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Garden grows life lessons for local youth

CHAMPAIGN --- Beautification, nutrition, respect for environment, charity, entrepreneurship. Who would have thought so many life lessons could come from a package of seeds? 

Children from the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club, that's who.


Local homeless students can easily fall through cracks

CHAMPAIGN -- Mason Hurtado is an athletic boy with an enormous smile and neatly trimmed hair. He is a sixth-grader at Franklin Middle School in Champaign, where he takes college preparatory classes and participates in chess club, basketball and, come January, wrestling.

Inside the classroom, he looks just like any of his peers. But when he leaves school at the end of the day, Mason heads home to a two-room apartment filled to the ceiling with clothes, toys and other pieces of his family’s life from before they were homeless.

The News-Gazette/ Mason Vaughn,13, and his mother Debra in their room at Restoration Urban Ministries on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009.In back are Mason's sisters Victoria, 9, and Asharie, 2.

Free or reduced lunch aid soars in public schools

RANTOUL-- At Broadmeadow Intermediate Grade Level Center in Rantoul, third graders quietly file through the cafeteria line and pick up a hot lunch of turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, corn and fruited gelatin. Eight out of every 10 children waiting in the lunchroom line this year are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

Shelley Smithson/ Mo Knell serves hot lunches to students at Broadmeadow school in Rantoul.

Urbana Rotary Club pledges money to help feed school children

A program that sends backpacks full of food home with needy schoolchildren every weekend will expand to a fifth Champaign County site this fall.

 The Urbana Rotary Club has pledged $22,500 over the next three years to support the Eastern Illinois Foodbank´s BackPack Program at Prairie Elementary School in Urbana.

 The program combats hunger by providing weekend groceries for children, distributed in backpacks on Friday afternoons to ensure students return to school on Mondays fed and ready to learn.

The News-Gazette/ From front, Deshunta Aikens, Ben Thompson and David Hensley restock shelves at the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.

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