Archive for January, 2007

Thank you to all who saw the light over Christmas

As you might be aware, the whole of the front and side elevation of my house was decorated with more than 6,000 Christmas lights to raise money for Leukaemia Research Fund.

I am delighted to inform you that a staggering record total of £2,025 was collected, an increase of some 24 per cent on the previous year.

I would like to sincerely thank Aldenham Social Club, Bond Financial, Godfrey Davis Contract Hire, Lenton Engineering, The Three Compasses pub and Tony The Fish’ Tarsey of The Green Man in Potters Bar for all their stirling work in helping raise such a magnificent sum for this most worthy cause.

Thanks must also go to all members of the public who came and saw the lights and donated monies most generously.

David Press, Radlett

Tree a show of yearlong support

As Christmas lights were removed from the tree across from Flagpole Plaza downtown, brightly colored ribbons of support were their replacement.

Operation S.A.M. (Supporting All Military) has been adding these yellow ribbons to Livermore’s landmark tree since April of 2003. They symbolize recognition for all members of the military whether they are on duty, at home or abroad, or are military veterans.

“It’s just such a fantastic symbol of support,” said Kristin Ekvall, co-founder of Operation S.A.M.

The tree holds about 100 ribbons, which are replaced once they start looking tattered. City maintenance staff help with the ribbon placement along with maintaining the pocket park.

Ekvall said she hopes the ribbons are a reminder to people who drive or walk past the tree.

Whether the reminder is to make a donation or just to pause and say a prayer, the military mom said she hopes people take notice.

Residents of all ages seem to be familiar with the downtown symbol, as Ekvall has learned when she talks to schoolchildren about Operation S.A.M.

She asks classes if they’ve seen the “yellow ribbon tree” and “every little kid raises their hand,” Ekvall said.

In addition to the tree’s yellow ribbons, Operation S.A.M. has placed banners around town, each representing a local man or woman serving in the military. The banners bear a name along with the branch of military that person is with.

Ekvall’s son, Marine Sgt. Jason Myers, is serving in Iraq for the third time.

He was in Iraq when the banners originally were hung, and he made the tree his first stop on his way home when he came back.

“You wouldn’t believe how the parents appreciate the banners,” Ekvall said.

For those who would like to contribute to Operation S.A.M.’s efforts, there is always an opportunity.

The organization sends out care packages to troops at least once a month. Most go to Iraq and Afghanistan, but some are sent to other parts of the world. The packages go to all types of military, not just those from the Bay Area.

Monetary donations as well as essentials and extras such as socks, disposable cameras and snacks are always needed. But the most popular item is letters.

“That’s really a big hit with the troops,” Ekvall said. “They are just so overwhelmed that a stranger is thinking of them.”

Why not burn lights throughout season?

Growing up in Indiana my family celebrated the Christmas season in what, I thought, was the normal way. My family was of German heritage and observed the customs that they (my mother and father) observed all of their lifetime. This included the 12 days of Christmas with Christmas being the first day, not the last. The last day or 12th day, being the Christian festival of Epiphany, the date that, supposedly, the three wise men arrived at the manger to view the baby Jesus.

During this period, my family visited with family and friends, went to their homes to view their decorations, exchanged gifts and devoured Christmas “goodies.” The Christmas lights glowed nightly until that day.

Now I live in Mountain Home, a place recognized by many as a hotbed of Christianity. Many of the homes in my neighborhood were decorated and lighted by Thanksgiving, a lovely sight to behold. But, wait a minute — a few days after Christmas most of the lights had disappeared, and by Epiphany mine were the only lights on in the neighborhood.

I am not a religious person, but I do know the story of Epiphany, and I leave my lights on until that date probably as a remembrance of my childhood. But what of all the good Christians in my neighborhood — what is their reason for extinguishing their Christmas lights before the biblical end of the season?

I don’t understand.

Fountain group takes on Christmas light display

The city’s Musical Fountain Committee has decided to take on a Spring Lake Township man’s Christmas light show that attracted tens of thousands of people to his home late last year.

Fountain committee Chairman Roger Jonas said the committee decided Tuesday that it would form a subcommittee to oversee the light display in a location somewhere in Grand Haven. Potential sites have been narrowed down to Harbor Island and Dewey Hill, he said.

“It’s designed to be, through donations, to raise funds for a charity and for the Musical Fountain, and that’s why we felt it belonged under our committee,” Jonas explained.

The display was created by Brad Boyink and operated at his home on Heather Court in Spring Lake Township for the first time last year. He estimates around 60,000 people visited the display between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, and donations in that five-week period resulted in $20,038 that Boyink gave to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan. He said there may be more donations that were made online through the foundation’s Web site, www.wishmich.org.

While the donations made the show a success, the high traffic it brought to Boyink’s neighborhood created a safety problem, and he decided it needed a more public location in 2007. In fact, he closed it a few days early because of the traffic.

“It was getting too dangerous,” he told the Tribune for a Dec. 30 story. “People were crossing the double yellow line on West Spring Lake Road, and we actually had someone drive down the bike path — and there were people on it.”

Boyink has been the technical adviser for Grand Haven’s Musical Fountain since May 2006, and he talked to Jonas about the committee absorbing the Christmas light display.

“It became very apparent that if I wanted to do it again, I would have to move it to another location,” Boyink said Wednesday. “I looked at other area parks, and Grand Haven had the only one I thought would work. … It really needed to be under a city’s control because of the liability issue, having a better location to expand, and it made the most logical choice being under the Musical Fountain Committee because they already deal with (a similar) production.”

Boyink said he is pushing to put the display on Harbor Island. He said adding the light display to Dewey Hill in December would interfere with the giant Nativity Scene, a tradition there since 1964. In addition, the scale of the light show on the hill would have to be greatly enlarged to be viewed from across the river, which Boyink said would be cost prohibitive.

Jonas said having the show on Dewey Hill would give the city a new “major tourist attraction” to promote, and the island location is not part of the Musical Fountain Committee’s dominion.

The next step, Boyink said, is to get approval from City Council. Once that happens, he plans to find corporate sponsors so there is no city money paying for the display’s operation, something both Jonas and Boyink said was essential.

Boyink also plans to keep the display affiliated with the Michigan Make-A-Wish Foundation as a contribution source for the children’s charity.

Building the new display will be expensive, but using commercial-grade lighting can be cost-effective in the long run, Boyink said.

“The first year could cost $50,000 to $70,000 to do it right,” he said.

