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Neighbors: Have a safe and happy holiday

Hello, neighbor.

The holidays are upon us, and I won’t see you again until next Friday because The Recorder won’t be published on Tuesday (Christmas).

Please have a safe and happy holiday with good food and, most importantly, the company of those you love.

Justin is old enough this year to enjoy opening presents and Grandma has been invited to stay overnight to see his first reaction to Santa’s generosity Christmas morning. I can’t wait, and I’m sure all of you parents and grandparents out there feel exactly the same. So enjoy!

I also wanted to say “Thank you” on behalf of many individuals and organizations in the county who have written me to tell me about your generosity.

Even with an economy that isn’t anywhere near what we’d like it to be yet, so many of you have opened your pocketbooks or given your time this season to help strangers, like those who are hungry or those who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy.

The North Quabbin Community Coalition, which works for those less fortunate in the Orange area, wrote to tell me about the many people who stopped in with personal checks or pickle jars filled with coins to help support the organization in its endeavors.

The nonprofit also gave a shout-out to The Recorder for its Dec. 12 front-page story by Chris Shores, who wrote about the unexpected drop in funding it experienced this year. It’s always nice to hear that the work we reporters do helps you better understand the issues faced by many here in the county — and you folks always seem to spring into action.

Keep up the good work.

SUSAN BLAUNER IN TURNERS FALLS told me that the National Parent Teacher Association is asking parents throughout the country to help with a special project to create a “winter wonderland” for the students of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

You and your child or children can help welcome the students and staff back to their school — we’re not sure of the date of their return — by making unique snowflakes and sending them, by Jan. 12, to: Connecticut PTSA, 60 Connolly Parkway, Building 12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514.

Thanks for the tip, Susan. A simple way to teach our children to help other children in need.

SIRUM EQUIPMENT IN MONTAGUE, along with Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, is sponsoring a holiday bread drive with the 2nd Street Baking Co. at 104 Fourth St. in Turners Falls.

For each loaf of bread purchased at the bakery and donated to the Survival Center, Mount Grace and Sirum will donate an additional loaf until $1,000 worth of bread has been donated. The bread drive will continue until the challenge has been met.

FYI, LOCAL NATURALIST DAVID SMALL announced that the local bird count I told you about last week, which was done in Orange, Warwick, Athol, the north end of the Quabbin Reservoir, and a couple of towns outside of Franklin County, resulted in a record-breaking find of 70 species.

Small said the most found to this point was 67 and the benchmark has always been 60. He said people contributed by going out into the field and to their bird feeders.

Small called it a successful count and said he will send folks a detailed copy of the count if you email him at: dave@dhsmall.net.

FORMER GCC TEACHER OF 30 YEARS Jan Balise, who lives in Hatfield and reads The Recorder on a regular basis, sent me an article a good friend of hers from South Carolina sent her last Christmas. She asked me to share a few lines and thoughts, so here goes:

“The Sands of Christmas” by Michael Marks starts, “I had no Christmas spirit when I breathed a weary sigh, And looked across the table where the bills were piled too high.”

Marks goes on about piles of laundry and a broken car, falling stocks and football team losses, but then he turns on the television to see teen boys walking past a tank in a desert, their faces drawn and lean.

He talks of their lonely hearts and no Christmas trees or presents.

“God bless you all and keep you safe, and speed your way back home,” he hopes for the soldiers. “Remember that we love you so, and that you’re not alone.”

And then he finishes, “You give the gift of liberty and that we can’t repay.”

Jan would like all of us to remember those who are serving our country this holiday season.

HAWLEMONT AND ROWE SCHOOLS’ students, kindergarten through grade 6, will work with 17 AmeriCorps members from Massachusetts today to learn about “environmental interconnectedness.”

After the Rowe school burned this past summer, its students and staff relocated to the Hawlemont School in Charlemont — another example of neighbor helping neighbor.

Both schools continue to operate separately in the same building.

The day will begin with an all-school assembly and then students will attend inside and outside workshops, where students from both schools will join each other to learn about working together and care for their community.

What a nice idea, training our children to be future volunteers and leaders.

THE MONDAY NIGHT SECOND HELPINGS meal offered each week at St. James Episcopal Church is cancelled on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24). The meal will be offered, as usual, at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 31.

Have a wonderful holiday and a great week and find a way to pay it forward. I’ll see you next Friday.

To contact Anita Fritz, a staff reporter at The Recorder, send an email to anita.alice.fritz@gmail.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 280 or her cell at 413-388-6950. You can also reach her on Facebook at Anita’s Neighbors. Information to be included in Neighbors may also be sent to: neighbors@recorder.com up to noon on the day before you want it to run.

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