Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Mary Delach Leonard

Work/Life Reporter

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined St. Louis Public Radio in December 2013 when it merged with the St. Louis Beacon. She had been a reporter for the Beacon since April 2008 -- after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by such organizations as the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat (in Illinois) after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

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The lake at Chesterfield Valley, which was the pit formed when the Monarch Levee was reconstructed after the flood of 1993.
Chelsea Embree | Beacon intern | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Just beyond the noise and traffic of the Chesterfield Valley -- past the big levee behind the Taubman Prestige Outlets mall -- is Chesterfield’s newest nature park, set to open this fall.

Despite its proximity to a retail center, the 188-acre site is a surprisingly secluded and quiet spot. It's a place to watch for white-tailed deer and migratory birds, a place to ponder the beauty of the Missouri River floodplain.

Development in Chesterfield Valley since the flood: Blue structures existed before the flood; yellow structures were built after the flood.
Base: USGS, Info: City of Chesterfield

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: During the early days of the 1993 disaster that left businesses, homes and farmland awash on 4,000 flooded acres of the Chesterfield Valley, the possibility of rebuilding always seemed not a question of "if" but of "when."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: From the Tuesday morning Twitter feed of Tommy Sowers, assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, we gleaned the following facts:

  • Veteran-owned small businesses employ more than 1.8 million workers and bring in $1.6 trillion in revenue.
  • Of the 26 million small businesses in the U.S., 3.6 million are owned by veterans.

Rock City development Valmeyer, Ill
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Among the twists and turns that Valmeyer has taken since the Great Flood of ’93, the coolest -- as in 58 degrees year round -- is Rock City, a warehousing facility constructed in an old limestone quarry that the flood-ravaged village acquired during its quest to move to the bluffs.

A view of the floodplain from Valmeyer's Rock City development.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Dennis Knobloch, then the mayor of Valmeyer, said he didn’t grasp the magnitude of the flooding that had engulfed his village in those first days of August 1993 until he and Monroe County officials surveyed the scene by helicopter.

"It was like flying over an ocean,’’ he said. "It was water from the Illinois bluff to the Missouri bluff, which is 4 miles apart here. It is hard to comprehend.’’

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon:Most springs, nature sends a reminder to the residents of the St. Louis region that they live at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Missouri, two major American rivers that have the potential to rise up and storm the levees.

Dennis Knobloch stands in the field where his house was before the flood of 1993.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Lush, green soybeans now populate the plot of good earth where Dennis Knobloch’s house once stood on Main Street in Valmeyer, Ill. -- before the Mississippi River busted through a levee and swallowed the town whole during the Great Flood of ’93.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Panera Bread Co. has stopped offering its "meal of shared responsibility,” an initiative to combat food insecurity that had been introduced in March at its 48 St. Louis Bread Co. cafes. The program had allowed customers to set their own price for turkey chili served in a bread bowl.

Oliver Dahm said his medals, including the Purple Heart, arrived one day in the mail after he returned home from serving in Korea.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Korean War veteran Oliver Dahm, 89, ran his index finger through his snow-white hair to locate the scar above his left ear that earned him a Purple Heart 62 years ago.

"I was hit on Feb. 12, 1951,'' he said matter-of-factly.

Kate Antonacci
Provided by Panera

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Three years after Panera Bread launched an innovative social experiment to help feed hungry Americans, the Saint Louis Bread Co.’s nonprofit café in downtown Clayton remains a work in progress, says Kate Antonacci, who directs the corporate initiative.

The bottom line is that the doors remain open, and Panera remains committed to the endeavor, she said.

In this photo from 2010, a truck from the St. Louis Area Food Bank makes a delivery at a rural southern Illinois church that was holding a food fair for low-income residents.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Beacon

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon - More than 300,000 Missouri children are "food insecure,” and summer brings challenges for the programs trying to help feed them, according to two hunger studies released this week.

Those are just two of the local findings from national research on food insecurity – a problem that is not subsiding, four years into the nation’s economic recovery.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Chances are, a university would not be the first location you’d think about if you were setting up a food pantry to assist the needy in the farm belt of the Midwest.

So hats off to a group of enterprising students at the University of Missouri at Columbia who recognized that there were members of their campus community who couldn’t afford to buy food -- and then did something about it. The student-run Tiger Pantry, which opened its doors on campus last fall, has provided free food to 1,300 needy students and employees so far this year.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Mississippi River’s rampage through the St. Louis region this week is a “fairly big event,” though it doesn’t come close to approaching the historic crests recorded in 1993, said hydrologist Mark Fuchs of the National Weather Service.

“We haven’t seen it this high in 18 years, and that by itself is significant,” Fuchs said.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Although foreclosures still account for one in five U.S. residential sales, the numbers continued to decrease in the first quarter of 2013, and short sales were also declining, according to an online marketer of foreclosed properties.

For Andrew Habsieger's mother, an area in Festus is simply Andy's Park.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Beacon

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Every day is Memorial Day at the little park in Festus named for Army Pfc. Andrew J. Habsieger, 22, who was killed in 2008 in Iraq.

