As 2008 came to a close, the Columbia Missourian interviewed residents for whom last year was a turning point that profoundly changed their lives.
Leonor Jurado, born in Ecuador, became a U.S. citizen after a nearly 10-year process.
Aaron Briscoe, an MU senior, shared his passion for agriculture with the citizens of Afghanistan as a member of the Missouri National Guard 935th Agribusiness Development Team.
Burgandy Anderson, 22, an MU graduate, moved to Korea to teach English.
Earl and Marian Lubensky married 69 years after they first met in Arrow Rock.
And just two years out of college, 25-year-old Stephen Webber won the 23rd District seat in Missouri’s House of Representatives.
How was 2008 a milestone for you?
Call it the Harry Potter effect.
Fans in Columbia and across the country have flocked to the “Twilight” series, the latest in supernatural storylines, the way they did to America’s favorite boy wizard — with midnight book releases, costumes and a fan base spanning youth and adults alike.
The “Twilight” series tells the story of Bella Swan, a high school student who falls in love with a vampire. The four books — “Twilight,” “New Moon,” “Eclipse” and “Breaking Dawn” — are also being reinterpreted for the big screen. The first “Twilight” film grossed $35.7 million on opening day, Nov. 21.
Fans of the series say the book fills the void left behind by the Harry Potter series, which concluded in July 2007. As of Jan. 1, the four books in the “Twilight” series held the top four spots on Amazon.com’s best sellers list. J.K. Rowling’s recently released "The Tales of Beedle the Bard" was No. 7.
In November, the Columbia Public Library held a “Twilight” book discussion. Organizers had to add 10 spots to the original 20 because of high interest during registration. The event was only open to teens, but so many adults expressed interest that the library will host a “Twilight” party in the spring. Demand has spawned other parties and discussions that will take place at the Columbia, Ashland and Fulton branches of the Daniel Boone Regional Library.
Why is “Twilight” so popular? Does the series replace the void left by Harry Potter?
Why we blog
About 15 years ago, Internet users created on-line diaries to share their feelings and opinions with other netizens. Today, those diaries have evolved into blogs, which Columbia residents use to market their businesses, connect to the community and get the news.
According to Technorati, a blog aggregate and research service, half of all Internet users read blogs. Blogs received more than 77 million unique visitors in August, according to Technorati. That compares with Facebook's 40.1 million visitors and MySpace's 75.1 million.
More than 70 percent of bloggers use their blog to share their expertise. Darbi Gibson uses her blog, "Darbi G. Photography," to show her photography and to inject her personality into her work in a way her Web site can’t.
More than 60 percent of bloggers use blogs to connect to like-minded people, according to Technorati. Jennifer Enders, an institutional research analyst for MU, said she saw her blog, "Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings," evolve from a place to share vegan recipes with friends to a way to connect with people in her area.
If you’re a blogger, how do you use your blog? Do you use it to connect to a community, express your personality, promote your business or just share your thoughts?
Despite the difficult position service organizations found themselves in this year as the economic downturn led to decreasing resources and increasing demand, Columbia residents banded together this holiday season to provide gifts for more than 5,500 individuals in need.
More than 60 percent of nonprofits nationwide have seen an increase in demand for their services this year, according to GuideStar, a database that gathers information about nonprofits. Columbia is mirroring that trend. Meals on Wheels is facing a $20,000 budget deficit for the coming year, and the Central Missouri Food Bank is servicing about 25 percent more people than last year.
But increasing challenges haven’t kept charitable organizations from collaborating with individuals, business and churches to provide aid, especially during the holiday season.
Residents provided more than 1,200 gifts for families in need this year during the 25th annual Adopt a Family program, organized by the Voluntary Action Center. The Salvation Army worked with 555 new cases to serve more than 1,500 people with services such as shopping vouchers and toy distributions.
How will charitable giving change now that the holiday season is over but the economy continues to lag?
Rights for gay couples
Columbia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is working to join cities like St. Louis and Kansas City in creating a domestic partner registry for all cohabitating adult couples. A registry would give LGBT and nonmarried straight couples some of the same rights and benefits given to married couples.
Advocates for the registry hope it would also validate gay relationships. Missouri banned same-sex marriage four years before the recent passage of California’s ban, Proposition 8.
Supporters are lobbying Mayor Darwin Hindman and the City Council for support for a registry. Already, Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser has said she is uncertain she “approves of marriage in the traditional sense” for same-sex couples but supports establishing lesser rights, such as visitation rights in hospitals. Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe and Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala have shown support for the registry.
Many businesses, including Boone Hospital Center in Columbia and all Fortune 500 companies, give partners health insurance benefits already. The University of Missouri, Columbia’s largest employer, does not give benefits to partners.
Should Columbia adopt a registry to establish rights and benefits for gay and nonmarried couples? What rights and benefits should be included?