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Helping Sandy victims stay warm

The members of Project Linus are preparing to send 50 blankets to child victims of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast. Showing off their wares at their annual meeting are, standing from left, Anne Erickson, Mert Goff, Sarah Shepherd, Jane Benham, Susan Davies, Bobbe Kraayenbrink, Donna Nemecek, Eileen Greene and Regina Hogan, and seated, Marjorie Appel and Eleanor Gurule. The group and volunteers such as the Children’s Ministry Program at St. Columba Parish, who help assemble fleece-tied blankets, have made more than 5,600 blankets in the last 11 years. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Regina Hogan

The members of Project Linus are preparing to send 50 blankets to child victims of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast. Showing off their wares at their annual meeting are, standing from left, Anne Erickson, Mert Goff, Sarah Shepherd, Jane Benham, Susan Davies, Bobbe Kraayenbrink, Donna Nemecek, Eileen Greene and Regina Hogan, and seated, Marjorie Appel and Eleanor Gurule. The group and volunteers such as the Children’s Ministry Program at St. Columba Parish, who help assemble fleece-tied blankets, have made more than 5,600 blankets in the last 11 years.

The scenes of devastation on the East Coast have stunned all of us, particularly since the nor’easter Athena arrived to give the folks in New Jersey and New York a knock-out punch.

Most of us have given to the Red Cross, but there’s a way we can contribute just a little more, shall we say, locally?

The Durango Area Chapter of Project Linus has been asked to collaborate with chapters across the country to provide handmade blankets for children whose families have been displaced by Mother Nature. They have 50 blankets prepared for sister chapters in New Jersey and New York who already have organized distribution efforts.

It’s the postage that’s the obstacle. Sending 50 blankets by a method that will get the blankets there in a timely manner is pretty pricey. The chapter is asking us to kick in what we can, even if it’s just a few dollars from many of us, to get those blankets to where they’re most needed. Coordinator Regina Hogan tells me 100 percent of the contributions will be used for postage.

Make your check out to Project Linus and mail it to Regina Hogan, 60 Baranca Drive, Durango, CO 81301.

Though not a crafty person myself, I have a great deal of respect for these folks. They quilt, crochet, knit, sew and piece beautiful blankets out of yarn and fabric, about 500 a year. Those blankets go to children and teenagers who are ill or who have been traumatized in some way. I have read some of the thank-you notes the chapter receives, and they are utterly heartwarming.

On Nov. 3, the chapter held its annual meeting at Christ the King Lutheran Church, just one of many area organizations receiving the gift of meeting space from the church. It turns out that when they’re not making blankets, these folks are cooking, so the meeting included a terrific lunch with homemade soups, rolls and desserts.

Hogan said it’s been a notable year for the group, as Project Linus received the 2012 Community Hero Award from the Southwest Colorado Chapter of the American Red Cross in March.

“This is truly an important honor for us,” Hogan said, “as we continue our mission to provide children with love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to those traumatized, ill or in need through gifts of new, handmade blankets.”

One way the group is able to gather the materials to make the blankets, which are required to be new, is through the generous support of the La Plata Quilters Guild. This year, the guild held a show and sale at Fort Lewis College that generated the bulk of Project Linus’ funds.

After 11 years and 5,600 blankets, most distributed locally, although they have responded to other natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, it seems to me the least the rest of us can do is help them get the blankets where they’re needed. And as far as I’m concerned, if my $10 isn’t needed for postage, I want them to throw it in their fund for new materials.

Thanks for all you do, Project Linus.

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Breaking out their winter coats for their birthdays are Jane Mercer, Marilee White, Gayle Brown, Peeb Lupia, Georgine Mounts, Charlie Thames, Jeannie Bennett, Richard Cox, Bill Postler, Debbie Van Winkle, Camron Baum, Ginny Clark, Meghan Youngblood, John Cooley, Danya Eggleston, Carol Gordon, Gerilyn Hoyt, Jenny Pritchard, Lydia Townsend, Julie Arbaugh, Germaine Rogers, Dawn Spaeder and Susan Stamets.

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Wow, Durango has kept me so busy I’m getting behind again on stories. This is so not the Durango I grew up in!

I completely spaced writing about Jazz on the Hill, which was one of the highlights of September. Created as a fundraiser for the Russ and Bette Serzen Endowment for Concert Hall Operations, the crowd at the sold-out event enjoyed every second on Sept. 22, thanks in large part to organizer Cheryl Folwell.

We dined on the stage at the concert hall, which is probably the only time I’ll ever be up there, and it was so cool to look up and realize just how big and beautiful the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College is.

