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Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District Operations Manager Chuck Wilson tosses balloons that his staff filled his Urbana office with Thursday — his last day of work before retirement.

Chuck Wilson has seen a great deal of change in Champaign-Urbana in his 40 years with the Mass Transit District. Some good, some not so much.

“The town has changed so much. From what campus looked like in 1980 and what it is now is like night and day,” Wilson said. “The tall buildings on Green Street. Now it’s like a wind tunnel, so many apartment buildings.”

For 35 of his four decades at MTD, Wilson drove a bus. The last five he’s been behind a desk in an administrative role. Now he’ll shift to a recliner — a man of leisure who spent his last day on the job Thursday.

When it came to knowing the streets, it helped that Wilson, 61, is a townie. A 1977 Centennial graduate, he started with MTD in 1980.

“Champaign was so easy for me since I spent so much time there. I also knew the main streets in Urbana,” he said.

When he started, MTD had 10 routes. That has increased to 20. It cost 30 cents to ride the bus back then. It jumped to $1 several years ago and has stayed there, although the fare is free during the pandemic. Payment used to be in cash. Now many riders get passes — some on their cell phone. It costs $84 for a year’s pass.

“This year and in the last few years, Champaign-Urbana is just getting to be kind of a mean town. Not just in the buses but aggressive drivers,” he said. “We’re just kind of turning into more of like a big city than what we used to be in the ‘80s. One of our buses even got hit with gunfire over the summer. Our world is getting meaner.”

Still, he said, there are many nice people who ride the bus, and riding is safe.

One of the hazards of bus driving is having to navigate the streets on snow and ice.

“Driving a bus on snow and ice,” he said, “is like driving an elephant on ice skates.”

He proudly says he has had no preventable accidents as a bus driver.

Wilson said he intends to “take it easy” in retirement.

“I’m looking forward to not having to get up early in the morning and scrape the snow and ice off my vehicle and hope it starts,” he said.

Wilson and wife Mary have four sons, one of whom is an MTD driver.

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Frosty the Snowman greets visitors to Homer.

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One of the nativity stars hung near a church in Homer.

Everyone entering Homer on one of its four major streets gets a wave from Frosty the Snowman these days. Nativity stars are also located on poles near every church — the work of the village’s maintenance staff.

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Byerley

Ryan Byerley and co-worker Dale Katterhenry saved the village thousands of dollars by making these and other Christmas decorations. Elves, Santa and Christmas packages are also among the lights hung on utility poles.

Byerley said the village needed new decorations, and they didn’t want them to look like about every other town’s.

“Our goal was to do something unique that nobody else has,” Byerley said. “Every little town looks the same.”

Ed Shirley, the village’s licensed water operator, taught the duo how to make the lights.

“He showed us how to lay them out on a table. We went and bought the materials by hand, welded them up and painted them, put (LED rope) lights on them and made brackets so we could hang them on a pole,” Byerley said.

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Ed Shirley shows Dale Katterhenry how to make a Christmas decoration.

Homer Mayor Raymond Cunningham said the town’s old lights were in such bad shape that they weren’t put up last year.

He said the village board was in favor of the pair making the new decorations and appropriated the money.

Byerley estimated each new one cost about $200 — quite a savings compared to $800 from ones they would have purchased.

So far 19 of them have been erected, and they plan to make more. It takes about three hours to make one — Byerley and Katterhenry working on the decorations when the weather isn’t fit to work outdoors or when they have time to kill at the end of the day.

Byerley said they didn’t make the lights for notoriety.

“We just did it for the betterment of the community.”

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Officers won’t be able to get as up close and personal with children participating in the Shop with a Cop shopping spree this year, but they’ll still be able to help.

The Danville Police Department will host the annual Clothes for Kids (Shop with a Cop) event at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, at Kohl’s.

Each child who has been selected through their school will be able to buy clothing items up to $100 that he or she needs.

Josh Long, school resource officer who is assigned to Mark Denman School, Danville, said officers won’t be able to accompany the children when they shop. The youngsters will shop with a parent/guardian. Officers will still be on hand to answer questions and to meet and greet.

