Wednesday, Mar. 29, 2006

Million dollars in jewelry left on park bench, returned to owner

A purse containing a million dollars worth of jewellery was on its way back to its owner in Canada on Tuesday after being forgotten on a bench in a town near San Francisco, police said.

Shahla Ghannadian had entrusted her $2 000 Louis Vuitton handbag and its precious contents to her husband after they stopped at an ice cream parlour in the city of Sausalito on Sunday, according to authorities.

He left it on a bench near a downtown parking lot, and the oversight was not noticed until the couple was back at their San Francisco hotel, said Sausalito police sergeant Kurtis Skoog.

The couple had travelled from Toronto to San Francisco for a daughter’s wedding.

The purse contained a Cartier watch, cash, and jewellery worn by the mother and the bride at the ceremony, said Skoog.

The gems included emeralds, pearls and diamonds, one of them a 12-karat stone, according to police.

Ghannadian and her husband had been squeezing in a bit of sightseeing before catching a flight back to Canada on Sunday night. Family members checked the bench, but the purse was gone.

Local resident John Suhroff walked into the police department the next day with the bag, its contents intact, Skoog said.

Suhroff handed the bag to a clerk, saying it held “either costume or junk jewellery,” Skoog said.

“We called the owner, and they were ecstatic,” said Skoog.

A family friend picked up the bag and was to take it to Ghannadian, according to police. The family indicated Suhroff is in line for a reward, but did not specify an amount, Skoog said.

Friday, Mar. 24, 2006

The Honesty Prize

Temptation is a powerful force, but honesty is even more powerful in some people. David Romero, a 34-year-old ONCE lottery ticket seller, is one of them. He had, in his hands, a ticket worth 35,000 euros, which its owner had cashed in by mistake for 60 euros, and he was determined to find her. He spent nine long days searching, and finally tracked down the rightful owner of the mistaken lottery ticket.

David had vaguely remembered the woman’s face: a dark complexion and grey hair. She was quite old, he remembered, and had been dressed in light brown clothes the morning of 24 February, when she cashed in an ONCE ticket at his sales point on calle Córdoba in Marbella. There were lots of other customers there at the time, and he had not paid much attention to her.

“See if I’ve won anything on this ticket,” she asked him. The number was 61,062, sold the previous day in a supermarket in San Pedro Alcántara. He glanced at the ticket and noticed she had won 60 euros on the three final numbers of her ticket. “That’s wonderful!” she said. “That will see me through to the end of the month.” María Reina, 75 years old, then bought another ticket and left.

No luck up to then

“I was going to Estepona that day, and was in a hurry. Then I saw David. I have never been lucky in the past with the lottery, but thought to myself: “Will this number be lucky? I was delighted with the 60 euros I had won, because I had only 20 left for the end of the month. The pension, you know, doesn’t go very far,” said María.

When he had finished dealing with his clients, David ran the winning numbers through his TPV machine, which is a type of accounting machine used by the ONCE lottery ticket sellers. “When I typed the number in, I saw that the prize was higher than the maximum amount the machine pays out, so I went to the bank to check,” says David. He checked the bank book showing the winning numbers and saw that the ticket was worth 35,000 euros, not the 60 he had paid out.

His first reaction was to sit back in his wheelchair and look around to see if the woman was still there. But there was no sign of her. “I remember thinking: ‘And now how am I going to find this woman?’ She was not a regular client of mine, and from that moment on, all I could think about was finding her. I simply had to find her, so that she could collect what was rightfully hers.”

First step in the search was to tell the area head of ONCE about it. He was advised to hold onto the ticket over the weekend and wait to see if she could be found. “I was terrified of losing it. I kept asking my wife if it was still where we had put it away in the house.”

On the Tuesday, David was waiting at the doors of the main ONCE office to hand in the ticket, as soon as it opened. He decided to look for the woman himself, and spent the following nine days searching the streets. He spoke to other clients who had bought tickets from him at about the same time, asking if they knew her, but nobody could remember having seen her.

David then remembered having been to the bank that day, and that the woman had been there too. He wondered if she were a customer of that branch. “I asked in the bank, and they told me she was a client and gave me a number to contact her. She turned out to be 75-year-old María Reina, from San Pedro.”

The joy of winning

“My niece called me on the phone to tell me I had won. She asked if I was sitting down, and then told me the ticket I had bought on Calle Córdoba had won 35,000 euros,” says María. Then the bank called her. “María, go to bar Ramírez. They’re waiting for you there.” She did that, not knowing what to expect. “I was nervous about meeting David. I start crying and hugging him when I saw him. He is a beautiful person,” says María.

David recognised her as soon as he saw her, although he had to ask a few questions to be certain. As it turned out, she could even remember the winning number, so there was now no doubt about it. She was the winner he had been looking for.

Last Friday María received her prize money of 35,000 euros from the ONCE director in Marbella, Pedro Juárez. She plans to use the money to have some work done on her house. She is also anxious to buy a nice gift for David, as a way of thanking him for his efforts on her behalf. David is happy too, because has won a new client.

What they said

David Romero

Once lottery seller

“When I saw what the ticket was worth, I knew I had to find the woman who had won it”

“I didn’t know anything about her. I searched for nine days until I remembered her speaking to the bank clerk”

“It never occurred to me, or to my wife, to keep the money. She knew I was obsessed with finding María”

maría reina

the client

“I was in a hurry that day, and remember thinking to myself about the chance of winning something”

“I was very happy with the original 60 euros, because I had run out of money for the end of the month”

“I was nervous about meeting David. I started crying and hugged him. He is a great person”

United by destiny

David spent his 15th birthday in the Paraplegic Centre in Toledo. Some months before that, he had had an accident in a lorry. “I was not driving the lorry, of course. I was only the driver’s mate. I had gone to take the place of a friend who had gone hunting for the day, and had not even expected to be paid for the day,” he tells us. The lorry turned over and he was left paralysed for life. The driver of the lorry broke two ribs.

This Malaga man, a native of the Ronda town of Serrato, has spent the past 20 years in a wheelchair. In all that time he has done various courses, including computer technology, and has been selling ONCE tickets for the past two years. “I’ve lived in Malaga, in Mijas, and now I’m in San Pedro Alcántara. I sell in the streets,” he says.

Ticket number 61,062 has linked the lives of the disabled lottery ticket seller, David Romero, and widow María Reina, a 75-year-old San Pedro woman with four children, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild. The prize money, amounting to 35,000 euros, will allow her to carry out restructuring work on the house she bought in 1962.

Sunday, Mar. 19, 2006

Volunteer finds $30,000 in New Orleans wall

The woman who owned the flood-damaged home knew nothing about the money in the walls.

She was as shocked as the young volunteer who found it while helping tear out moldy Sheetrock.

“I thought it was Monopoly money,” said Trista Wright, 19, who attends Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Ga., and has spent her spring break gutting homes.

She found the first few $100 bills poking out of a pile of Sheetrock that she was raking up.

Then she peeled back more Sheetrock from around an air conditioning vent in the closet wall where she’d been working and found a stack of bills almost six inches high.

By an unofficial count, it was more than $30,000.

She and fellow students notified the organizers of their church mission, who, in turn told the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office about it.

Deputy Gary Adams verified the identity of the woman who owned the home, which she said previously belonged to her father and had been in the family for generations. When the succession papers checked out and a call to a local lawyer who handled the transaction confirmed her story, Adams gave the money over to the homeowner.

“She was speechless,” said Wright, one of 175 Georgia college students who’ve been working as volunteers in the area.

