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Making spirits bright

As the blue couch inside the small office of A Call To Serve International overflows with donated stuffed animals, two women struggle to get through the door with more bundles of toys to add to the growing collection.

Boxes line the floors and walls of the Columbia office, but as Trish Blair, the director of the local ACTS International, said, they are going to need more.

Taxpayers can now pay online

Paying property taxes is never the most popular aspect of the holiday season, but Boone County Collector of Revenue Pat Lensmeyer is trying to make the experience painless. This is the first tax season in which taxpayers have the option of paying property taxes online.

The initiative began two years ago when Lensmeyer learned about online tax collection while attending a national conference of county tax collectors, treasurers and finance officers. After working out the bugs, the online system officially became available last summer.

County’s wish list for ’05 revealed

The Boone County Commission received a preliminary look at part of the 2005 budget Monday afternoon.

David Mink, director of Public Works, proposed a budget of about $15.4 million for the Boone County Public Works and Facilities Maintenance Department.

Millions secured for MU cancer research

More than $3 million in federal funds will allow the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center to expand an overcrowded research laboratory at MU.

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., MU and UM system officials attended the opening of the 5,500-square-foot research laboratory in the MU School of Medicine on Monday.

Sentencing in murder delayed

Circuit Court Judge Gene Hamilton postponed the sentencing Monday of Taron Crawford until Jan. 10 after his attorney failed to arrive to his hearing on time.

Crawford, 20, of Kansas City, Kan., was convicted of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the shooting of MU sophomore Charles Blondis.

Christmas is what you make of it

This Christmas Day will find many people in different living spaces than they were in at this time last year. For many and varied reasons some will find themselves living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, with children or parents or moved out of their homes into efficiency apartments. So, for a lot of these folks, making Christmas merry will require more effort than usual.

I think the longer we live, the more we realize that life, whatever the circumstances, really is pretty much what we make it.

Salvaging history

Nestled near the bank of the Missouri River on a quiet gravel road is an aging and abandoned country store. Signs featuring bold red letters on the peeling white paint declare the old wooden structure to be the Easley Store.

The building has stood for 114 years and served the Easley area almost that entire time, enduring even the Missouri River floods of 1993 and 1995 before finally closing about five years ago.

Aid on way for farmers who employ Hispanics

An increasing number of mostly Mexican immigrants are growing, harvesting and packaging Missouri’s crops and meat. For these workers, finding housing, work and health care is often difficult.

Likewise, employers in agricultural businesses are struggling with language, the law and cultural differences in their attempt to make the workplace safer and more efficient.

Fugitives lured with fake giveaway

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — More than 100 people wanted for crimes ranging from passing bad checks to assault have been nabbed in an elaborate police sting that fooled suspects into thinking they were receiving unclaimed money.

Springfield police, under the guise of Jefferson City-based Missouri Settlement Retrieval Corp., sent out 1,200 certified letters to people wanted on outstanding warrants and said they were eligible for “unclaimed money or property to which you may be entitled.” If they didn’t respond, the letter said, they could forfeit the claims.

Demand for low-carb items is thinning out

Low-carb diets took the nation by storm last year. Local grocers scrambled to meet demand even as Krispy Kreme Doughnuts — a mass producer of high-carb foods — was forced to adjust earnings projections downward and to close stores and kiosks in Canada.

The holiday season and the rule of “what goes up must come down,” however, have contributed to a decline in demand for low-carb foods, as people are being lured back to the carb-laden world of bread and doughnuts.

Conscientious Christmas

This holiday season, the Schopp family decided to forgo their usual gift exchange, and instead of decorating homes they are focused on building them.

Laura Schopp e-mailed her four sisters and one brother to enlist their talents to raise money for Food for the Poor Inc., a Christian international aid organization that has distributed more than $1.7 billion in food and medical, educational and building supplies to countries in the Caribbean and Central America.

Doing what's right

In 1991, Francisco Xavier Inzunza floated across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on an inner tube. Then, dodging surveillance cameras and border patrol agents, he crossed a busy highway and leaped over a 6-foot wall into the United States.

With only the clothes on his back, Inzunza made his way to Colorado to join his wife and 3-year-old son, who had come to the United States on tourist visas.

College town greets new graduates

Jessica Poore lost 144 family members Saturday.

Poore was among scores of students to graduate from the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources during an afternoon ceremony at the Hearnes Center.

Mother of 2 arrested in fetus abduction

SKIDMORE — This tiny town in northwest Missouri was acquainted with violence well before someone strangled Bobbie Jo Stinnett on Thursday and cut open her belly to steal her unborn child.

The town, 101 miles northwest of Kansas City, made national headlines in 1981 when someone shot 47-year-old Ken Rex McElroy, a man with a violent history, in broad daylight. No one admitted seeing anything and the case has never been solved.

UM continues to employ PeopleSoft

No major changes are expected in the wake of the buyout of a computer software company whose programs are used throughout the University of Missouri system, UM spokesman Joe Moore said.

PeopleSoft’s buyout by Oracle was announced Dec. 13. Also used by clients such as DaimlerChrysler, Verizon Wireless and Emerson Electric, PeopleSoft programs are used at college campuses to manage financial, human resources and student records.

Toys make naughty list

A public interest research group is recommending the United States ban the sale of the Yo-Yo Water Ball — a toy with the potential to strangulate those playing with it — after it caused 400 injuries last year, including 11 in Missouri.

The toy has already been banned in Canada, the United Kingdom, France and most of Europe. Consumer Reports has rated it “not acceptable.” In 2003, 11 million to 15 million of the Yo-Yo Water Balls were sold in the United States.

Ex-ax maker locks in on state costs as new chief

JEFFERSON CITY — As Senate administrator for the past three years, Michael Keathley, 47, has cut the Senate budget by 15 percent, staff salary expenses by 20 percent and operating expenses by 23 percent — all while surviving an eight-month battle with advanced colon cancer.

In January, Keathley will apply his budget-cutting expertise to the entire state government as director of Gov.-elect Matt Blunt’s Office of Administration.

New yoga studio to open in January

When Kathleen Knipp and Ken McRae moved to Columbia more than two years ago, they noticed something missing from downtown.

“Where is the yoga center?” Knipp recalls asking.

The force behind the curtain

The cornstalk can’t find her hairspray.

To make matters worse, the tree has lost her branches. The yellow brick road is wondering how to use his street signs. A munchkin in sequined suspenders wants to know how he should walk.

Showtime for the "Follies"

PROLOGUE

Stephens College’s undergraduate theater program, established in 1899, is one of the oldest in the country. It’s also considered one of the best.

According to the Princeton Review’s new survey of 110,000 university and college students, Stephens has one of the top four undergraduate theater training programs in the nation.

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