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Call it serendipity if you like, but Rick McNary prefers divine providence.
After a life-changing experience with a starving child in Nicaragua eight years ago, McNary, then a minister in Kansas, decided to devote his life to fighting world hunger.
This report is part of a joint project of The News-Gazette and the University of Illinois Department of Journalism, in an ongoing examination of poverty and its related issues in Champaign County.
The project is funded by the Marajen Stevick Foundation, a News-Gazette foundation; a matching grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a journalism foundation based in Miami; and contributions from the UI.
What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?
6:30 a.m. to 6:45 a.m. – like everybody else, get ready! After that I have devotions, and go online and watch BBC News.
What did you have for lunch today? Where? Who with?
Subway. At my desk, alone – a working lunch.
Best high school memory?
I broke the same guy's arms twice by accident – his left arm in fall football and his right arm in winter basketball.
Assistance for families is familiar territory for pastor, attorney
RANTOUL – Elaine Gehrmann served as a pastor for 10 years. Also an attorney, she has directed her focus toward providing legal assistance to the poor. For Gehrmann, it's all about helping people.
WESTVILLE – The 107-year-old St. Mary's School will close at the end of the school year, despite recent efforts by parents, the parish and the Westville community to keep it open.
"It's an unfortunate situation," said the Rev. Timothy Sauppe, who will inform parishioners of the closing at church services this weekend. He informed school staff on Friday.
CHAMPAIGN – This may sound like good news: an emergency shelter for homeless women hasn't had much business this winter.
But volunteers say they know there are women on the streets, so they're trying to spread the word about Austin's Place, an overnight shelter at First United Methodist Church in downtown Champaign.
DANVILLE – The Women's Care Clinic will hold a Sanctity of Life Community Prayer Service at 6 p.m. Jan. 24 at the New Life Christian Center, 2105 N. Bowman Ave.
The service will include music, a client testimony, and an inspirational message about the gift of life, as well as an update on the services provided at the clinic.
ARTHUR – It was a bitter cold January night, with a snowstorm forecast to begin later in the evening.
But mothers and children, retirees, congregation members and others braved the cold to come to the Arthur United Methodist Church for a meal.
The kitchen at the church was buzzing with activity by midafternoon.
Volunteers wearing aprons and visors were spooning pudding into bowls, pouring lemonade and pulling stacks of plates from cabinets. Five large pots of green beans sat on the stovetop, and large warming pans held slices of pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes and gravy.
A pink plastic tablecloth was unrolled over tables that were soon covered with bowls of lettuce salad, fruit salad and desserts.
People began to fill the basement, as they have every Wednesday for nearly a year.
URBANA – If you don't want to spend New Year's Eve in a bar, there is an option for you besides The Chorale's annual "C-U at the Virginia" concert at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign.
The School of Metaphysics in Urbana will usher in the New Year on Thursday evening at the Red Herring Restaurant with a non-alcoholic evening that will honor different religions and cultures.
RANTOUL – Setting up Christmas decorations can take awhile, but few invest more time in it than Zelma Neal of Rantoul.
Neal estimates it would take about three days to set up all the Nativity scenes that she owns.