Archive for January, 2007

Corps of Engineers offers recycled Christmas trees

Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announces the remainder of trees from the Christmas tree recycling program is available at several boat ramp sites.

This year’s successful Christmas tree recycling program was due to the partnership efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Thurmond Lake, Riverside Middle School in Evans, Ga., Pollard Lumber Co., Davis Hauling Co., and the U.S. Forest Service’s Long Cane Ranger District.

Trees can be picked up at the following ramps: Amity, Big Hart, Gill Point, Fishing Creek/Hwy. 79, Cooter Creek, Long Cane/Hwy. 28, and Little River SC/Hwy. 81. Trees will remain at the boat ramps until they are gone, or until April 15. The trees, used as fish attractors, should be placed at an appropriate depth so they do not create a navigation hazard.

Corps fisheries biologists submerged some of the recycled Christmas trees at 12 attractor sites. For information on the sites, go to the website at lakes/thurmond/fishing.htm.

Small trees and brush provide cover for fish and are particularly valuable as nursery habitat for juvenile fish. In addition, they provide habitat for aquatic insects – essential food during the early states of life for most fish species. The constructed brush pile also makes an excellent location to fish.

Letter: Christmas arrives early in Ms. Dunphy’s classroom

According to the calendar, Christmas falls each Dec. 25, however, this year it arrived Dec. 19, 2006, at the Hatherly School when the grade 4 students in Ms. Dunphy’s class presented the play titled, “Holidays Around the World.”

It’s an annual gift Ms. Dunphy gives to her students and their parents. This special gift included watching my twin children learn to appreciate the customs of various cultures through the performing arts. But digging deeper, Ms. Dunphy taught all participants some of life’s most valuable lessons through during the play rehearsals: determination, high expectations, collaboration, and commitment. These are the intangible gifts Ms. Dunphy models and expects from her students.

Achieving the goal of a stellar final performance takes commitment, dedication and practice from all involved. With high expectations, Ms. Dunphy encouraged students to attend many rehearsals and memorize lines. Her students accepted the challenge. They worked collaboratively outside of school to learn the words and rhythms of the not-so-familiar songs.

Students excitedly created costumes to represent their respective countries. After-school play dates were made to practice dance steps. Given the opportunity to present in front of peers, relatives and friends, Ms. Dunphy had instilled inside of each grade 4 student a personal desire to achieve his/her highest aspirations.

Ms. Dunphy has perfected the art of teaching children. She inspires all to achieve their highest potential. Her energy is unmatched. A sincere thank you, Ms. Dunphy, for the gift of planting the seeds of teaching children what life is all about. Determination, high expectations, collaboration, and commitment, entwined with humor and fond memories, will serve each child through life’s journey.

Reliving the holiday hangover

Our family Christmas celebration was rather mild this year.

None of us over- imbibed in my potent rum punch and all drop-in guests were welcomed. No child wept with disappointment at not receiving a Play Station 3, and adults were delighted to receive presents they did not plan to re-gift.

In retrospect, I thought about my own remembrances of the holidays, some as warm and fuzzy as comfortable slippers, others as sad as a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

After our gift exchange, I shared some of my own childhood memories with my family. I told them about “Old Man Brown,” a friend of my Uncle Bill, who after imbibing in too much holiday eggs nog, fell into our Christmas tree, knocking it against the bay window, decapitating two of the wise men in the manger scene in the process.

I remembered how our family gradually diminished. Each year saw another death. My grandparents, aunts and uncles faded away until there were only three of us left. We were adopted for holidays by a gregarious Italian family who were friends of my parents. I smile when I think about Jack, still spry in spite of an artificial leg, and his wife, Bertha, who weighed close to 300 pounds, dancing around the living room as the victrola played “Waltz Me Around Again Willie.”

My sharing started a chain of recollections within the family. In our churchgoing years, the kids were encouraged to make a bed for the Baby Jesus in the manger by writing down the little sacrifices they had made. We still have the manger with a Hummel figurine of the Christ Child resting on fading paper sacrifices. My oldest son admitted he lied when he wrote: “I wanted to listen to a song on the radio, but I listened to a holy song instead.” Sheila said she secretly sucked her thumb even though she promised Jesus she wouldn’t.

Accompanying the wise men under our tree is a miniature car labeled “Duane’s Van.” It serves as a constant reminder to Paul, who, over 30 years ago, failed to buy Christmas presents for family members. He assured us that all of the gifts would be arriving in his friend Duane’s van, which, of course, never materialized.

We remembered my ex-husband’s eccentric Aunt Vera, who after too many bourbon and sodas, mistook cat food pellets sitting in a bowl on the kitchen counter for Chex Mix and ate half of the cat’s dinner before discovering her mistake.

Then there was Aunt Mae who always removed her ill-fitting upper dentures before she ate. Placing her pearly choppers carefully next to her wine glass, she sent an unsuspecting guest sitting next to her into shock.

I thought about the year my friend, Nancy was dying of cancer. I had spent most of the week before Christmas keeping a vigil at the hospital and forgot to wrap all of my youngest daughter’s presents. With tears running down her cheeks, Sheila asked : “Why did Santa forget me?”

Our memories are permanent ghosts that we never want to disappear.

They hover over our holiday celebrations like benign spirits reminding us of the laughter and tears that bind us together.

Did Christmas PCs Scare Spam?

A managed security vendor has noticed a significant drop in spam in recent weeks, which it theorized could be due to many old, infected computers being replaced by shiny new systems given as Christmas presents.

SoftScan, based in the U.K., noticed a 30 percent reduction in traffic around the first week of January. The company was still looking into the reasons why but speculated it could be either a major botnet going offline or possibly new Christmas computers replacing older ones that were unknowingly infected.

Gone are the days of Sanford Wallace, when spammers set up a formal organization and everyone knew where to aim. Now, it’s all underground, with infected personal computers that pump out spam without the user knowing it.

Gartner estimates that 80 percent to 90 percent of all spam generated in North America comes from computers that are unknowingly infected.

“Today we have a situation where hundreds and thousand of machines are infected without their users’ knowledge. It doesn’t affect them directly, apart from perhaps the machine occasionally going slow, but that one machine in the right hands causes misery to thousands of others,” wrote SoftScan CEO Diego d’Ambra in a posting discussing the issue.

Opinions are mixed as to what could cause such a drop in spam. Randy Abrams, director of technical education at antivirus vendor ESET, thinks it was a botnet disruption. “But I don’t think it will last for long. It is also possible that security people were getting too close to the controller so the bot-herder took it down to make changes,” he told “They’ll be back.”

