CHAMPAIGN – If you haven't bought a toy for a needy child yet, you've got all day to pick one up and bring it to the drive-through toy collection being held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at WDWS/WHMS radio stations, 2301 S. Neil St., C.
The drive-through collection is the conclusion of the 25th annual toy drive sponsored by Carle Foundation Hospital, Carle Clinic and WDWS/WHMS.
CHAMPAIGN – Carol Ammons was concerned enough about the past two months' events that she sent her 15-year-old son to a school 600 miles away to avoid contact with the Champaign police.
Ammons, a member of the Champaign County Board and a community activism group, was one of several community members who expressed disgust with a report released Tuesday by Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz detailing her findings after Kiwane Carrington, 15, was shot dead by a Champaign police officer on Oct. 9.
CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign school district prepared for the worst.
But it was business as usual in the school buildings Tuesday.
Teachers and school administrators were instructed to be on alert and be ready for a "soft lockdown" of school buildings if the release of the report on 15-year-old Kiwane Carrington's death generated a negative reaction in the community. A soft lockdown means all outside doors of a school building are locked and all outside activities, such as recess, are canceled.
Broadlands – When Stonecold Motorcycle Club lost two of its own – Bill and Julie Orndorff – in a tragic accident a year ago last July, members rallied to offer support to the five boys who had lost both their parents. Now the motorcycle club members are dedicating their weekends to building a four-bedroom addition for the four boys living with their aunt and uncle, Mary and Ron Gast of Broadlands. A new rec room for the boys is also in the works.
Mary Gast, Bill Orndorff's sister, was awarded custody of four of the boys in August 2008 – Darrell, 13; Trent, 10; Nick, 8; and Kevin, 3. The eldest, Geoff, 17, went to live with his mother in Villa Grove.
GIBSON CITY – Lining the walls of Bob and Gail Hutchcraft's living room is an archive of old family photos, some dating to before the Civil War. Visitors know right away the Hutchcrafts cherish their families' history – even if some of it, like Bob's belief that he is related to Jesse and Frank James, might not be something to be especially proud of.
Friends of the Hutchcrafts also know the retired couple not only treasure their families' past, they investigate it – and with a passion.
PAXTON – Natalie Johnson was a beautiful 11-year-old girl with "out-of-this-world potential and a personality you'd love to put in a bottle and sell for big bucks," her church's pastor said at her funeral Saturday.
"Natalie Johnson just didn't show up for things; she made every place she was at just a little better," the Rev. Craig Pinley said. "She was pretty quiet by nature, but her ability to make others feel good was extraordinary.
CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign Public Library is among the top 4 percent of busiest and best libraries in the country.
Library Journal magazine, the oldest publication covering the library field, ranks libraries based on service per capita: the number of checkouts, library visits, program attendance and public Internet use. The index compares the ratings by budget range and then assigns top libraries in each category a rating of three to five stars, based on their overall score.
PAXTON – The Evangelical Covenant Church of Paxton has rescheduled its Christmas Bazaar, formerly known as the Lucia Fest, for Dec. 12, so it will not conflict with Natalie Johnson's funeral.
The event will run from 9 a.m. to noon at the church.
URBANA – A fund to help students from China attend the University of Illinois' Graduate School of Library and Information Science has been established in honor of a student who died in a car crash last month.
Yingbo Zhou, 26, was the first student taking part in the graduate school's 1+1 program, which brings library students from Zhejiang University in China to the UI.
DANVILLE – A simple online request posted by a Danville attorney and a friend hundreds of miles away has, in just three days, generated a stack of more than 500 gifts for Vermilion County foster children.
"I can't even tell you how amazed I am about what's going on here," said attorney John Halloran, who, with the help of his friend, Genevieve Dempre of New Orleans, put together a Christmas wish list for foster kids and got it posted Sunday night on Fark.com, a news-aggregating and social-networking news Web site, and on Facebook, a social-networking site.