Fund Raising Efforts

October 10, 2015
The shopping area near my childhood home.

The shopping area near my childhood home.

Over the years… starting as a young child selling hand made pot holders door-to-door so I’d have money to buy Christmas presents for my family, I’ve been involved in many fund raising activities.

In high school, I was a member of the Key Club (a junior Kiwanis club) and distributed local phone directories in exchange for donations. I also helped sell Christmas trees to raise money for our charitable pursuits.

During my college years, I volunteered as a tutor at the local high school, but my fund raising activities were focused on paying my tuition, room and board, and occasional glass of beer.

After college, I got involved with the LIONS club and sold brooms, light bulbs, fruitcakes, pancake breakfast tickets, and raffle tickets among other items.

At church, I’ve been involved with yard sales, Irish dinners, auctions, and numerous other fund raising efforts.

Is it any wonder that somehow I got snookered into being the Fund Raising chair of our local Family Promise affiliate? Family Promise is an organization whose mission it is to help homeless children and their parents get back into a home of their own. For more information on Family Promise, I invite you to visit the Family Promise web site.

My past endeavors were small potatoes compared with my current challenges. In the past, the most money raised by any of the things I worked with was a few thousand dollars. Now I’m faced with raising at least $50,000 to get the program started and then meeting an annual budget of over $125,000.

Our fund raising committee has started a number of things to get that money flowing. We have Club 180 which encourages donors to help turn a life around (180 degrees) by pledging and donating $180 per year. We’ve also placed donation canisters in many local businesses. (One of those canisters was stolen. It probably contained less than $20 at the time. It’s sad that people would steal from charities, but maybe they needed the money more than our homeless children. Another story for another time!)

In less than a month we will hold our first major fund raising event. It will be Bed Race & Festival. On November 7th, we’ll welcome local citizens at 9:00 AM at Forsyth Central High School where they can visit at least 14 booths selling various items, have their child’s face painted, or let their child create a work of art that will be donated to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for another fund raising event.

The bed races will begin around 10:00 AM. Each team will compete in two heats and their time will be recorded. The two teams with the fastest combined times will then compete in the finals at noon.

While there will be a trophy for the team with the fastest bed, the big prize – the coveted Brass Bed award – will go to the team that raises the most money for Family Promise.

In case you’re wondering why I bring this up…

My entry in the Bed Race

My entry in the Bed Race

As of last night, my friends and family have donated almost $900 to Family Promise in support of my bed entry. I’ve given my bed the title of “First Day of Retirement” and it will be pushed by a group of retired senior citizens. Our goal is to prove that old age and treachery can defeat youth and enthusiasm any day of the year. If you like that thought (regardless of your age) I’d appreciate your demonstration of support… in terms of dollars donated to Family Promise.

You can make a donation to my bed or any of my competitors by going to our local local Family Promise Bed Race page.

Obviously I feel very strongly about Family Promise. Forsyth County, Georgia is one of the wealthiest areas in the country and yet, as of this past Thursday (October 8th) there were three hundred forty-three children considered homeless since the beginning of the current school year. A child is considered homeless if he or she is living with friends or relatives, living in an extended stay motel, living in a tent or camping trailer, or living in the family car.

You can also help the cause by buying any of my e-books that are available for your Kindle or Nook. I’ve stated that I will donate half of my royalties to Family Promise. If need be, I’ll give it all to Family Promise.

Pure and simple, I cannot do this alone. I need all my friends, family, readers, casual acquaintances, and everyone else to chip in. We have almost 200,000 people living in Forsyth County. If I could find a way to obtain at least $1.00 from each of them, we’d have the money problem solved. Sadly, I have yet to figure out how to do that. So, I’m reaching out to everyone I can think of.

I already received backing from a friend in London, England. Let’s see if we can get donations from other parts of the world!

Please spread the word! Thank you kindly.

More Ramblings Down Memory Lane

November 15, 2010

That puzzle magazine continues to stir the memories long ago locked away in the remote recesses of my brain.

My original shopping center

As the calendar crept toward Thanksgiving, the merchants of our neighborhood would begin to order their Christmas wares. Note that I did not say they would display them; they would simply order them so they could be displayed soon after Thanksgiving.