But Boyink said the higher-grade LED lights he used last year at his home are cheaper to operate than common Christmas lights. He said his electric bill for December, while operating the big light display at this home, was just over $100 — or 20-percent less than December 2005 when he ran a display of giant inflatables.

Panicking after the Christmas debt rush?

A credit reference agency is urging people not to panic if they have gone a little overboard this past Christmas. It is thought that around £11.4 billion was spent on credit cards over the Christmas period and that has left many people worrying and ill through stress.

It seems that no matter how many warnings people get, the temptation and the easily accessible credit is just too much. People know that by putting everything on their credit cards they will end up in a lot of debt but at the time they think it is worth it. However, the stress that comes with this new debt crisis is definitely not worth it as it leaves hundreds of people ill. So how can this worrying be avoided? Well by thorough financial planning you may be able to help yourself to get out of the debt you are in.

By taking a look at everything you owe and going through it properly you should be able to see where you stand financially. It is knowledge about your debt situation which gives you power so it is definitely worth knowing exactly how much you owe instead of burying your head in the sand. Once you know how much you do owe, go over everything that you have coming in and everything that you have going out. That way you can create a realistic repayment plan to suit you and that will help you to become debt free.

Overall you just have to be realistic and know where you stand. If you have put everything onto your credit card see it as a lesson and do not do it again. Pay off as much as you can whenever you can and that way you will end up debt free in a shorter time period than you usually would.

Christ Church Goes Christmas Caroling by Julie Straehle

Last month, Christ Episcopal Church in Garden City revived the custom of neighborhood Christmas caroling. In the late afternoon of Sunday, December 17th, a merry group of 15 parishioners went forth from the church. They sang and strolled along the streets, bringing holiday happiness as they serenaded their parish neighbors in the true spirit of Christmas a gift freely given and freely received.

Sometimes the carolers arrived at a house and found a party in progress, and its revelers would spill out onto the front steps to listen and applaud and sometimes join in the singing. One charming hostess offered Christmas cakes and libations, and invited the carolers inside for a wassail toast: “Was-hael!” (“Good health!” in Gaelic).

The carolers were Carolyn Carter, Judy Dubois, Sharon Francomano, Joan & Alfie Mabey, Nancy & Fred Marquardt, Irene Noda, Dorraine Russin, Lucille & Bill Smith, Julie Straehle, Don Skinner, and Christ Church Rector, The Rev. Debbie Low-Skinner. The parish’s multi-talented choir director, Tim Erbe, led the group in song and accompanied the singing on a 12-string guitar. His spirited playing made a wonderful addition to the festive music-making a cheery sound, an upbeat rhythm, in a comfortable range for singing. Also, several of the carolers brought sleigh bells, which they jingled merrily to add to the joy.

The weather was mild, and the carolers sang for an hour or so. Afterwards, they returned to Christ Church to enjoy hot chocolate, eggnog, cider, and cookies. A good time was had by all carolers and community and the parish looks forward to doing it again next December!

Christmas stays on Shelby school calendar

A proposal to take the “Christmas” out of “Christmas Break” was voted down by the Shelby County school board Thursday.

“Perhaps I am the lone voice,” said board member Fred Johnson, who urged the board to change the wording on the calendar to something that would include all religions.

Following the approval of the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school calendars, Johnson made a motion to reconsider the Christmas wording.

Teresa Price was the only board member to vote with Johnson.

“We are a very diverse county. We serve all kinds of children from all different backgrounds,” she said.

Ernest Chism abstained, saying, “There’s no use doing things to create a problem.”

Johnson needed four votes from the seven-member board. Since he first proposed changing the wording to “Winter Break” a week earlier, board members have been swamped with concerns.

“I went to church and I was inundated,” said board member Ron Lollar, “People were upset it was even brought up.”

Jamie Griffin co-founder of Diversity Memphis, a multicultural group that works to build tolerance in the area, spoke at the meeting.

“It is important we represent a county that is very diverse, and not all members of that county are Christian,” he said.

Johnson is also one of several co-founders of that organization.

Upset with the publicity the topic has generated, Johnson would not take questions after the meeting.

And he wouldn’t say whether he intends to continue what he started. “I’m just not prepared to make any statement at this point.”

Memphis City Schools have called the December vacation ”Winter Break” for years.

Handbells are ringing when church choir performs

Think of handbells and often Christmas music comes to mind, most likely the popular “Carol of the Bells.”

Emmanuel Lutheran Church, in Murrysville, supports a handbell program that not only performs for Christmas services, but also throughout the year during services. In addition, handbell choir members also like to perform outside the church setting in formats that are more appropriate for some of the more playful pieces they have rehearsed.

Emmanuel’s handbell choirs have performed at community events and festivals, including the Holiday Flower Show at Phipps Conservatory, the Seton Hill Handbell Festival, the Western Pennsylvania Handbell Festival (held at the Church of the Covenant in Washington, Pa.) and various churches and nursing homes in the Murrysville-Export area. In addition, the choirs are members of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers.

This year they are planning to hold their first independent concert, tentatively scheduled for May.

Emmanuel’s handbell choirs director Gary McWilliams noted the long history of bells in cultures across the globe.

“Bells are found in ruins of the earliest cultures known to man on every continent,” he wrote in a recent e-mail. “Their primary purpose was as signaling devices. In medieval Europe, large bells hung in church towers and signaled townsfolk to all major events, including meetings, impending attacks, storms, etc. ”

He added that in England, the tower bells were rung in sequences for entertainment and challenge. “Change ringing” competitions began between neighboring towns and are still practiced in England today.

“To avoid the need to practice change ringing in cold bell towers and to avoid subjecting the townsfolk to practice sessions, small hand-held bells were developed in the 17th century that allowed ringers to practice indoors,” he added. “These bells are the forerunners of modern handbells. Choirs began to be formed specifically for the purpose of ringing music on handbells.”

About 1840, handbell choirs were introduced to the United States by P.T. Barnum, who brought an English choir, but called them the “Swiss Bell Ringers.” Handbell ringing became part of the vaudeville circuit, and grew steadily in the U.S.

In the 1940s, churches began establishing handbell choirs, and handbells began being manufactured in the U.S. in the 1960s. Today, more than 10,000 handbell choirs exist in North America. The AGEHR organization promotes handbell ringing in the U.S.

However, there are a number of organizations that support handbell choirs throughout the year.

McWilliams said Emmanuel Lutheran began its handbell program in February 1997 when the church purchased a three-octave set of Malmark Handbells with memorial donations.

