Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

Feature-length audio news reports from St. Louis Public Radio reporters.

Dressbarn is one of the latest traditional retailers to close up shop at the Quincy Mall, as seen in this photo from Dec. 2019. Property owners are looking to tenants such as clinics and spas to fill the vacant spaces.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

In August 2018, the Quincy Mall was in crisis. A few years earlier, JCPenney, one of the mall’s three large department store anchors, had closed. That month, the two remaining stores, Sears and Bergner’s, closed within weeks of each other.

“It left us with just this huge big-box vacancy,” said Mike Jenkins, the property manager at the 500,000-square-foot mall in Quincy, Illinois. 

The loss of such major tenants has been a death sentence for many malls. But the shopping center had a stroke of luck. The same time the department stores closed, one of the small city’s two large medical providers was looking for a space to house a planned outpatient surgery clinic.

Katie Bartels and her emotional support cat Hank, who was certified as an ESA by a therapist, not an online service. 01-20-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

If you have a little bit of money and can answer a 10-question online survey, you can get an official-looking certificate stating that you need an emotional support animal. 

You don’t have to talk to anyone or go through an assessment.

Because it’s so easy to obtain the documentation and the laws on accommodations for emotional support animals are murky, some people are using the certification to get out of paying pet deposits and monthly fees to keep an animal in an apartment.

Lumber collected from a building in the Vandeventer neighborhood on Nov. 21, 2019.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

For years, an empty three-story warehouse on the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and Whittier Street was just another eyesore in north St. Louis. 

But last summer, workers began to dismantle the 136-year-old building and saved about $250,000 worth of brick, lumber and other materials. The city had selected the former moving and storage warehouse as its first project to deconstruct, or take apart, a building to salvage its components. 

Unlike demolition, deconstruction saves valuable materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. It also doesn’t emit harmful pollutants into the surrounding community and provides more jobs because it requires more workers. 

As the National Park Service's Regional Program Manager for Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion, Nichole McHenry's plan is to make all national parks and sites inclusive and diverse.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As a child, Nichole McHenry envisioned herself broadcasting the news, just like famed St. Louis anchor Robin Smith.

Although her dreams of becoming a reporter did not come to fruition, she found a different way to tell stories.

For the past 28 years, McHenry has been sharing the stories of national parks and other connected sites for the National Park Service. McHenry began working full time with the park service right after graduating from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. 

Fellowship of Wildwood, a baptist church in west St. Louis County, allows certain trained congregants to carry weapons. Church leaders say their volunteer security team helps provide peace of mind to the congregation.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s hard to tell who has a gun at Fellowship of Wildwood church, unless you’re really looking.

The men stand silently at the edge of the crowd, as worshippers shrug off their heavy winter coats and sip from paper coffee cups before the Sunday service. 

Nicknamed the “sheepdog ministry,” the group of about a dozen volunteers provide armed protection for churchgoers at Fellowship of Wildwood.

Attacks on religious spaces have become a troubling new reality, leaving congregations to grapple with how to respond. While some train congregants or hire armed guards, other faith leaders in St. Louis have resisted the idea of allowing guns inside houses of worship. 

St. Louis County Council Chairwoman Lisa Clancy.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

At 34, Lisa Clancy is the youngest member of the St. Louis County Council and one of its newer members — she only joined the council a year ago. 

Last week, her colleagues unanimously chose her as chairwoman.

A Democrat from Maplewood, Clancy has pushed for more affordable housing resources in the county. She’s also part of the progressive wing of the board, which is controlled by Democrats.

A student at Ashland Elementary School in St. Louis does a mindfulness exercise. The school uses the practices to help its children regulate trauma caused by violence and poverty. Jan. 8, 2019.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The crackle of gunshots has become white noise for children living in parts of north St. Louis.

“I got used to it,” a fifth grade girl said, “because it happen a lot, so I’m just not scared of it no more.”

They know just what to do if they’re inside: 

“When I hear gunshots, I duck on the floor and get under my bed,” said a sixth grade boy.

Two Australians created Mental Health First Aid  in 2001. Since then, millions of people have taken classes in how to help someone in a mental health crisis.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

If a woman at a restaurant chokes on a chicken bone, millions of people know to wrap their arms around her abdomen and dislodge it, thanks to countless classes that teach first aid. 

