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Tree of Hope helps families in MerrillSubmitted: 12/18/2014

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MERRILL - Needy families in Merrill will have a better Christmas this year.

The Merrill Fire Department is sponsoring the Tree of Hope.

The tradition has been around since the 1950's. People can drop off gifts for families in need.

Many people in the community donated toys and money. The fire department went shopping on Tuesday to help.

"What we do with our Tree Of Hope money is we go and buy all the leftover tags on the trees to make sure all the kids that signed up for something, get something for Christmas," said Administrative Captain Michael Drury.

The department lights up bulbs on the tree in front of the department for every donation. Captain Michael Drury estimated that they will donate to more than 700 children this year.

He says it is all about giving back to their community.

"It makes me feel sad that there are that many people in need but it's a great feeling to know you are a part of making Christmas special for a lot of kids. When somebody is in need of help they call the fire department and we respond. I think it is in the DNA of the firefighters to help out in the community as well," said Drury.

The Merrill Fire Department gave the gifts away Thursday December 18th. You can still drop donations off at the fire department until Christmas day.




Story By: Jeanine Ilacqua

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 LOCAL NEWS
Stranger donates $1,200 gold coin to Langlade County Salvation ArmySubmitted: 12/18/2014

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ANTIGO - Salvation Army workers in Langlade County don't know who to thank.

A stranger dropped a $1,200 gold coin into one of the red kettles in Antigo.

"The coin is in very good condition. Somebody knew what they were doing when they dropped it in the bucket," says Langlade County Salvation Army Volunteer Coordinator William Kelly.

Someone donated a 1922 Philadelphia mint Saint-Gaudens $20 gold coin at Fleet Farm in Antigo.

Volunteers don't know who made the donation.

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911 service restored after roughly 7-hour outageSubmitted: 12/18/2014

MADISON - Emergency 911 service has been restored to multiple southern Wisconsin counties after an outage that lasted roughly seven hours.

That service was restored at around 4 p.m. Thursday.

Frontier spokeswoman Karen Miller says the outage happened after an underground cable was inadvertently severed by a third party shortly after 9 a.m. The outage affected 911 phone service and high-speed internet access.

The issue impacted Juneau, Columbia, Adams and Marquette counties in south-central Wisconsin.

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Northwoods dance team headed to the Orange Bowl Submitted: 12/18/2014

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TOMAHAWK - The Wisconsin Badgers will head to the Outback Bowl in Florida, but there's another Wisconsin team headed to bowl game itself.

Tomahawk's high school dance team will perform during halftime of the Orange Bowl.

The team heads to Miami next week.

They want to have a perfect routine.

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Peace Candle Lighting: a new holiday tradition Submitted: 12/18/2014

WOODRUFF - Some members of a Northwoods church hope to offer people the chance to start a new holiday tradition this year.

Members of Holy Family Catholic Church in Woodruff think everyone has something to gain by giving more attention to peace.

Church members brought a peace candle to the Northwoods.

They hope the candle lighting will help the community reflect on peace this holiday season.

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 REGIONAL NEWS
Wisconsin ranks 32nd in private-sector job growth during June 2013-14 stretchSubmitted: 12/18/2014

MADISON - Wisconsin ranks 32nd in private-sector job growth for the 12-month period ending in June.

The latest figures were reported Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

They show that Wisconsin grew private-sector jobs between July 2013 and the end of June this year by 1.45 percent. That lags the national average of growth at 2.3 percent.

Wisconsin ranks 32nd nationally and behind Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development also reported Thursday that unemployment dropped from 5.4 percent to 5.2 percent between October and November. The national unemployment rate for November is 5.8 percent.

The monthly also shows Wisconsin added 16,500 private sector jobs in November.

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2 Salvation Army red kettles stolen in HaywardSubmitted: 12/18/2014

HAYWARD - Two Salvation Army red kettles have been stolen in Hayward in recent weeks.

The Salvation Army says one of the kettles contained an estimated $400.

The most recent theft happened Wednesday at Walgreen's. Sawyer County Salvation Army director Debbie Huebner says surveillance video shows someone grabbed the kettle's stand and put the whole structure into the back of a vehicle.

Huebner says that kettle had been emptied right before the theft. But a few weeks ago, a thief cut a cable to steal a kettle from Walmart. Huebner estimated it contained $300 to $400.

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Expert: Walker still has time to declare Pres. run after Jeb Bush comments, Legislature to take lead on some issuesSubmitted: 12/18/2014

RHINELANDER - Gov. Scott Walker won't say when he'll decide if he'll run for president in the upcoming 2016 election, but some political observers say former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's announcement to "actively explore" a presidential run adds some urgency to declare for possible contenders.

Gov. Walker said this week that Bush's comments, "don't affect me one way or another."

However, UW-Madison Professor of Political Science Kenneth Mayer says Walker and other possible candidates may have time into January or February to make a decision.

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Fee planned for access to ice cavesSubmitted: 12/18/2014

BAYFIELD - You'll pay five bucks if you visit the Apostle Island ice caves.

That's if we get the chance to see them again this winter.

The fee would pay for more staffing, portable toilets and medical needs.

138 thousand people visited the majestic ice caves last winter.

The park service spent more than 450 thousand dollars dealing with them.

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