A sick puppy taught Tina Qualls and her children a lesson they won't soon forget. Always pick up your toys. The Christmas season for Qualls and her children, Zachary, 7, Orion, 6, and Sorsha, 4, was a prolonged one. The family attended four different family celebrations - and toys were in no short supply. The boys were ecstatic when they received Magnetix, magnetic construction toys that consist of a combination of plastic building pieces and steel balls that can be connected to form various shapes and structures.
Marvin Jensen can cross off at least one thing from his bucket list. This past August, he climbed a mountain. "This is one thing I wanted to accomplish before old age creeps up on me," said the 68-year-old Kensington resident. About a year ago, Jensen finally decided if he was going to do it, it better be soon. But he didn't pick just any mountain. With no mountain climbing experience whatsoever, he chose to hike to the highest point in Africa - Mount Kilimanjaro - which, at its summit, reaches 19,341 feet. The reason he chose Kilimanjaro?
Instead of looking ahead to the New Year and making promises that I probably can't keep, I'm going to reflect with gratitude on all the good things that came out of the past year - and be glad I'm being given another year, and another chance, to do it all over again. It's been a year of newfound friendships. I am deeply grateful for having the coolest women I have ever met come into my life this year - women who I am honored and privileged to call friends. They are amazing. It's also been a year of old friendships rekindled.
Jolene and Mike Schreiner have seen firsthand the joy a small gesture can bring to someone in need. And with the joy they bring to others, they receive a gift themselves. That's why the Alexandria couple volunteers every year with the Jingle Bells telethon. The Schreiners got their first taste of helping with the telethon, which provides food and toy baskets to those in need every Christmas, in 2002. That year, they were assigned to deliver the food baskets to people's homes. It struck a chord with both of them. "When we took those deliveries, it was a mixture of feelings," Mike said.
When a storm blew down a tree in his yard, Troy Helget carved himself a new career. As Helget surveyed the damage caused by the strong winds, he didn't see destruction - he saw possibilities. Instead of getting rid of the stump of the tree, he decided to make it into a work of art. "I had this big stump, so I carved a big fish in it," said the Alexandria resident of his first chainsaw carving.
It used to be when you would go out for a cup of coffee, you would order....a cup of coffee. Not anymore. Now you have to decide between a large unleaded skinny cappuccino or a turtle mocha with no whipped cream, extra hot. Or maybe a small skinny latte with half a shot of mint and half a shot of white chocolate with soy milk. What's a confused coffee shop patron to do? Ask a barista.
When Barbara Everson went for a bike ride this past summer, she didn't mess around - she chose a 4,200-mile route that would take four months to complete. But it was more than just a way to get some exercise and see the countryside. She was continuing a legacy left by her father. In 1976, at age 66, he had ridden the TransAmerica Bike Trail, which runs from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia.
Florence and Wilbur Nelson need their people fix. That's why they still show up for work every day - at 88 years old. "We like to be with people," Wilbur said. "It's something different every day," his bride of 67 years agreed. When customers at Nelson's Store in Evansville come in to buy groceries, they leave with more than bags of food. They get a flavorful conversation and a taste of what small-town friendship and courtesy are all about. As the Nelsons check out their customers and bag their groceries, they ask about their families. They ask about how their crops are coming along.
Editor's note: This is the final in a series of articles focusing on diversity. The articles are a collaborative effort between the Echo Press and the Diversity Resource Action Alliance, a community organization committed to strengthening the understanding and appreciation of diversity. Sometimes, Alan wishes he were the opposite of everything he is. He'd love to be popular and be the life of the party. He wants to be a big brute.
A group of students from Jefferson High School (JHS) in Alexandria did their part to help those in need. Students from two of Chris Kragenbring's classes volunteered to help at a mobile food drop, held last week at New Life Christian Church in Alexandria.