But if she starts hyperventilating during a panic attack, many people wouldn’t know how to help. If she stops showering or coming to work, her friends might not know what to do. 

To teach people how to respond, St. Louis organizations have started training the public in mental health first aid, which aims to offer immediate help for people experiencing emotional and mental health emergencies. It’s the same idea as traditional first aid, except that the wounds treated are emotional. 

Cannabis plants grow inside Ascend Illinois indoor facility in Barry, IL. Ascend owns two existing medical dispensaries and plans to open two additional recreational dispensaries early next year.
File Photo | Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

Robbie Guard sees a green opportunity in Missouri’s newest industry — medical marijuana.

He runs the Cape Girardeau office for MRV Banks. The 13-year-old institution has just three locations along the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. 

As a relatively young bank with a small footprint, it struggles to bring in new accounts. Guard hopes the newly legal medical marijuana industry will change that. 

Dozens of law enforcement vehicles line Bircher Blvd., outside ABB's complex, on Jan. 7, 2010. A disgruntled employee had shot and killed three people and wounded five others before turning the gun on himself.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

The top news story early on Jan. 7, 2010, was the winter weather. Three inches of snow had fallen overnight, and it was still snowing. Temperatures were in the teens with gusty winds.

But before the sun rose, everything changed. Timothy G. Hendron, 51, an employee of transformer manufacturer ABB, walked into the factory complex in north St. Louis and opened fire. He would kill three people and wound five before turning the gun on himself, in St. Louis’ first mass workplace shooting.

Freddie Lee James Jr., owner of Freddie Lee's Gourmet Sauces, prepares a batch of his mild sauce on Dec. 18, 2019 in St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Freddie Lee James Jr. has long been a sauce man. 

His home-whisked Ghetto Sauce made him the king of cookouts. Family and coworkers would clamour for the zesty, sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. After years of their encouragement and five years before he was to retire from his construction job, he decided to take it to the next level.

Members of the Missouri House converse on the first day of the 2019 legislative session.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Gun control, Medicaid and redistricting are expected to be the most contentious issues Missouri lawmakers will take up this legislative session. 

House and Senate members return to the state Capitol on Wednesday, and the governor is to deliver his State of the State address a week later on Jan. 15. 

Democrats in both chambers say gun control and urban violence will be at the top of their list of priorities. 

The Post-Dispatch headquarters has been on North Tucker Boulevard in downtown St. Louis for decades.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The owners of the old St. Louis Post-Dispatch building are pushing big plans to bring more jobs downtown.

Along with a pending move to 900 North Tucker Blvd. by mobile-payments company Square, the StarWood Group is creating the NoW Innovation District, according to managing partner John Berglund.

"Basically, it is north of Washington. It runs out to 14th Street, up to Cole Street, and then down past the convention center," he said.

Former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger walks out of federal court after pleading guilty to federal charges of bribery, mail fraud and theft of honest services.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When historians look back at Missouri politics in 2019, they may get whiplash from all the twists, turns, scandals and controversies.

These past 12 months brought seismic change to the St. Louis region, especially with the sudden collapse of St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s administration and a nearly six-year effort to merge the city and county. In Jefferson City, Gov. Mike Parson dealt with a host of difficult policy issues — including economic development, Medicaid and abortion.

Fashion designer Brandin Vaughn cuts fabric for a client's custom suit at Brandin Vaughn Collection, his Cherokee Street storefront and workspace. Dec. 18, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Lisa Hu wants to make St. Louis sexy. Not only in a fashionable way, but with a desirable economic engine. 

Hu's posh, eco-friendly handbag company Lux & Nyx has already been featured in national and local fashion magazines, and the St. Louis venture has only been around for about a year and a half. That’s partly because of her connection to the St. Louis Fashion Fund.  

MindsEye volunteer Cory Sturdevant performs live audio description of a St. Louis Blues game at Enterprise Center. [12/24/19]
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

Thirty minutes before the St. Louis Blues took on the Edmonton Oilers on a recent evening, fans slowly filled the seats of the Enterprise Center. A blues band playing in a concourse on a lower level was shown on the Jumbotron and pumped through the speakers.

In a luxury suite, MindsEye personnel tested the wireless headsets they’d later give to a group of visually impaired young people. Volunteer Cory Sturdevant was on tap to describe the game for them.