Not shown in the above photo is the Crafton Heights First United Presbyterian Church – my first church home. The building sits back to the left of the telephone pole and car shown in the left corner of the picture. I point this out because shortly after Thanksgiving, a huge community Christmas tree would be erected in the church yard. The merchants would split the cost of the decorations and electricity to keep it lit throughout the season.

Back in the days when a letter could be mailed using a three cent stamp (Christmas cards could be sent for two cents if the envelopes were left unsealed) the U.S. Mail (this was long before the outfit changed its name) increased its service leading up to Christmas. We had our mail delivered twice – morning and afternoon – on Monday through Friday and once on Saturday. It kind of makes me wonder what happened. When they changed the name to Postal SERVICE, things seemed to go in the wrong direction.

Speaking of pennies, how many of you remember when you’d put twenty cents in a cigarette machine and get a pack of smokes that included two or three pennies in change?

I quit smoking more than ten years ago, but I’m told the price of a pack of cigarettes is now over $5.00! And there are no coins in the wrapper as change.

Another thing I remember about the Holidays was a company called Railway Express. Whatever happened to them? Quite often my family would receive a package sent by an uncle who spent his winters in Florida. That was the one time of year we’d have orange marmalade.

Come to think of it, winter was the only time our family had citrus fruit. As I recall, it simply wasn’t available any other time of the year. Of course, this could be said about most fresh produce. If it wasn’t grown in the U.S., it either wasn’t available or was too expensive for my family’s budget.

To this day I am amazed that our family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner at my parent’s home. When the twins got home from the Navy following World War II, a normal dinner would find mom and dad, my three brothers, and I gathered around a standard sized dining room table. With the other furnishings in the dining room, there wasn’t very much space for anything, or anyone, else. Yet, we somehow made room for the extended family on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The extended family included our two sisters, their husbands, and their combined four children. So, on those special occasions, we had eight adults and six children crowded into that same space. We must have had a “children’s” table, but I don’t remember it.

I do remember those 25 to 30 pound turkeys! Mom and our sisters really went all out to make sure no one left hungry.

If I’m not mistaken, Thanksgiving is only a week or so away. Time to fire up the cooker and make sure I have plenty of peanut oil.

Things will never match my memories, but then I wasn’t doing any of the cooking. My only job was to clean my plate. I was good at that. Come to think of it, I still am.

Wish List for 2010 and Beyond

January 13, 2010

Rich Grimshaw made me do this. He dropped by my blog recently and commented that it was time to move beyond my Christmas post. He’s right! It is time for something new.

After careful consideration, I decided to make it easy on myself and simply compile a list of things I’d like to do before I move on to the next stage of my existence.

I’ll begin by listing the places to which I’d like to travel. These are places I’ve not yet visited.

Japan would be near the top of my list, along with Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, and China. I like Asian cuisine and have always been fascinated by photos and articles about these countries.

As for European countries, I’d like to visit Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, and… all the rest. I’d list France, England, Ireland, Austria, and Denmark, but I’ve already been to those places.

Australia and New Zealand are also beckoning to me.

Allow me to digress. (That, in itself, is a ridiculous statement. You have no choice. I’ll digress with or without your permission!)

I read an article the other day. In it, the author noted that someone was at the “beckon call” of another. There was no way to leave a comment, but the phrase is “beck and call.” The author, no doubt, has never been under the control of anyone other than his or her parents.

I am not at the beck and call of either Australia or New Zealand, but I would like to go see them both.

I almost ended this part of my wish list by saying that no other places really interested me. Then I remembered two other continents. There are numerous South American countries that I’d love to visit. As for the continent of Africa, I’d like to go to Egypt to see the pyramids.

Although I am a Christian, I have no strong desire to visit the Holy Land. I’d rather not visit any parts of the world where my life might be in danger because of religious zealots of any kind.

The next part of my list (travel section) would include places I’d love to revisit. The European countries I mentioned above would definitely be on that list, as would several Canadian provinces and more than a few U.S. states.