However, Natalie Lambert, senior analyst for client security and client management at Forrester Research, believes the Christmas deployment theory is very plausible.

However, she adds “I also think that there’s always a huge uptick of spam before any holiday. Given that it was Christmas, one of the biggest holidays of the year, there’s a lot of incentive getting that spam out there.” The decline in early January could simply be the end of Christmas “promotions,” for lack of a better word.

She thinks that just replacing infected machines isn’t enough to take a 30 percent divot out of spam loads. It’s likely a combination of new spam blockers, clean machines and the end of the holidays.

Mike Irwin, COO for Webroot and formerly with Brightmail, doesn’t believe new PCs played a part. “We’ve gotten to a point where PC churn is fairly normalized. There’s seasonal PC buying, and I haven’t seen that be attributable to any decrease in spam. We’ve been through five Christmas cycles where spam is still a problem, and we haven’t seen a notable decline after the holiday,” he said.

It’s hard to determine the impact of new computers because the old systems they replaced might still be in use somewhere. “The question is how many were cleaned and how many are just repurposed or passed on with the malicious software intact?” said Abrams.

Air guns still a popular Christmas wish

Times change and everything changes with them, including what American boys want for Christmas or their birthdays.

Today’s kids must have the most up-to-date video game, an iPod or a cellphone. In my day, Daisy BB gun advertisements seemed to be in every “Boys Life” magazine and even on some TV shows, such as “The Red Ryder Show” and other 1950’s made-for-TV westerns.

We read those publications and watched TV and dreamed of the day when we’d have our own shootin’ irons.

Who can imagine BB guns and not think of the classic holiday movie “A Christmas Story?” As we know, Ralphie plots to somehow convince Santa to bring him a new Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.

His mother and just about anyone else Ralph confides in, however, holds the same opinion: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”

Poor Ralph almost accomplishes this after his father makes his Christmas wish come true. The kid, without any training or supervision, immediately takes the gun outside and proceeds to shoot something that causes a ricochet, striking him the face and busting his glasses.

It’s a near miss, but a bad situation from the beginning. Watch that movie and you will see me as a kid in the 1950s.

While there always has been a BB gun around our house, no one I know has ever lost an eye using one, although I am sure it has occurred somewhere due to someone’s carelessness.

Firearms and supervision have gone hand in hand in our home since I can remember.

Take it from a former Daisy Red Ryder BB gun owner and operator: Shooting your eye out isn’t the problem. It’s your buddy shooting yours or someone else’s eye out. Then again, he’s more likely to hit the neighbors’ window, cat or a streetlight.

Airguns, pellet guns and BB guns still carry a stigma of trouble as a result and have restrictions on them in most towns — as well they should.

I was lucky enough to have grandparents who lived in northern Michigan, an ideal place for a boy with a BB gun to prowl the local woods and fields. My weapons were a Daisy Red Ryder lever action and, later, the ultimate Daisy, the venerable pump gun, considered perhaps twice as powerful as the lever action.

Both moved their projectiles at about 250 feet per second. With these, I terrorized rats, snakes, blackbirds, crows and anything else considered a “varmint” in those days.

Plinking meant roaming the woods or vacant lots, not hunting but shooting tin cans, bottles or whatever other inanimate targets presented themselves. They still do this out West, generally with .22-caliber rifles, but plinking is a lost art in Michigan unless you own the property.

I loved plinking then and still enjoy it today. Some folks ride motorcycles; I shoot guns.

Last Christmas, one of my childhood wishes came true when my family bought me a real airgun. I had threatened to buy one for years, but just never got around to it.

No, not a BB gun, but a true air rifle that drives .177-caliber pellets at about 1,000 fps with one pump. In comparison, a standard 9mm pistol round travels about 850 fps. My gift is no toy.

My RWS Model 34 Magnum is made in Germany to the standards of a high-powered hunting rifle including a rifled barrel, full walnut stock and professional bluing on the steel.

With a special BSA variable scope mounted on it, the air rifle looks like a full-sized firearm. To increase shooting accuracy it has an adjustable trigger.

It takes one pump to charge it and at up to 10 meters (about 33 feet), you can drive pellets through the same hole. At 20 meters (almost 70 feet), a well-placed headshot will take down a squirrel with ease.

Why make such sophisticated air rifles? One reason is that firearms restrictions in Europe immediately after World War II prompted sportsman who liked to shoot to turn toward air-powered rifles, which have been around for centuries.

Lewis and Clark carried one on their great expedition and used it to impress some of the Indians they came across. My new rifle, with scope and mounts, retails for more than $300. In comparison, there are competition air rifles made in Europe that start at $3,000 for a basic model. They are designed for both Olympic and International competition.

All these high-powered air rifles are designed to shoot small, .177- or .22-caliber lead pellets, but not BBs, which are steel and would harm the barrel. Although it leaves the barrel at great speed (up to 1,000 fps) its light weight means the tiny projectile loses energy very quickly but is still considered dangerous out to about 300 yards.

There are a variety of pellets on the market and like any other ammunition are priced according to manufacturing practices and tolerances.

Air rifles are like any other firearm and often shoot better with a particular brand of ammunition that might not always be the most expensive. Such guns require very little maintenance other than an occasional brushing of the barrel and light oiling of exposed metal parts.

Air rifles are extremely quiet when fired. As a result many shooters use them indoors. If you plan on doing a lot of indoor shooting, consider one.

If using a metal bullet trap, these fast flying pellets tend to disintegrate on impact with the metal forming lead dust. Just like in any indoor shooting range, lead dust is a health issue, so some effort should be made to contain the dust.

I do this by shooting into heavy Styrofoam backed with inch-thick plywood. With flat-nosed pellets, my RWS will penetrate half-inch construction plywood easily.

There are many air-rifle manufacturers here and abroad. Even the big boys like Remington and Winchester, better known for shotguns and rifles, have a line of air rifles. Most gun shops carry a selection of airguns, as do big catalogue marketers.

And like so many of my fellow men, I continue to prove the maxim my wife and many others know by heart:

“The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.

“Three hundred dollars for a BB gun? Are you nuts?”

Police lay charges after Christmas mail goes missing

A Lethbridge couple has been charged in connection with the theft of thousands of pieces of mail that went missing over Christmas.

Police launched an investigation after complaints about missing mail, focusing on a route in south Lethbridge that was being handled by a subcontractor.

On Jan. 19 police searched a home and found about 6,000 letters and opened parcels.