The choir was composed of members with varying degrees of experience, including some who had never played in a handbell choir. McWilliams said he’s been playing handbells since 1969. Many of the members of the handbell program are related to one another and come from very musical families.

Danette Hunter, of Murrysville, is a member of the handbell choir. She plays the D6 and C6 handbells and occasionally the D7 bell. Her parts also include all sharps and flats associated with those notes. At any given time, a player may have four or five notes associated with bells for which they are responsible.

“I started playing in high school in the teen bell choir at my church when I lived in Ohio,” she said. “They didn’t have the (handbell) group at the church when we moved here, but then they got the group together, and I was happy to play again.”

Other members joked that they are considering adopting her because she is one of the few without a family member in the choirs.

Many said they are still getting the hang of the different styles of ringing: rings, plucks, marts and mallets all use different motions to create strikingly different effects. Hunter explained that each piece of music gives directions to the players on how to strike a bell to create the unique sounds that complement the piece’s tone.

Over the years, Emmanuel Lutheran handbell program has expanded to include 30 members who support both a five-octave choir (The Festive Bells) and a three-octave choir (The Rainbow Ringers).

The Festive Bells is an adult choir for members over age 18. The Rainbow Ringers is a youth choir for members in sixth through 12th grades. Both choirs provide music monthly at church services and for special occasions, such as Christmas Eve.

Members of The Festive Bells choir are Sandy Buehner, Kathy Gustafson, Diane McWilliams, Danette Hunter, Karla Gustafson, Denise Sticha, Hattie Rubright, Leslie Hood, Kristi LaVallee, Chrissy Writt, Christine Nicely, Millie Scheiterle, Colleen McWilliams, Leanne Salava, Steve Cehovin, Robert Schlotter, Janet Book, Katie Buehner, Cathy Potter, Mary Whipkey and Gary McWilliams.

Members of The Rainbow Ringers choir are Cara Suni, Emily Hall, Alek Suni, Rachael Smith, Jennifer McWilliams, Samantha Glunt, Allie Neal, Kelly McWilliams, Lexy Dean and Ross Bond.

Foster Grandparents Program Has Late Christmas

Christmas came one month late for several foster grandparents and children. The Southeast Texas Foster Grandparent Program received several boxes of donations from 11 other such programs from across the state.

It was all smiles and hugs for these foster grandparents.

Elrose Giles said, “I was surprised to see all this, I wasn’t expecting to see all those
things that are coming in.”

Eleven Foster Grandparent programs from across the Lone Star state spent Martin Luther King Day collecting needed items like clothing, toiletries and bedding for foster grandparents in Southeast Texas and their foster grandchildren.

Corine Jones with the Southeast Texas Foster Grandparent Program said, “Items that were lost from our volunteers during the storm during
Hurricane Rita and also the children that we volunteer with there
were items that they needed as well.”

“A lot of it is donated in our communities in support of foster
grandparents because we are in the communities across the State of
Texas working with children,” said state director of the Foster Grandparent program, Elizabeth Yocum.

One of the children the local Foster Grandparent program works with says he enjoys the extra grandparents.

9-year-old Nijal Pearson said, “It’s kind of fun having a grandparent in the class when you need
help, they’ll be there to help you.”

The foster grandparents say that’s exactly what they’re supposed to do.

Victoria Stevenson said, “We’re there for the kids, not for the grown ups, not for ourselves,
but for the kids because the kids need somebody in their life and we
try to be that mentor for them.”

Giles said, “They beautiful those kids you gotta sit down and give them all the
love they want to have.”

And while these grandparents give out the love to the kids, they’re also expressing their love for other foster grandparents who are helping them brighten the lives of children across Southeast Texas.

This is the first time the Southeast Texas Foster Grandparent program took part in a statewide collection.

Rising totals for 15 UK dioceses as overall churchgoing falls

ATTENDANCE FIGURES for 2005, published by the Church of England on Tuesday, show a fall from 2004 of two per cent for Sunday worship and one per cent or less for weekly and monthly worship.

About 1.7 million people attend C of E services in churches and cathedrals monthly; 1.2 million weekly, on Sunday or a weekday; and just under one million (988,000) on Sundays.

But, although the average number of children and young people attending services weekly also fell by one per cent to 231,000, the number attending monthly continued an upward trend, rising by one per cent to 441,000. The number of children and young people in regular contact with local C of E services of worship has steadily increased each year since 2001, when accurate weekly records began to be systematically collated. Levels in 2005 were six per cent higher than in that year.

The picture is acknowledged to be mixed. Fifteen dioceses — Birmingham, Bristol, Canterbury, Derby, Durham, Leicester, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Ripon & Leeds, St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, Truro, Wakefield, Worcester, and York — saw annual increases in their total-attendance figures.

The most dramatic increase has been in Christmas Eve and Christmas Day church attendance: at 2,786,200, it was seven per cent higher than 2001, the highest figure since Millennium celebrations drew in 2.85 million in 2000.

The Christmas rise on 2004, was four per cent for communicants and six per cent for all ages. But Easter Eve or Easter Day communicants were down by seven per cent (1,019,200), and all-age attendance was down six per cent (1,417,800).

Infant baptism figures continue to decline — by four per cent from 2004, to 93,000 — but there was a rise in both child and adult baptism: five per cent in the latter case. Confirmations fell by two per cent to 29,800, but the figure for marriages and marriage blessings remained constant at 62,300 in 2005.

The total number of funerals, in church and at crematoria, was also down two per cent, at 207,300.

“Fresh expressions of church” figured for the first time in the information requested from parishes in the annual returns. Thirty-nine per cent of parishes reported starting a “fresh expression of church” since 2000; 33 per cent had started projects aimed at occasional and non-churchgoers; and six per cent had started other fresh expressions. Another 12 per cent were planning a project in the next two years.

Patterns of churchgoing and church affiliation in England were changing, and churches were responding well to the changing lifestyles of their congregations, suggested the Revd Lynda Barley, head of research and statistics for the Archbishops’ Council.

“For every 50 people attending church on a typical Sunday, another nine attend during the week, and an extra 35 in total over a month,” said Ms Barley.

“There are signs in several parts of the country of more sustained growth beyond special occasions. This is encouraging news for local churches as they seek to meet the increasingly evident spiritual needs of their neighbourhoods.”

Neighbors needle city over Christmas trees

Brown, forlorn and definitely not merry, old Christmas trees still dot many Pasadena neighborhoods a month later, unsightly reminders of the bygone holiday season.