Adams said the money likely dated to the early 1960s. He said it’s not uncommon to find stashes of weapons or medications behind the walls of homes, but this is the first time he’s heard of such a large sum of money being found.

“They were elated, but they didn’t know what to do with it,” Adams said. “It’s good to see someone find something like that and turn it over to proper authorities and the rightful owner.”

The homeowner, a woman in her 50s who grew up in the area and asked to remain anonymous, said she suspects the money belonged to her father, who grew up in the Depression and was wary of keeping his money in a bank.

“I had my suspicions about the money at first, but once I met the family and talked to the woman, I have no doubt she’s telling the truth,” said Aaron Arledge, one of the organizers of the mission. “She said her father grew up during the Depression and must not have told anyone in the family about it before he died.”

The one-story home in the Arabi area was flooded to the gutters, with no contents that could be saved, church officials said.

Warren Jones Jr., pastor at New Salem Baptist Church in the Ninth Ward, which has served as the home base for the church missions, said the woman submitted a request to gut her home earlier last week. He said the group normally doesn’t work in St. Bernard Parish because of the overwhelming need in the immediate area, but he agreed to make an exception for the homeowner after hearing about her needs.

“To see that woman’s face when we told her about the money, that’s the kind of positive story that makes all the hard work worthwhile,” Jones said. “She said it was a miracle. And when you think about it, it was.”

Friday, Mar. 17, 2006

Woman’s lost wallet returned — with cash

When Rapid City resident Mary Ellen Davis lost her wallet at her grandson’s basketball game a couple of weeks ago in Billings, Mont., she didn’t have high hopes of getting the wallet back, let alone getting it back with money inside.

She figured that whoever found her wallet would probably give themselves a finder’s fee.

“It’d be awfully tempting to take the money and drop the billfold in the trash,” she said.

Instead, Davis learned the next Monday that someone had turned the wallet in with $100 still inside — the amount it had when she lost it.

Davis said she has tried to find out who did the good deed, but whoever it was didn’t leave a name.

“Someone called my daughter and said it had been turned in,” she said. “The person wanted to be anonymous.”

Davis said she is thankful for the good deed and refreshed by the incident.

“It’s just a nice reminder there are people in this world that still are good,” she said. “Just the fact that somebody did that, I appreciate it.”

The basketball game she attended was at Billings Senior High School on March 3. She said she is still surprised by her good luck and the fact that the person didn’t take credit for it.

“It’s just something that doesn’t happen too often,” she said. “They deserve recognition.”

Friday, Mar. 10, 2006

Teens rescue family from burning van

“Let’s roll!”

With that call to action, four McFarland High School seniors charged into a burning minivan Saturday afternoon and saved the lives of a mother and her two young children.

The dramatic rescue by Paul Thoresen, 17, Alex Hill, 18, Robert Johnson, 18, and Ryan Oldenburg, 18, took six minutes from the time Hill called 911 to report the accident to the time the Dodge Caravan burst into flames, eventually destroying it.

“We got them out and it burned a few minutes later,” Hill said. “It was extremely hectic.”

The four students were driving in two cars north on U.S. 51 near Voges Road north of the village, heading to Quaker Steak and Lube in Middleton for lunch Saturday afternoon.

Two cars ahead, a minivan suddenly careened off the highway, went through the snow and a fence and smashed into a tree.

As it happened, Hill called 911 on a cell phone and the others hopped out of their cars, heading to the accident scene.

The female driver “was struggling to get out of the van but she couldn’t,” Thoresen said. “The air bag had deployed and she was stuck behind it.”

Thoresen tried to get the sliding side door to open, but it was jammed because the minivan had literally wrapped around the tree. He kicked at it and was able to slide it open, while Johnson and Oldenburg were able to pop the back door up and get inside to help rescue the kids and mother.

Oldenburg yelled out information to Hill from inside the van, so Hill could tell the emergency dispatcher what was going on.

Meanwhile, other drivers had stopped their cars and were at the scene, but Johnson said most of the “older” people at the scene were more panic-stricken than anything.

“They kept screaming at us to get them out,” he said. “We just kept working at it.”

Sharon Strattan’s six-year-old daughter Brooke was sitting on the backseat, strapped in with the safety belt, while three-year-old Brandon was in a car seat, also strapped in.

Both children were shaken up but not badly injured. But time was running out, since thick, black smoke was pouring into the passenger compartment.

“The smoke was getting intense when we pulled the kids out,” Oldenburg said. “Then the whole thing went up in flames.”

The four students have had some first responder and lifesaving training, but they’d never been at the scene of a serious accident before.

“I’m glad we were in the right place at the right time,” Oldenburg said.

Strattan thinks so, too.

She was full of praise for the four high school students today, saying “we don’t think we’d be here if it wasn’t for those boys.”

Neither Strattan nor her two children were hospitalized for long after the accident. Brooke and Brandon are both doing well, Strattan said today, although she is recovering from some cracked vertebrae as a result of the crash. But she added that “considering what happened, it’s nothing to complain about.”

Due to a medical condition, Strattan blacked out before driving off the road and has no memory of the accident. In fact, it wasn’t until Wednesday that she learned the names of the rescuers from a television reporter. She called them all that evening to thank them.

Should they receive some kind of formal recognition for their efforts, Strattan said.

“I need to know about it because I want to be there and give them a standing ovation.”

The McFarland Police Department called the four students recently to say they are being nominated for a citizens’ award.

Police Chief Greg Leck said in a telephone interview that “I thought that they did an outstanding job and it’s a credit to the village to have individuals who would take action like that.”

Police and fire department personnel eventually showed up and took over at the accident scene Saturday. The young men made sure everything was OK, then hopped back in their cars and went to lunch.

“It was really good,” Hill said.

Thursday, Mar. 9, 2006

Planned acts of kindness

We should all be like Lindsy Marie Stevens.

The 9-year-old from West Scranton spent last weekend helping others.

On Saturday, Lindsy did 172 cartwheels in 15 minutes at the Viewmont Mall. While that is an incredible feat, Lindsy was flipping over to raise funds for others as part of a cartwheel-a-thon for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The very next day, her mother, Marci, said, the Lincoln/Jackson School third-grader headed to Malcolm’s Haircutters in Clarks Summit, where she had Melissa Cruise cut 10 inches of her beautiful blonde hair off to send to the Locks of Love program that creates hairpieces for pediatric cancer patients.

“I just think it’s so wonderful she gave up her weekend to do two huge things, to donate, to give back,” Marci said. “She doesn’t know I’m calling, I just wanted to do something nice for her because she inspired me so much. She’s my 9-year-old daughter, and she inspired me.”

Lindsy’s weekend started Friday at a healing Mass at St. Paul’s Church in Green Ridge where the Lenten sermon was about sacrifice. She left the Mass telling her mom she decided to cut off her hair for Locks of Love.

“She’s known for her gorgeous, long blonde hair,” Marci said, adding that Lindsy had “the longest hair in school.”

But after seeing a Locks of Love story on television, she was “adamant” about donating it.

She also was intent on raising lots of money for Make-A-Wish at the cartwheel-a-thon. She’d only been doing gymnastics for two months at Alpha Gymnastics in North Scranton but was “really excited,” Marci said. “She knew the more (cartwheels) she did, the more money for Make-A-Wish.”

Marci took the advice of her sister, Jesse Rogan, a gymnast who studied with Bela Karolyi, and waited until Lindsy got done cartwheeling to make her pledge.