A 32-year-old man has been charged with possession of stolen property and two counts of fraud. A 24-year-old woman has been charged with detaining mail and the unlawful opening of mail.

Salvation Army believes in miracles

Gerald and Debby Morgan The Morgans are captains and pastors of the New Bedford Salvation Army.

As we reflect over the past Christmas season, our hearts are filled with gratitude. We have witnessed a community working together for the good of others, and we marvel that miracles still happen.

We are thankful to the many area store managers for allowing the Salvation Army kettle workers to ring bells. These committed ringers stood outside for 43 days and raised more than $145,000.

Thank you to the local schools for their participation in the Angel Tree Program and Toy Shop. Fundraisers were held by many businesses, community groups, service clubs and student groups. Delicious Thanksgiving and Christmas meals were prepared and served by UMass students, interns from schools and volunteers from local churches. Thank you to the many volunteers who lovingly listened to stories of adversity and helped process applications for weeks.

We cherish the Salvation Army staff and praise God for our own family members who helped type and prepare each food voucher and numerous tasks. Volunteers help each family go through the toy shop to carefully select beautiful new toys, books and clothing for each child.

How appreciative we are of The Standard-Times, its staff and the hundreds of donors who gave so generously and benevolently to the Neediest Families Fund. We are deeply touched by the list of faithful volunteers in this community who continue to support the Army.

Thank you to the anonymous donor who knocked on the door of the Salvation Army at the end of the day with three huge boxes of toys. God’s timing is always perfect. I was so blessed to share the tears of joy, hugs of love and even “high fives” of thanks on days of distribution, and can recall a lady who sobbed with gratitude in absolute disbelief at the sight of the gifts that filled her car. Such an amazing act of compassion can only happen because of the kindhearted and considerate people of New Bedford who genuinely gave from their hearts again this Christmas holiday.

Because of your good will, the Salvation Army packed 602 Thanksgiving food baskets and served 377 Thanksgiving meals. More than 2,500 families, including thousands of children, received new books, toys, clothing, stocking stuffers and food during the Christmas distribution, totaling 19,134 gifts. In addition, $101,270 was spent on food; 200 Christmas baskets were delivered to home-bound families; 170 homeless men, women and children attended the Christmas meal; and 1,500 nursing home residents were visited and given gifts. How proud we are to be a part of a community that is committed to serving others and dedicated to the mission of the Army.

Together we have made a difference, and we can testify that miracles do still happen!

Schools weigh inclusiveness, calendar without ‘Christmas’

Shelby County Schools’ newest board member, Fred Johnson, wants to change “Christmas Break” to “Winter Break” on the school calendar.

“I want to make it inclusive of every religious group,” he said.

Johnson’s unexpected declaration, during a recent discussion of the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school calendars, did not sit well with all board members.

“This is America. Since Day One, we’ve recognized Christmas as Christmas and Christmas Break as Christmas Break,” said board member Joe Clayton, who said he would never support a change of the wording.

The two-week break between December and January has captured the board’s attention before. Three years ago it was called Winter Break, until Clayton led the move to adopt the Christmas title.

Clayton was also a major force in putting an elective course on Bible study in high schools several years ago. The course is still available in some schools.

“I just believe we’ve got to hold on to some of the traditional things of our country. It’s kind of like apple pie,” he said.

According to board chairman David Pickler, the board approved the Christmas Break measure because it represented the values held by the majority of the Shelby County population.

“Our board has long stood for traditional values. It does in no way exclude other religions,” he said.

One board member supporting the idea of a secular name change is Teresa Price.

During school calendar committee sessions, made up of a cross section of the community, several parents and teachers supported doing away with the Christmas Break title, she said.

A retired county administrator, Johnson joined the board last year to serve the remaining two years of the term for Wyatt Bunker, who was elected to the County Commission.

Johnson, who is a Christian and celebrates Christmas, says a public institution funded by taxpayers’ dollars has the responsibility to be inclusive to all the religions of its students and parents.

“I’m not trying to make waves, but I made a commitment I would try my very best to keep every child in this community in mind,” he said.

Public disagreement among school board members is rare and whether intended or not, Johnson’s proposal has rocked the boat.

The school board is scheduled to vote on the calendar wording at its 1 p.m. meeting Thursday at the board of education, 160 South Hollywood.

Christmas presents thief jailed

A MAN has been jailed after stolen goods, including Christmas presents, were found in his home.

Martin Errol Price, 36, was sentenced in the ACT Magistrates Court today after pleading guilty to 20 offences committed over a 12-month period.

Price has been behind bars since December last year when police found $200 worth of counterfeit banknotes and a stash of stolen goods at his home.

The stolen items included a lap top computer, printer, credit cards, identity cards and several packages addressed to other people.

It is believed the mail contained Christmas presents and had been taken from mailboxes in suburban Narrabundah, where Price lives.

The police statement of facts states only one of the packages had the contents still inside – a car washing kit and inflatable swim ring.

Prosecutor Kelven Hawke told the court he could not believe Price’s claim that he found most of the goods in a cardboard box at a charity bin, as one of the packages had been postmarked with the date January 19, several days after Price claimed he found the box.

The other charges against Price were issued in January and March 2006 and included reckless driving, failing to provide a breath sample, common assault and possessing cannabis.

Magistrate Shane Madden said all the charges appeared to be drug-related but, as Price already was refraining from illicit drugs, he hoped he could be reformed.

“I do believe there is some hope and prospect of rehabilitation in this matter,” he said.

Mr Madden sentenced Price to 18 months jail, to be followed by four months of periodic detention and a two-year good behaviour bond.

He also was fined $650.

Price has already served 133 days of his sentence and will be eligible for parole in February next year.

Christmas Cheer says thanks

Stop the presses! The stats are coming over the wire. Christmas Cheer served 710 families including live-alone seniors with food, including poultry, fruit and vegetables; and toys to 1,751 children.

In collaboration with the Kiwanis Club of Petaluma, we provided bicycles and new helmets to 98 children. None of this could have been accomplished without, first and foremost, a place to set up shop. Thank you, Angela and Richard DeCarli, for donating an attractive location. We are grateful for our many individual and family donors, stores and restaurants that placed our barrels; the Petaluma Fire Department, schools and businesses that made collections for us; community clubs and churches that provided food and funds and legions of volunteer helpers, adults and youngsters, both long-standing and first-timers.

