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Renee Bronaugh, Daily Journal 

The North County Drama Club will perform a Christmas-themed play this weekend and the public is invited to watch the heartwarming tale unfold.

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Parade draws crowd despite weather

The cities of Park Hills and Leadington barely missed the bad weather for their the annual Hefner Furniture Christmas Parade, sponsored by the Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce.

Despite rain showers just an hour before the start of the event, crowds still showed up to see the annual tree lighting and the light-filled parade floats.

According to the Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce Facebook page, Santa himself worked closely with Mother Nature to ensure the rain came to an end before the crowds were set to arrive.

Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tammie Coleman said she was worried the rain would keep people from coming to the event, but that had a good turnout.

The evening began with a tree lighting ceremony in the Leadington Plaza, with introductions by Chamber President Tish Roberts.

New this year were two vendor booths. A “Hot Cocoa Christmas,” hosted by Heart & Soul Hospice handing out free hot cocoa, and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” hosted by Leadington Pit Stop providing free candy and cocoa.

Roberts then reminded the crowd that after the ceremony the parade would go through Leadington and Park Hills with a ceremony at the Park Hills Sports Complex to follow. Roberts then introduced Leadington Mayor Dustin Winick, who led the ceremonial Christmas tree lighting.

Following the tree lighting, the crowd was treated to a performance by the first and fifth grade students Honors Choir from Central Elementary School. The crowd then vacated the plaza and took their places along the two-mile parade route to enjoy the floats.

The parade, which was themed “Christmas Musical Magic” this year, had some 34 entries. This year’s theme challenged float makers to choose their favorite all-time Christmas song. Whether it be a classic hymn, a musical melody, a song from an animated show or even a country or rock ballad, there were plenty of songs to choose from.

Children and parents alike packed the parade route, leading from Leadington Plaza to the Park Hills Sports Complex, and braved the cold for the chance to spy Santa Claus and to collect some candy.

Floats were full of smiling faces wishing Merry Christmas to all. One had the Grinch skiing out the back, and another had a trailer full of passengers singing Christmas carols.

As the crowd caught up to the parade at the Park Hills Sports Complex, the evening resumed with a second tree lighting ceremony led by Park Hills Mayor Daniel Naucke.

The Sports Complex had vendor booths offering a wide variety of family fun including free hot chocolate and cookies, children’s games, kids crafts and more.

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived shortly after the parade to visit with all the little ones. The traditional photo with Santa was taken in Santa’s House.

Roberts described Santa’s House as a cozy little house with seats and a fireplace display to make the Christmas photo even more festive.

The crowd gathered at the Sports Complex enjoyed a musical performance by Raelyn Winick and as well as a dance performance by On Stage Performing Arts.

“I didn’t think it was going to be this big due to the weather but the turnout is phenomenal,” Roberts said. “The kids are all having a good time."

In concluding the night’s festivities, Roberts revealed the winners of the parade float contest.

Third place went to First Methodist Church of Park Hills. Second place went to Battlefield Laser Tag and Rob's Guns. The first place winner was named as Christian Life Church.

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Washington County Cops for Kids

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

A Potosi family with six kids knows this all too well. The dad was recently laid off from his job. The mom is working hard to support her family of eight. Now, the family is behind on their bills and they have no car. The added stress of paying for Christmas is another burden the family doesn’t need right now.

A couple of Potosi police officers heard about the family’s dilemma and referred them for Washington County’s Cops for Kids program.

“We just like to step up and help people out when they really need it,” said Lauren Adams, a full-time Potosi police officer. She runs the Cops for Kids program. She started working on the force in 2010 and took over the program in 2011.

Adams and a few others began sifting through applications on Tuesday from the Washington County Community Partnership, which is where families apply to be considered for the program. They will select 100 kids ages 2-15 to take part in this year’s shopping event, to be held Dec. 18 at Potosi Walmart. More than 20 full-time city and county officers will help at the event later this month.

