ROSES to the individuals, civic and community groups, churches, and local businesses that joined forces to help give more than 2,500 Orange County children and families a brighter Christmas. The Orange County Department of Social Service last year launched a new initiative, the Orange County Toy Chest, to go along with its Share Your Holiday program.Coordinated in partnership with Toys for Tots, the Toy Chest program allowed low-income parents to select two or three toys per child. The toys had been donated by community members and area businesses. The Hillsborough Moose Lodge was especially generous; it held a benefit barbecue cook-off last April and gave $3,500 to the project.Both the Toy Chest and the Share Your Holiday programs drew wide community support, which says a lot both about the organizers of those projects and the community at large. Thanks to you, a lot of local youngsters woke up on Christmas morning to find that Santa hadn't forgotten them.
ROSES to Michelle Brownstein, a parent who saw that Mary Scroggs Elementary School needed more playground equipment and took it upon herself to do something about it.Scroggs is filled to the brim, and the original playground facilities weren't sufficient to serve the sizable student body. Brownstein managed to get two grants -- one from the North Carolina PTA and the other from the Lowes Toolbox for Education -- to pay for additional playground equipment.Then she gathered an army of supporters and helpers, including physical education teacher Sue Dewalt Brown, who helped select the equipment, and high school students and Eagle Scouts David Hare and Daniel Pearce, who helped install it (and in process completed their service requirements). It wasn't easy; the project involved relocating a pond with its ecosystem, a shade structure and several planting beds, and installing a balance beam, chinning bar, sit-up station, push-up station, parallel bars and climbing panels. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district pitched in by moving a fence.Brownstein and the other individuals and groups she corralled have helped give the kids at Scroggs more opportunities to enjoy themselves and benefit from physical activity, and in the meantime given them a lesson in initiative and cooperation.
ROSES to Anne Carlstein, a student at Seawell Elementary School who already has a more successful writing career than most adult would-be authors.Anne won third place in Reading Rainbow's National Young Writers and Illustrators Contest, third-grade division. Her short story "The Magical Backpack" was named the third-place winner out of approximately 10,000 entrants nationwide.Last spring, Anne won first place at the state level in the Reading Rainbow competition -- for the third year in a row. In first grade she won for her story "Wanda and Eliza." In second grade she won for "The Fairy of Mediumish," and in third grade she won for "The Magical Backpack."Rising to the top even once is impressive. Doing it three years in a row is almost, well, magical.