Spirit of the season: Drug court clients help kids, and a toy drive under way

URBANA — The 60 or so clients of the Champaign County drug court program will be helping people less fortunate this holiday season.

Drug court coordinator Del Ryan said instead of exchanging gifts among themselves, the clients have agreed to bring gifts for the children who live at Restoration Urban Ministries, 1213 Parkland Court, in northwest Champaign.

Toys for Troops 2011


Toys for Troops event at the ILEAS building in Urbana on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011. The group hoped to have 100 boxes of donated gifts and food to send to troops overseas.

Church plans dinner for all on Christmas Day

CHAMPAIGN — If your Christmas day is looking lonely or bleak, here's an invitation that might brighten the outlook.

First Christian Church will serve a free holiday turkey dinner, complete with caroling, decorations and entertainment, and the invitation is open to anyone who might otherwise be alone on Christmas or can't afford a holiday meal.

Getting Personal: Meagan Johnson Smith

Getting Personal is an email Q&A with a local personality. Here, a chat with Meagan Johnson Smith, 31, of Urbana, the choral conductor/music director of Amasong: Champaign-Urbana's premier lesbian/feminist chorus. She also is a voice teacher, a certified instructor of the Alexander Technique, a singer, a composer and a mother, not necessarily in that order.

Studio Visit: Don Lake

Studio visit appears first in print, on Sundays. Here, Melissa Merli visits with longtime Parkland College art professor Don Lake. In the Dec. 4 News-Gazette, instead of a studio visit, Merli will have a guide to buying locally produced art as holiday gifts.

Q: What have you been doing since you retired?

Gearhead of the Week: Lee Galaway

Lee Galaway has the whole family involved in his automotive pursuits, resulting in daughter Julia's stunning Super Beetle convertible.

Detective uses triathlon to raise awareness of autism

Nate Rath is the baby of eight Champaign police officers who have completed grueling Ironman triathlons.

The 36-year-old detective finished his first Ironman in Panama City, Fla., on Nov. 5 in 16 hours and 15 minutes.

Life Remembered: Ned Filbey's outlook connected with community

URBANA — When Ned Filbey started public school in Urbana in the late 1950s, there were no special education classes. Experts advised then that children with special needs or developmental deficiencies should be put in institutions.

Bucking that trend, Nate and Mary Lou Filbey and their three daughters became Ned Filbey's special educators.

UI alum to appear on TV game show

Bhibha Das.

Which "Jeopardy!" contestant's name rhymes with "diva"? according to Alex Trebek's notecard.

University of Illinois alumna Das — also Mount Zion class of 1998 valedictorian — met Trebek as a contestant a few months ago.

She will appear on the show this afternoon but was not allowed by the rules of the game to say any more about later appearances.

Drug company honors Carle doctor

URBANA — In the early years when HIV/AIDS was quietly mushrooming into a worldwide epidemic, Dr. Philip Johnson decided to learn as much as he could about the virus and disease.