Between 45 and 55 children from Danville and other Vermilion County schools will participate. Funding comes through the police charitable organization.

Kohl’s will provide items at a discount.

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Sidney firefighters show off the shirts the department is selling for its annual cancer-awareness shirt sale. From left are Lt. Grant Bennett, Capt. Jason Arrasmith, Lt. Brady Walden, Rich VanEtta, Assistant Chief Trent Bennett, Corey Lilly and Chief Dan Happ.

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Sidney firefighters are selling shirts for their annual cancer awareness shirt sale.

Sidney firefighters are holding their annual cancer awareness shirt sale.

This year’s shirt front reads “FIGHT FOR A CURE, FIGHT FOR LIFE” encircling a Maltese cross. The left sleeve includes a white ribbon with the initials “EB” in memory of former chief Earl Bennett, who died last August.

“As of right now we are selling them online, but we do plan to be at the Shop at Home event sponsored by the Sidney Improvement Group,” Lt. Grant Bennett said.

The link to order online can be found on the department’s Facebook page. The department can also be contacted at 217-688-2617 or SidneyILFire@gmail.com

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More casualties of the pandemic: Christmas activities.

In Fisher, the annual parade has been scrapped, but all is not lost. The town will hold a drive-thru Santa event from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 5, at the community center and a Deck Your House contest.

Youngsters can see Santa from the safety of their vehicle. Elves will collect wish lists and letters to Santa.

Donations to the Fisher Area Food bank will also be accepted.

The house-decorating contest judging will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Three $100 prizes will be awarded.

People are encouraged to drive around Fisher and choose their favorite holiday display.

Entry is free. People must enter to win a prize by calling or texting Jason at 217-337-3481 or Laura at 217-840-1957 before Dec. 1

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Rantoul will host a stationary parade and Christmas scene drive-thru Dec. 19.

In Rantoul, the annual parade and Santa’s Workshop will not be held. Instead, the community will set up a stationary parade and Christmas scene drive-thru from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, for the public to drive through.

The chamber of commerce is seeking businesses or groups to attend and set up a Christmas display.

“This doesn’t have to be a Lampoon-style light display or anything of the sort,” Chamber Executive Director Amanda Vickery said. “It can be a few outdoor things borrowed from home in the back of a pickup truck. It can be the trunk of a car with a few lit-up things in the back. It can be a setting without a vehicle and a light display.”

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McShanog

Cindy McShanog has been selected the Star of the Month recipient for October at Liberty Estates in Danville.

McShanog has worked in the housekeeping department at Liberty Estates for the past 12 years.

“Her dedication to her job and cheerful attitude are just a few of the reasons she was chosen,” Amy Thompson, Estates manager, said. “We truly appreciate all that Cindy does and the ownership she takes in doing a great job at Liberty Estates,” Amy Thompson, estates manager, said.

McShanog resides in Danville.

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When Cindy Brumfield, a paraprofessional at Mahomet-Seymour High School’s alternative school, had students coming to school in the morning hungry, she decided to do something about it.

It started small. She would put granola bars and other items in her desk to give to the students.

“Then it kind of snowballed,” she said in an understatement. “I had no idea it would be as big as it is.”

Now she oversees a full pantry called Mom’s Pantry in what is the former weight room at M-S.

Non-perishable foods, bread and other bakery items, personal hygiene products and even clothing are available.

Anyone with a child in the M-S school district is eligible to get items. Many students take a bag or two of items home with them from school.

Brumfield also gives up part of her Sunday evenings to open the pantry from 5:30 to 7.

“There’s a definite need. I don’t mind at all,” she said, adding that the image of Mahomet being strictly an affluent community is a misconception. “There’s a lot of need in Mahomet.”

About 20 families come to the pantry regularly on Sunday evenings.

When Brumfield started the pantry about a year and a half ago, she had no idea a pandemic would be on the calendar.

“Food right now actually is an issue for a lot of families,” she said.