I’ve only been on one cruise in my life. That was an inside-passage tour of Alaska. Taking the Queen Mary across the Atlantic doesn’t interest me in the least, however I’d love to take a “repositioning” cruise. That’s when a cruise line moves one of its ships from the Caribbean to the Northern Pacific waters via the Panama Canal or back.

If I’m not mistaken, that’s about a seventeen day trip. Of course, the way they feed you on a cruise would probably result in me looking like a beached whale at the end.

Speaking of food, I once had the opportunity to dine on Rocky Mountain oysters. At that time, I lost my courage. I’ve been kicking myself ever since. I will order them the next time I have the chance.

I’m a big fan of Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods) and Anthony Bourdain (No Reservations) – two personalities on the Travel Channel. Most of what Andrew eats fail to whet my appetite. However, some of it does arouse my interest. On the other hand, most of the meals enjoyed by Anthony cause me to salivate.

When I was much younger I wished to own a Corvette one day. The first time I came close to being able to afford one I went to a dealership and crawled into one. My head pushed into the roof liner and, at slightly over two hundred pounds (at the time), I felt cramped. It broke my heart, but not my bank account.

Today, I see motor vehicles as nothing more than transportation. The one and only exception is the large motor home. If I could afford the insurance and fuel costs, I’d love to buy one and be off to see America. Of course, we’d have to tow our Toyota Yaris to make it easier to go sight-seeing.

Another thing I’d love to do is ride the train across Canada. The major part of that trip would be the ability to get off when we saw something interesting, spend a day or two wherever, and hop the next train going in our direction. I’ve a sneaky suspicion that such a trip would break the bank.

I just thought of something! Maybe I can get the Travel Channel to give me my own show. I’d get a big motor home and drive across the country visiting Brew Pubs.

When my bride and I travel I often drag her into micro-breweries for a tour. Quite often these breweries include restaurants. We’ve had some wonderful meals at such places. The only negative is that Lu doesn’t like beer. The positive is that I get stuck drinking her samples.

I have one more wish (for now). The State of Georgia has a lottery game called “Win for Life”. The grand prize is $1,000 a week for life. If we were to win that, a number of the things I’ve listed above could become a reality. My bride and I could both retire and go off to see the world.

Perhaps I should buy a ticket.

Now, we’ll see if Rich stops by again and makes another comment.

Holiday Traditions

December 24, 2008

I love snow. Snow is the main thing I miss about living in the North. There are lots of people, places, and events that I loved while growing up and spending a total of thirty-three years in Pittsburgh, but the only thing I miss is snow.

I love snow. I attended Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, which is located smack in the middle of a snow belt. Edinboro gets almost as much snow as Buffalo, New York. Last year, I believe Edinboro was hit with well over two hundred inches of the white stuff. As I recall, it usually fell about a foot at a time. And I loved every bit of it. There’s nothing more beautiful than seeing the countryside blanketed in white. There’s nothing more serene than walking in the moonlight when the only sound is the muffled crunch of the snow under your feet.

Having spent a little more than half of my life in the North, it’s impossible to think about Thanksgiving and Christmas without thinking of snow. However, the theme I’ve been working with is Christmas; so I’ll shovel the snow to one side and concentrate on the holiday.

In the past I’ve written about the wonderful Christmases my parents and older siblings provided for me. Maybe one day some of my children will write similar stories. Even farther down the road of life, my grandchildren may write about their holiday memories. In each case, the main topic would be “family traditions.”

While we were still living in Pittsburgh, my children’s mother and I were faced with the difficult task of trying to create traditions for our own little family. Our parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings all wanted us to continue sharing the holidays with them… at their homes. Thus, most holidays were spent driving from one relative’s home to another.

We believed it was time to begin creating memories for our children that revolved around our own home. We tried to invite all the relatives to our home, but the idea didn’t fly. The “tradition” called for us to continue visiting others homes and dining on meals prepared by others. Whoever said, “You can’t fight city hall!” could’ve added, “or grandma’s wishes.”

We wanted our children to be able to open their presents and enjoy playing all day in their own home. We lost.