Thanks to Green Waste for donating recycle and trash Dumpsters — we are dedicated recyclers; thanks to Petaluma Grocery Outlet for donating hundreds of dollars of groceries, discounts on our purchased groceries and being a true friend of the community; thanks to Lok-N-Stor for their help. And, thanks to you, Argus-Courier and Press Democrat, for printing articles both early on and later when donations were not keeping up with applications for help. The combination of publicity and caring folks enabled us to provide an ample supply of food and toys to all our applicants. To all, have a healthy and happy 2007.

Charities benefit from Christmas lights

A CROXLEY Green resident who adorned his house with 30,000 lights has raised thousands of pounds for two charities.

Dave Edwards, 73, of Lancing Way, and his wife have been covering their house in Christmas lights every year since 1978.

This year the money raised was split between the Peace Hospice, Watford, and ex-footballer Bob Wilson’s Willow Foundation.
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Dave presented a cheque for £1,400 last week.

It was the first year the couple had raised money for the hospice.

They did so in the memory of Peggy Williams, a friend of theirs, who died at the hospice last year.

The lights stay up for about six weeks from the second week of November until the start of January.

Dave said: “We had between 500 and 600 people there on the first night and raised £540 on that night alone.”

There was a children’s disco on the front lawn and children’s entertainers to mark the event.

Dave said: “I think we keep doing it because we like to see the interest and enjoyment on people’s faces. I’ll keep doing it as long as I can climb the ladder.”

Church gives child with cancer a Christmas present to remember

For many, along with a new year comes a new lease on life.

This is especially true for Samantha George, who is facing 2007 with a renewed sense of hope for the future.


In August, Samantha’s 4-year-old daughter, Kyra, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma — a childhood cancer arising from immature retinal cells in one of her eyes. Around the same time, Kyra’s sister, 4-month-old Kyana, was diagnosed with digestive problems that were to require corrective surgery.

Samantha was dividing her time between two hospitals, one in Shreveport and one in Houston, and struggling to make ends meet.

After her story was reported, Samantha said the outpouring of support was amazing.

She said she is constantly approached and asked how her two girls are doing.

Six months after the worst news of her life, Samantha has finally been given some good news.

“It appears to be gone,” Samantha said of Kyra’s cancer. “They can’t tell me with 100-percent certainty, and they said they’ll continue to treat her as if she has it. But all of her tests have come back normal. They have no explanation for how it happened, but it looks like it’s completely gone.”

Samantha said people all over the world prayed for Kyra.

“I’m thinking God healed her,” she said. “I’ve been told to keep a close eye on her. If she develops problems, or if her bones hurt, I’m supposed to let them know. But it looks like everything is fine.”

Kyra had surgery in the fall to remove her eye, because of the tumor that was growing in the optic nerve. She has since been fitted for a prosthetic eye.

“Her temporary eye is causing some irritation and swelling, but they’re going to wait until her next exam under anaesthesia to place her permanent eye,” Samantha said. “That way, it won’t be so painful.”

Kyra will continue to have brain scans and exams under anasthesia every three months, until she has been cancer free for five years. After that, she’ll be monitored annually.

On top of this good news came the revelation that Kyana’s digestive problems seems to have been corrected with medication, and she may not need surgery.

“Things have been rough, but people everywhere have helped,” she said.

Samantha said a class from First Christian Church, led by Joe Still, adopted her girls for Christmas.

“They came out, and they asked what would really make Kyra’s eyes light up for Christmas,” Samantha said. The three things Kyra wanted most were sparkly gold shoes, a pink guitar and to see Santa Claus.

“She thought she was going to see Santa at the mall or something,” Samantha said. “But they brought him to our house. He peeked out from behind the door, and she said, ‘Santa!'”

The class brought food, gas cards, gold shoes and a pink guitar.

“I’m serious — they made Christmas,” Samantha said. “It was so amazing.”

In Houston, at the hospital, Kyra was given an autographed football, water bottle and pompoms from the Texas Longhorns.

“So many people have done things to make her happy,” Samantha said.

Many Struggling With Holiday Bills

Many people feel great when they’re buying piles of gifts for relatives and friends at Christmas, but they can be overwhelmed when that blizzard of credit card bills arrives in the new year.

Credit counselors call it the “debt hangover.”

“We often see a rush of people in January and February,” said Sandra Shore, a senior counselor with Novadebt, a nonprofit credit counseling organization based in Freehold, N.J.

Some, she said, have greatly underestimated how much they’ve spent for the holidays and are shocked when the bills come in. For others, a lack of planning means that Christmas is like any other “unexpected” event _ say a big hospital bill or a necessary car repair _ that can skew their budgets.

Shirley Gilbert of Waterloo, Ill., isn’t exactly sure why, but she says she got “totally carried away” buying presents during the Christmas season in 2005.

“I bought all kinds of stuff _ you name it, I bought it _ for my daughters, for my grandchildren, for my friends,” said Gilbert. “I wanted a good Christmas for them. I figured I’d pay the cards off later.”

But Gilbert, who is 62 and living on Social Security and disability benefits, found she couldn’t deal with the more than $7,000 she accumulated on her cards _ or with the phone calls from bill collectors. With the help of Novadebt counseling, she’s been whittling down the balance since last summer, she said.

“This Christmas, I bought what I could afford and that was it,” Gilbert said. “Everyone understood.”

Sacha Millstone, a senior vice president at the Millstone Evans Group in Boulder, Colo., said that although some consumers feel the pain of overwhelming credit card bills in January and February, it’s often a symptom of a deeper problem.

“I believe that many people who overspend at the holidays overspend all the time,” she said. “They maybe do it a little bit more at the holidays.”

As a result, Millstone, whose company is affiliated with Raymond James & Associates Inc. financial advisers, believes consumers who are in credit card trouble need to work on a long-term solution.

“Start by looking back at the past year to determine what you actually spent,” she said. “Next, create a spending plan for all of 2007.”

The plan will be more realistic if the consumer can do projections based on actual spending in the previous year, Millstone pointed out.

Once this has been done, it’s easier for most people to identify where they’re overspending and where they can find “extra” money to pay down bills, she said.

“Let’s say you discover you’re spending $8,000 a year on clothes,” Millstone said. “You have to ask, ‘Is that a priority for us?’ If not, maybe you’re just doing it out of habit or not thinking about it at all.”

Jack Lazar, a 58-year-old civil engineer, and his wife Lisa started spending heavily on credit cards in 2003 and 2004 and continued through the 2005 holiday season.

The Lazars, who live in Putnam Valley, N.Y., realized about a year ago that they were falling behind. With the help of credit counselors, they were able to make a budget, increase their monthly card payments _ and start saving more than $100 a month as an emergency cushion.