Lindsy, also the daughter of Harry and Christina Stevens, of West Scranton, is the granddaughter of Paul and Mary Coviello, of Clarks Summit, and Harry and Maria Stevens, of West Scranton. She has five sisters, Monica, Julia, Shelby and Emily Stevens and Alana Scanlon.

Tuesday, Mar. 7, 2006

Girl gives a lifetime’s growth of hair to charity

Sumner Grubbs was more excited about the gift she planned on giving for her seventh birthday than the presents she might receive.

Grubbs, who turned 7 Sunday, donated 10 inches of her hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that makes wigs for cancer patients.

About a year ago, a girl Grubbs goes to church with donated her hair to Locks of Love. Grubbs has wanted to do the same thing ever since, she said.

Donated hair has to be at least 10 inches long so Grubbs had to wait for her hair to grow the appropriate length.

When she woke up Saturday morning the first thing she said was “I’m getting my hair cut today,” said her mom, Katie Grubbs.

That was still the thing she was most excited about even after Katie reminded her about her bowling birthday party scheduled later that day.

When Sumner first announced that she wanted to donate her hair, her mom worried that she was too young to understand what she was doing. Together they got on the Locks of Love Web site and talked about where her hair would go.

Seeing girls who had lost their hair made Sumner want to do it even more. Some of the girls might feel like they look like boys without their hair, she said.

“(I want) to make them feel good,” Sumner said.

The hair cut was Sumner’s first major one, her mom said. “It’s a lot of hair for a little girl.”

But it was also a reminder of Sumner’s desire to help others and served as a reminder that she is healthy.

“It will grow back,” she said.

As the pony tail fell to the floor, Sumner couldn’t help giggling and grinning. In the end, her new bob was just what she wanted – it matched the hair style of her mom and her doll Kit.

After she shook her hair, Sumner announced that she would keep it short for a while, but eventually she would like to grow it out and donate it again, she said.

Her mother couldn’t help remarking how different she looked and, although she had liked Sumner’s long hair, how the new cut will be more manageable.

“We used a lot of conditioner,” Katie Grubbs said.

Though her birthday party was yet to come, Sumner said she’d already enjoyed the best part of her day.

Giving something away instead of getting something for her birthday didn’t seem strange to her.

“It’s like a goody bag,” Sumner said.

Friday, Mar. 3, 2006

Teen’s stolen prosthetic legs returned

Prosthetic legs that were stolen for a second time from a 16-year-old girl have been quietly returned, police said.

Melissa Huff’s mother found the legs in her unlocked car, which she had parked at Arcadia High School Wednesday afternoon.

“Nobody was seen in or around the car,” Arcadia police Lt. Ken Harper said Thursday. “There were no witnesses. We lifted some fingerprints and will see if there is any match.”

The first theft occurred Nov. 1 when a thief cut a hole in a window screen in Huff’s home in Temple City and stole a $12,000 cosmetic leg. Huff’s doctor and two companies donated money for a new, $16,000 “sports leg,” which the sophomore uses to play softball on the Arcadia High team.

The cosmetic leg was returned in early January, tossed into the family’s back yard.

But on Valentine’s Day, somebody stole both legs after prying open a screen window. Huff’s room also was vandalized.

At the time of the second theft, Huff was unable to wear the prosthetics because she had recently undergone an operation to repair the bone at the end of her amputated leg. She was scheduled on Friday to pick up yet another new leg, which the community again had rallied to buy for her.

The legs that were returned were damaged but usable, Huff said. The damage included graffiti.

Huff said she and her family have theories about who stole her legs and believe the culprit knows her.

“It doesn’t bother me,” she said. “I’m not scared of them.”

Huff’s right leg was amputated below the knee after she was struck by a car two years ago.

Arcadia is about 24 miles east of Los Angeles.

Thursday, Mar. 2, 2006

Park’s angel wingless but true

From a remote spot high in the foothills of Gilpin County, Bruce Clinton keeps careful watch over Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

When the Chicago businessman retreats to his mountain home, he likes to watch people come and go on the park’s main road, which he can see from his living room.

For 18 years, the media-shy Clinton has served as an almost invisible steward of Golden Gate. He’s been known to lend park rangers his road-grading equipment, help fix fences and donate cash.

Dan Weber, Golden Gate’s manager, said Clinton has donated about $100,000 to the park.

Once a year, or so, Clinton visits in person, stopping, usually unannounced, at the visitors’ center, just to see if Weber and his small staff need any help.

“He is an uncommon man,” Weber said.

Each year about 500,000 people visit the park, which covers 15,000 acres in the mountains above the metro area. Day trippers come for the stunning views of the Continental Divide, aspens in the fall and the lovingly maintained hiking trails.

Others come to stay a while. In 2004, the park won a spot in the top 10 of Americans’ favorite camping areas, compiled by MSN.com, Weber said.

Clinton and his family’s land is bordered on three sides by Golden Gate. They love the park for the same reason they love their own property: for the views, the quiet, the ice-covered ponds in winter and the stunning mountain ranges.

In the years since 1988, when Clinton first stopped by, he said he’s been deeply impressed with the work done to keep thousands of acres of land safe and well-preserved, even with an onslaught of half a million visitors a year.

“It is an enormous load,” Clinton said. “They are the most conscientious, unflashy, dedicated group of people I’ve ever seen. Every time I check back in, it seems as if they’re doing a good job. When they do something, they do it in a sensitive way.”

On a visit two years ago, Clinton heard that the park needed to replace its 30-year old wildland fire truck, a 1975 Dodge. Clinton told Weber he would donate up to $30,000, but the state would have to match it two-for-one.

It took several months, but Weber’s bosses found $46,000 for the project, so Clinton donated $23,000.

Last fall, the truck arrived without some of the specialized equipment it needed.

Clinton again came forward, offering to match whatever the state could muster from its own cash-strapped budget.

This month, the Colorado State Park Board approved the latest Clinton donation.

Woman’s wheelchair battery is returned

Joanne Hardy got her happy ending yesterday.

A New Bedford man who runs a Rhode Island flea market returned the battery to the disabled woman’s wheelchair.

The man, who only wants to be known as “Wally,” read about the battery disappearing from the sidewalk outside Ms. Hardy’s downtown apartment in yesterday’s Standard-Times.

He began calling Olympia Towers, where she lives, first thing in the morning. By early in the afternoon, the battery had been identified and returned.

Wally had purchased the battery from a man who collects junk from sidewalks; he suspected it was Joanne’s when he read the story, said Ms. Hardy’s friend, Joyce Anthony.

“I’m very, very thankful,” said Ms. Hardy, who has cerebral palsy. She had said she was worried that on her limited income, it might be tough to replace the $600 battery.

The battery powers a collapsible wheelchair that allows Ms. Hardy to get in and out of cars and even the hard-to-get-to places in her apartment. Without it, she was confined to a clunky, government-issued wheelchair that leaves her far less mobile.

Even before she got her battery back, people who read about her plight had offered to help, Ms. Anthony said.

Mike Mahaney, who runs a Fairhaven fire alarm company, offered to purchase a battery at cost. Pilgrim United Church of Christ, which is located across the street from where she lives, offered to purchase a new one, as did Ms. Anthony’s elderly aunts.

Ms. Anthony said the response had boosted her faith in people.

“There still are some good souls out there,” she said.

Kind pupils work to aid the charity

KIND-HEARTED pupils from an Ashington high school helped a local charity raise nearly £500 after taking part in a sponsored bag pack.
Sixth form students from Hirst High School gave up their Saturday recently to spend the day at their local Asda helping shoppers pack their bags.

The students took part in the challenge in a bid to help Central Palz, based at Seaton Hirst Primary Care Centre, Norham Road, Ashington, to raise money.