Pantry items come via donations of food/products or money. The M-S FFA officers recently held a drive-thru food drive. One of the soccer teams made a donation.

Brumfield is also giving out items needed to make a Thanksgiving dinner to about 20 families — about double the amount of last year.

She has set up a giving tree and asks families to answer four questions: What do you need? What do you want? What do you like to wear? What/who is your favorite book/author?

Tags are placed on the tree for community members to take and buy a gift to help make someone’s holidays a little brighter.

Brumfield said she believes in giving back.

“Volunteering is kind of my thing,” she said. “I think everyone should be involved. I think volunteering should be a graduation requirement for the kids.”

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St. Joseph-Ogden first quarter high honor roll

Freshmen

Alewelt, Edward

Allen, Logan

Armstrong, Aden

Baltzell, Owen

Beetz, Samantha

Burkhalter, Chloe

Divan, Rachel

Ericksen, Sadie

Frasca, Joseph

Frick, Addison

Getty, Grace

Haake, Logan

Harper, Chloe

Harris, Rachel

Hausman, Brody

Hueber, Annabelle

Jacob, Tanner

Jolley, Kya

Jones, Helene

Kibler, Tori

Lewis, Hayden

Lewis, Quinn

Lockhart, Taylyn

Martinie, Addisyn

Miller, Talan

Mock, Isaiah

Musselman, Rowan

Ochs, Caleb

Pruitt, Cole

Reed-Thompson, Macy

Roesch, Addison

Ross, Addison

Santiago, Daniel

Skelton, Lucas

Smith, Logan

Thurman, Drew

Thurman, Emma

Ward, Elissia

Wayland, Colin

Wells, Corbin

Williams, Hayden

Williams, Peyton

Sophomores

Atwood, McGwire

Baker, Kaytlyn

Baltzell, Olivia

Burch, Tyler

Carter, Maddux

Casanova, Yamilka

Chambers, Ariana

Cramer, Morgan

Cromwell, Aiden

Dahman, Zachary

Elsbernd, Emily

Frerichs, Joselyn

Greer, Kennedy

Guelfi, Andrew

Haley, Mikyla

Henkelman, Hayden

Hewkin, Maya

Hug, Taylor

Jeffries, Emily

Jones, Aliya

Jones, Peyton

Kern, Jacob

Ketchum, Hunter

Livesay, Collin

Maddock, Haleigh

McCorkle, Aidan

Meccoli, Kyle

Miller, Teagan

Pearman, Allegra

Pence, Ty

Robertson, Jack

Schaefer, Kirsten

Schmitz, Johanna

Setterdahl, Jack

Siegmund, Paige

Tapia, Trinity

Vander Logt, Payton

Voorhees, Taylor

Wagle, Alayna

Wagner, Mallory

Ward, Maggie

Juniors

Allen, Addison

Altenbaumer, Tyler

Anderson, Kailyn

Armstrong, Ella

Behrens, Abigail

Beyers, Andrew

Burkhalter, Mara

Burnett, Kennedi

Chahine, Angela

Clampitt, Braden

Conerty, Anastasia

Cummins, Deanna

Cunningham, Benjamin

Davis, Sidney

Dressen, Zander

Emmert, Jared

Fox, Hannah

Fulk, Mackenzie

Haake, Brennan

Hamer, Liam

Harper, Lauren

Ingram, Kailyn

Jacob, Payton

Kearney, Alison

Knap, Ava

Lewis, Jacey

Loghry, Wyatt

Martlage, Kelsey

McDade, Sophia

Miller, Coby

Miller, Conrad

Mock, Elijah

Morris, Jett

Palmer, Jessica

Parkinson, Emma

Rajlich, Hope

Schmitz, Grace

Sexton, Taryn

Shoviak, Alyssa

Stegall, Luke

Steinbach, Rebecca

Trame, Mackenzie

Uden, Regan