Lazar said he switched to using a debit card instead of a credit card so that he wasn’t building more debt, and the couple became more careful about spending.

“For the holidays in 2006, we probably spent 10 percent of what we spent in 2005,” Lazar said. Instead of gifts, the couple hopes to throw a party later this year for family and friends.

Shore, the Novadebt counselor, said many people have to come to terms with what is causing their debt problems, which typically is spending more than they take in.

“Classically, someone will say, I lost my job,” she said. “Then you ask, when was that, and the answer is ‘two months ago.’ And they’re collecting unemployment insurance. But they have $40,000 in credit card debt. That obviously started happening more than two months ago.”

She believes people trying to get out of debt need to track their spending for a while because “it can be a real eye opener” as to where the money actually is going.

Next, people need to make a chart of their debts with the monthly amounts due, interest rates and totals.

Shore said consumers have to begin paying more than the minimum to get the balances to start dropping. But, she added, they also have to be realistic.

“It’s like when you go on a diet,” Shore said. “You tell yourself, ‘I’m never going to have a cookie again.’ Then you have a cookie and fall off the diet.

“With debt repayment, if you make too strict _ ‘I’ll never go out to eat again _ you’re not going to be able to stick to it. You need to give yourself some leeway.”

Nation at risk from tyranny of tolerance

AUSTRALIA’S long-term difficulty in dealing with the now politically defunct noun “multiculturalism” is not unique to this country. It is not even unique to this time.

In London earlier this week a newspaper columnist dug out some old quotes from Winston Churchill in 1938, then merely another politician but a man whose time was about to come.

They were dark days as Churchill watched the tyranny of Nazi Germany spread across Europe and, as the Nazis pushed their violent, intolerant ideology on the world, the British Government simply looked on. Stunned mullets.

They were seemingly unwilling – or unable – to deal with the problem. “I have watched this famous island descending incontinently, fecklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf,” Churchill observed. He was never short of a quotable line, was ol’ Winston.

But he also warned that “if a moral catastrophe should overtake” Britain, future historians would sit back and be baffled as to how a great nation allowed itself to be destroyed so easily.

Well, folks, who’s to say it isn’t happening again?

How many of you noticed that those Christmas cards you have no doubt recycled by now actually said Happy Holidays, and not the religiously correct Merry Christmas? Were the Christmas lights down in your neighbourhood this year?

It wasn’t so long ago that Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore thought it was a good idea to cancel Christmas decorations in the city so – and how many times are we hearing this? – as not to offend Muslims.

Just this week concert promoter Ken West tried to ban the Australian flag because he believed it would invoke racial violence. Aside from showing common sense was officially dead and buried, West did a pretty good job of indicating the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll is in the early stages of rigor mortis as well.

Australia is not unique in its troubles, though. In England last week a woman graduating with her Metropolitan Police class refused to shake the Police Commissioner’s hand because it was against her Muslim faith to shake hands with any man not her husband or a close relative. What did the commissioner do? Privately, they say, he was outraged at the lack of what we Westerners call manners. But he agreed, so as “not to cause a scene”.

For any right-minded person, though, shouldn’t the immediate thought have been: If she cannot touch men, then how is she supposed to arrest them? The commissioner should have stripped her of her badge there and then.

These are all examples of this politically correct pandering to other religions gone completely wrong. They are occurring at the disintegration of our own culture. Sure, this woman was entitled to her religious beliefs but when it comes to policing, the greater welfare of the community should have been put before her interests.

Sadly it wasn’t, which is symptomatic of the problem in England, in Australia, and throughout the Western world. In a bid to stay modern, be fair and accept every man as equal, countries opened their borders to differing religions, races and persuasions when, according to the rhetoric, we should all have then joined in a group hug.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Hardline fundamental Muslims have moved in, happy to accept the freedoms and benefits of our culture – whenever it suited – while around the world their kill tally continues to rise.

They sell their hate-mongering DVDs in western Sydney and then we excuse them because we are a “tolerant” society.

Well, it says here that tolerance these days is just cowardice dressed in a palatable mask. The true meaning has been lost in this dog’s breakfast of political correctness. By pandering to religious sensibilities in such a manner Australia is just weakening its own culture and going down the path of ruin.

Australia is a wonderful country and deserves protecting. It should not be allowed to be overrun by fundamentalists preying on our weakness to show “tolerance”.

The small light of hope this week was Prime Minister John Howard’s decision to reflect the feelings of the majority of this country by changing the multiculturalism portfolio to a citizenship portfolio.

While it is hard to ignore the change could simply be an election stunt from Honest John cashing in on the wider feelings of the electorate, the hope is it is more a case of astute politics. With no more astute politician in Canberra, he gets the early benefit of the doubt.

Australia needs to be protected not just from the fundamentalists but from ourselves – from the dimwits all too willing to give this country away in the name of tolerance.

For a long while Churchill was a lone voice in his opposition to Hitler, even becoming virtually banned from the BBC for being too anti-German. He was proven right only when it was almost too late.

Opinion piece does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Joy of Christmas

School board member pitches name change for “Christmas break”

Christmas Vacation or Winter Break?

A Shelby County School leader wants to change it to the more “politically correct” version. But that’s not sitting well with some students, parents and school board members.

An official decision on what to call the holiday could be made during a school board vote tomorrow.

In the meantime, at some schools in Shelby County, the vacation known at county schools as “Christmas break” is at the center of a growing debate.

“I think it should just stay christmas break because its been christmas break as long as I can remember,” said student Brittany Markel.

“I know people who don’t really like the Christmas thing because they aren’t – they are of another religion,” said sister Caitlin Markel.

Board Member Fred Johnson suggested Shelby County adopt the title “Winter Break” at a recent school board meeting.

Johnson was unavailable for comment and some students we talked to say his proposal faces an uphill battle.

“I think it should stay Christmas Break,” said student Bobby Scott.

“I don’t think most of the students are going to care as long as they get out for the same amount of time,” countered another.

School board officials say in the last ten years the vacation has been called “winter break” but that they went back to calling it “Christmas Break” several years ago because it was traditional and that is what the Federal Government calls the holiday.

Memphis City Schools do it differently. At MCS, the vacation is called “winter break.” Desoto County and Marion, Arkansas schools call it the “Christmas holiday.” Tipton and Fayette Counties call that December school holiday “Christmas break.”