Along with staff and carers from the organisation, the pupils helped raise over £475 as part of the charity’s challenge week.

The charity, which helps people living with life-limiting diseases, has been appealing for the community to take part in a week-long fundraising challenge which ran until February 18.

Liz Harmer, service manager at the organisation, said over the past six years, Central Palz has provided care and support to people living with life-threatening diseases including cancer, Motor Neurone Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

She said: “The service is for people living in Ashington, Newbiggin, Bedlington, Guide Post, Lynemouth, Widdrington, Morpeth and surrounding areas, and we asked members of the community and local businesses to help us raise money by taking part in the challenge.”

Around 100 people each week benefit from the service as well as their carers who also look to the organisation for support.

It offers complementary therapies, physiotherapy, a well-stocked gym, counselling, social interaction and outing opportunities with accessible transport.

Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006

Washington teen goes to work for Make-A-Wish

It wasn’t long ago that 17-year-old William Jackson of Washington was on the receiving end of a Make-A-Wish gift.

During that difficult time four years ago, the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave Jackson a laptop and other computer components that allowed him to stay in touch with friends and continue his school work despite being sick. And on Dec. 30, 2003, Jackson had a kidney transplant.

Now Jackson wants to give back to the organization that helped him through a rough time in his young life. He plans to raise a steer and put it up for auction this summer to benefit Make-A-Wish. And he’s getting some assistance with that project from Aldermere Farm, where he is a member of the 4-H Club called Aldermere Achievers.

On Thursday, Aldermere Farm Manager Ron Howard presented Jackson with a belted Galloway steer named Razz. Aldermere Farm, now owned by Maine Coast Heritage Trust, is one of the world’s premier belted Galloway cattle breeders and a favorite scenic attraction in the Camden and Rockport area.

The 136-acre farm was founded by the late Albert H. Chatfield Jr. and is permanently protected by conservation easements. Chatfield bequeathed the farm to MCHT when he died in 1999.

Aldermere “Belties” are known to breeders around the world as some of the finest stock anywhere. Bred primarily for beef, Belties originated in the mountains of Southwest Scotland, where they became an exceptionally hardy breed, adapting to the severe conditions. Unlike many other breeds, the Belties were able to forage for themselves on the range during the winter and their development under severe conditions made the breed highly resistant to disease and genetic problems.

Nearly a year old, Razz weighs in at around 630 pounds. It will be Jackson’s job to care for the steer, a responsibility that will increase as the white stripe around Razz’s midsection grows over the next seven months. It’s that white stripe sandwiched between the black front and back ends that earned the Beltie its “Oreo Cookie Cow” nickname.

“There’s a lot of work to do getting ready for show day,” Jackson said. “Feeding, cleaning the pen, trimming the tail, shaving the hair on his head, trimming his coat, shampooing, blowing dry and leading, lots of leading.”

Jackson said he will spend as much time as possible leading Razz around, getting him comfortable with the halter and lead rope, and making sure he’s not fidgety or nervous around people, especially judges.

Jackson’s previous experience with livestock has been raising and showing pigs, but he said cattle are easier to work.

“You can’t put a halter on a pig and tie it to a post to work with it like you can cattle,” Jackson said.

Jackson and Aldermere Farm will enter Razz in at least three livestock shows this summer, including the Bangor State Fair (July 28-Aug. 6), the Union Fair (Aug. 20-26), and the Windsor Fair (Aug. 27-Sept. 4).

It’s at the Windsor Fair where Jackson plans to sell Razz at auction. And after seven months of hard work preparing the Beltie for show and ultimately market, he will donate the money he earns at the auction to Make-A-Wish.

Amy Theiss, communications director for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Maine, was on hand Thursday for the donation of Razz to Jackson. “It’s always a great honor for us when wish kids come back to help us,” she said.

And while Howard knows Jackson, who will take Razz to Washington to live at a nearby farm, has a big job ahead, the Aldermere Farm manager hopes the partnership of Beltie and boy will inspire buyers come August.

“The real coup will be if we can get enough buyers at the fair, as this is an auction and they could bring in a good price,” Howard said.

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006

Missing Chicago police dog returned

A good Samaritan dog lover reunited Bart, a missing 79-pound Chicago police dog, with his handler Tuesday and refused a $1,000 reward.

Officer David Dorken said he and his family are as happy as the police department that the four-year-old narcotics-sniffing canine was found and returned safely. Police dogs live at the homes of their handlers and are also family pets.

They are going nuts at home, Dorken told WLS-TV. He met the man at a suburban gas station Tuesday afternoon and was reunited with the black and gray German shepherd.

The Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society had offered a $1,000 reward for Bart, who had been missing since Monday morning after contractors left a side gate open to Dorken’s backyard.

Dorken said the man who found Bart is a dog lover and said he had no interest in claiming a $1,000 no-questions-asked reward.

Bart has been valuable member of the force for two years. He cost about $4,000 before undergoing months of expensive training to sniff out drugs and work patrol.

Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2006

Man Reunited With Rare Guitar

The lead singer and guitarist for the popular rockabilly group, King Memphis, got his guitar back this weekend.

The rare 1972 “Les Paul Gold Top” was stolen from Matt Robbins’ car two weeks ago. On Saturday, a Portland Merchant, who asked to remain anonymous, brought it back to him.

Robbins has been playing guitar for 30 years. He always wanted a Les Paul Gold Top and finally found one at a local music store three years ago. He immediately posted pictures and a description of the instrument on the internet. Word spread quickly throughout Maines music community.

Just how it turned up will remain a mystery, but an elated Robbins wants to thank everyone who put out the word about the missing guitar.

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2006

16yo pure angel named Top Young Citizen

A 16-YEAR-OLD pupil of Morecambe High School described as a ‘pure angel’ has become Lancashire’s Top Young Citizen.

Laura Seymour was presented with the award by the High Sheriff of Lancashire – former England footballer Jimmy Armfield – at a ceremony at Lancashire Constabulary HQ on Thursday, for her outstanding contribution to her local community.

The Young Citizen Awards reward the county’s young heroes who don’t outwardly seek glory, but whose hard work, dedication and grit deserve recognition.

Laura, who was nominated by PC Kath Bromilow, has been heavily involved in school and neighbourhood issues for a number of years.

She takes a major role in the pupil mentoring scheme at Morecambe High School and is described as “an ambassador for young people”.

In March 2005 Laura compered a ‘Stars in their Eyes’ and fashion show event held at the school which resulted in a lot of money being raised and donated to the Tsunami Appeal.

She also voluntarily attends not only the weekly sessions of the Young Persons Crime Prevention Panel but at other times, weekends and after school, giving up her spare time to help organise and work on crime prevention activities.

“I can’t believe I have won this award, it’s absolutely mind-blowing and it means a lot to me,” said Laura.

“I do think there are too many negative stereotypes about young people because there are a lot of people my age who do a lot of good work and to win this award is wonderful.”

PC Kath Bromilow said: “Laura is an amazing character and an inspiration for young people. She is a pure angel and a perfect Young Citizen of the Year.”

Laura’s mum Gail Seymour said: “It was so rewarding to see so many young people recognised for their contribution to the community. There were so many deserving children at the ceremony and I was shocked when she won.

“She does give up a lot of time and she loves working with the police who have been amazingly supportive to her.”

Dozens of nominations were received from across the county for the Young Citizen of the Year, recommending candidates for a range of activities.

