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.


Wonderful Winter Vacation (Day 3)

December 30, 2010

On Saturday morning, December 18th, we checked out of our hotel and headed for the train station. In our previous wanderings we’d learned that we didn’t have to traverse the entire distance above ground. There was an entrance to the central train station less than half a block from the hotel. That path allowed us to avoid walking – and in Lu’s case, pulling a wheeled piece of luggage – through the slush that covered all the sidewalks and pedestrian areas of Munich. In all fairness, the city employees and business owners tried to keep the walkways clear, but the snow kept falling.

We stopped at a pastry shop in the underground mall area of the train station and had more delicious pastries for breakfast.

I don’t know if it’s true for the majority of the U-Bahn (subway) stations in Munich, but most of the ones we visited included underground malls complete with department stores, convenience stores, cafes, and all sorts of other retail outlets. That’s something else the folks at MARTA might consider as a way of reducing dependence on tax payer dollars.

S-Bahn station beneath the streets of Munich

We took the S-8 back to the Munich airport in order to catch up with the Gate 1 tour guide and be transported to the cruise ship docked somewhere near Nuremberg. We met Monika at the entrance to the Cafe Leysieffer. She was rather surprised to see us as she’d been told to expect us later… rather than sooner. There were two buses scheduled to take us to the ship; one departed at noon, the other at 3:00 PM. We’d decided to get to the airport in time to get the early bus. Gate 1, knowing we had spent extra time in Munich, had assumed we’d arrive back at the airport later.

As it turned out, some of the folks who were supposed to be on the early bus were on flights that were delayed; so there was plenty of room for us on the early bus. However, when I say we arrived early, we arrived early. We had about two hours to kill.

So, we ate a second breakfast at the café, which was really an early lunch; we’d be on the bus from noon until two or two-thirty, and had no idea when the cruise ship was planning to feed us.

We wandered around the airport terminal to see what retail outlets were available there.

The sign maker did not make a mistake

I had to take a picture of this place because it reminded me of a time, years ago, when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted a running back out of Penn State University. We thought he was of Irish decent – Frank O’Harris. Obviously, some Germans believe that the early Italian explorer was actually Irish.

In truth, I did a bit of research and discovered that Marc O’Polo is a company that was founded in Sweden by three men: Gote Huss, Rolf Lind, and (this might be part of the answer) Jerry O’Sheets. I could find no explanation for the name of their company. We can only surmise Jerry had something to do with it.

By the way, for the uninformed, that Penn State football player was really named Franco Harris.

After spending a relative fortune (almost 20 Euros) on a book for Lu and a puzzle magazine for me, we boarded the bus and headed off to Nuremberg.

I was totally surprised to see thousands of acres of open land. A good friend from England had told me that wide open spaces were rarely seen in Europe. Perhaps his opinion was based on spending time in large cities. However, there was one thing that truly intrigued me.

Strange netting over farmers' fields

We saw netting like that shown in the picture almost everywhere. It appeared to be some way to keep birds away from the crops, but it made us wonder what sort of crops were grown beneath the netting – and how would the farmer get a tractor in there to till the ground? Perhaps one of our German friends can supply an answer.

The only other photo I took while on this bus was one showing the electric wires for the high-speed train that ran between Munich and Nuremberg.

A train runs alongside the highway

Considering the cost of that train ride was almost 300 Euros per person, I was content to ride the bus that had cost us 95 Euros apiece.

Just before 2:00 PM (the driver had a heavy foot), we arrived at our destination.

The Amadeus Diamond awaiting us

We were able to get ourselves and our luggage on board, but our cabins were not yet ready. Thus, we were forced to spend some time in the lounge and imbibe in alcoholic beverages.

Lu saved our place in line

In the above photo, the white tablecloths were a clear indication that some sort of finger food was about to be served. We wanted to be first in line because it had been awhile since our second breakfast/early lunch.

The time between our arrival and our first snack gave us time to meet some of our fellow travelers. When we saw how many folks were traveling with friends, we realized once again how much we missed the folks who had been scheduled to go with us.

As we killed time, I couldn’t help noticing the ice on the water.

Would we need an ice-breaker?

What first caught my attention is the fact that the ice would occasionally change directions. One time I’d look out the window to see the ice flowing left to right. The next time, right to left.

Lots of ice and the temperature was dropping!

It was then I remembered that we were in a canal. I correctly surmised that the flow of the water changed whenever a ship passed through a lock. It wasn’t until we set sail the next day that I discovered how close we were to that first lock.

The remainder of this day was nothing more than time to relax. We were served a light meal of small open-faced sandwiches and pastries, along with tea and coffee. Later, we would be served a champagne welcoming cocktail. That was soon followed by a wonderful cruise-ship dinner.

Every dinner on board the ship began with some sort of salad or appetizer. That course was followed by soup – always a choice between a clear broth based and a cream based soup. Then came the main course followed by a luscious dessert. The wine, being complimentary, flowed freely throughout. (I would’ve preferred beer, but the choice was simple – almost 4 Euro per glass, or free.)

