New Member Profile

Newest Members:  L-R Jamie Niman, Alex Niman, Kate Niman, Damaris Miltenberger, Rev. Sarah.  Bios coming soon.

Meet Tasha Youngblood


by Kathy O’Laughlin

Tasha Youngblood is a nurse practitioner providing primary care at a REA clinic in Johnston City. She is interested in Women’s Health issues, and recently became a certified instructor to provide REFIT fitness classes. REFIT is a holistic fitness practice which combines dance to inspirational and upbeat music with a community building component. Tasha is looking for a venue in Carbondale and is hoping to offer classes soon.

Another long standing interest is in all things Star Trek. Tasha is originally from Otto, Missouri, a small town near Arnold, Missouri in the south suburbs of St. Louis. She attended Washington University, and was introduced by a mutual friend to her husband, Evan Youngblood, a Trekkie born and raised in Herrin, Illinois. Their shared passion led to marriage, and eventually, to two daughters, Kira and Naomi (ages 2 and 6). Star Trek fans will recognize their names from characters on the show. Evan owns a computer business in Herrin and is very active in civic affairs, including Herrin Festa Italiana and Veterans Memorial Honor Flight.

Tasha grew up visiting a wide range of Christian churches. She came to Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship seeking a liberal religious education experience for her daughters. Tasha has joined the Welcoming Congregation Committee and is open to other opportunities for involvement as they present themselves. Look for a future Sunday Service exploring themes from Star Trek!

Please welcome Tasha as one of our newer members!


Meet Sage and Journey Banks


by Kathy O’Laughlin

Sage Banks is a registered nurse who is completing her MSN at McKendree College. She lives in Herrin and currently works at Marshall Browning Hospital in DuQuoin as Quality, Safety and Education Manager. Prior to that, Sage and I worked together as staff nurses at Hospice of Southern Illinois.

Sage likes to cook healthy food, and loves to come to Carbondale on Saturday mornings to visit the farmers’ market, Neighborhood Coop and the fruit and vegetable market at Murdale. She is very interested in the farm to table movement. Sage also likes to read non-fiction related to the human experience, and to shop in second hand stores.

Sage had been looking for an inclusive and welcoming church community, and was happy to discover CUF last November. The first service she attended was right after the election, and she found a community of like minded people. Sage says that she raised her kids with UU values–she “just didn’t know it at the time.” Sage sees CUF as a community that is a voice of reason with a strong foundation in doing the right thing. She feels we are particularly called to do that at this time in our nation’s history. Sage is drawn to social justice issues and would like to be involved in that at CUF.

Sage’s daughter Journey is 14 and is going into her freshman year. The family is hoping to move to Carbondale this summer so that Journey can attend Carbondale Community High School. Journey likes to hang out with friends. She also likes to cook, and especially enjoys Thai and Mexican food.

Journey likes to read fiction, including fairy tales like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Journey wants to be a therapist or a surgeon.   Her mom describes her as being “very empathic”. Journey helped care for her grandpa when he was in hospice a few years ago, and still helps to care for her grandmother in Johnston City.

Sage has a second daughter, Alex, who is 22 years old. Alex is spending the summer in Maine doing seasonal work at Acadia National Park. She is expected to rejoin the family in October.

Please welcome Sage and her daughter Journey to CUF!

Meet Jim Chapman

by Kathy O’Laughlin

Jim Chapman moved to Carbondale on November 17, 2014, after living in Chicago all of his adult life. He was a frequent visitor to the region through his work trying to improve conditions in Illinois prisons, but had never been to Carbondale until he helped organize a staged reading by ex-offenders titled “A Day at Stateville” at Gaia House. During that event, he met Fellowship member Gillian Harrison, and their relationship led him to decide to move to Carbondale. He has been a frequent visitor to CUF since then!

Jim describes himself as an atheist, Jewish by birth and race. He connects to the Fellowship through advocacy and social action. He has worked with UUs throughout the state on prison advocacy and coalition building, and finds UUs to be open to being involved in controversial matters. He is excited about the Fellowship’s current work on immigration issues.

Jim is a lawyer whose passion is prison advocacy. His work with prisoners has been a life-changing experience for him. For six years, he taught inmates to write and speak effectively at Stateville Prison in Joliet. He had his class write about the conditions at the prison. That project resulted in “A Day at Stateville”, a staged reading which has been performed at many locations around Illinois. Jim also provides seminars to teach pro bono lawyers how to represent prisoners.