Jimmy Armfield said: “This year there have been a number of high quality candidates and it has certainly been an extremely tough decision. A competition like this demonstrates just how many special young citizens we have living here in Lancashire and I congratulate all entrants.”

Other local youngsters who were commended for their work with the community were:

Tim Ramsey Age 15

Tim has been active in raising money for charity on a number of occasions over the last few years. He has organised classical music evenings at St Martin’s College, has been involved in busking for charity in Lancaster and last year his school, which has over 1,000 pupils, raised a total of £20,000 for charity, with Tim raising £1,000 of that total.

Aimie Oldfield Age 16

For the last three years Aimie has regularly attended the Lancaster and Morecambe Youth Council Group which represents the issues and opinions of young people at both local and county government levels of politics. In 2005 Aimie also organised a sponsored walk from Lancaster Royal Infirmary to Morecambe Superbowl in aid of Diabetes UK raising over £200.

Amanda Fitzsimmons Age 17

Amanda has helped the Lancaster District Children’s Integration Group with volunteer support for children and young people who have learning difficulties and/or severe physical disabilities, enabling them to take part in community activities and giving their parents, carers and families valuable respite breaks. She is also a young carer herself, helping her mother and father with her younger sister who has extreme, complex learning needs.

Malcolm Charlton Age 16

Malcolm was highly commended for his volunteer workj every Tuesday evening at the Salvation Army Youth Club. He, along with a small group of other volunteers, run two clubs for approximately 60 children. The club makes an important contribution to reducing teenage crime in a deprived area of Morecambe.

Malcolm has also helped fundraising through car washing and playing the drums in a club talent show.

Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2006

Wallet left in Utah gas station in 1967 returned to Pa. man

An antiques dealer is being reacquainted with his past after a Utah family returned a wallet he lost at a gas station nearly 40 years ago.

The beige wallet still held $5 in cash, a traffic ticket, 8-cent airmail stamps and Doug Schmitt’s freshman ID card from Utah State.

“I had a real full head of hair back then,” Schmitt, 57, of Lake Ariel, said Tuesday.

Schmitt apparently lost the wallet at a gas station in Logan, Utah, in the spring of 1967, when he stopped to fill up his 1955 Austin Healy.

The station’s owner stashed it in a drawer, presumably hoping the person would come back.

Ted Nyman, of Logan, found it decades later while cleaning out his father-in-law’s estate. He tracked Schmitt down through the Internet, and last week mailed the wallet 2,158 miles across the country.

“They’re good, honest people out there,” Schmitt said.

The wallet also had photos of Schmitt’s high-school girlfriends from Wissahickon High School in suburban Philadelphia and a dry-cleaning receipt.

“It makes me wonder if I still got some dry cleaning out there. I don’t know,” Schmitt said.

As an antiques dealer, Schmitt is accustomed to digging through other people’s attics for wartime letters and other personal histories. He never expected someone else to pore over his past.

“It’s just so wonderful that people will take the time to research that, then return something to someone they don’t even know,” said his wife, Vickie Schmitt.

Saturday, Jan. 28, 2006

Man’s Wallet, including money, Returned Nearly 40 Years Later

A man from Wayne County lost his wallet in Utah back in 1967. And after all this time, it’s been found and returned to him, including the money inside.

Doug Schmitt from Lake Ariel had a time capsule just waiting to be opened. But he never knew it, until now. He hasn’t seen this wallet since 1967 at college in Utah. “To tell you the truth, I can’t even remember losing it. It’s almost forty years ago since I lost it,” said Schmitt.

The wallet, with five dollars still inside, was mailed to Schmitt from Ted Nyman in Utah. Nyman’s late father-in-law had been keeping the wallet in his gas station. “We just assumed that it must have been lost and ended up left in the gas station or something and he never found the owner,” explained Nyman.

Now, going through the contents, Schmitt and his wife can’t believe what they’re finding. There are stamps, eight cents apiece, a traffic ticket, and even Schmitt’s college ID. “(It’s great) to see how he looked when he was a freshman in college because I didn’t know him til he had graduated and to see the pictures of his friends in there. Most of them girls!” exclaimed Doug’s wife, Vickie Schmitt. “It just kind of brings back memories. Things I did and receipts. I couldn’t believe I had that many things in my wallet!”

And the irony of it all, Schmitt is an antiques dealer. He spends much of his time working on things of the past and thinking about the people who once owned them. “(I am usually)looking through people’s old relics and old letters from maybe someone who was in the service writing to their wife or something like that. (I) never thought I would be the object of something like this, at least not at this age anyway,” said Doug Schmitt.

“It’s just so wonderful that people will take the time to research that then return something to someone they don’t even know. It really touched me to know there were still people like that in the world,” said Vickie Schmitt.

Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006

Lost handbag with $110 000 jewelry returned

A handbag containing jewellery worth more than $110 000 has been returned to a woman who left it hanging on a shopping trolley in a car park, Australian police said on Saturday.

The handbag, containing gold bracelets, rings, earrings, chains and pendants – plus a large sum of cash – was handed in to police in Melbourne by another woman, who wanted to remain anonymous.

“Victoria Police are very pleased that a good Samaritan has actually decided to hand it in and not keep it for themselves, especially (as it is) a large quantity of jewellery and cash,” said police spokesperson Shaun Livori.

“The person who lost the jewellery was very unfortunate that she lost it and she’s an extremely lucky person that she’s going to get it returned to her.”

The owner, who wanted to be identified only as Kathy, told national radio she was overwhelmed by the return of the bag and its contents.

“I can’t believe it at all – I am so grateful to that person,” she said. “I didn’t expect to ever see it again.

$800 returned to owner

Matt Branum could have been a little richer this weekend, but he chose to do the right thing and turn in a pile of money he found laying in the street.

Branum, a Kennecott certified public accountant, and his wife were waiting for friends near a local service station Saturday at about 9 a.m. when they saw something that looked like a money bag near the road.

Branum got out of the couple’s car to inspect the bag and saw that it was a bank bag from Primetime Paintball. Police later learned that the bag contained about $800 in cash and checks .

But the obvious large amount of money didn’t deter Branum from doing the right thing. He immediately went into the service station and called police.

Branum said the decision was simple, and he hopes others would do the same if it were his money.

“I knew it wasn’t my money, and I wasn’t going to keep it,” he said. “I’ve not been brought up that way. It’s not right. The Bible says you don’t steal.”

Monday, Jan. 23, 2006

Video tape of baby’s birth returned to family

Fred Murray was just trying to pick up a cheap video camera at a local Goodwill. He ended up saving some irreplaceable memories.

Inside the $8 camera was an 40-minute tape that showed the first moments in the life of a baby girl, being weighed and measured and held by a grandfather. It also showed a family reunion.

Murray tracked down the tape’s owner, Sherry Ewing of Grand Blanc, and returned it to her Friday.

“The only people who would have seen that tape would be family. So I guess you’re family now,” Ewing, 46, told Murray. “Thank you so much.”

The tape recorded the 1991 birth of Lauren, now 14. It also held footage of Ewing’s mother, who died in 1998.

Murray, 59, and his wife, Rose, did a bit of detective work to track down Ewing.

A pillow in the video was embroidered with the name of the hospital. Nurses on the tape spoke of Friday the 13th and called out the baby’s hospital identification number and weight. A doctor’s name was legible on an identification badge. The hospital helped the couple find Ewing.

“We just knew we needed to get this back to the family,” said Rose Murray, 57.

Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006

Fair security chief returned $2,000 he felt was too much pay

A high-ranking Cass County sheriff’s official returned $2,000 in cash to the Red River Valley Fair last fall, saying he thought he was overcompensated for providing private security for the annual event.