After dinner, we sat around and got to know some of our shipmates, and then retired rather early. Many of the folks joining us for the cruise had flown in from the States that day. They were exhausted.

Breakfast would be served at 7:00 AM the next day and the bus tour of Nuremberg was scheduled to leave at 8:00. So, we called it a day as well. We’d be well rested by morning.

Before I bring this chapter to a close, let me say a bit about the planning that went into this trip.

December 18th is the day we would have landed in Munich had we just gone with the package offered by Gate 1 Travel. I had received an email telling me that the price of the cruise had been slashed from $899 per person to $499 per person. The cruise included six nights lodging/cruising and three meals a day (for December 19th through the 23rd.) It also included dinner on the 18th and breakfast on the 24th. AND complimentary wine at all dinners. Such an unbelievable price did not go unnoticed.

The kicker was the airfare. Leaving on Friday, December 17th and returning on Friday, the 24th meant we’d be flying on some of the airlines’ busiest days. By tweaking that schedule and leaving on a Wednesday and returning on Christmas Day, we reduced the airfare by over $300 per person. That gave us $600 to cover two night’s hotel in Munich, one in Vienna, and something left over for meals and transportation in those cities.

So, my advice to fellow travelers is to always look at ways to reduce the airfare. In most cases, you can probably save enough cash to cover the extra days at your final destination. The added bonus for us was that it gave us time to adjust to the six hour time differential.


Life’s a Beach

February 16, 2010

Edisto Island Beach

I’ve been going to the beach ever since I was a toddler. Because my father was raised in South Jersey and we had relatives living in Linwood and Somers Point, my family vacationed near the beach every year.

We never stayed at the beach; that would’ve been too expensive. We would rent a small apartment or stay on my uncle’s cabin cruiser (also small) a few miles in from the shore. Most of our time was spent fishing and crabbing in the inland bays and marshes. Once or twice during our stay we’d go into Atlantic City or Ocean City to spend some time on the beach or stroll along the boardwalk.

Fishing and crabbing with nephews and nieces

I recall one vacation when my parents did something different. I believe it was 1955 or 1956. Instead of going to South Jersey, we went to Cambridge, Maryland and rented a cottage along the Choptank River. We arrived shortly after a hurricane had passed through. Not only was the river running fast and deep, many of the surrounding fields were still draining. We saw a number of people holding chicken wire at the end of irrigation ditches. They were catching some very large fish that had been driven inland by the storm surge.

On that particular trip, the beach wasn’t quite as convenient. But on one of our days in Maryland, we drove over to Ocean City, Maryland and enjoyed their beach and boardwalk.

I have been to beaches all up and down the East Coast, Mississippi, Texas, California, and Oregon. I’ve also visited Brighton Beach in England and some beaches in Puerto Rico and Mexico. They all speak the same language as they invite us to either walk along the water’s edge or sit down and watch the waves rolling in.

Without even closing my eyes, I can hear the sound of the surf, the wind, and the sea gulls.

I’ve often thought about living closer to a beach. I wouldn’t want to own a home on the beach. Hurricanes might not hit a particular beach that often, but once would be more than enough for me. I’d like to live about twenty miles inland so it would be an easy trip to get close to the ocean.

However, with most of our children and grandchildren living within thirty miles of us, I’d find it difficult to move anywhere.

Perhaps we could win the lottery. Then we could move the entire extended family.

My bride and I on Tybee Island

I have been to the beach so many times in my life that I consider it a God given blessing and wish everyone – especially children – could visit a beach on a regular basis.

Twice we were able to stay at rental properties right on the beach. Once was in Ocean City, New Jersey and the other was on Edisto Island. My bride and I rented the place in New Jersey at the end of the summer season (reduced rates) and my nephews and nieces chipped in. On Edisto Island, we were fortunate to be the guests of John and Debbe Mize. That was in November a couple of years back.

Based on those two experiences, I’d say the best time to go to the beach is after Labor Day and before June. The temperatures are much milder and there are no crowds.

We’re hoping to get to at least one beach in 2010, but I think I’m already there mentally.


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.


Market Houses

June 5, 2009
Pittsburgh's Southside Market House

Pittsburgh's Southside Market House

Like many of the old market houses, this one is no longer open. At least the building has not been torn down… yet.

As a young boy, my mother used to take me to downtown Pittsburgh for shopping. She always started at the department stores. After purchasing clothing or household items, we’d head for Market Square.

Market Square is still there, but the market houses are long gone.

At one time, where Forbes Avenue intersected with Market Street, there stood a group of buildings that housed the New Diamond Market. As I recall, there was a bridge connecting the second floors of at least two of the buildings.

Those old market houses could be seen as the original malls. Various vendors rented space to set up their retail outlets. There were fish mongers, vegetable stands, butchers, bakers, and maybe even a candlestick maker or two.