This program is something Adams “fell into” when she worked at the sheriff’s department. “I work my full-time job and run this on a part-time schedule.”

According to Adams, enough money was raised in 2018 to take 100 kids shopping to spend $100 each. They focus on the families with kids who are having a hard time financially.

“If we wouldn’t be there to help them, then they wouldn’t have Christmas.”

The program also helps families in emergency situations.

“Throughout the year if there is a family who has lost their house to a fire, or a family in need, we try to help them throughout the year,” said Adams.

To fund Cops for Kids, Adams, other officers and volunteers have planned fundraisers throughout the year to raise money for the program. A spring golf tournament is held every March or April to kick off the new fundraising year. Adams tries to make their golf tournament the first of the year annually because more people are willing to donate more earlier in the year.

Other annual fundraisers include a fish fry, barbecue, bake sale, and chicken and dumpling dinner. These events usually generate money needed to fund most of the program.

Adams says there are many ideas being considered for fundraisers for 2019, including a possible scavenger hunt, chili cook-off and more.

“We want to get more people in the community involved to interact with the kids,” said Adams. “We want to let everyone see all the positives that cops do.”

Adams said working on the Cops for Kids program is amazing, and the day of shopping is the best day of the year.

“With all the smiles on the kids’ faces, you can see how appreciative they are,” she says, “and it’s just so heartwarming. I couldn’t stop doing what I do. I just keep going because I love it.”

Monetary donations are greatly appreciated. They can be directed to the program by contacting Adams at 573-438-5478. More information can be found on the Washington County Cops for Kids Facebook page. Silent auction items of any kind are also needed for the spring golf tournament.

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Police: 'Horrible discovery' leads to arrests

An area couple is facing multiple felony charges after two of their children were found wandering the streets and their living conditions were discovered.

Kristina Hillhouse, 35, and Robert Hillshouse, 39, both of Leadwood, are  each being charged with seven class D felonies of endangering the welfare of a child.

According to a probable cause statement, on Nov. 8 at approximately 7:54 a.m. an officer with the Leadwood Police Department received a call from Central Dispatch regarding two young children wandering around a neighborhood with no shoes and little clothing.

The dispatcher told the officer that the reporting party had the two young children with him. When the officer arrived to the of 1,000 block of East St. he saw the man who reported the 7- and 5-year-old children standing next to him with his coat wrapped around them keeping them warm.

The officer spoke with the man and he said the two young children were wandering around the streets trying to get into cars and trucks at nearby homes and tried to get into a burned out unoccupied house.

The man also told the officer the children said they were searching for a place to stay warm since they didn't know where they lived. They only knew they lived in a yellow house. The officer put the children in the warm patrol car.

In the report, the officer explained that in his experience and training as a law enforcement officer, a child not knowing where they live and not knowing what the outside of their home looks like is an indicator that the child has been inside the home for a long period of time not being able to see the outside world.

The officer reported that the children were found not even 50 feet from their home and still were not able to recognize the house. He contacted the Leadwood police chief to assist.

There was a yellow house across the street from where the children were found. Both officers walked over and tried to make contact with the homeowner, but no one answered the door.

The report stated the officers noted the front door was open and per city code of open-door policy, they made entry into the home and made a “horrible discovery".

Upon entering the home they saw a 3-year-old child lying in a recliner, partially covered with feces and dirt. They found the child was sleeping. As they walked through the house, they found there was a total of seven children in the home, living in very inhumane conditions.

The children ranged in age - five months, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 10 - and all of their clothes were urine soaked along with all the beds, and there was also feces on the children's feet and clothes. The officer reported that the children’s feet had a thick crust of feces on the sides and bottoms.

The officer also reported that the living room had food and feces all over the floor with a trail tracking to the bathroom. As he made his way into the hallway and to the bedrooms and bathroom, he saw a woman later identified as the mother of the children sleeping in her bed with the infant in the master bedroom.

The officer called to the woman to wake her up and make her aware of the situation. She came out of the bedroom quickly and seemed baffled by what was going on. The officer explained to her what happened and why he and the chief were in her house.

