ready to find your first apartment? Check out our listings today!

Credit: Skyline Living

022: Laundry Care Cheat Sheet

Confused by those little symbols on your clothing tags? Not sure how to get out common stains? Print out this handy cheat sheet for all your laundry care needs!

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021: Recipe for Safer Cooking

For the most part, kitchen fires, injuries, and accidents are easily preventable if you take a few simple precautions. Use the cheat sheet below to avoid the most common cooking mishaps.

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