Lt. Rick Majerus, chief investigator for the Sheriff’s Department, said he’s managed private security officers – some of them off-duty sheriff’s employees – during the annual fair for the past 14 or 15 years.

Majerus said he returned the money to the fair in September when the fair’s financial matters looked bleak. The future of Bruce Olson, fair manager for 15 years, also appeared bleak after the fair lost about $310,430 during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

“Just looking at the whole situation, I just felt that it was the right thing to do,” Majerus said.

According to Majerus:

– He received payment in cash when the fair ended last year. Some years Majerus received cash while other years the fair issued him a check.

– Olson agreed in advance last year to pay Majerus $8,000 to manage the fair’s private security.

– He estimated working 120 to 130 hours for the 2005 fair, including backstage security shifts during concerts and time spent preparing and lining up workers.

The Forum calculated Majerus earned $61.54 per hour, based on his agreed-upon salary at 130 hours, for work at the fair. After returning $2,000, he earned $46.15 per hour, or more than twice the amount Majerus said he paid the second-highest-ranking private security officer.

– Most other private security officers working for him earn $10 to $15 per hour to start.

The fair also pays the county to provide on-duty sheriff’s deputies for security away from the concerts. Deputies can earn up to $35 per hour for the shifts, sheriff’s officials said.

After an audit on the fair was completed in November and fair accusations surfaced this week that Olson converted at least $292,049 for his personal gain, the fair association’s nine-person governing committee also plans to review compensation for fair workers.

“Compensation has been identified and whether or not it poses a problem has not been addressed,” Jonathan Garaas, attorney for the Red River Valley Fair Association, said of Majerus’ pay.

“I know the nine-person board is going to take an active role in the future at setting compensation for everybody that works for the fair,” Garaas said.

Majerus said he gave a quarter of his salary for managing the private security staff to Olson at the fair office and the fair’s nine-person governing board knew about it.

Majerus’ money isn’t part of missing concert money under investigation by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the lieutenant said.

In a Dec. 21 letter, Sheriff Don Rudnick requested the BCI investigate payments for the Doobie Brothers rock concert at last summer’s Red River Valley Fair. Rudnick asked for the investigation at the request of Garaas.

The fair agreed to pay the Doobie Brothers about $50,000. But the fair issued two checks totaling $56,500 for the band. One was for $14,000 in cash. The fair can’t account for $6,500 in that transaction.

The fair association fired Olson at its Dec. 13 meeting. The 15-year fair manager sued the association and Board President Kyle Anderson for illegally firing him and breach of contract.

In a countersuit filed Thursday, the fair association denied the allegations and accused Olson of converting at least $292,049 into his personal gain by taking cash for accrued vacation and sick time and keeping proceeds from grandstand, food and gate sales. In addition, the countersuit claims Olson doctored entertainment contracts and destroyed financial records.

The Sheriff’s Department provides security at the fairgrounds for events like the fair and sprint car races at the Red River Valley Speedway. County records show the fair paid the county for deputies to staff the events and those who worked them received overtime pay.

The fair also arranges and pays for off-duty officers to handle specialized security details at fairground events, Garaas said.

“The fair orients themselves towards law enforcement officers because they are the best-trained people out there,” he said.

Garaas said the practice of hiring private security in addition to the county’s deputies has been in place for at least 30 years.

Officers said the fair hires private security officers to monitor the beer garden, backstage, VIP and grandstand areas.

Majerus said he managed between 20 and 25 private security officers during the fair and worked in the backstage area. Depending on the performer’s contract, Majerus said he sometimes delivered entertainers checks or cash in envelopes.

However, Majerus said he never knew the amount of the payments, including “road money” the fair paid as part of contracts with some performers. He also doesn’t recall whether he delivered money to the Doobie Brothers last year.

By returning $2,000, Majerus said he thought he’d be helping both Olson and the fair.

“You could just see the writing on the wall,” Majerus said of troubles facing both last fall.

He also said Olson never asked him to return money, but it was clear the fair was struggling.

“The money I got was the money he got to pay people,” Majerus said. “He said, ‘That’s what I wanted to pay you.’ I said, ‘It’s too much,’ and I wanted to help out the fair.”

Last year, Majerus said he worked between 120 to 130 hours for the fair, including time spent preparing and lining up workers. Majerus said Olson paid him $8,000, and Majerus returned $2,000.

Sometimes, Olson paid private event staff with cash, Majerus said. Other years the former fair manager issued checks to them.

“It’s tough to remember what years you got cash and what years you got checks,” Majerus said.

Two other high-ranking sheriff’s officials – Chief Deputy Glenn Ellingsberg and Lt. Mike Argall – have worked fair events under Majerus.

Majerus considered Argall, who has worked security in the beer garden, as second in charge for private security officers. Argall said private event staff members don’t have authority to arrest people and ask on-duty deputies to arrest patrons who violate laws such as trying to buy alcohol with a fake ID.

Ellingsberg, the Cass County Jail administrator, has provided security to gates leading to the infield, VIP and backstage areas. He said he works the fair as a favor to Majerus because the two are friends.

“What I do with the fair is very open,” Ellingsberg said.

Argall and Ellingsberg both said they’ve never received cash from Olson and the fair gave them tax forms each year.

County payroll records show Majerus took annual leave for his shifts during the fair last year, which ran from June 17-26. Argall and Ellingsberg, who said their shifts at the fair started at 6 each night, also took a small amount of annual leave.

On days he was scheduled to work, Argall said he spent four hours on duty and took four hours in flex time for work during the Sheriff’s Department’s Citizen Academy and attending City Council meetings.

For years, Cass County deputies have referred to the private work by high-ranking officials in the department as “Big Daddy Security.”

The nickname, Argall said, is an unfair characterization that he hasn’t heard for some time.

“I really think it was a jealousy thing because they thought we were making more than they were,” he said.

Sheriff’s officials are allowed to work as private security officers as long as they don’t have their own company, Argall said.

Majerus said he only works as a manager, doesn’t own or operate a security company and that his boss, Sheriff Don Rudnick, knew of his work as a fair security manager. Rudnick also is a member of the fair association’s nine-member governing committee.

Rudnick was out of town and unreachable Friday on an ice-fishing trip, according to the Sheriff’s Department. Calls to his home and office numbers were not returned.

The fair’s attorney said he didn’t know specifics about payments to private security officers, but Majerus and others have provided exemplary service.

Still, the fair plans to make several changes after an audit criticized the organization.

“One of the things we’re going to do is make sure there is full accountability and full knowledge of everything that is going on,” Garaas said. “The board is taking an active role in making sure that not only will it trust, but it’s going to verify, everything.”

Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006

Teacher focuses on respect in class

For one Bester Elementary School fifth-grader, the most important test of the week might have come at recess.

That’s when he walked from a fight, teacher Tiffany Tresler said.

“It is the kids in this class who encouraged him,” Tresler said after school Wednesday. “They told him, ‘Walk away, walk away,'”

Students have embraced the notion that their learning environment is a sanctuary, where they are responsible for both their actions and the way their responses to others influence the behavior of their classmates, Tresler said.

A sign in Tresler’s room spells out one of her philosophies – “Because I respect you, I expect much of you.”

“I’m not here to be loved,” Tresler said, “I’m here to make sure they learn, but I think if you do your job well, and build a relationship with each kid, they will love you.”

The students all celebrated their classmate’s decision to avoid a fight, Tresler said.

“That’s why I come in every day, just those moments,” she said.