In the report, the officer stated the woman told them it was impossible for the kids to get out of the house because the door was dead bolted. The officer saw that the dead bolt was installed in a high position on the front door and required a key to open from either side.

After seeing the living conditions, a decision was made to call the Division of Family Services (DFS) hotline to get some help for the children. After calling DFS the officers finished walking through the rest of the house to document the conditions.

While waiting for DFS the mother started cleaning up the house and cleaning up the kids. The officer asked her where her husband was and she said "he's at work." The officer asked Kristina if she would call him, and she did.

When the man arrived the officer asked him for his identification. The officer contacted Central Dispatch to check both the adults for warrants. 

The officer explained to the couple that DFS was on their way and what was going to happen with the children. He further explained the living conditions were very unacceptable and he had to take action for the safety and well-being of the children.

The report goes on the state that waiting for DFS to arrive the officer checked out the bathroom and saw a children's potty chair on the floor by the sink which was overflowing with human feces. There were dirty diapers, the toilet was covered with human waste from overflowing, and there appeared to be feces all over the floor in the bathroom. He determined the toilet had not been operating properly for some time.

The officer checked out the children's bedroom, which he found to be soaked with feces and grime with no bed sheets or blankets. There was feces and food scraps all over the floor. The children's toys and clothes were on the floor. 

According to the report, the master bedroom bed had liquid stains, and what the officer believed to be feces as well.

There was also food and feces in the carpet, with bags of dirty diapers lying around on the bedroom floor.

The kitchen was reportedly one of the worst rooms in the house, with flies swarming around dirty dishes and trash bags containing rotten food. A cat litter box was under the table. The cat litter box appeared to have not been cleaned out for months.

DFS workers documented the scene, then removed the children without incident.

Both Kristina and Robert Hillhouse were booked in the St. Francois County Jail on a $150,000 bond each.

Ste. Gen. holds Christmas festival this weekend

Ste. Genevieve will be celebrating its annual Holiday Christmas Festival on Saturday and Sunday.

Quaint and charming Ste. Genevieve is known as Missouri’s first settlement founded in 1735. It’s a picturesque sight to visit especially when it is decorated for the holidays. But what really makes the Holiday Christmas Festival unique is the large number of music concerts and activities that take place over two special days.

On Saturday, the fun begins with one of the largest holiday parades in Missouri – more than 100 floats, classic cars, bands and entertainers. Following the parade is an endless variety of musical groups set in a venue of holiday-decorated churches and historical buildings. Meanwhile, the Lions Club will feature food (free hot dogs for kids under 12), entertainment, free shuttle rides and even free photos with Santa. All the shops will be decorated for holiday shopping and the restaurants will be serving up some of the finest food south of St. Louis.

Sunday features even more musical entertainment and holiday cheer. It’s the event that will definitely put you in the holiday spirit.

“This year will be another incredible experience” said Annette Rolfe, executive director of the Holiday Christmas Festival. “The SEMO Chamber Choir will be performing, classical guitarists, SIU’s Isaac Lausell Latino Jazz Trio, the Southeast Missouri String Quartet, historic French singers, French café singers, Bluegrass, Country Western, and a symphonic wind ensemble. New this year is a Kantorei Choir and Joyful Sound Ringers (handbells) of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Jackson, directed by Professor Matt Palisch who will accompany them on the Ste. Genevieve Catholic Church pipe organ. There will also be harpist Terri Langerak renowned for classical ethereal, and new age styles, but especially for playing classic rock and jazz. The festival is based on 700 years of Christmas-themed music – everything from Renaissance to contemporary and from choral to string. It is now a holiday tradition destination.”

In addition to holiday cheer you’ll see so many firsts in American History west of the Mississippi, such as the first brick building, the first Masonic Lodge, the first Catholic Church, the first hotel, the first public school, early French and German architecture and many other famous sites. For more information contact the Welcome Center at 800- 373-7007 or online at