Carlos Teran noticed them as he walked to work from his home in the 1800 block of Corson Street, lying on curbs and in gutters, and complained to the city.

“There are a lot of them on Corson and on Villa Street,” he said, “and they don’t look good. If they want the city to look good, why not pick up all those trees?”

Teran is upset because he’s been ticketed twice for parking his car on his lawn, a practice city officials called unsightly. Now, he says, the city is creating something unsightly, and Teran wants it to remove the eyesores.

A random survey showed Corson and Villa are not the only streets littered with old Christmas trees. There are quite a few on South Grand Avenue, Palmetto Drive and Arroyo Boulevard, neighborhoods not normally associated with abandoned items.

Arlington Rodgers, a Department of Public Works administrator, said tree pickups are behind schedule, but should be completed by the end of next week.

“Nature, the wind storms after the Rose Parade, disrupted our schedule” by about a week, he said, as city crews scurried to remove downed trees, branches and palm fronds.

The department is trying to schedule the pickups schematically, he said, with a separate truck and crew gathering the trees on the same day as regular trash pickups.

“But there might be some stragglers out there,” Rodgers said.

The city is continuing its efforts even though curbside pickups officially ended Jan. 12. Rodgers said anyone who thinks they were overlooked may call public works at (626) 744-4087.

As for Teran, he said a city crew showed up Wednesday and removed trees from his curb and that of a neighbor, though others still await removal.

Fires can ruin Christmas fun

From Christmas lights to trees, potentially hazardous items can destroy memories as fast as they’re created.

Nationally, most home fires in January are a result of Christmas trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

“Christmas trees can be a significant fuel source if a fire occurs in your home,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA assistant vice president of communications, in a press release.

Most well-watered trees dry out in about one month, but the more dangerous factor is how the Christmas tree is thrown away.

“Dried-out trees burn easily and should not be left in a garage or placed against the house,” Carli said. “We recommend you remove your tree from the home and dispose of it properly as soon as your Christmas celebration ends.”

Antoinette Hastings, assistant fire marshal, worked a fire a couple weeks before Christmas that was caused by a Christmas tree.

The fire, on 33rd Street, didn’t completely ruin the family’s Christmas, thanks to Operation Santa Claus, she said, but it still caused damage.

Fires involving trees usually occur because the tree gets too dry and the heat from the electrical lights ignites it, Hastings said.

She recommends having plenty of water for the tree as a way to prevent a dangerous situation.

Outside of the house, the same hazards exist if they’re not taken care of properly.

The little twinkling lights left out past Christmas “not only aggravated your neighbors,” Carli said, “but it also leaves the wires exposed to rain, snow, cold, the sun, squirrels and birds longer,” than they should be.

Christmas lights should only be up for a short period of time, the press release stated.

“The safety standards are developed anticipating a maximum of 90 days of use per year because these decorations are considered seasonal,” said John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager for UL, said in the press release.

10,001 Santas on Derry’s Walls?

TEN thousand and one Santas are planning to man Derry’s Walls next Christmas.
The aim will be to raise money for local charities – and to get the Maiden City into the Guinness Book of Records.
There was a shock for shoppers in the January sales in Londonderry on Saturday afternoon, when they were met by the unseasonal sight of 100 people dressed as Father Christmas to officially launch the ‘10,001 Santa Challenge’, which will raise money for the local Children in Crossfire charity, the Foyle Hospice, Macmillan Cancer Support and Icare, the autism charity.
Organiser Martin Mullan said yesterday that for a minimum £15 sponsorship anyone can dress up as Santa and join in the massed charity stunt on December 9, 2007.
He said confidently: “The interest in this project to date has been phenomenal and the world’s eyes will be on Derry if we manage to pull this off. The scenes will be spectacular if we have 10,001 Santas on the walls.”
The Londonderry businessman added: “We’re looking at some major corporate players who are interested in coming on board with this project.
“This will be huge for the city, with bus loads of people coming from all over to play a part in setting a new world record.
“I would envisage every hotel in the city being packed to capacity. It will be a chance for us to showcase the city to the world. It’s something that will be unforgettable for all concerned.”

Taking Down the Christmas Tree

It’s almost February. I know this not only because of the cold weather, the muddy boot prints on my kitchen floor, and my list of already broken resolutions, but because I’m the only person on my block left with a Christmas tree. Still decorated.

Sure, we all know that January first is the Official Tree Undecorating Day, which really is the deadline that separates the Super-On-Top-of-It sort of people from the Major Slackers.

And, yes, like most people who never return library books on time and pack up the summer pool toys in November, I belong in the latter category. Now, some of you might consider this “procrastination.” Others might think of it as being “organizationally challenged.” Me? I prefer to think of it more as “extending the holiday season.”

It may sound like it, but I’m not jealous of the people who are in the first category. I mean you have to respect a person who has their ornaments sorted by color, 50 feet of icicle lights wound up, and their tree on the front lawn ready for pick up by 12:01am New Years Day. No, I’m just jealous, just a little bitter and wishing they wouldn’t throw their post-Christmas season success in my face. You have to admit, that they make the rest of us (and by “us” I mean “me”) look really, really bad.

Oh sure, I’ve learned to fool people for a while. The problem is that my tree, a once living, breathing entity, has to come out of the house eventually and head to the curb and then, boom-ba, the entire neighborhood will know that not only have I missed the Official Tree Undecorating deadline, I’ve missed it by weeks.

So I’m trying to think of some way to get rid of the tree incognito. I could be like my friend Patty, who each February tries to outwit her neighbors by chopping her tree into little pieces and taking it out at night in multiple garbage bags. But I don’t need to tell you that this conjures up even more – ahem – unflattering images. (And I don’t mean this as a criticism of my friend; it’s merely an observation).

Like most organizationally challenged people, each year I try to change my ways. And in the first week of January I turn to my family and say, “Will someone help me take down the tree?” to which they reply by immediately jumping up, putting on their coats, and running outside.

So then I move on to the top three techniques of parental coercing: guilt, empty threats and begging. All of which, to the surprise of no one, don’t work either.

But if there’s one thing I learned all these years being a parent, it’s that sometimes it’s best to save up your energy and choose your battles. So this year I plan to buy an artificial tree with ornaments and lights already on it. All I will have to do is to fold the branches, slide it back into the box, and voila!

And if that doesn’t work, at least the house won’t look any worse by my leaving it up. In fact, I may just extend the holiday season by keeping it up next year, all year round. Hmmm. Maybe that’s how the Christmas in July sales started.