Jim had a successful private law practice in Chicago, and was one of the founders of the Uptown People’s Law Center, which served poor people from the Southern Appalachian region who had relocated to Chicago.   He is now an adjunct faculty member at the SIU School of Law.

Together with the Reverend Sidney Logwood from Rock Hill Baptist Church, Jim founded the Center for Empowerment and Justice in Carbondale. In conjunction with Centerstone of Marion, the center serves people transitioning from prison. The Center has regular open houses which provide an opportunity for the ex-offenders to socialize with community members. Jim invites the CUF community to participate.

Please welcome Jim as one of our newer members!


Meet Jonathan Springer

by Kathy O’Laughlin

Jonathan Springer attended events at the Fellowship for four years, and decided to become a member this year. His initial connections to the community were through Open Minds and the New Humanist Forum.

Jonathan notes that at the congregational retreat a few months ago, four principal purposes of the Fellowship were identified. The ones that he identifies with most strongly are the creation of community and the search for truth, both of which drew him to the Fellowship when he started attending.

Jonathan was recently elected to the Board of Directors, and is finding that service to be a vehicle to become more involved in and aware of other aspects of the community. He also serves on the Communications Team, and assisted in setting up mailing lists for different groups within the Fellowship. For the last few years, Jonathan has given an annual talk at the new Humanist Forum covering areas he wants to understand better, such as the nature of the mind and the philosophy of mathematics.

Professionally, Jonathan is a software engineer for a company in New York, and is able to telecommute from Carbondale.   He has two sons, Will and Julian. Will recently graduated from high school and is attending college in Seattle. Julian is a senior in high school. Jonathan’s interests include computers and photography. He is often seen at the high school football games taking photos of the Carbondale Marching Terriers, and many of his photos are displayed on their website.

Please welcome Jonathan as one of our newer members!



Meet Laraine Wright

by Kathy O’Laughlin

Laraine Wright visited CUF occasionally over the years, but felt moved to join the community after the death of her husband, Jerry O’Malley. No longer a caregiver, Laraine felt the need to reinvent her life and reach out to other people. She wanted to love and be loved, and felt a strong need for community. Since joining CUF, she has been surprised to realize that beyond the need for community, she has also found herself drawn to exploring spiritual issues at a deeper level.

Laraine grew up in the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA). After moving to Birmingham, Alabama from the north in the late 1950s, she was shocked to experience segregation and the reaction of people in her community to early attempts at integration. After leaving home to go to the University of Wisconsin, she made a choice to leave the church, which she realized didn’t match her beliefs.

After graduating from college, Laraine went to work as an editor for the Christian Board of Publication in St. Louis, creating religion education materials for a consortium of liberal Christian denominations. She met her husband there, and together they joined
a newly formed Disciples of Christ church which was creating an intentionally diverse community. They developed a close friendship with a single mother of 14 children through the church, and Laraine remains close to the family even now. Unfortunately, the church fell apart after ten years due to lack of funding and burnout. That ended
Laraine’s involvement in organized religion (until recently).

In 1983, Laraine came to Carbondale to be the publications director in the office of Public Relations at SIU. She loves the Carbondale community, and the beauty of Southern Illinois.

Laraine is an avid bird-watcher, enjoys the outdoors, and is a committed environmentalist. She is a long time board member of the Southern Illinois Audubon Society, and is on the board of the Friends of Crab Orchard (National Wildlife Refuge). She coordinates the Bluebird Trail Project, which monitors 200 bird houses weekly in the Crab Orchard. Laraine has been a monitor for twenty years, and has been responsible for preparing the annual report for the last twelve years. She also participates in an annual breeding bird survey conducted by the federal government. Laraine has travelled widely for birding in the United States, as well as internationally, visiting Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, and Europe.

Therese finds herself dipping her toes in as she slowly gets more involved at the Fellowship. She is interested in social justice activities and is particularly engaged by the issues of racism and classism that have come to our awareness in the wake of Ferguson.

In addition to her outdoors activities, Laraine loves to paint landscapes and birds, of course! She finds that the painting is meditative and helps her to focus her mind. She is also a devoted walker of her beloved dogs, Judy and Sister.

Laraine is looking forward to being involved in the CUF community, and is particularly interested in helping the Feed My Sheep program.

Please welcome Laraine as one of our newest members!