For those of us who know Kelli Leavens it is no surprise she has become the face of a rebellion. Leavens is now the flag bearer for a group fired up about the way J.B Pritzker is handling the the response to the Covid 19 virus in the state of Illinois. Please take note that Kelli believes this virus is a serious health hazard and should be taken seriously. That is not her beef. The problem she faces and she believes we all face is the pointless shut-down of businesses across Southern Illinois where there was only 1 new case in 22 local counties on May 1. After a month of being shut down she believes in our little neck of the woods, we've had enough.
It was her personal struggle that stoked the flames of resistance.
Kelli is an award winning photographer with an eye for shooting babies that is famous in our area. Her schedule was booked solid by people wanting her timing and they masterful way she manipulates light on their newborn. But the line of customers ended when Gov. Pritzker declared her's was not an essential business. Liquor stores are an essential business however and the irony of that fact was not lost on Kelli Leavens.
She applied for grants available to small businesses, but because her's was the smallest of business, the one where the owner is the only employee, she did not qualify. She also did not qualify for unemployment. Her income came to a halt. Her bills did not.
She heard that our local State Representative Darren Bailey had filed suit against the Governor personally seeking an injunction against the stay at home order that also closed businesses across the state. She and local Grayville resident Sherry Funkhouser decided to attend the the court proceedings in ClayCounty April 27.
She said, "I was in the hearing. It was awesome. That judge was mad. He was angry that our constitutional rights were being violated. He was mad he couldn't go fishing at State Parks.”
After the hearing, it was there and then on the steps of the Clay County Courthouse that The People of Illinois Vs. J.B. Pritzker was born and in just a few days nearly 32,000 people would sign on to follow her.
Kelli said, "I had a bunch of people messaging me from Edwards County that wanted to know what to do now that Darren won. Could they open? Could they file suit?" There were a lot of questions, so Kelli started her Facebook group for local business owners to discuss their options in light of the suit. She had no idea her fight for local businesses would resound across the entire state.
It’s grown now to cover the state. We have 350 people from Cook county signed up.”
For the rest of the story, check out this week's Navigator.