Son gives dad gift of life for Christmas

Shortly before Christmas, a critically ill patient with end-stage renal disease arrived at SUNY Downstate Medical Center hoping for a miracle. He got his wish when surgeons at University Hospital of Brooklyn gave him a healthy new kidney, donated by a son he had not seen in years. It was the 4,000th organ transplant performed at SUNY Downstate, home to the only transplant service in Brooklyn and one of the largest in New York State. This milestone in the history of Downstate’s Transplant Program’s was also a transforming experience for the patient and his entire family.

Alvaro Fraser looks remarkably fit for a 69-year-old who has just had major surgery. The new kidney is working well he says, and he feels “revitalized and rejuvenated, like I have a whole new life ahead of me.” And so he does, reunited with children and grandchildren—nine of them. After his divorce and move to Guyana, he mostly lost touch with all but one of his children. Years later, when he developed renal failure and needed a new kidney, Stanford, the son he had not seen in eight years, heard about it and immediately offered one of his. His son’s selfless devotion still amazes Mr. Fraser. “Stan’s just phenomenal,” he says. “I can’t find words to thank him enough.”

The family agreed that the surgery should be performed at Downstate, where Stanford was born 35 years ago, when the family lived in the New Lots area. However, Fraser feared that Stanford might not be a suitable donor. “I inherited diabetes from my father, who died from it, and hypertension from my mother,” he explains, “so I might have passed them on to my son.” But doctors found Stanford to be in perfect health. “Your son is a wonder,” their surgeon, Dr. Nabil Sumrani, said. From then on everything went like clockwork.

Fraser’s story illustrates why the Transplant Program at SUNY Downstate is such an important resource for Brooklyn, especially its minority residents, who bear a disproportionate share of kidney disease. Of the 662 people currently on the waiting list at Downstate to receive a new kidney, 502 are African- or Caribbean-American. Fortunately, there’s no need for borough residents to spend extra time and expense seeking treatment elsewhere when one of the best programs is located in their own community. The staff knows the special needs of the community and goes the extra mile to meet them.

It is also one of the premier centers performing laparoscopic donor nephrectomies. Using this technique, surgeons are able to remove a living donor’s kidney by making only a small incision. Not only are there less post-operative pain and scarring, but the donor is usually discharged from the hospital one or two days after surgery. In the case of Fraser’s son, Stanford was able to have his work-up done in one day, the surgery the next, and return to his home in North Carolina two days later.

“The fact that donors can more quickly return to their families and jobs makes it easier to persuade a family member or friend to donate,” says Dr. Dale Distant, chief of the Transplant Division at Downstate. In light of the serious organ shortage, which has significantly increased the waiting period for transplantation, he hopes that such surgical innovations will encourage greater donation. Dr. Distant, who serves as chairman of the New York Organ Donor Network, is one of only 40 African-American transplant surgeons and physicians in the nation.

Known for it innovation and surgical excellence, Downstate’s Transplant Program has a proud history of “firsts.” Established in 1972 by Dr. Samuel L. Kountz, the nation’s first African-American transplant surgeon, it became one of the largest and finest programs in the country. Building on the strength of Downstate’s well-known dialysis program, Dr. Kountz sought to make transplantation services available to all patients with end-stage kidney disease—including minorities who, until that time, had been largely excluded. If he were alive today, he would be delighted to know that the program he introduced has already saved 4,000 lives.

Saving For Santa

We’re barely a month removed from the holidays, yet the joy of the season quickly gives way to the anguish of paying bills. Each year, you resolve not to drown yourself in Christmas debt. But come January, you always seem to find yourself clamoring for a financial life preserver. There are ways to shop smartly and avoid the blizzard of bills that bury you in red ink. But you have to start preparing sooner, rather than later.

The holiday decorations are long gone as stores try to empty their shelves of winter merchandise to make way for their spring stock. Yet, Christmas, still eleven months away, is a motivator for spending money. Jan Lowe of Worthington, Minnesota said, “I’m always looking, I have three sisters and my parents are both still living and I have good friends that I exchange gifts with, so I’m always on the outlook for that.”

However, the year-round urge to Christmas shop isn’t matched by the financial foresight to avoid plummeting into holiday debt. Experts say it’s a process that needs to begin now. Lorri Halverson of Consumer Credit Counseling Service said, “It’s really hard to wrap our brains around it because we’ve just come out of the holiday rush and a lot of us, we get into January we’re thinking thank heavens it’s over and we just happy to see things settle down a little bit.”
Halverson says achieving a debt-free Christmas in 2007 can be as simple as following a four-step plan. Step one is deciding how much money you’ll spend for Christmas. “You can take a look at what you spent last year, maybe make some appropriate adjustments, if you think you went over, or if you’re anticipating you’re going to have additional expenses in the next year.”

Step two is checking with your bank or credit union about setting up a Christmas Club, or some other type of interest-bearing account earmarked for Christmas spending only. The money would come directly out of your paycheck so you’re not tempted to use it for other expenses. Socking away just ten dollars a week will give you an extra five-hundred in cash at the end of the year. “What’s nice about the Christmas club ones is right about early November, they just automatically put that money back into your account so it’s ready for you to use and go spend on the holidays.”

Summit of Santas

Isn’t this a little like leaving your Christmas lights up until February?

Barry and Lesa Walzberg of Clovis are on the promenade deck of the Queen Mary in late January dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus. They aren’t the only ones.

Attendees of a luncheon for the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas are arriving in droves, costumed and chattering. It’s like a “Star Trek” convention dipped in peppermint and hot cocoa. These folks must surely send out Christmas cards “wishing you the spirit of the season all year long.”

The Amalgamated is an organization — a brotherhood, if you will — of independent Clauses. Theirs is not an organization that hires and pimps Santas to malls and such. They are the freelancers, the entrepreneurs, the mom and pop of the Mother and Father Christmas trade.

Other than the commonality of genuine facial hair, the 132 Santas at the Long Beach luncheon cover a wide range of styles — just like the Elvis impersonators who represent young Elvis and old Elvis and Elvis if he were Japanese. There are rock ‘n’ roll Santas, workshop Santas, fur-trimmed-coat Santas, a bevy of Hawaiian-shirt Santas, and even a Santa wearing World War I Snoopy Flying Ace goggles.

They have come together to network and share insider tips on their calling — such as how Paul Mitchell Freeze and Shine hair spray can make a beard sparkle.

Barry Walzberg sports a low-key, natural Santa look, dependent mostly upon his blue eyes, beard (real, of course) and role-appropriate paunch.