Its official name is Andrew J. Habsieger Memorial Park, but his mother calls it "Andy’s park.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon - Former residents of Pinhook, Mo., will gather from near and far Saturday at the American Legion hall in Sikeston to share memories of the community they lost in May 2011 when the Army Corps of Engineers opened the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway to alleviate flooding on the Mississippi River.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Historian Christopher Morris will be at the Missouri History Museum Wednesday evening to discuss his extensive environmental history of the Lower Mississippi River Valley. The book is a little like the meandering river: It spreads over a wide expanse -- five centuries -- and fills in all sorts of nooks and crannies along the way.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Congrats, 2013 grads!

(Pause)

Who has a job?

Emily Huck does. Huck, 22, who will graduate next weekend from the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s degree in English literature, said she is relieved to have found a job. She will be returning to St. Louis to work in business management at a fitness center.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Veterans advocate Terri Odom says that 25 years after she was brutalized by a trusted Navy colleague, she is finally getting on with her life -- by advocating for the nearly 20,000 U.S. servicewomen and servicemen who are the victims of military sexual assault every year.

Odom, 48, says it’s time for the military to change the way it handles sexual assault cases because rapes are rarely prosecuted and victims are often punished for reporting the crime. She believes that little has changed since she was tortured and raped -- and ultimately forced out of the Navy with an honorable discharge without her case ever being investigated.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: For the disabled women veterans profiled in the documentary "Service: When Women Come Marching Home,” the transition from active duty to civilian life holds special challenges -- for them, for their families, for their communities and for the Veterans Administration, which is responsible for providing their long-term care.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: On Tuesday, Steven Peterson of Belleville received a check for $2,000 -- his portion of a $3.6 billion settlement reached earlier this year between lenders and federal regulators that replaced a failed foreclosure review process.

"I would call it a down payment on justice,’’ said Peterson, whose mortgage struggles started when he was laid off in 2009. "We’ll see if they want to pay the rest of the tab. I know I already have.’’

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The executive director of Saint Louis University’s new state-of-the-art Center for Workforce and Organizational Development understands that the world of information technology stands still for no one. 

So even as she’s hosting an open house at her new training facility Thursday afternoon, Katherine Cain is already talking about the agility of the curriculum and how it will be evolving in the months ahead.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Saint Louis University needs new leadership, say nearly three-fourths of the faculty members who responded to a survey taken by the university’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

In a news release Thursday morning, the faculty group said its survey validated earlier “no confidence” votes on the leadership of SLU President Lawrence Biondi taken by faculty and student government groups.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The topic was career transitions on this Tuesday morning in a conference room in downtown St. Louis, where 50 or so business professionals were listening intently to a panel of local human resources managers. There were nuggets to be gleaned, to be noted in memo pads.

  • Say yes to LinkedIn.
  • Think global and mobile.
  • Don’t limit job searches to online jobs boards; networking is key.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Steven Peterson of Belleville is one of 4.2 million Americans who will find out in the next few weeks how much -- if any -- compensation they will receive from their lenders after a government-ordered review of questionable foreclosure processes.

Peterson isn’t expecting much, although his mortgage servicer – PNC Mortgage – was one of 13 companies that earlier this year reached a settlement with federal banking regulators from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Reserve Bank.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Federal prison guard Donny Boyte was sitting in the lobby of the DoubleTree hotel at Westport Plaza Thursday morning talking about the dangers that he believed sequestration posed for employees of the Bureau of Prisons.

Boyte, 44, voiced serious concerns over unpaid furloughs that he felt would compromise the safety of the 125 guards he works with at the federal penitentiary in El Reno, Okla. The prison houses 1,200 inmates, including murderers, rapists, drug traffickers and members of notorious crime gangs from all over the world.

Twan Robinson's house during the flooding
Provided by Debra Tarver

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - For the residents of Pinhook, Mo., the aerial pictures of their flooded village are as unreal today as they were in May 2011 after the Mississippi River gushed through the breached levee into the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The countryside seems to get emptier every time Debra Tarver visits Pinhook, the tiny village in Missouri’s Mississippi County that was her family’s home until the Army Corps of Engineers blew a big hole in the levee on May 2, 2011, allowing the rampaging Mississippi River to storm the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway.

“I don’t come down often,” said Tarver, 55, as she surveyed acres and acres of floodway from the car window. “It’s just painful. There used to be houses all along here. They’re gone. The people are gone.”

The remains of the gazebo that memorializes Jim Robinson Jr.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Beacon 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - The countryside seems to get emptier every time Debra Tarver visits Pinhook, the tiny village in Missouri’s Mississippi County that was her family’s home until the Army Corps of Engineers blew a big hole in the levee on May 2, 2011, allowing the rampaging Mississippi River to storm the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis: As St. Louis grapples with its urban revival, the focus should be on building a sustainable city for tomorrow and not about recapturing the past, suggests a researcher at the Brookings Institution who will speak at a symposium Friday sponsored by the Saint Louis University Law School.

"One of the things St. Louis has to do is have a serious conversation that recognizes that it will be a smaller city with a demographic mix that is different than it was originally built to accommodate,’’ said Alan Mallach, a non-resident senior fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution and a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

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