Xmas Cookies Arrive After Detour to Afghanistan

A box of Christmas cookies finally arrived at the home of a New Jersey woman about a month late, and it had some unexpected additions.

The misdirected mail was sent from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania addressed to Pittsgrove, New Jersey, but somehow the package ended up in Afghanistan first.

Bonnie Donohue may never again look at a cookie without thinking about the odyssey of the Christmas cookies from her 91-year-old aunt.

They were packed neatly in a box with a special note, but the cookies, which were sent priority mail before Christmas, didn’t arrive until last Saturday.

It seems that the jet setting cookies went from Bethlehem to Salem County by way of the Bagram military post office in Afganistan. That’s a 13-thousand mile roundtrip.

What Donohue found overwhelming is that soldiers there signed the box.

She said the soldiers could certainly have eaten the cookies, but instead returned them to their rightful recipient

Donohue is now on a mission to bake cookies, and get her family and friends to do the same, for transport to the thoughtful soldiers in Afghanistan.

She’s even planning to call the Girl Scouts to see if they will send their cookies. Some chapters already do via the U.S.O.

As for Aunt Dot’s cookies, they were a little battered by the trip. They were thrown away, but the empty box is full of very special messages

On Radio: All-Christmas format is a ratings gift for KRWM-FM, boosting it to first

Why do stations resort to stunts like playing nothing but Christmas music from Thanksgiving to the big day?

Because they often work.

Just ask KRWM-FM (106.9), which rode its all-Christmas format to first place in the fall quarter ratings book for Seattle-Tacoma, according to Arbitron Inc. It had been fourth in the summer-quarter book.

Interestingly, the all-Christmas format doesn’t always pay off, as demonstrated by contemporary Christian station KCMS-FM (105.3), the other station in the market to try it. Its fall-quarter ranking and audience-share rating was down from summer.

KRWM was followed by KUBE-FM (93.3) and KIRO-AM (710). Reflecting the stiff competition between the market’s two major country stations, longtime ratings leader KMPS-FM (94.1) and newcomer KKWF-FM (100.7) finished in a tie for fourth.

The ratings reflect listeners 12 and older tuned in 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Sunday. They do not include non-commercial stations such as KUOW-FM (94.9) and KPLU-FM (88.5), which rank among the market’s top stations. Arbitron had earlier said it planned to merge the commercial and non-commercial stations on one list but has delayed doing so.

Radio managers and advertisers also say they pay more attention to station performance in specific target audience rather than the overall market.

Aside from Christmas music, listeners apparently had a strong appetite for news, with KIRO-AM and KOMO-AM finishing first and second in the 6-10 a.m. weekday segment. KTTH-AM, with Rush Limbaugh and Michael Medved, placed first 10 a.m.-3 p.m., while KUBE-FM was first for 3-7 p.m. and 7 p.m.-midnight weekdays.

Four generations gather for annual Christmas reunion

One of the things I love about my extended Vander Plas family is its commitment to family gatherings. Each summer we have a family reunion on my grandparents’ farm and every January we gather for a family Christmas party.

Even though not everyone can make it every time, attending these functions has allowed four generations of the Vander Plas family to remain relatively close.

I’ve written in the past about how special my cousins are to me and how much affection I have for my aunts and uncles, but it never hurts to reiterate those feelings. Too often we leave those things unsaid.

On Saturday, Jan. 13, we gathered at the Wykoff Community Center for a noon potluck and afternoon of visiting. Many of us had packed board games and cards to play, but no one even thought about breaking them out as we were all otherwise occupied.

You see, the Vander Plas family welcomed seven babies into our family within the past six months or so. Five of them were at our Christmas gathering, so we all pretty much played musical babies throughout the day and introduced ourselves to the newest members of the family.

There were also a few toddlers running about and their antics were entertaining as well. Some, just learning to talk, made us laugh with their toddler-speak, while others’ clumsy movements had us holding our breath until they regained their balance.

Even the oldest generation provided us with a few laughs as the Vander Plas brothers sat around the dinner table and exchanged stories – fact and fiction and some that were hard to label!

It’s funny how often I’ve thought about my grandparents in the last week – just being around the other members of our family makes me think about how proud they would be of the people we’ve all become. I see my grandmother’s eyes in several of my cousins, her mouth in others. Several of us female descendents share our fight to stave off her silver hair, while it looked charming on her, none of us are ready to give up our original color.

I even heard her laugh, compliments of my aunt, and it nearly brought tears to my eyes. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed it.

My grandfather died when I was a child, so I don’t remember him as well as my grandmother, but I’m sure we all carry certain characteristics from him as well. I just can’t list them like those we inherited from my grandmother.

As I sat holding one of the newest members of our family, I grasped his tiny hand and thought about how proud Grandma and Grandpa would be of their family. He and his fellow newborns represent the future of our family, but they also possess a strong heritage.

I passed one baby on to my cousin and reached for the next one, cuddling him close in my arms. I looked down into his sweet face and he smiled. Even though I was a stranger to him, it was as if he sensed he was safe in the arms of his family. And he was right.

Why no halos on Grandma’s Christmas angel sweater?

January’s best feature is the disappearance of the dreadful Christmas sweater. Rather than just out of sight for the next year, this gaudy rendition of holiday cheer should be banned solely for its entrapment of women into thinking they look trendy wearing one.

If necessary, all cities should pass a “Garish Ordinance” to protect mature women from the annual need to don foolish apparel designed by malicious elves, otherwise known as Wal-Mart Haute Couture.

Repeat after me, there is no middle-aged bosom that looks attractive wearing beaded Christmas trees, sequined reindeer and a needlepoint Santa Claus, unless, of course, you are Mrs. Claus and want a really nice present.

If Petco hasn’t already, the store could develop a line of doggy Christmas sweaters and any matron with the uncontrollable urge to festoon herself with a knitted version of the Frosty the Snowman could thwart this pleasure onto her fluffy little Bishon, who despite such garb, would remain cute. Warning: Do not be tempted with matching sweaters.

Such a vision would be enough to revive Coco Chanel from her final resting place or put the Chic Cops on a flashing red-light-run directly to your front door. This fashion blasphemy might even inspire an Oprah show on what NOT to WEAR during the holidays.

On second thought, please don’t, the mental image of Oprah and her three golden retrievers — Luke, Layla and Lucie — sporting identical Christmas sweaters makes me want to cancel my subscription to her magazine, who undoubtedly, would put this colorful quartet onto next December’s cover.

While having lunch with a girlfriend, I recently learned that ridiculing the Christmas sweater is as unfashionable as the gold, appliquéd angels on both its sleeves. Since she is a newspaper editor, I also proposed writing a funny article about it.