Wells, Taylor

Seniors

Brooks, Isabelle

Burnett, Crayton

Bytnar, David

Campbell, Taylor

Duckett, Kylie

Duckwitz, Makayla

Dwyer, Jacob

Eastin, Hanna

Edwards, Nadirah

Franzen, Dakota

Hamilton, Atleigh

Houston, Emmyrson

Hutcherson, Lukas

Ingram, Logan

Kellenberger, Cailer

Kofoot, Shelby

Maddock, Alyssa

Madsen, Tyson

Martlage, Sophia

Meeker, Garren

Naylor, Samantha

Painter, Alec

Patton, Erin

Roberts, Aidan

Robinson, Indira

Ronk, Mazie

Schmitz, Evan

Shonkwiler, Max

Smith, Tessa

Vallee, Payton

Walden, Nora

Wendt, Brayden

Wertz, Mikayla

Wolfersberger, Logan

St. Joseph-Ogden first quarter honor roll

Freshmen

Allen, Chloe

Allinger, Kaden

Bott, Mya

Brown, Kyler

Carter, Payton

Chahine, Maya

Harbourt, James

Hayes, Jayci

Jones, Holden

Lannert, Lauren

LeVeck, Jake

Maroon, Carson

McBride, Seth

McMahon, Shannon

Stevens, Madison

Sweet, Zoey

Waller, Braxton

Wilson, Spencer

Sophomores

Acton, Alyssa

Adams, Madison

Alwes, Canyon

Burch, Taylor

Carter, Payton

Chatterton, Gwen

Cook, Madelynn

Dow, Abigail

Finley, Leah

Flessner, Grace

Gadbury, Jessica

Harms, Hallie

Hinrichs, Mary

Immke, Shayne

Kelley, Cameran

Kelley, Jade

Lane, Aaron

Morgan, Blake

Myren, Courtney

Nemecz, Caleb

Newman, Jacob

Northen, Ava

Rydell, Emma

Ward, Emma

Wetzel, Jackson

Juniors

Anzelmo, Nicolas

Atwood, Madison

Bensyl, Alanna

Besson, Ella

Burnett, Allison

Eldridge, Ashley

Freeman, Carter

Fuqua, Zella

Gaines, Hailey

Gerdes, Avian

Hamilton, Alyssa

Huffman, Claire

Klotz, Olivia

Lannert, Ashlyn

Meyer, Ava

Miller, Ava

Place, Jackson

Poulter, Jonathan

Roesch, Griffin

Snyder, Anna

Vanliew, Ethan

Weinmann, Elijah

Seniors

Buss, Brady

Crippen, Raegan

Eads, Caleb

Evans, Britney

Frerichs, Alexandra

Froman, Emily

Getty, Isabella

Knott, Hayden

Lahners, Spencer

Lane, Ethan

Lilly, Matthew

Livesay, Aiden

Loman, Madigan

Moberg, Abigail

Umbarger, Hannah

Whitlock, Mitchell

Wilson, Rachel

Heritage first quarter honor roll

8th Grade— Klayton Junglas, Bailee Lubben, Hunter Montgomery, Brennan Struck, Gracyn Tate, Loran Tate, Mykayla Thomas, Olivia Wallace, Addison Weisman, Kashton White

Honors

8th Grade— Robert Holloman, Kamble Pearman, Kamryn Soard, Alexandria Tatman, Madisyn Wilson, Wyatt Young

High Honors

7th Grade— Eli Denmark-Collins, Chaylea Fisher, Anthony Happ, Isabelle Lawrence, Lukas Miller, Vivian Pondenis

Honors

7th Grade— Patrick Chapman, Tyler Ingerson, Faith Latham, Brenley Sands, Leigha Tatar, Rylan White

High Honors

6th Grade— Nathan Bensyl, Erika Bonilla, Addison Hopper, Breanna Ploense, Clayton Thomas

Honors

6th Grade— Lillie Bishop, James Dillon, Ryan James, Lillian Perkins, Clark Roland, Jayden Schrock, Coltyn Thompson, Caesyn Wasson, Kaden White

Dave Hinton is editor of The News-Gazette’s Our County section. Reach him via email at dhinton@news-gazette.com or call 217-249-2404.

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