Banks County Opinions...

MARCH 31, 2004


Column

By: Phillip Sartain
The Banks County News
March 31, 2004

When angels come calling
Two weeks ago, a very special event took place at Maysville Elementary School.
150 strangers from one of the country’s better-known companies came to help spruce up the grounds at the school and an event unlike any other that ever happened in the little town of Maysville had begun.
There was no denying the fact that the school was looking a little forlorn, forgotten. Unfortunately, that outside look was having an effect on the kids on the inside.
Some of their friends and playmates were being driven away every by their parents to attend another school, a “better” school.
Luckily, there was a a person in the community who decided to take up the challenge, Cheryl Sewell. She pursued every option she could find to get the school noticed and get some support for the kids.
One her campaigns involved writing letters to all the local businesses in the area, from Banks and Jackson counties.
Though the response was not great, she did made a contact with the manager and staff at the Timberland store at Banks Crossing.
That simple plea brought the local staff out to help during a day of community service.
Timberland employees and management are encouraged to volunteer in their communities. In fact, the CEO of the company, Jeff Swartz, believes in community service so much, he says no resume is complete without volunteerism listed on it.
Cheryl and the local manager set out to bring the Timberland crew to Maysville during their retreat at Lake Lanier Islands. One of the workshops is a day of community service. There was plenty of competition and it was a long shot. But, Cheryl had a plan.
What made the CEO choose Maysville wasn’t all the fancy talk, or grant forms or whys and wherefores. He came because of all the handwritten letters from the kids. He felt their spirit, wanted to meet them and help them.
The day and time were set and the school put together a welcome for their guests.
There were the kids, 400 kids from kindergarteners to fifth-graders, in a “power line.” The buses drove up and the kids just started yelling their hearts out. They waved banners. They were so thankful and there would be no doubt of that.
Now, these 150 people getting off the bus were taken by surprise. As they moved down through the line high-fiving the kids and shaking hands, some had tears in their eyes.
The remarkable thing to me was that these people weren’t just average employees, they were the go-getters of the international company, the highly productive sales reps. People who one wouldn’t normally associate with tears and surprised expressions.
The day continued on with such emotion. Adults giving to kids, kids giving back to adults. It’s hard to say who was helped more.
Even harder to say – who were the real angels? To me, they all were. And for one afternoon, I got to watch this joy and warmth unfold. Something I will humbly remember and cherish.
It’s a shame more people from the community weren’t there. Yet, maybe that was how it should have been.
Just the angels, playing in the dirt and mud together.
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.

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Column

By: Angela Gary
The Banks County News
March 31, 2004

A love of hats and tea time
A little over 10 years ago, I bought a box of old hats at an estate sale. They came in all colors, shapes and sizes and a few even had feathers and flowers on them. They were in great shape.
My hats have brought lots of laughs over the years. We have worn them for tea parties at our house and at tea rooms we visit. It’s always fun to try them on and imagine what ladies decades ago did while wearing them.
I used the hats to decorate the walls of my bedroom in our old house. Now, I have a few of my favorites on stands as decorations in the new house. The others are in boxes in the attic. I pull them out for special occasions, such as the tea we had in December for family and friends.
I was so excited to see a local chapter of The Red Hat Society being formed in Jefferson. It would give me the perfect opportunity to wear some of my hats. I pulled out all of the red ones for my mother and the pink ones for myself. Ladies under 50 wear pink to The Red Hat Society get-togethers, while those over 50 wear red.
In addition to having a long-time love of hats, I have also had a long-time love of “Warning,” the poem by Jenny Joseph that inspired a California woman to start the first Red Hat Society with her friends.
In 1990, I bought a book of poems about women and the stages they go through in life. The title of the book was “When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple.” Jenny Joseph wrote the foreward of the book and her poem was the first one in the collection. I was in my early 20s at the time but I loved that poem about a woman who wears red hats and clashing purple clothes as she gets older. I even wrote a column in the early 1990s about the poem and how much I enjoyed it. I had no idea that a decade later it would inspire a club that has become the fastest growing sensation in the United States.
I still have the book of poems and I pulled it out recently to re-read it. In the foreward, Joseph wrote about what inspired her to write “Warning.”
“It came from years of idling, of walking around towns looking at the streets and people in them and wondering what they were really thinking; it came from sitting on benches in parks with nothing to do and noticing the inhabitants, listening to people talking to themselves or others on tops of buses.”
Joseph wrote that foreward in 1990. She said that she had written the poem in 1960 when she was nowhere near being middle-aged. She had no idea how much the poem would come to mean to women across the world who celebrated it by putting on red hats and flashy purple outfits. However, it had already touched the lives of many people.
She wrote: “Plainly I am not going to be able to disown her (the woman in the poem) not, for in her bold and generous way she has pushed me into some extraordinary adventures and changes, and for that I am duty-bound to be grateful to her.”
The poem really does touch women of all ages. As I said, I was in my 20s when I first discovered it, but it still made me think of growing old and doing whatever I wanted to, regardless of what the world thought. I read the lines, “I shall go out in my slippers in the rain and pick the flowers in other people’s gardens and learn to spit,” and smiled at what was to come.
I’m so excited that a poem I discovered and admired so long ago has led to a movement that encourages you to dress as tacky and silly as possible and have fun. It also gives me a chance to wear my wonderful hats to tea.
Angela Gary is associate editor of The Jackson Herald and editor of The Banks County News. She can be reached at AngieEditor@aol.com


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