#148: Courage and Community: Voices from Kankakee’s Yarn Factory Listeners Event

Hello Kankakee and listeners from everywhere! In today’s post, we journey through the deeply personal tales from the first-ever Yarn Factory Listeners event that unfolded at Flanagan’s Pub in Downtown Kankakee. These stories, shared sincerely by our beloved storytellers, bring to light their lived experiences, the sorrows, the joys, and their connections with our community.

Unraveling Yarns at Flanagan’s

Our inaugural Yarn Factory Listeners night, a new initiative by the Kankakee Podcast, happened on a crisp April evening, attended by local folks and punctuated by the powerful voices of six extraordinary storytellers. This monthly event promises a space of mutual respect and deep listening.

Meet Our Storytellers

  • Terry Streetman is a writer, woodworker, and advocate who has spent his life in awe of the power of the written and spoken word. A Great Lakes kid and pan-Midwesterner, he cut his storytelling teeth in the Creative Writing program at Bowling Green State University, where, from time to time, he also donned the suit of school mascot Freddie Falcon. Professionally, Terry has helped others learn to tell their stories while working in public policy and advocacy for nonprofits like the Michigan Nonprofit Association and the Alzheimer’s Association. His own stories often involve youthful exuberance, ill-advised plans, and making the most of unfortunate situations. These days, Terry spends his time in Kankakee and beyond honing his woodworking talents, sipping craft cocktails, eating red hots from Jaenicke’s, and cheering on the Chicago Red Stars.
  • Tomika A. Talley is a proud mother of 3, oldest sister of 7, and Favorite Aunt of 24. She is a Village of Sun River Terrace Trustee and Kankakee County Housing Authority Board Commissioner. She is employed as the SAFE Center Manager for Pembroke CCSD #259. Tomika hosts the Art of Storytelling open mic platform every 3rd Sunday at River Rock Beer Garden. She is also co-owner of EZ Outdoor Movie Theaters with her children, providing outdoor movie series to Sun River Terrace and Hopkins Park during the summer months. For fun, Tomika enjoys bike riding and roller skating.
  • Scott Whitehair is a Chicago storyteller, producer, and teaching artist. He is the producer of This Much Is True, now in its 16th year, the creator of Story Lab Chicago, which has put 850+ new or first time tellers on stage since 2011, co-host of Story Vroom Vroom, Evanston’s monthly storytelling party, and the director of Do Not Submit, a series of community open mics all over Chicagoland designed to connect neighbors through storytelling. He tells stories anywhere someone will listen – in festivals, shows, and recording studios, but also in kitchens, parking lots, and diners. Scott has taught a perpetually sold out monthly class for over 13 years, and spends his days helping companies, organizations, and individuals to develop their voices and stories. He loves to share stories, but is even more excited to hear yours.
  • Alexandra Avans is a Bronx, NY born and raised mother of 4 remarkable humans, grandmother to 1 mini human, 4 cats and 2 dogs. Lead Vocalist for local cover band, “Not Yet…” Proud resident of Kankakee, 8 years and counting.
  • Deb Terrill is a longtime resident of Kankakee, and she, and her husband Bill, raised a family here. She was a longtime columnist for the Daily Journal and now spends her time serving on the City of Kankakee Planning Board, travelling to visit farmer’s markets across the country and buying too many plants for her garden.
  • Dameika S. Rosenthal was born and raised in Kankakee, Il. She is the daughter of Gail Thompson and the late Damos Rosenthal, Sr. She is a 2006 graduate of Kankakee High School. She received her Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice from Kankakee Community College. Her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice from Governors State University and earned her Master of Science in Psychology with an Emphasis in Life Coaching from Grand Canyon University. Dameika is a strong Mental Health Advocate and extremely passionate for children. She is known as “sunshine” to many of those that love her. She is currently employed as a Child Protection Specialist with the Department of Children and Family Services. She enjoys reading, traveling, spending time with family, friends, and her two beautiful daughters Sanaa and McKinley.

Gratitude and Looking Forward

The night was wrapped up with beautiful acknowledgments from Bill Yohnka, appreciating the platform and the community’s involvement, which makes such storytelling possible. Jake LaMore, our host, summed up the evening, reflecting on how these narratives not only define but also strengthen our social fabric.

Join Us Next Time!

Don’t forget, the next gathering of the Yarn Factory Listeners is set for May 14, 2024. These stories of life, change, and acceptance are bound to move and motivate you. Let’s come together to hear, support, and be part of each other’s journeys.

The Essence of Shared Stories

Through laughter and tears, our first Yarn Factory Listeners evening was a profound reminder of our shared humanity and the power of stories to move and connect us. These narratives are the threads that weave the tapestry of our community in Kankakee.

We’re incredibly grateful to Flanagan’s Irish Pub, Kankakee Public Library, and everyone who made this event possible. To stay updated and hear more from the heart of Kankakee, subscribe to the Kankakee Podcast and follow us on social media. A huge thanks to everyone involved, especially our storytellers who opened their hearts.

Until we meet again, this is Jake LaMore, urging you to keep sharing, listening, and engaging. See you at the next event!

Remember, every story matters so let’s keep the looms of our lives spinning. Thank you for lending your ears and hearts, and we hope to see you again soon at the Yarn Factory Listeners!

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