Top of the Morning, Feb. 6, 2014
In November, the Marajen Stevick Foundation — which owns The News-Gazette and our radio stations — put up $25,000 to match tornado relief donations to the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois. This week we spotlight acts of generosity en route to that $25,000:
He comes from a long line of farmers. So 74-year-old Jim Hughes knew exactly what to do when Gifford was walloped by a tornado.
"My grandfather was a farmer, my dad was a farmer. When a farmer got behind or got sick or injured, other farmers would go and help them," he said. "You just went and did it."
Jim — who farms 1,000 acres in Champaign County with his brother-in-law — made Grandpa proud last week, directing $2,500 to relief efforts in Gifford which was matched by our foundation. He has a commemorative check the size of a small tractor to prove it.
"It's in our dining room now," he said. "I'll see what my wife wants to do with it."
Deciding what to do with the $2,500 was the easy part. What caused Jim a bit of angst was the initial phone call from the folks at America's Farmers Grow Communities, which picked farmers from eight area counties to donate $2,500 to a nonprofit of their choice.
"It didn't register at first," he said. "Sometimes you get a call like that, it sounds like they're trying to sell you stuff and you end up paying."
Jim ended up giving. For the gesture, he and his wife of 47 years, Judy, were recognized at Gordyville last week. On the way home, they drove through Gifford to see the damage they had heard too much about.
"You're just glad no one got hurt," Jim said. "But all those houses ... Even if a house is old, it's still your house. You go to Grandma's house, she's lived there a long time, she's comfortable with it. Then she has to leave — that's the hard part."
Maybe Jim's gesture helps someone rebuild. Maybe his message inspires others.
"Our whole world is better," he said, "when we think about others instead of ourselves. You don't see as much of that these days."
Eight local farmers directed a $2,500 donation to a local nonprofit organization of their choice. Funded by America's Farmers Grow Communities, the donations will help area nonprofits complete numerous projects and purchase much-needed materials. Winning farmers and their chosen organizations from the greater Gifford area — Champaign, Vermilion, Edgar, Coles, Ford, McLean, and DeWitt counties — participated in a special check presentation at the Midwest Ag Expo at Gordyville:
— Marajen Stevick Foundation, Champaign County, selected by James Hughus
— Arthur CUSD 305, Douglas County, selected by Tyler Yoder
— Armstrong FFA, Vermilion County, selected by Robert Criblez
— Compassionate Food Ministries, Edgar County, selected by Richard Nicholson
— Mattoon FFA, Coles County, selected by Clayton Walker
— Paxton-Buckley-Loda FFA, Ford County, selected by Ryan Veatch
— Colfax Food Pantry, McLean County, selected by Bob Lasser
— Clinton Community YMCA, De Witt County, selected by Robert Thomas