At 24, Tresler was a rookie teacher during the first year of Eastern Elementary School’s restructuring campaign. Today, as the most experienced – and youngest – of four fifth-grade teachers at Bester, she is a grade-level leader.

A “big school nerd,” Tresler was the first person in her family to graduate from college. She started as a pre-medicine major, but quickly realized she would prefer to stay in the classroom.

“When I was young, I always wanted to be a teacher, but then for the longest time, I wanted to be a doctor. But, then, I realized it wasn’t me that wanted to be a doctor, it was certain people in my family that wanted me to be a doctor,” Tresler said.

Tresler, a graduate of Shippensburg (Pa.) University who lives in Waynesboro, Pa., with her husband and son, leads a team of three other teachers, all of whom came to Bester as part of the school’s efforts to improve academic performance.

After a shaky start, in which one boy visited Principal Kathy Stiles within the first hours of the first day of school, Tresler said Wednesday she believes students are making gains, both academically and socially. If anyone is surprised by the turnaround, it’s the students, Tresler said.

“I think some of them are shocked they really can do it,” Tresler said as one of her students ran errands for her after school.

The girl volunteered to put up a billboard of the students’ latest writing assignments and tore down a display of math work.

After two years at Eastern, which, like Bester, was restructured as part of the process of raising disappointing scores, Tresler said she is happy to work in a school where she can see improvement every day.

“When you teach at a place where you see that you are making a difference, it makes your job so worthwhile,” she said.

Monday, Jan. 2, 2006

A resolution kept, a book returned – 68 years later

As a St. Vincent’s High School senior in 1938, Lois Lyttle checked “The History of England & Great Britain” out of Vallejo’s John F. Kennedy Library.

Recently, she fulfilled her 2006 New Year’s resolution early by returning it, just 68 years overdue.

“My son’s been after me to return it for the past three years, and this year seemed like a good time to bring it back,” said Lois (Lyttle) Swanson, 83, of Daly City. “It had been in a box in the attic somewhere, and my son ran across it and said I had to bring it back.”

Swanson said she checked the book out for a report and was supposed to return it Sept. 12, 1938, but, said her son Jim Swanson, 50, life overtook her and she forgot.

“She was 16 and in high school, and she just got busy – she got a lifetime of busy-ness,” Jim Swanson said.

Lois Swanson said the book was packed in a box for moving and forgotten.

“We moved a couple of times that year,” she said. “First to one of the new homes they were building on Tuolumne Street. But that turned out to be too far to get to school, so we rented a house closer in until I finished high school. Then I graduated from high school, went to nursing school and joined the army in World War II, and when I got out, my father had moved to San Francisco.”

By that time, “The History of England & Great Britain,” published in 1914, was just about the last thing on her mind, Lois Swanson said.

The daughter of a Vallejo native, Lois Swanson said her father owned the Vallejo Steam Laundry on Pennsylvania Street, and the family all lived nearby.

“I was born on Pennsylvania Street. Vallejo was a small town then and I used to say I had an uncle on every corner,” Swanson said. “When I was little, the laundry still had horses and carriages in the back. I remember my grandmother’s phone number was 29. My father had a store on Georgia Street, and the phone number there was 242. It was a small town and everybody worked on Mare Island.”

Growing up, Swanson said she was not allowed to wander past Santa Clara Street and Georgia Street “because the sailors were down there.”

But she joined the military after nursing school.

“I served in Southern California and then was sent to the Philippines where I became ill, and they sent me home, and I was discharged,” she said. She added that she’s planned to return to nursing school but met her husband Bill while shopping for a car. Four children followed, “so I never made it to U.C.,” she said. Bill Swanson died 13 years ago.

After sending her last child to college, Lois Swanson went back to work at a large San Francisco hospital, retiring in 1984 after 20 years.

“The hardest part was raising the children, but I’m glad I had them now,” she said, adding that she also has five grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Jim Swanson said they decided to make a family reunion out of returning the book, and it took a couple years to get everyone together. It worked out for Dec. 23, 2005. The library was alerted in advance, he said.

“We drove around her old neighborhood, to her old school, and then to the library with the book. The librarian was quite delighted to waive the late fee,” Jim Swanson said.

JFK manager Linda Mattchette said she doesn’t recall ever getting a book returned quite so late before. Before this, the latest was about 40 years overdue, she said. Since the book is no longer in the system, Mattchette was able to waive the fine, but she calculated it anyway, and at 5 cents a day it came to about $1,200.

“She came in and said, ‘I want to let you know, I have a very long overdue book,'” Mattchette said. “She put it on the counter and said she was sorry for keeping it so long.”

If the book had been returned anonymously, considering its age, it would have gone to the Friends of the Library for its book sale in March, Mattchette said.

Lois Swanson donated $20 to the library’s children’s fund and bought the book back, she said.

“I felt more embarrassed than anything, with everybody looking at me,” Lois Swanson said. “But the library was very nice.”

10 yo Girl makes blankets for children in need

The fruits of Kaylyn York’s allowance sit neatly stacked in the upstairs sewing room — Scooby Doo and dinosaurs and frogs dressed like Elvis.

Each length of soft cloth will be trimmed and edged into a blanket, ironed, bagged and eventually given to a local child at a hospital or domestic abuse shelter or in need in some other way.

Kaylyn, 10, a fourth-grader at Park Road Elementary School in Pittsford, is part of an army of people nationwide who have sewn more than 1.4 million blankets since 1995 for Project Linus, an Illinois-based nonprofit organization that provides blankets for children. The project’s name, of course, is a reference to the iconic character of the Peanuts comic strip who always toted a blanket.

Kaylyn, the daughter of Jean and Frank York, started with Project Linus last spring after her mother taught her to use a serger, a type of sewing machine.

That came on the tail of donating roughly 100 stuffed animals from her voluminous collection to Beanies for Baghdad, a program founded in 2003 by a U.S. Army major in Iraq to provide stuffed animals and other donated toys to children there.

“I like helping people,” Kaylyn said. “I enjoyed (my stuffed animals), but I thought someone else would enjoy them more.”

Kaylyn was raised to appreciate her fortunate upbringing.

“I always look for projects she can help with,” Jean York said. But the Project Linus work was Kaylyn’s initiative alone. “She’ll say: ‘Let’s go buy the material. I want to work on a blanket.'”

“It’s easy to give away the clothes that don’t fit you, the toys you don’t play with,” York said. “But when you have to put your money into it, your own time into it, that’s the difference.”

Kaylyn sets aside a portion of her allowance for charity and uses it to buy the materials to make the blankets.

Each one takes just a few minutes to stitch and finish off, she said. Kaylyn signs the blankets in one of the rounded corners. And she places a small leaflet into the bag with the blanket. It says, “I hope you enjoy this blanket as much as I enjoyed making it for you, and that it makes you happy.” Next to that is a smiley face.

Then she and her mother take the batch of blankets to the Gates home of Lucille Arthmann, coordinator of Rochester’s Project Linus chapter.

Kaylyn is one of 91 area residents who turn out blankets regularly for the charity, Arthmann said, along with nine church groups, four senior citizen groups and the occasional school or Girl Scout troop.

Since the chapter started in 1998, it has delivered 6,648 blankets to children in such places as Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, Rochester General Hospital, Alternatives for Battered Women, Rochester Family Mission and half a dozen others, Arthmann said.

Kaylyn said she usually does the blanket work on weekends. “After school, I have lots of homework to do.”

She is starting on a new round of blankets after finishing up a batch of 26 just before Christmas. She does not expect to end her Project Linus work anytime soon.