Her immediate and indignant retort, “You write Christmas letters!” drew my quick response, “At least, they are tasteful!”

After those two mouthfuls, both of us tried backpedaling:

I said: “Of course, the right Christmas earrings with an elegant Christmas sweater would definitely give only you a classic look. Your statuesque frame carries beads and sequins beautifully.”

She said: “Everyone enjoys your Christmas letters because they are so funny and informative. We all love reading about your travels, children and grandchildren. In fact, three single-spaced pages are never enough.”

We’re still friends and next December she’ll be wearing her stylish, black Christmas sweater with festive poinsettias on each shoulder and strands of multicolored lights trailing from front to the back interspersed with carefully placed cherubs. Complementing this look will be large, dangling earrings of snowflakes and gaily, wrapped presents.

My newsletter will be in the mail stamped with extra postage so all my friends and family will again savor my exciting year as told in 3,000 words or less. Enclosed with my thrilling epistle and card are numerous pictures and newspaper clippings for their added enjoyment.

For every rack of forlorn Christmas sweaters marked down 70 percent, there is a trash can brimming with unread Christmas letters. In retrospect, we don’t need that ordinance. Let the old girls adorn themselves; most of us have enough bosom area to portray the entire scene of Bethlehem; in addition, with a smile and a sing-along of “Silent Night.”

I hope Oprah doesn’t read this because I’d love to sit on her couch with my fluffy pooch, Hercules, and we could share doggie tales. Maybe Tom Selleck, George Clooney and Matthew McConaughey could join us. Makes for one heck of a Christmas letter.

British pet owners barking mad at Christmas

Its official: British pet owners go barking mad at Christmas! Did you splash out on your dog this Christmas. If you did, you are not alone! A survey carried out by PDSA Petsurance reveals that Brits are really barking mad when it comes to spoiling their pets over the festive season!

A staggering 92% of owners surveyed bought their pet a Christmas present. 62% bought their pet a Christmas stocking, while 30% sent their pet a Christmas card! Over 65% of those surveyed admitted to adding their pet’s name beside their own when sending out Christmas cards and 64% served up a Christmas dinner for their dog

The UK’s most spoilt pets this Christmas include:
• A Jack Russell called Gucci from Nottingham, who was treated to a pink diamante designer coat and collar.
• Mouse the dog from Hampshire walks out in style now, with a matching leopard-print collar and lead!
• A Pomeranian from Essex was given a waterproof coat to keep him dry on walks!

Commenting on the survey, Liza Randall of PDSA, says: “It’s obvious that pets play a very special role in our lives. The vast majority of British pet owners wouldn’t dream of leaving their pet out during the festive celebrations – which means presents, Christmas cards and even a dinner with all the trimmings!”

But with the average cost of a course of veterinary treatment rising year-on-year and now standing at over £280**, leading veterinary charity PDSA is urging pet owners to insure their pet in case of illness or accidents.

“If you pet falls ill or has an accident, without a pet insurance policy in place, it can be a stressful time both financially and emotionally, especially at this time of the year after the bank balance has taken a pounding!” says Liza Randall.

“PDSA urges pet owners to make a New Year’s resolution to invest in a quality pet insurance policy. It is one of the best presents you can buy your pet and could mean the difference between life and death.”

PDSA exists to provide free veterinary treatment to the sick and injured pets of people in need, and its teams of vets and veterinary nurses provide over 1.3 million free treatments every year. This year, PDSA PetAid services will cost more than £41 million. They are funded entirely by public support, mainly through donations and gifts in wills.

Chichon conducts Vienna’s most famous Christmas concert

Local conductor Karel Mark Chichon recently conducted the “Christmas in Vienna” concert to great acclaim, which was held on 22 December 2006 at the 2,500 capacity Vienna Konzerthaus.

“Christmas in Vienna” is considered the most important and famous concert in Vienna during Christmas. In recent past concerts it has featured some of the world’s greatest artists, including Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, Diana Ross, Tony Bennett, Sarah Brightman, Charlotte Church and Vanessa Williams. The 2006 concert featured the Vienna Boys Choir, famous tenor Juan Diego Florez, the legendary mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry and two of Vienna’s favourite singers’ – Adrian Erod (soloist at the Vienna State Opera) and Aneely Peebo (soloist at the Vienna Volksoper). All of these artists were under of the baton of Karel Mark Chichon, conducting the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

The concert was recorded live by ORF (Austrian National Television and Radio) and by 3Sat TV (German and Austrian Satellite TV network). It was viewed by an approximate half a million viewers across Germany and Austria, and was rated as the most viewed classical music concert during 2006, ahead of the 2006 Salzburg Festival’s new production of Nozze di Figaro which came second in the ratings.

This concert was a personal success for Maestro Chichon and he was immediately re-invited to conduct the 2008 “Christmas in Vienna” concert which is likely to feature tenor Placido Domingo. Such was his impact on the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra that the orchestra has re-invited the Gibraltar Maestro for further concerts in 2007-8 and 2008-9 seasons in their Vienna Konzerhaus subscription series. The new Director of the Vienna Volksoper has also extended an invitation for Karel to conduct a new production of Rossini: Barber of Seville in 2008 at the Volksoper, which he has accepted.

The 2006-7 season has been a very busy but successful time for Karel until now. He very successfully conducted 10 concerts in South Korea with the Seoul Philharmonic during October 2006, where he performed for a total audience of more than 35,000 people and was immediately re-invited to conduct the 2007 tour. This was followed by four concerts in the UK with one of the leading chamber orchestras in the world, the English Chamber Orchestra, where he conducted the prestigious cellist Julian Lloyd Webber and upcoming violinist Nicola Benedetti – these events also led to further re-invitations next season. He then went on to conduct two concerts with the Luebeck Philharmonic in Germany and another four concerts with the Niedderischer Symphony Orchestra in a tour of Germany. Following the “Christmas in Vienna” concert he conducted the New Year Concerts in Riga with the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra on 28, 29 and 30 December 2006.

Maestro Chichon’s career is managed and represented by the influential Artists’ Agency “Agentur Seitter” in Vienna. Upcoming engagements in January for the Gibraltar Maestro include a Gala Concert with Joseph Calleja (famous tenor and DECCA recording artist) in Prague, his debut in Innsbruck (Austria) in 2 concerts with the Tiroler Philharmonic and his debut in Bolzano (Italy) with the Haydn Orchestra.