Unlike professional radio broadcasters working the game, he had the task of going beyond the play-by-play. He was there to provide a vivid picture of the full experience. 

Lawyer Benjamin Wesselschmidt explains the new recreational cannabis law at the St. Clair County Country Club on Nov. 21. Many employers are re-thinking their drug testing policies since recreational marijuana will be legal on Jan. 1, 2020.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Ahead of the new year, local businesses and employers across Illinois are trying to determine how legal recreational marijuana will impact them. 

The law change, which came only six months ago, is forcing many employers to rethink how their workplaces handle drug policy and testing.

Gov. Mike Parson
File|Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In the 18 months he has been in office, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has acted on just one of over 3,500 clemency cases. 

The Republican governor inherited a decades-old backlog of clemency requests. Some of the cases have been pending for several years, with multiple governors before Parson not taking action.

But Parson doesn’t seem to be in any rush to dive into what can be a politically risky part of the job. He declined to put one man’s execution on hold in October. Beyond that, he hasn’t denied or approved any other clemency applications. 

"Static" and "Icon" were directed by David Kirkman. They're fan films based on the characters created by Milestone Media.
MOJO and Kevin Lindsey

When David Kirkman was a boy, he loved to watch episodes of “Static Shock,” an animated series about a black teenage superhero who could shoot electricity out of his hands.

Kirkman was so taken by the show that he began making films. Starting in 2017, he brought the characters to life in his own film, “Static,” a live-action adaptation of the original. The film was uploaded on Youtube this year and has about 900,000 views and attracted the attention of Netflix, which had Kirkman screen the film at its headquarters. It’s also jump-started the 24-year-old’s career.

Students arrive at McKinley Classical Leadership Academy Middle School for a 7:10 a.m. class start time, one of 17 St. Louis Public Schools that start that early.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

School at McKinley Classical Leadership Academy Middle School begins at 7:10 a.m.

If Lisa Manzo-Preston’s seventh grade daughter took the bus to the St. Louis public school, she’d have to be outside at 6:03 a.m. on the dot.

“That's impossible for us. That’s absolutely not something we're able to do because of her level of exhaustion and her inability to wake up in the morning,” she said. 

Dr. Daniel Hoft, left, demonstrates how to listen to the heartbeat of a patient with Eric Eggemeyer, coordinator of clinical research at SLU's Center for Vaccine Development.
St. Louis University

Sarah King isn’t afraid of having the flu — in fact, she considers herself an “excellent sick person.”

“I have a pretty high pain tolerance,” King said. “I'm not a person that whines a lot. I just kind of suck it up.”

When she heard about a medical study that pays volunteers about $3,000 to be infected with the flu virus, the marketing manager thought the offer sounded too good to pass up. Last month, she checked in for a 10-day stay at St. Louis University’s “Hotel Influenza,” a quarantine unit where researchers study how the human immune system fights the flu virus.

A box turtle
Shawn Klein

On a chilly, gray morning in Forest Park, three St. Louis Zoo scientists switched on 20-inch-long antennas to begin their search for a turtle named Pumpkin. 

Pumpkin is one of nine box turtles in Forest Park that scientists have tagged with tracking devices. Researchers at the St. Louis Zoo and St. Louis University are tracking box turtles in the city’s largest park and in a remote area in southwest St. Louis County to study how they thrive in urban and rural environments.

Palmer and her colleagues at the zoo recently reported in the journal Frontiers that the three-toed box turtles in the park have a higher mortality rate than the ones they tracked in the woods near Washington University’s Tyson Research Center.

Washington University composer Christopher Stark's "Seasonal Music" explores the ways our environment is changing. (Dec. 5, 2019)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A growing number of artists are trying to start a conversation about climate change — without words or data. 

Some, like Washington University composer Christopher Stark, are communicating their anxiety about climate change through music. His newly released string quartet, “Seasonal Music,” explores the ways our environment is changing in real time.

Dennis Lower will step down as CEO of Cortex early next year after spending a decade in the role. Dec. 13, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A lot has changed at Cortex since Dennis Lower took the reins as CEO a decade ago.

Back then, he was tasked with designing an innovation community — a place where people from big corporations, small startups and academic research institutions could break out of their silos and bounce ideas off each other.