“I just bought a ton of material,” she said. “That’ll last me for a long while.”

Saturday, Dec. 24, 2005

Woman who returned diamond ring to receive diamond ring as award

The woman who found and returned the missing ring in a See’s Candies bag is scheduled this afternoon to receive a $2,500 diamond band as a reward.

San Jose resident Thea Sawyer says she plans to have the ring sold and use the proceeds to benefit the Mercury News’ Wish Book, the paper’s annual project that invites readers to help their neighbors. Details have yet to be worked out.

Sawyer said she was buying some Christmas gifts at See’s last Friday, the same day See’s clerk Wanda Estrada noticed the ring had slipped off her finger. Estrada was sure it somehow dropped into a bag of candy she filled during the holiday rush at the See’s store.

But it had actually fallen into the paper bag Estrada had given Sawyer to carry a gift basket out of the Prospect Road store in Saratoga. When Sawyer took the basket out of the bag on Wednesday, she spotted the ring underneath.

“I just by accident looked in the bag,” Sawyer said. “It was a lucky break.”

The story of the search for the ring had garnered national attention. Helzberg Diamonds, offered a $2,500 ring for anyone who came forward with Estrada’s missing band. Helzberg is set to present the ring to Sawyer this afternoon at its store in the Westfield Valley Fair shopping center.

Saturday, Dec. 17, 2005

Woman finds angel after losing wallet

Man who found wallet sought to repay kindness shown to him

Paula Rigsbee believes in angels on earth.

In fact, she’s convinced she found hers recently in the form of a Northeast Richland electrician.

The West Columbia woman’s story took place last weekend, when she was traveling to Greenwood to visit her mother.

Rigsbee, who works in the histology lab at Palmetto Health Baptist, had stopped at a convenience store on her way out of town to fill up her tank. But she left the station unaware she had dropped her wallet from the front pocket of her jean jacket.

“I didn’t know I had done that,” Rigsbee said. “I didn’t realize it was missing until I got almost home because I didn’t need it.”

Once she did, she frantically called her mother asking her to check the couches at her home. But that search and Rigsbee’s own inspection of her car turned up empty.

Only after arriving home did she find a note on her front door from a stranger saying he had found the wallet and that he had left it in her mailbox.

“All my money was there. Nothing was missing. Nothing,” Rigsbee said. “I don’t know if I cried harder at losing it or at getting it back.”

She eventually learned that her “angel” was Andre Williams, a Northeast Richland electrician.

Williams was picking up a friend, Lavell Wilson, in West Columbia on the way to complete a job in Blythewood. The two had stopped by the same convenience store Rigsbee stopped at to get some coffee. On his way out, Williams stepped on something. When he looked down, he discovered the wallet.

“We were trying to figure out what to do,” he said.

After locating Rigsbee’s driver’s license, Williams — who was unfamiliar with the area — spent nearly an hour looking for Rigsbee’s home where he left the note and the wallet.

“That was it,” he said.

Rigsbee was somewhat less matter-of-fact about the goodwill gesture.

“If he had been there when I got home, I probably would have married him,” she said. “It’s encouraging to know there are still people like that. You don’t see them everyday and you don’t always hear about them. I wouldn’t get rid of this note for anything in the world.”

For his part, Williams said he was just offering the same kindness that’s been shown to him.

“There are a lot of good folks in the world,” he said. “I do good because a lot of good has been done to me.”

Thursday, Dec. 15, 2005

Acts of kindness

In July, our two exterminating ladies, Loretta and Karen, came inside our house to do some spraying. When they left, Loretta said: “When we win the lottery, we are going to buy those people an air-conditioner.”

That night, they won the Arizona Lottery for $1.1 million.

We were away in August when they came for their regular service. They left us a note that they needed to talk to us. When they came back in September, they called my husband and me into the kitchen and proceeded to tell us what they had said on that lucky July day.

This month, our air-condition/gas heater is being installed at no cost to us.

Loretta and Karen are the greatest ladies around, and we cannot begin to tell them how much we appreciate what they have done for us. “Thank you” cannot even begin to express our gratitude.

Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2005

boy helps secure Miracle for disabled kids

For nearly two years, Joshua Monks has been raising money to build a baseball field for children with mental and physical challenges. He’s collected slightly more than $5,000.

The Poway seventh-grader received a huge boost yesterday when San Diego County supervisors pledged $900,000 for a field at San Dieguito County Park.

Miracle Field is expected to cost about $1.6 million and would be the first of its kind in the county, officials say. The field would have a synthetic rubber turf to accommodate children who use wheelchairs, walkers and crutches. It also would provide cushioning if a child falls.

Similar fields exist in Visalia, Orange County and Las Vegas. There are more than 80 built or under construction nationwide.

Suzie Engel, president of the Miracle League of San Diego, said the new field would give about 50,000 disabled children in the county the opportunity to play baseball.

Engel and Monks each began working to build a field in San Diego about the same time. They later joined their efforts and the county parks department expressed interest in the project.

Monks, who isn’t disabled, said he became interested after seeing a television report about the Miracle League.

He’s been asking for donations at sporting events and outside supermarkets. He also asked relatives to donate to the fundraising effort rather than buy gifts for his bar mitzvah in summer.

“I have played baseball for over eight years and I believe every child deserves a chance to play baseball,” Monks said. “With my hard work and the hard work of other individuals, my dream of having a Miracle League in San Diego has become a reality.”

Besides the field, the rules are also different in the Miracle League. Every player bats once each inning, all base runners are safe, and each player and each team wins every game. Players are assigned able-bodied buddies – friends, schoolmates or volunteers – who assist them in hitting the ball and running the bases.

The county will use $700,000 from its general fund, $100,000 from Supervisor Bill Horn’s discretionary fund, and $100,000 in state disability funds to begin construction.

Horn called it a “tremendous start” to help build the field but said the project is still far from reaching its $1.6 million goal.

“I hope others in the local business and service community join us in supporting the project,” Horn said.

If additional funds were raised, the field would open in spring 2007.

Supervisor Ron Roberts pushed for the county’s television network to create a public service announcement about the project.

“I’d really like to see that we can maybe take this a step further and help to publicize this and allow people to see what this really means,” he said.

Thursday, Nov. 24, 2005

Girl uses birthday money to buy gifts for Angel Tree

A Jenison girl is showing the true spirit of the holiday season.

Katie Brower just recently celebrated her ninth birthday but with a twist this year.

Her friends helped her collect presents for the WOOD TV8 Salvation Army Angel Tree instead of getting presents for herself.

“I took $20 out of my piggy bank and I took it to Meijer and bought some toys,” she told 24 Hour News 8.

Brower’s mom helped her daughter drop off the presents to the WOOD TV8 studios.

The Salvation Army Angel Tree is in need of more donations.

If you would like to give a merry Christmas to a child, you can drop off a gift at one of many locations, including our station on 120 College Avenue in Grand Rapids.

Saturday, Nov. 19, 2005

Cab driver returns lost diamonds – Jeweller promises reward

A New York City jeweler is feeling thankful this weekend for the honesty of a cab driver thousands of miles away.

Jeweler Eric Austein was in a cab in the Los Angeles area on Wednesday, when he accidentally left behind a pouch containing $350,000 in diamonds.

The driver, 40 year-old Haider Sediqi, discovered the pouch. Inside there was also a cell phone bill, which helped the cabbie track down Austein.

Luckily, Austein hadn’t boarded his flight for New York yet and was able to claim his precious cargo.

Sediqi says it never occurred to him to keep the diamonds.

Austein has promised a reward.

Inside Good News Blog