Despite his busy schedule Karel is still firmly committed to the Gibraltar Philharmonic Society which he continues to serve as Artistic Director, ensuring that Gibraltar continues to stage concerts of the highest quality, which Karel feels are comparable to the highest standards throughout Europe.

Community sponsors Christmas feast

This letter is to thank all the individuals, companies, agencies, businesses and organizations in the Marquette region for sponsoring a Christmas feast for families who are victims of domestic violence. Every year the Women’s Center/Harbor House coordinates a Christmas party for these individuals and families, which is harmonized with the support of a loving and giving community.

On Dec. 16 the Women’s Center/Harbor House sent out invitations to individuals and families who have walked through their doors, asked for their help, and are affiliated with their organization. The invitation is called “Breakfast with Santa Claus.” What a joyous occasion it was. This event could not have happened without the benevolent individuals and organizations in Marquette.

Let me tell you what transpires through this glorious event. The “elves “ of the Women’s Center/Harbor House start out early to prepare the event with a fabulous breakfast buffet. When everyone is through eating, Santa Claus arrives with cheer and goodies for all the girls and boys. With the children gathered around on the floor, Santa reads, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” While this goes on, the “elves “ sneak the guardians/moms into another room that is filled with brand-new toys, blankets and much more. They’re told to take whatever they need so their children have presents during the Christmas holiday. While the guardians/moms shopped, the children went shopping for them. The “‘elves” helped the children wrap their presents so everyone would have a present to open on Christmas Day.

The finale consisted of long tables overflowing with more gifts. Each family was given bags to fill. There were homemade gloves, mittens, hats, scarves, pottery, along with more blankets, books, candy, toys, stuffed animals, dolls, trucks/cars, items for the house and so much more.

The abundance of donations came from the compassionate hearts of individuals, companies, businesses and organizations of the Marquette area.

The looks on everyone’s faces were filled with tears of joy, smiles, cheer, hugs, love, and laughter! Words cannot express the high emotion that permeated the atmosphere and spilled over in each life on that special December morning. Thanks to everyone who was involved in this mighty and empowering project from a survivor of domestic violence.

Diane Betts


Holidays Make Workers ‘Happiest’

A combination of long winter nights and your credit card smarting from Christmas can make January one of the least exciting times of the year, but never fear – hope is at hand.

New research from travel book firm Lonely Planet has found that four in ten Brits are at their happiest when away on holiday, suggesting a winter getaway could be just the ticket for those winter blues.

Amazingly, eight in ten of those surveyed said they don’t usually take their full holiday allowance each year, despite this being a paid entitlement to time away from the office – but 54 per cent of people feel happier when away from the office.

Lonely Planet calculates that on average we each have 132 days away from work each year (including holidays, weekends and bank holidays), which shows how great an opportunity we all have to get away, be it a local city break for the weekend or a last minute package deal.

“We know misery among Britons is at its worst in January, when many workers are suffering from the winter blues and depressed at the thought of another year of work stretching out before them,” Frances Linzee Gordon of Lonely Planet said.

“One in five Britons suffer from work-related stress, so use the winter blues to plan your year and make sure you make time for yourself,” she added.

And January is definitely as good a time as any to take those remaining holiday days. The majority of Brits said they feel happier for taking a break from the office, so why wait?

The report suggested that weary workers try making the most of their leisure time by joining lunch hour clubs, as well as planning an unusual holiday – like a diving trip in the Arctic, or a volunteer holiday at an elephant sanctuary.

A separate report from Nielsen/Net Ratings recently revealed that more than half of internet users book holidays online.track

Salvation Army sets mark in yule donations

A late surge in donations sent the 2006 area Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign to a new record, said Capt. John Williams, the Genesee County commander.

“Miracles do happen,” said Williams, adding the Christmas campaign reached about $669,000 to easily pass the $600,000 goal. The total also was $25,000 higher than last year’s previous record of $644,000.

“This comes at a crucial time because of recent cuts in funding resources and with the increase of families in need of assistance,” he said.

Williams said the Salvation Army’s allocation by United Way of Genesee County was cut by $50,000 to $180,000, while more people applied for assistance for such necessities as utilities, food and lodging.

“Eighty percent of the people we are helping have a household income, but so many of them are working poor,” he said.

He also said the agency assisted about 14,000 individuals last year, many of them first-time recipients.

Mail and last-minute kettle collections overcame a shortfall as Christmas approached. With less than a week before Christmas, only 76 percent of the goal was attained, Williams said.

He said the drive was helped by the final Saturday before the Monday holiday.

The Salvation Army’s Toy Shop distributed more than 4,126 toys and 2,240 items of clothing, including hats, gloves and scarves. It also gave away 1,569 stuffed animals and 7,644 stocking stuffers. More than 3,357 individuals received Christmas items, including recipients in an adopt-a-family program.

The Salvation Army also distributed more than 1,000 food boxes at Christmas and almost 2,000 winter coats in a drive that began in October.

“Many real estate people didn’t think we could meet our Red Kettle goal because of the economy,” Williams said. “It shows we live in a compassionate community, and even though some might be hurting, they don’t forget others.”

Cons help tear down lights

The lack of volunteers has created a dilemma for the Festival of Lights Society. This year, the Society had to look beyond the community for help to tear down the decorations and 300,000 Christmas lights that graced the town from Tim Hortons to Coronation Mall.

Under the supervision of a correctional officer, men from the Nanaimo Correctional Centre were in town last Wednesday dismantling lights and untying roof top decorations.

The Society hosted a work part on Sunday, but needed a few volunteers to get on the roofs and dismantle the lights so they could be easily removed on Sunday when the group had access to a couple of bucket trucks.

“This is the first time we’ve had to use this service,” said Duck Paterson with the Society. “There just isn’t enough volunteers. We had a couple men lined up, but they got jobs.”

Nanaimo Correctional Centre is a medium security facility that offers an in-house and community work program. Inmates who are classified a low security risk to the public are encouraged to participate in community work programs such as road side clean-ups.

“We get many requests from the community,” said Bruce Bannerman, spokesperson with B.C. Corrections Branch.

A work crew from the Correctional Centre helped spread gravel for the Kinsmens playground at Transfer beach a few years ago.

“It’s a great way for the men to give back to the community,” said Bannerman. “Works crews vary in size, but all crews are supervised.”

Paterson said he’s happy the Correctional Centre could help. With the lack of community volunteers, he is concerned about putting the lights back up next fall.

Volunteers work hard Sunday taking down thousands of Christmas lights.