At only 45, he has to work at keeping his hair white, and it’s taken on a Billy Idol punk-yellow cast at the bleached roots.

“The hat covers that part up,” says Walzberg, who works for the Clovis Parks and Recreation department and was Santa last month at Clovis’ Christmas parade.

Walzberg says that for him, being Santa is a full-year responsibility.

For instance, when someone cuts him off in traffic and he wants to swear, he doesn’t, because what if a child is watching and notices he looks like Santa?

Wife Lesa Walzberg helps keep him mindful of his position as an icon.

“Sometimes in traffic, I’ll just touch him on the elbow and say, ‘Now, Santa doesn’t act like that.'”

Fred Selinsky, 57, of Sun City tells Walzberg he feels the same year-round standard. The former Navy man doesn’t drink or smoke or cuss since taking on the Santa persona.

“You can be wearing a black shirt, black pants and black cowboy hat, and some child will still spot you as Santa. You’re a symbol. If someone sees Santa drunk and smoking, their whole perception of Christmas could be changed and I don’t want to be responsible for that,” he says.

“You know those bumper stickers that say, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ I’ve thought of getting one that says, ‘What Would Santa Do?'”

The luncheon is held in January to help brighten post-Santa-season slumps — and because hotel rooms are cheaper off-season.

Santas Lowell Hendrickson, 66, of the San Fernando Valley and Joe McKiernan, 58, of Phoenix sit on a ship’s bench in the sunshine, commiserating about their Christmas-is-over blues.

“I hate to see it go. It’s a letdown,” says Hendrickson. “My family’s all gone. My sister died four months ago. I do believe in the spirit of Santa, and I enjoy sharing that with people.”

McKiernan, a former school bus driver and truck driver, nods in agreement that being Santa can help ward off loneliness.

“In July, I was in a Hooters watching the young ladies, and someone recognized me as Santa,” he says. “Everyone was, ‘Hi, Santa!'”

Roy Sorge, the “captain” of the Queen Mary — a ship that doesn’t sail and is used as a hotel — comes down from the bridge to take a look at the Santa luncheon.

“This is a little unusual,” he says. “Just the word ‘amalgamated’ is enough to intrigue a person, but then you add the real beards.”

Sorge greets the Santas streaming out the door to get their group photo taken.

“Look at you, the real McCoy!” says the man in a gold-striped captain’s uniform to the men in Santa suits.

Matthew Lerner, 3, wearing a Superman costume, walks past. He’s not part of any convention. He just likes his Superman suit. He looks wide-eyed at the plethora of Santas, but he won’t answer any of their jolly hellos.

Reactions to mass Santas vary. A group of tourists from Costa Rica grin and snap pictures.

But when Matthew Powell, 27, of Columbus, Ohio, sticks his head into the ballroom for a peek, his eyes widen in horror and his jaw drops lower than an overloaded Christmas stocking. Some people have clown phobias, some people get unnerved by too many Santas.

Powell shudders at the myth-destroying potential of such a multiplicity of Santas. How would a child know which lap to sit on?

“That’s a kid’s worst nightmare!” he says.

The Santas and Mrs. Clauses have come from all over the West for this get-together.

Santa Benny Preston of Brea, wearing red shorts, jokes that his legs are white because he lives at the North Pole. Connie Wingren — Mother Christmas, draped in velvet and brocade — says, “Oh, but have you been to the North Pole? It’s nice there in the summer.” Wingren is from Ketchikan, Alaska.

The largest Santa contingent is from Phoenix.

This “Santa Crew” includes 17 real-bearded Santas, eight dwarfs and two Mrs. Clauses. The founder, Paul Raines, 58, and head dwarf Gary Hicks, 57, have been friends for 28 years. But most of the time, they call each other “Santa” and “Snappy.”

Last year when Hicks was undergoing hip replacement surgery, Raines was by his side as he was about to be rolled into the operating room.

“I looked at those nurses and said, ‘Ladies, you better treat my elf right, because Santa knows.’ And I told my friend here, ‘Snappy, I’ll be waiting for you. When you look up, who are you going to see? Santa,'” Raines says.

Onstage, a head Santa is announcing the Pledge of Allegiance. Santas get to their feet, placing red berets, and red fedoras, and red fur-trimmed Santa hats over their hearts.

The Amalgamated Real Bearded Santas, as a group, are a patriotic bunch.

“Most of us are retired military. Did you notice Santa Gunney over there?” Raines asks.

The Santas who do not hail from a military background are probably counter-culture Clauses, says “Santa Crew” member Igor Glenn, a one-time member of the ’60s folk group the New Christy Minstrels.

“It’s an upbeat message of peace and love. I suspect a lot of Santas are ex-hippies. We’re all that age. The Vietnam era,” he says.

“Instead of the Summer of Love, it’s the Winter of Love.”

Local foster children celebrate Christmas in January

Two hundred kids got to celebrate the holidays again on Saturday.

The Denver Bar Association’s Young Lawyer Division hosted the 11th Annual Winter Festival for local foster children.

Kids up to age 12 got to pick out the toys they wanted from several tables. Local businesses donated all the items.

The event is focused on giving foster kids a day where they can feel special.

“Anything that is joyful makes a huge difference in their lives, so they always have fun with it,” said Myra Stroup with Social Services.

The kids got to enjoy some pizza and a magic show after filling bags with their brand news toys.

Juveniles de-Christmas downtown

A group of juveniles made downtown Bismarck a little less festive Thursday afternoon, but nobody complained to the authorities – probably because the juveniles were with the authorities.

“One guy holds, one guy climbs,” directed South Central District Judge Bruce Romanick as three boys set out to use a ladder to take down Christmas banners.

About 15 juveniles, who are part of the South Central District Juvenile Drug Court or the South Central District Juvenile Court systems, cleaned up the Christmas decorations between Rosser Avenue and Main Avenue and between Third Street and Sixth Street under the direction of adult supervisors.

Leaving behind garbage bags full of yuletide joy in their path, the kids took down 80 red or green Christmas banners and took green evergreen garland from 60 poles downtown.

John Grinsteiner, a judicial referee, was in charge of the community service project. The court system paired up with the Downtowner’s Association to provide a “meaningful community service project” for young people who owe community service hours, he said.

This is the second year young people have pitched in to clean up downtown, Grinsteiner said. Thursday’s warm weather was a welcome improvement over last year’s weather during the project, said Romanick, who heads up the juvenile drug court program.