Strater Catering & Events did its usual great job, serving us a lovely salad with red grapes, Gorgonzola cheese, red onions, candied walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette. That was followed with two of my favorites, pepper steak Herbert and salmon with citrus butter, served with creamy mashed potatoes and haricots verts. The meal ended with the Strater’s signature triple chocolate-mousse tower.

But as fine as the meal was, it was the entertainment that was stellar, as one might imagine from the name of the event. And it was a testament to just how fine the music department at FLC is. The trio of Lee Bartley on piano – OK, he’s not associated with the Fort, but he could be – percussionist extraordinaire and assistant professor of music Jonathan Latta and bass player and student Spencer Church were a great start.

But the three guest-artist students took it over the top. Brian Stoneback on tenor saxophone, James Olinger on guitar and Samuel Kelly on alto sax took their moment in the spotlight and ran with it.

Latta made it a learning experience – each student created his own arrangement of a standard, then taught it to the trio. If the audience was allowed to give grades, it was straight “A”s all the way.

While the evening was great fun, the reason we were there was all too serious. When the community came together to build the concert hall 15 years ago, one message that got lost was that the giving needed to continue for the ongoing operations, because the college could not bear the full load alone.

And if that were true 15 years ago, imagine how much more our giving matters now, when the state of Colorado has cut the per student funding by more than 50 percent during the last 10 years. (That’s compared to an average of 20 percent in cuts per student around the country.) More than one person has told me that at this rate, the college will be a private institution of higher learning in another 10 years or so.

Russ Serzen was a great fan of jazz, and after his death, Bette founded the endowment to support one of their favorite places. It’s up to about $75,000 now, but concert hall general manager Charles Leslie tells me we need to get it to $1 million for it to start truly providing meaningful support for the operations at the hall.

I know many people think buying a ticket to a performance is their way of supporting the concert hall, and it does, don’t get me wrong. But for many performances, ticket sales cover only about a third of the cost. What isn’t covered is the overhead, the staff, keeping the lights turned on ...

If you would like to join in the effort to support Community Concert Hall operations, give Leslie a call at 247-7468, visit www.durangoconcerts.com or call the Fort Lewis Foundation, which manages the endowment, at 247-6179.

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I think everyone can agree with me (and the 4-year-old from Fort Collins who doesn’t want to hear anymore about “Bronco Bama” and Mitt Romney) that we are awfully glad the election of 2012 is over. But despite the super PAC toxic mailers, the over-the-top radio and television ads and constant robocalls, there was one part of it I did enjoy – the political cartoons.

And that’s thanks to Herald cartoonist and critic Judith Reynolds, who gave a talk called “Iconoclasts and Outsiders: The Art of Cartooning in an Election Year,” as part of the Lifelong Learning Series put on by the Professional Associates of Fort Lewis College.

After a primer about the history and conventions of political cartooning, she made a point that bears repeating – Americans are not great at irony or satire.

It explained for me why the Durango Arts Center’s performance of the ultimate satire of small town life, “Greater Tuna” the summer before last offended so many people while delighting others. I guess living in Europe, where satire is the king of comedy, rubbed off on me, because I was one of the delighted ones.

But I digress. Reynolds also pointed out the ultimate strength of political cartooning.

“It’s pointing out truth to power,” she said. “It’s seeing the irony, the foolishness, pointing out falsehoods.”

There are also two different schools of political cartooning, which originated in two of the powerhouses of the ancient world, Greece and Rome. Greece gave us Horatius, whose approach was witty and playful. Rome contributed Juvenal, whose humor was abrasive and angry.

What school do you think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert follow?

The next time you look at a political cartoon, don’t just give it a glance – take some time to really look at the drawing, how it exaggerates and distorts the image, the symbolism that tells us so much in one look, even if it’s mostly subliminal.

And if the caricature of the president is wearing a crown or is portrayed as a king, you’ll be seeing the worst jab a political cartoonist can take at the leader of a democracy.

That leaves me with the ultimate lesson we all learned this week. No matter who wins or loses an election, we’re all in this together. In a small town like Durango, we’re going to see people with different political leanings than ours at the grocery store, bank or next fundraiser for a cause important to our community.

And I hope everyone will remember we are all good people who love this country and this place we call home, even if we’re going to have to agree to disagree on how to run it.

That’s as close to politics as I ever want to get in Neighbors!

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Hopefully these couples will be shoveling a little snow for their anniversaries – Donald and Marilyn Baker and Ben and Donna Arizza.

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Here’s how to reach me: neighbors@durangoherald.com; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items.

I am happy to consider photos for Neighbors, but they must be high-quality, high-resolution photos (at least 1 MB of memory) and include no more than three to five people. I need to know who’s who, left to right, and who to credit with the photo. Candid photos are better than posed.

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