In 1977 we moved to Georgia. For a few years after, we’d pack the van (with the gifts from Santa carefully hidden amongst the luggage) and drive back to Pittsburgh for Christmas so we could continue the family tradition.

We eventually broke the cycle and began having the Christmas celebrations at our own home. We even managed to get grandma and grandpap to come visit us during the holiday season. It was then that we finally began our own family traditions.

Unfortunately, my children’s mother and I divorced in 1993 and ended the solidarity we once had. Now our children have to attend at least two gatherings for every holiday. Usually, there are more than two events. Since three of my four children have in-laws, there are other family traditions involved.

The way I see it, it’s only a matter of time before all of our children – Lu’s as well as mine – decide they need to start their own traditions. Regardless of how tasty my deep fried Cajun turkey might be, they’ll want to spend the holiday in their own home so their children don’t have to be pulled away from their presents to go visit one relative after another.

My bride and I could make the best roast goose and beef Wellington on the planet, and they’ll ask for a rain-check. In fact, they’ll undoubtedly invite us to come to their home for dinner. Eventually, we’ll accept those invitations. Otherwise, we’d be dining alone.

That’s the road of life. We all begin life enjoying whatever family traditions are there. We’re perfectly content waking up before the sun and opening all the gifts from Santa and whoever else saw fit to shower us with presents. Then we whine as we’re told we have to get cleaned up and dressed so we can go to grandma’s or Aunt Patty’s, or wherever to see our cousins and have dinner. If we’re lucky, our parents allow us to take one toy with us. Of course, they knew all along that we’d receive other gifts from other relatives.

As we get older, so does grandma and grandpap. Our parents make a decision to host the gathering – partly to take the burden away from their parents and partly so they can begin their own traditions. Now we still get to see most of the relatives, but we can stay home and enjoy the day.

Eventually we marry and face the challenge of keeping two sets of parents and other relatives happy. For several years we pack up the children, their diaper bags, their pack-and-plays, and their toys and make several stops – and perhaps eat more then one dinner – in a desperate attempt to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings.

Finally, we say, “Enough is enough!” Then we try to start our own traditions.

As far as I know, my bride and I are still on the hosting end of that road, but barely holding on. We had most of our children and grandchildren over for Thanksgiving dinner on the Friday following the big day, but Christmas will be a totally different story.

Christmas Eve will be spent with Lu’s daughter as hostess. We’ll be joined by Lu’s two sons and their families. On Christmas Day, we’ll travel to my daughter’s home for lunch and gift exchange with my other children and their families.

Then we’ll come home to spend the remainder of Christmas without our children and grandchildren. It will feel strange not serving up a Christmas meal for our children and grandchildren… but we’ve invited friends to join us so we won’t be cooking and eating our Christmas goose by ourselves.

So, it appears at least one of our Holiday traditions has come to an end. So be it! That means our children have taken the difficult step of saying, “Enough is enough!” and are beginning their own traditions. More power to them!

Let’s look at another tradition – one that revolves around the music of the holidays. I can already hear Perry Como singing, “There’s no place like home for the holidays” and Bing Crosby chiming in with, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”

While most Georgians would love to see nothing more than lots of rain for Christmas, it wouldn’t break my heart if some of it fell in a frozen state – not as sleet or hail, but as soft, beautiful flakes of snow. I love snow!

Another Visit to Santa

December 13, 2008
A 1950 Visit perhaps

A 1950 Visit perhaps

I think this photo is newer than the one I shared yesterday; I seem to have grown more than my brother. Of course, I could be sitting on Santa’s lap and only appear to be closer to Lewis in height.

The thing I find most interesting in both of the pictures is that my brother and I seem to be more interested in something other than Santa. Could we have been checking out the female elves?

The fact that my brother and I are photographed together supports my contention that money was tight in our home. In neither picture do I appear frightened of the jolly old elf. Therefore, my brother didn’t come with me to add moral support. I doubt if he would’ve done that willingly anyway. No, I think it was purely a money saving ploy on mom’s part.

Back in those days, people didn’t customize their Christmas cards with family photos, so there was no good reason to buy even one photo… except mom and dad might have figured my brother and I would one day cherish the pictures and the warm memories that went with them.