“We call them serendipitous collisions, and that truly is what does happen,” Lower said of the mixed-use business and retail area in midtown St. Louis.

But as Cortex grows — a new hotel, apartments and office space are under construction or in the planning stages — Lower is preparing to transition from his full-time role. That move will take place in the first quarter of 2020 when his successor will be named.

Brooklyn Grant, 13, from Spokane, Missouri, looks down range at the Student Air Rifle Program Tournament at Clever High School on Nov. 14, 2019. Brooklyn took first place in the middle school individuals girls category.
Daniel Shular | Missourian

While the sun is still up, gunshots ring out as Poplar Bluff High School's trapshooting team tries to get in a few extra rounds.

Head coach Sandy Pike gives advice as a new member prepares to aim his shotgun and attempt to shoot a clay target out of the air. She tells him to lift up his weapon, and, when he's ready, say the word to make the disc fly:

"Pull!"

The competitive trap season might be over, but that's not stopping the team on a Saturday evening in November.

Since starting in 2010, the trap team has grown from eight to about 30 members, and Pike said that's thanks to outside funding from the National Rifle Association. It's one of 80 K-12 and 4-H programs the NRA Foundation has supported over the years in Missouri.

Harris-Stowe State University is one of 13 four-year public universities in the state and receives the least amount of state appropriations.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Waiel Turner, 20, was not planning on going to college. He thought about entering the U.S. Air Force or becoming a police officer for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. 

Enrolling at Harris-Stowe State University was strictly happenstance.

In 2017, he accompanied a friend to the campus in midtown St. Louis where she was registering for classes. An admissions counselor told Turner he should enroll. Two days later, Turner became a college student. 

Turner said it is the family environment that makes Harris-Stowe home for him. Like many historically black colleges and universities, Harris-Stowe is struggling to keep its tight-knit family of students and staff together in the face of shaky finances and relative lack of state resources. 

Maplewood Richmond Heights' Early Childhood Center is less diverse than the overall district, reflecting a decade of changing demographics in Maplewood.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The two-story house Laine Schenkelberg purchased on Maplewood’s Marietta Avenue in 2009 was supposed to be a starter home. A decade later, she shares the house with her husband, Eric, and their four children ages 7 months to 9 years, along with a cat.

When it was time for their oldest, Xavier, to begin school, the couple toured private options, but nothing felt quite right. Then a friend persuaded them to check out the Early Childhood Center, run by the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District.

Raul Banasco, director of St. Louis County's Department of Justice Services, poses for a portrait in his office.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Raul Banasco has dealt with a host of vexing challenges during his 32-year tenure as a corrections officer, including prisoners dying by suicide and others escaping. 

Those experiences may be some of the reasons he felt ready to take on the high-pressure task of becoming director of the St. Louis County Department of Justice Services.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page hired Banasco last month. The New York native is the department’s first permanent director in nearly two years. His tenure begins months after several inmates died in the county jail.

A soldier at Fort Leonard Wood is tested for TBI using the experimental Brain Scope, part of research going on at the base and Phelps Health in Rolla. 12/5/19
Matthew Doellman | Phelps Health

Diagnosing traumatic brain injury faster so treatment can start right away is the focus of a $5 million research project centered at Fort Leonard Wood and nearby Phelps Health Hospital in Rolla.

Traumatic brain injury is a head injury from an external force that can do long-lasting damage to the brain. Phelps Health is a community hospital that serves a county of fewer than 50,000 people, but is conducting research that could revolutionize the way the Army treats everything from concussions to serious brain injury. 

Lee Phung has owned Egg Roll Kitchen since 2000. His father started the North Grand business in 1968. He said Alderman Moore's comments were insensitive. November, 26, 2019
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

Lee Phung has owned Egg Roll Kitchen in north St. Louis since 2000. But he’s been a part of the community since 1968, when his father opened the restaurant on North Grand Boulevard.

Although Phung, who was born in China, no longer lives in north St. Louis, he went to Soldan High School and considers the area his second home. He has a close relationship with his customers.

When Alderman Sam Moore, who represents the area, recently suggested that north St. Louis members of the Board of Freeholders should not include Asian Americans, Phung and other Asian Americans in St. Louis described the comments as insensitive. It struck many as another example of their community being ignored.

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