“Last year, I think it was subzero,”he said.

Projects like the one carried out Thursday afternoon give kids an end result where they can “help restore the community they affected,” Grinsteiner said. The juveniles could be made to clean up garbage, but “I’ve found that that’s not always effective,” he said.

Romanick said such community service projects enable the young people to do their community service hours in a group rather than alone.

Stephanie Iwaniw, executive director of the Downtowner’s Association, said the decorations were put up by inmates at the Bismarck Transition Center.

“It’s all about volunteers,”she said, pointing out that she is the only staff member of the association.

Grandma loses bid to keep festive lights

GRANDMOTHER Elizabeth Sayers fought back tears when officials pulled down her Christmas lights yesterday.

They had adorned her home in Unsworth Street, Radcliffe, for the past four years.

They were switched on over each festive period but remained unlit on the building for the rest of the year.
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Mrs Sayers said she left them up because was unable to take them down herself and could not afford to pay anyone to do it for her.

But her seven-month battle with Bury Council and Six Town Housing came to an end yesterday when council staff arrived at her home to remove the lights.

The council said the lights had to be taken down because they were a health and safety hazard.

As they were being pulled down, stunned motorists and pedestrians looked on, with one driver shouting at the workmen to leave the lights in place.

But while Mrs Sayers’ lights had to come down, just a short distance away, the council’s own lights were still up in Radcliffe town centre Mrs Sayers’ battle began in June last year, when she received a letter from Six Town Housing, which manages the property for the council, saying the lights were a health and safety hazard and had to be removed.

Despite a petition with more than 450 signatures and last-minute legal advice, Mrs Sayers was unable to stop council officials when they arrived at her home shortly after 9am yesterday.

She said: “I feel absolutely terrible but there’s nothing more I can do.

“The children will be devastated when they walk home from school and see that the lights have gone.

“They knock on my door in September every year asking when I will switch them on.

“My grandchildren will be even more upset than I am.”

Council officials told Mrs Sayers that they were taking down the lights because of damage caused to the roof of the property, though she disputes this.

They also said she would be allowed to put decorations up again during the Christmas period.

Mrs Sayers said: “The only way I will be able to put them up next year is if someone does it for free. I can’t afford to pay – that’s why I leave them up.

“My sons are busy with their own lives and don’t have time to put them up and take them down for me.

“Christmas will be ruined for everyone if I don’t have my lights up.

“People know my house and they use it as a landmark if they are giving directions. Everyone will really miss them being up.”

A spokesman for Six Town Housing said: “The lights were removed from Mrs Sayers house today following notification from Six Town Housing. There is no reason why Mrs Sayers cannot enjoy her lights again this coming Christmas, as long as all health and safety regulations are met and provided she takes them down by the 12th night.”

A council spokesman said the lights in Radcliffe town centre would be taken down by the end of January.

A Christmas Gift

Christmas has come and gone, but a family in Bismarck will remember the Midnight Mass broadcast around the world from St. Peter`s Basilica in Rome for years to come. That`s because there was a family tie to the service.

For the past two years Bismarck native Joshua Ehli has been studying at the North American Pontifical College in Rome, studying to become a priest. And this past Christmas Ehli was selected to take part in one of the biggest Christmas celebration in the world.

Jeff and Ramona Ehli received a pretty amazing gift this past Christmas.

Ramona recalls, “I felt it was the best Christmas gift I could have ever gotten to date.”

“He actually left for Rome about a year ago so that`s the first time we`ve seen him,” says Jeff.

Their son, Joshua wasn`t at home, but instead he was on television. Reading at midnight mass.

Joshua says, “I had the great privileged and honor to do the second reading. Which was a letter to Saint Paul. And he spent some time here and I can walk in his footsteps and thank him for his wise words. I was able to do that reading.”

With English speaking students just minutes away from the Basilica, Bishops often ask for help with the monumental celebration.

“They call or send a letter and say can you send a reader so we put in our names and the rest is done by lottery. So between the staff here and our prayers and God we put our names in if we`d like to read and by God`s providence I was chosen on this occasion.”

And reading at the largest televised mass from St. Peter`s doesn`t come without a touch of nerves.

“There was a bit of anxiety proceeding the reading once I entered the sanctuary we were seated behind the altar and upon entering it wasn`t about seven hundred million people. I was speaking to those at home. Or that I was entering into word. A peacefulness came over, even though the Holy Father was twenty feet from me.”

Ehli has a few years left at the seminary in Rome. He hopes to return to Bismarck once he is ordained.

Year-round Santa

With her grass-roots organization 1 to 1, Debbie Herman of Ojai multiplies magic and is already gearing up for Christmas 2007.

The formula is simple: Instead of filling Herman’s stocking, friends and family give her cash, which Herman combines with savvy shopping skills to equal enough presents for 20 struggling Ventura County families.

Herman started two years ago after reading a newspaper story about how Hurricane Katrina relief pulled dollars away from local organizations supporting homeless and working poor. “I decided to do my own thing where I could actually see where my money was going,” said Herman, 41.

She connected with Lutheran Social Services in Thousand Oaks, adopting 10 families through them.

That Christmas she met mothers in the Lutheran Services parking lot to distribute garbage bags bulging with gifts, and envelopes with $100 each.

“It was pretty moving,” Herman said. “We were all crying. They were so appreciative. That’s really what I wanted ? to have the connection.

“I didn’t think I’d do it more than a year,” she added. “(But) when I met the moms, it really did inspire me to do more.”

Herman adopted 20 families for Christmas 2006 and spent $5,500 on gifts. Her goal for 2007 is to adopt 30 families.

In the first week of January, Herman’s Ojai sunroom was already packed with toys, clothes, toaster ovens, hair dryers, purses and more. She had braved day-after-Thanksgiving sales at Wal-Mart, lining up at 4 a.m.

“Black Friday was the worst,” Herman said with a laugh. “I usually don’t venture out ? (but) I enjoy getting deals for the kids.”

Her major coup came at Macy’s, where Herman bought 200 items for $700. “I have become a professional shopper,” she said.

Herman emphasizes that every dollar donated is a dollar spent on gifts. She personally covers administrative costs. She hasn’t applied for nonprofit status because she’s opposed to spending money on paperwork when it could go toward gifts.

Herman is utterly approachable, with dark shiny hair and a substantial smile. She’s new to philanthropy, having spent the last two decades working 70 hours a week as operations manager for her father’s Camarillo company, Advanced Imaging.