If our family budget allowed for it, mom would buy some nice vegetables and meat. She’d also buy smelt if those little fish looked appetizing. Fried smelt was always one of my favorites.

Unfortunately, the people who ran the New Diamond Market were not very good at marketing when it came to competing with the ‘super’ markets being built in the suburbs. Eventually, all the buildings that made up Market Square were abandoned and razed. Now, there is a park that looks nice, but isn’t very functional.

The only thing left is the Original Oyster House.

They do mean 'original'

They do mean 'original'

The awning tells it all. That restaurant has been at that location since 1870. It has expanded… taking over the building to the left of the original structure. The building to the right was once a C.G. Murphy’s Five and Dime. I’m not sure if it’s being refurbished or torn down to make way for something else.

The other place my mother was sure to visit while we were downtown was McCann’s Market. The distinctive feature of that emporium was the automatic bacon slicer that sat in the middle of the store. I used to love watching the bacon being sliced.

Of all the cities I’ve visited in the U.S., I can only recall one that has a vibrant old time market place. Baltimore, Maryland is the home of the Lexington Market. You can visit their web site to get a better understanding of what I’m talking about.

The Lexington Market has been in continuous operation for more than two hundred and twenty years. Obviously, they do a better job of marketing than the New Diamond Market folks did. Check out their history and their listing of events and you’ll see that they make it a place to go to do far more than shop for poultry, seafood, meat, fruits, and vegetables.

In England, France, and many other countries, market places still thrive. Many of them would shatter the confidence of American shoppers because the fresh meats, poultry, and fish are not in nice refrigerated display cases. In some instances, the perishable items aren’t even displayed on beds of ice.

Around Atlanta, they have a few farmer’s markets that offer fresh produce. But it’s not the same. I miss the old market houses where you could find practically any food item imaginable.

I guess I’ll have to plan a visit to Baltimore.


November 6th Trivia

November 6, 2008

After writing about Guy Fawkes for yesterday’s post, I decided to do some digging into the history of November 6th. One of the first things I discovered reminded me of an old trivia question.

What state was the birth place of two American Presidents who served simultaneously?

The other things I discovered are a real hodgepodge of historical facts… with something to interest almost everyone. For instance, in 1869, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University defeated Princeton University, 6-4, in the first official intercollegiate American football game. I’m not exactly sure how points were awarded back then. Could it have been three safeties to two? Maybe someone out there knows a football fanatic who can set us straight.

In 1913 Mohandas Gandhi was arrested while leading a march of Indian miners in South Africa. Many people would more readily recognize the man if we used the more familiar Mahātmā Gandhi. Mahatma is an honorific meaning “Great Soul”. The title was bestowed on Gandhi years later. Gandhi was a lawyer working in South Africa and this action was the beginning of his non-violent civil disobedience that would eventually free his homeland of India from the colonial binds of England.

In 1934 Memphis, Tennessee became the first major city to enter the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The TVA was part of Franklin Roosevelt’s plan for recovery from the Great Depression and was aimed at bringing the rural electrification of America to fruition. The fact that people who live hundreds of miles from the nearest city have electricity is something we take for granted, but it wasn’t all that long ago that the people who relied on outhouses also relied on kerosene to light their homes after dark.

One of the dams that was begun in the late 1930’s and completed in the early 1940s created Fontana Lake in North Carolina. The citizens of the area fought the dam because it cut off the main routes to other small towns… and, in some cases, the cemeteries where their kinfolk were buried. After the beginning of World War II, the Federal government said they needed the hydro-electric power from the dam to drive the Alcoa plant in nearby Tennessee that was producing aluminum for bombers. The Feds also promised to build a road around the lake so people from Bryson City could get to the neighboring towns and cemeteries. They went so far as to build a road and a tunnel. But they never finished the project. To this day, the road ends less than a quarter of a mile from the other side of the tunnel. If you are ever in Bryson City and want to begin a heated discussion, ask about the road to nowhere.

In truth, the dam was built because the Federal Government needed the electrical power for the Manhattan Project in Oakridge, Tennessee.

While there were many other events that happened on November 6th, most are rather unrecognizable to most Americans. Therefore, I’ll just move on to the famous people who were born on this day. A small part of the total list includes Mike Nichols (film director), Stonewall Jackson (country singer), Sally Field (actress), Maria Shriver (Journalist and wife of California’s Governor) and Pat Tillman (the football player who was killed in Afghanistan).

Of course I saved the most important event for last. Today, November 6, 2008 is the anniversary of my bride and I getting married. I’ve had many blessings in my life, but this marriage ranks right up there with the births of my sons and the day my daughter became part of my family.

As for the trivia question about the two presidents, the answer is Kentucky.

While many might think Abraham Lincoln was born in Illinois, he really was born in Kentucky. And so was Jefferson Davis, the other American President who served simultaneously with Abe.