STAFF PICKS: Warm weather; a veteran's path to recovery

Friday, March 23, 2012 | 7:38 p.m. CDT

There's a lot of content on, and we can't expect the average reader to consume every last morsel of it. Still, we fear some of the stories from this week that you need to know about might have been overlooked. So we've compiled a list of recent stories we think you could benefit from reading, including the early onset of spring weather and a Columbia veteran's perspective on re-entering civilian life.

Helping hands

The Relief Society, a volunteer society for women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, celebrated its 170th birthday on Saturday with an afternoon of charity. Women gathered to create and donate quilts, hats and booties for children for charity, as well as 500 cards for American soldiers. The Relief Society, whose main purposes include self-sufficiency, increasing spirituality and helping those in need, has more than 2,000 members in Columbia and regularly donates hand-made crafts to charity.

Soldier makes adjustment to civilian life

Active-duty soldiers have a suicide rate that has been steadily rising over the last seven years and is now nearly six times that of civilians, according to an Army report. As Columbia veteran Michael Cookson, knows, there are many challenges to overcome before an active-duty soldier can reintegrate into civilian life. Fortunately, there are many services that provide mental health support for veterans, from support groups, crisis hotlines, veterans hospitals, transition assistance programs and post-traumatic stress disorder applications for smartphones.

Public safety

Spring break burglaries increased from 15 in 2010 to 16 in 2011. As spring break approaches, the Columbia Police Department is urging residents to take precautions to prevent burglary. Residents are encouraged to stay vigilant within their neighborhoods, report any suspicious activity and observe a list of recommended precautions during long absences.  

City government

The Columbia City Council voted on Monday to approve the first phase of a series of improvements to Forum Boulevard. Phase one includes the addition of left-turn lanes and is expected to be finished by the end of the year. Later plans for Forum include widening the road to four lanes and a pedestrian bridge over Hinkson Creek.

The Columbia Missourian asked candidates from the upcoming council election five questions in a series of video interviews. Watch as Second and Sixth Ward candidates discuss their views on responsible growth, budget priorities and low morale in Columbia Police Department.

Putting Kids First

A group of 20 social service agencies is holding a petition drive to create a quarter-cent tax to help fund mental health services for Columbia children. The petition, Putting Kids First, requires 7,000 signatures to included in the November ballot. This will mark the third effort in 20 years to fund Putting Kids First.

Crops planted earlier thanks to warmer weather

A mild winter and early warm weather has allowed Missouri planters and farmers to begin planting their crops early. Producers who took advantage of the weather to plant ahead of schedule predict early harvests of traditionally later fruits, such as peaches and cherries. Some worry, though, that this season's unusual weather patterns might mimic the Easter freeze of 2007, when a surprise frost after warm weather devastated crops and cost the U.S. agriculture industry $2 billion.

Missouri House ready to talk about education bill

House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, said an expansive education bill may be discussed as early as next week. This bill, introduced in Februrary by the House Education Committee, would introduce a number of changes to help with the budget gap for Missouri education, including replacing tenure for teachers with annual contracts and allowing students from unaccredited districts to transfer to county schools. If the bill does not reach the legislature, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will be responsible for bridging the funding gap.

Fairgrounds might get new name

The Boone County Fairgrounds could become the Central Missouri Event Center, Home of the Boone County Fair. The Boone County Commission proposed renaming the property as part of a larger effort to market it as more than just the county fair location. Another hearing will be held on Tuesday to review alternate suggestions before the name is finalized.

Keeping watch on Columbia arts

Columbia residents and the Office of Cultural Affairs gathered to discuss improvements to Columbia's artistic community at Hearing Voices/Seeing Visions on Tuesday. The meeting is part of a weekly discussion on the condition of local art, music and theater in Columbia. Attendees stressed the need for greater art education and increased promotion of events.

Wheelchair basketball

MU freshman Joe Dixon has been playing basketball for 15 years. After a successful first season as a member of the Missouri wheelchair basketball team, Dixon averaged 14.1 points a game and was named to the All Rookie Team by the Intercollegiate Division. Head coach Ron Lykins said that Dixon's attitude, drive and shooting skills could earn him a spot on the U.S. team some day.

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