November was colder, drier than normal in C-U

This past month in Champaign-Urbana was colder and drier than average.

In Gifford, Thanksgiving is a feast of plenty

GIFFORD — Less than two weeks after a tornado lifted the home of Vicki and Jack Russell off its foundation with them inside, the Gifford couple sat down to an abundant Thanksgiving feast in Vicki's onetime home church.

Being at this dinner, provided by Gifford United Methodist Church and a host of volunteers, "means the world to me," she said.

Gifford's community building sound but needs fixes

GIFFORD — Gifford's social center appears to have survived the Nov. 17 tornado, although it's going to need repair.

A structural engineer on Wednesday morning looked over what is known as the German Fall Festival community building and found that it is sound, said members of the board of the not-for-profit corporation that operates the facility.

Steps can help when rebuilding after disaster

CHAMPAIGN — People who suddenly find themselves without a home — such as the tornado victims in Gifford — may find the rebuilding process takes longer than expected, a veteran contractor said.

Jody Wesley, president of USPRO/United Services in Mahomet, has spent 34 years doing restoration work following disasters.

Facebook helps reunite owners with tornado-strewn items

GIFFORD — A ring with three stones. A Harley Davidson duffel bag. Old baseball cards. And someone's back X-ray.

Personal possessions scattered by Sunday's tornado are piling up in a couple of bins at the Gifford State Bank, where Tanna Suits has become a human lost and found.

Stevick Foundation will match $25,000 in gifts

CHAMPAIGN — The owners of The News-Gazette and WDWS Inc. have pledged up to $25,000 to match gifts to the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois intended to help the community of Gifford.

The nonprofit Marajen Stevick Foundation owns the newpaper and the radio stations, as well The Rantoul Press and several other community newspapers.

Attorney general investigating fundraiser

CHICAGO — The Illinois attorney general's office has opened an investigation into improper fundraising tied to relief efforts in communities hit by Sunday's tornadoes.

The attorney general's Charitable Trust Bureau received a complaint regarding Heroes Memorial Foundation, an unregistered, out-of-state entity raising funds for victims of the weekend storm.

Gifford basketball players get back on the court

GIFFORD — The Gifford Grade School Eagles got back into the gymnasium on Friday for their first basketball practices after the storm.

John Frerichs, one of the three eighth-grade players, said it felt good to take a break from the abnormal.

Emergency agency begins to end its part of Gifford operations

GIFFORD — The Champaign County Emergency Management Agency is beginning to phase out its operations in the small, disaster-stricken town as residents continue the cleanup on their own.

Local EMA spokesman Rick Atterberry said all the proper procedures are in place to ensure that the recovery continues smoothly, but the initial response phase is winding down.

Former Champaign priest in midst of Washington tornado aftermath

WASHINGTON — In June, the Rev. Steve Willard stood on the altar at Holy Cross Church, weeping as he revealed to parishioners he was being reassigned to a church in western Illinois.

After eight years at the helm of the central Champaign Catholic parish, he was being transferred to Washington, not far from his hometown of Peoria.