FROM READERS: Sign-up begins for Voluntary Action Center Christmas Program

Thursday, September 20, 2012 | 12:47 p.m. CDT

The Voluntary Action Center (VAC) 2012 Christmas Program sign-up period has begun, both for families and family sponsors. Anyone interested in participating as a sponsor is encouraged to call the VAC office at 573-874-2273 in order to sign up and receive further information. Sponsors provide gifts for children as well as food for the sponsored family.

Volunteers for assisting with the client application process will also be needed until Oct. 10 during the hours applications will be processed in the VAC office. Interested volunteers should call the VAC office at 573-874-2273 to offer their help.

Applications for clients are being received in the VAC office Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to noon and 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Applications will also be accepted at the VAC office on Wednesday evenings, Sept. 26 and Oct. 3, from 5:00 to 7:00, and Saturday morning, Oct. 6, from 7:30 to 9:30. Applications must be received in the VAC office by Oct. 10.

The VAC office is located at 403A Vandiver Drive in Columbia, next door to the Columbia License Office.

To be eligible, applicants must be residents of Boone County, income eligible to receive VAC services (at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines), and must have children 18 years old or younger living in the household. Applicants will need to bring the following items in order to complete the application: completed and legible Christmas Program application packet; proof of current, physical Boone County address (IDs or leases will not be accepted. A recent bill, piece of mail, or printout from DFS/SSA with name and current physical address will be accepted.); identification for all people living at the address (originals only, no copies; driver’s license, stateID, print out from DFS/SSA with all members listed, social security cards, or insurance cards will be accepted); and proof of all income for everyone living at the address. Check stubs, unemployment/child support/retirement/pension letters, and printouts from DFS/SSA are required.

All appropriate guidelines and forms can be found at

For more information, please contact Ron Schmidt, Project Director, at 573-874-2273 or

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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Mike Martin September 21, 2012 | 1:18 p.m.

I'd post this on the John Merrill obituary, but Missourian policy forbids such.

Though I understand why it reads the way it does, I'm sorry to see Dr. Merrill's obituary omits an important part of his latter days in journalism and its implications for a wider debate journalism needs to have that is being imposed upon it from without, rather than coming from within.

I believe Dr. Merrill -- at least, the Dr. Merrill I got to know -- would feel the same way. He struck me as a stickler for completeness.

We started corresponding after I started criticizing this wayward notion of journalists writing for free, and the idea that editors were trying to have it both ways: enforcing professional standards but paying nothing for the privilege.

Dr. Merrill agreed, but not after some rethinking.

As he pointed out, his notion of journalism didn't include the oxymoronic "unpaid professional," a bizarre but now routine type of journalist causing consternation nationwide (e.g. the circumstances surrounding Jonah Lehrer).

His situation was unique, in that he had gone from being paid (as faculty) to being unpaid (as faculty emeritus) for his journalism.

I see the "John Merrill Debate" (as it was titled in this publication five or so years ago) as a watershed precursor to this larger issue -- how do we, as a profession, impose professional standards on people we refuse to pay or pay so little they can barely function? -- and I think in time, journalism scholars may see it that way, too.

John Merrill certainly did, and I appreciated his long-term perspectives on this wonderful but troubled industry.

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