Well, I think they were right.

Of course, when my brother sees that I have the pictures in my possession, he’s going to whine and cry and insist I should share with him. To that, I’ll say “Na-na-na-na-na!”

At that point he’ll simply download the picture from my blog and say “So there!”

Isn’t the Christmas season wonderful!

Visits with Santa

December 12, 2008
A Late 1940s visit

A Late 1940s visit

I’m guessing at the date this photo was taken. The taller of the two boys is my brother Lewis. That makes me the shorter of the two. I’m guessing I might have been four or five years old and Lewis two years older. That would make the date either December of 1948 or 49.

I’m not sure when visits to Santa began, but that’s one Christmas tradition that continues. The only difference is that today’s Santa looks more authentic. I guess back in the 1940s Santa was suffering from male patterned baldness. Nowadays there are any number of products he could be using. Whatever it is, it seems to be working well.

If I’m not mistaken, the year this picture was taken, Santa’s elves also made a recording of our conversation. We were given the 45 rpm record to take with us. (I say ‘given’, but I’m sure mom had to fork over some cash for the privilege. )

I don’t have any idea where the record wound up, but I do remember asking Santa to bring my mom a diamond ring. That may have resulted from one of those old adages – little pitchers have big ears.

On Christmas morning, my older brothers went outside and returned with a huge box… the size of a washing machine. It was nicely wrapped and was addressed to mom from dad.

When she opened that box, she discovered a smaller box. This process was repeated several times. Finally, she had a very small box in her hand; that’s when her eyes filled with tears. After almost thirty years of marriage, dad was finally able to afford to buy mom the diamond ring.

Of course, I knew the truth. Dad didn’t really buy that ring. Santa gave it to him to give to mom – because that’s what I asked him to do.

So, let this be a lesson to all those moms out there. If you really want your husband to buy you something special, tell your child to ask Santa for it. Just be sure that the conversation is recorded and you get a copy that you can play over and over again until hubby gets the message.

Thoughts on Christmas

December 11, 2008

The Christian Church didn’t throw a dart at a calendar to determine the “official” birth date of Jesus. However, the early church had as its motto, “If you can’t beat them, join them!”

In my recent studies of our family tree and life in the 1600’s I’ve learned that the Church of England once tried to eliminate Christmas because it had become a pagan holiday. I guess they’d forgotten that Christmas had been exactly that – a pagan holiday – before the Church took advantage of a traditional mid-winter festival. The church had done the same thing with Easter, but that’s a story for another time.

In a few weeks I’ll be experiencing my 65th Christmas. I honestly don’t remember the first few, and many of the others seem to blend into one.

It may be my imagination, but it seems the pagan holiday is flourishing in spite of any and all efforts of the Christian church. When radio stations begin playing “Christmas” music before Thanksgiving, one would think it was part of a conspiracy to encourage us to go shopping. Considering that none of the songs mention Jesus, the conspiracy theory gathers strength.

I choose to recognize both the pagan holiday and the miracle of God’s son. The mid-winter festival is a great time for partying, exchanging gifts, and spending time with family and loved ones. Jesus’ coming as a humble human born to a poor family in less than ideal conditions tells us that our God is a loving parent reaching out to embrace every one of us. The message delivered by Jesus made God’s love abundantly clear to all who would listen.

So what if the church doesn’t really know the date of Christ’s birth? What matters is that He was born and, as a fully human person, got first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be one of us. It’s a miracle that not everyone believes, but for those of us who do, it opens our eyes to many other miracles.

I recently read an article about Germany celebrating St. Nicholas Day around the first week of December. The article was written about past memories, so I don’t know if this is still true.

At any rate, the gift exchange took place on St. Nicholas day. That left December 25th as strictly a religious holiday. It would be nice if we could celebrate in this manner in this country. However, it would be difficult to get the parties involved to change their ways.

We could ask merchants to start selling St. Nicholas Day gifts a month earlier, or ask church’s to pick another date for the birth of Christ. On second thought, our only hope probably lies with the merchants.