The small family business grew to 180 employees but retained its close-knit quality, Herman said. When her father sold it in 2003, Herman decided to take a few years off. But she discovered freedom had its own complications.

“When I was at work, I was so driven to do the best for the company, my fellow employees, my father and myself,” Herman said. “After I left the company, I really had a hard time adjusting to not being so purpose-driven.

“Nothing I did seemed to fill the void until this,” she said. “It has definitely made me a happier person. Helping others has such spiraling effects: It helps me ? the moms feel hope ? the kids feel joy ? and it shines a bright light on the number of caring, supportive people I have in my life.”

People such as Diane Shirley, who met Herman in 1998 at Advanced Imaging. Shirley remembers reading the same 2005 newspaper story that set 1 to 1 in motion. But Herman “read the article and did something about it,” Shirley said. “Not just turn the page like most of us do.”

When Herman stepped up, it was easy for her friends to do the same, Shirley said.

More than 40 families contributed to 1 to 1 in the past two years, Herman said. In addition to giving Christmas donations, they attend Herman’s semiannual 1 to 1 poker parties. The last party raised $1,800.

“The thing that’s really amazed me ? is how much my friends and family have helped me with this,” Herman said. “It’s overwhelming. When I think about it, it really makes me emotional.

“You always think, ‘What can one person do?’ But it really doesn’t end up being one person. It’s a whole community.”

Christmas is just around the corner

SO-CALLED experts the length and breadth of the land have been making good money by pointing out that certain days this month (such as “Blue Monday”) might make people a bit miserable.

This is, of course, mainly due to cold weather (funny that, in winter), and the fact that the festive season has been left behind.

Given that background, and the fact that Christmas Day fell exactly one month ago, The Diary would like to share the following gem, which has landed in our office.

“Does it seem like forever to Christmas? Do you know how many Xmas (sic) Shopping Days you have left?” it trumpets. “To retain some of that Christmas cheer in a dull and cold January, get yourself along to the Excel Toy Fair and get a sneak preview of what’s hot for Christmas 2007.”

The Diary is well aware that the toy industry traditionally holds events early in the year, previewing predicted seasonal best-sellers.

Even so, a PR campaign based on how long it is to Christmas 2007 (11 months, to be precise) is enough to make the blood run cold.
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AFTER two national racism rows were sparked by reality TV shows, The Diary wonders who would be willing to raise their head above the television parapet.

First there was Jade Goody, who faced accusations of racism over her bullying, boorish performance on Celebrity Big Brother. Quick on her heels followed former York public schoolgirl Lucy Buchanan on Channel 4’s Shipwrecked.

Her endorsement of slavery, the British Empire, and her professed hatred of fat and ugly people catapulted her onto the front pages and drew the wrath of the nation.

But despite the furore surrounding these latest reality TV contestants, Channel 4 and Endemol (makers of Big Brother) are still looking for more young people eager for easy fame.

An email passed to The Diary asks: “Are you about to do something for the first time? Have you reached a point in your life where things are about to change?”

The broadcaster wants people aged between 14 and 19 to take part in the filming, which will focus on a major event in their life.

It adds: “If you are facing a first in your life in January, and would like to document the whole thing from before to after, then please give us a call.”

Form an orderly queue now.

Donated toys help youngsters that go without

Underprivileged young people from Knowsley enjoyed the spirit of Christmas thanks to the generosity of residents and businesses in the borough.

Hundreds of presents were distributed to children as part of the Knowsley Social Services’ annual Christmas Toy Appeal, which has been running for five years in conjunction with KCR 106.7 FM.

This year was one of the most successful so far, with around 800 toys were donated and distributed to 650 children right across the borough.

Thanks are being sent to all the companies who got involved to act as drop off points for donated toys and to those who donated gifts. Among these was a local market stall holder who donated hundreds of smaller items such as felt tips, stickers and jigsaws that were used to make up small stockings for the children.

Joanne Parry, manager of the Page Moss Family Centre, said: “The families we delivered the toys to were so grateful.

“A lot of the parents were in tears because they were so happy that they were now able to give their children presents this Christmas.”

The appeal will be run again towards the end of this year.

A month after Christmas, Bethlehem’s Goundie House beckons

tis one month after Christmas, and all through the town, the bustle of Christmas has finally calmed down.

I’m talking about the not-so-little town of Bethlehem, where even in the bleak midwinter the shops and restaurants on Main Street and the centerpiece of the sprawling Historic Bethlehem complex await off-season visitors.

Please note that the Colonial Industrial Quarter, Kemerer Museum, Moravian Museum and Burnside Plantation are snug in their long winter’s nap until they reopen in April. But the 1810 Goundie House on Main Street is a one-stop center to plan a future visit and sample the caliber of historic preservation and presentation the Historic Bethlehem Partnership offers visitors.

So, who was Goundie and why is his house a historic shrine?

He was actually Johann Sebastian Gundt, and he settled in Bethlehem in 1803 and assumed the esteemed position of the settlement’s Master Brewer. He met and married the widowed Cornelia Elisabeth Andreas and turned the struggling Moravian Church-owned brewery into a profitable venture.

The Gundt family occupied a new home on Main Street in 1810, and two years later Johann was granted permission to open his own beer brewery and brandy distillery along the Monocacy Creek behind the house. As business boomed and Bethlehem grew, Gundt entered public service, rising to mayor in 1827. About that same time, Gundt also became Goundie, his interpretation of the anglicized version of the name.

Until it became a borough in 1844, Bethlehem was basically a “company town” with that company being the Moravian Church. Thus, Johann Gundt/Goundie never actually owned his house until he purchased it on March 20, 1852. Two weeks later, he died.

The Goundie House is architecturally noteworthy in that it was likely the first Federal-style residence in town. It is believed that the builder may have been inspired by the first non-Germanic building in Bethlehem ironically the circa 1806 Central Moravian Church.

Although the classic exterior remains, few original interior architectural elements of the Goundie House survived years of uses after Cornelia Elisabeth’s death in 1853. After it fell out of family hands, it served as everything from a restaurant to a doctor’s office until the Historic Bethlehem Partnership acquired it in 1968.

After considerable research and restoration, the house was opened as a historic site and a wall was opened between the residence and an adjoining store room to create the Historic Bethlehem Welcome Center.

That old store room is now consumed by a small shop and information desk. The Goundie House is entered from that room.

A walk through the rooms of the Goundie House reveals the rather simple but comfortable lifestyle of a fairly affluent early-19th-century Moravian family. The few possessions of Goundie family members that could be retrieved are displayed there.