Salvation Army toy drive aiming for 5,000 items by Dec. 12

CHAMPAIGN – Local organizations hope to brighten the holidays for needy children and teens by collecting 5,000 toys and gifts in less than a month. But they're going to need a lot of help from local donors to reach that goal, which is 600 more toys than were donated in Champaign-Urbana last year.

The toy drive for The Salvation Army, sponsored by Carle Foundation Hospital, Carle Clinic and WDWS-AM and WHMS-FM radio stations, got under way today.

Community leaders mourn Urban League's shuttering

CHAMPAIGN – Community members black and white Sunday mourned the demise of the Urban League of Champaign County, which closed last week after 45 years.

"It's a sad day for the community, not only for the African-American community, but the white community as well," said former Urbana Alderman Lonnie Clark. "It's a much-needed organization in Champaign-Urbana and the entire county. I think it's going to be terribly missed. I hope that it's not dead forever."

The league shut its doors Friday on the heels of mounting financial problems, state and federal investigations, and new audits questioning its ability to continue as a "going concern." The agency had debt totaling $850,000 and a $1 million annual budget.

Hoopeston Public Library planning entrepreneurial seminars

HOOPESTON – Hoopeston Public Library Director Lou Graham wanted to supplement economic development efforts in this city.

Graham decided to apply for an Illinois State Library Grant. The money comes through the secretary of state's office from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Wintry conditions cause several vehicles to leave Interstate 74

ST. JOSEPH - Slushy road conditions sent several vehicles off Interstate 74 early Saturday evening.

State police were called to the area between St. Joseph and the overpass about 7 p.m. Saturday.

Eco-friendly Green Mill Village near Arcola gets under way

ARCOLA – A soybean field east of Arcola is being transformed by construction crews into an environmentally friendly resort and tourist attraction.

The developers of Green Mill Village, a partnership between Sullivan-based Agri-Fab and Bob McElwee of Charleston, say the 63.5-acre resort, hotel and conference center will cement Arcola's position as a tourist destination, especially for families from the Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis areas.

UI researchers using genetic relationships to track evolution

URBANA – The latest computer technology has buttressed a revolutionary look at how life evolved, while offering new potential for medicines.

Carl Woese startled the scientific world in 1977 by positing that there are three essential domains, or types of life. Before, there were thought to be two, bacteria and everything else: eukaryotes, whose cells contain membrane-coated parts, such as the nucleus.

It's Your Business: A new twist for Vrinios' holiday tradition

It's nearly candy-cane-making time for Pete Vrinios and his family, and they plan to carry on their 110-year-old tradition in downtown Champaign for the holiday season.

You can see Vrinios candy canes made step by step in the front windows of Jim Gould Restaurant at Neil and Main streets, starting the first weekend in December. Kids can even hook their own candy canes, Vrinios said.

2 Champaign firms headed for finals in business competition

CHAMPAIGN – Two Champaign-based businesses will be among 12 companies vying for top prizes of $40,000 in the Innovate Illinois business competition Tuesday in Chicago.

Representatives of Autonomic Materials Inc. and Kim Laboratories will make presentations to a panel of judges in hopes of taking honors in the early-stage and later-stage categories, respectively.

Business lets pet owners turn their friend into a 'dog person'

SADORUS – Kirby and Cindy Pringle introduced "dog people" to children's literature when they began their "Happy Tails" series five years ago.

The Pringles, who live near Sadorus, have published two books, "Earl and Pearl on The Farm" and "The Call of Nature." Both feature the adventures of Earl and Pearl, dogs that dress and behave very much as people do.

Olympic medalist, UI coach to be featured at Rantoul banquet

RANTOUL – Justin Spring of Champaign, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist on the U.S. men's gymnastics team and assistant gymnastics coach at the University of Illinois, will be the featured speaker at this year's Rantoul Area Chamber of Commerce annual banquet.

Spring, a UI graduate, will discuss the obstacles he overcame to help the U.S. team to a third-place finish at Beijing.