As you read this, Christmas is a mere 11 days away. It’s been so warm and dry, it’s difficult to believe it’s true, but the festive parties that have begun are beginning to make me sing (under my breath to spare my colleagues), “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”
On Thursday, Reading Club of Durango took a trip “through time and space,” as the science fiction writers occasionally say, and it looked like Christmas in spades.
The journey was through time because the club has had an ongoing relationship with the venerable hotel. Celebrating its 132nd year in 2014, the club was five years old when the Strater opened.
Members immediately began holding meetings and socials there, particularly during the winter, when many would close their drafty Victorians on East Third Avenue and move into the hotel for the winter. So, while we were lunching on a delicious salad with chicken, grapes, Gorgonzola cheese and candied walnuts topped by a balsamic vinaigrette, surrounded by Victoriana, there was a real sense of belonging. Dessert was a white cake with raspberry coulis.
Because the Strater is all decked out for the holidays, everything was glistening and sparkling red, green, white, gold and silver, so there was no question what season it is.
Meanwhile, on the traveling through space front, this year’s study theme is our neighbor to the north, Canada. Member Linda MacCannell, who spends part of the year residing in Alberta, made it a pseudo-Canada Day. (The real one is July 1.)
Guests arrived to be stickered and temporarily tattooed with that ubiquitous Canadian symbol, the red maple leaf. (I join President Maile Kane in thinking I’ve cut myself every time my hand flashes before my eyes.)
Tables included centerpieces with Canadian flags and “loonies,” Canadian coins worth about $2. The women received party favors with maple leaf-ornamented paper plates, chocolate “loonies” in gold foil and Smarties. (That they were Canadian was clear once one noticed the bilingual packaging.) MacCannell topped it off with postcards of Canadian scenes decorated with lapel pins, so members can attend meetings the rest of the year while sporting Canadian colors.
The club is greatly enjoying the theme. There’s so much more to Canada than really polite people and polar bears, and we tend to take it for granted as a good neighbor.
Unlike many book groups, where everyone reads the same book, and then the meetings are spent discussing the selection, Reading Club chooses a theme to study each year, and members create programs on some aspect of it. Themes can be anything. In recent years, the group has examined prizes and awards (and the accomplishments of recipients), the world of Islam (after Sept. 11, because understanding world issues always has been a club mission), authors of the Southwest, Asia, immigration in America and the immigrant experience, in the decades the club has been in existence.
A few years ago, the club decided to kick off every year with a group read, so everyone would have some essential background knowledge for appreciating the programs. This year, members had a choice of two selections: Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan and Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw by Will Ferguson.
Two Solitudes examines the complications in a country with two official languages and the conflict between the French and English heritage by looking at two families, one representing each culture. And while Ferguson’s book is out of print – $2,400 on Amazon for a new copy – many members found used copies and joined the humorist and social observer on a trek across the country.
The women left the luncheon promising to have some new books to recommend after the holidays and humming, in equal parts, “Oh, Canada” and “Let it Snow.”
It may be the darkest time of the year, but the world is aglow for the birthdays of Nancy Stohl, Emily Schaldach, Nick Branson, Doug Wolfe, Sue Walker, Joe Somrak, Jimmy Robinett, Corey Prentice, Carol Tookey, Eloise Talbert, Ryan Szura, Dick Perry, B.J. Pierce, Lucas Hoffman, John Condie, Ian Ellingson-Condie, Laurie Hakes, Kathryn Lavengood, Nick Salter, Amanda Gardner, Jane Robinson, Marie McCallum, Dianne Mensch, Charles Leslie and Jan Williams.
I recently wrote a story about all the good the money raised by Salvation Army bell ringers does in our community. Salvation Army Chairwoman Judy Duke dropped me a note saying she was disheartened to see a comment on the story online rehashing the canard about the organization discriminating against gays.
“This seems to be an urban legend that just won’t stop,” she said.
Duke shared the organization’s official policy:
“La Plata County Salvation Army values the diversity of our community.
“We respect each individual’s unique gifts and prohibit unfair or discriminatory practices against anyone because of age, sex, race, religion, national origin, disability or sexual orientation.”
And it’s not just a policy on paper.
“Nothing has ever come up about sexual orientation in any of our giving, meetings, anywhere,” she said.
Since Christmas is a time for giving, Mandi Miller Winn and her crew at Celebrations Event Productions are doing something special for area nonprofits.
They’re planning to create two new annual gala events, where they’ll do the bulk of the work, but the selected nonprofit will enjoy the benefits (and proceeds). The organization can do as much or as little as it wants, although obviously it will want to promote it and provide some manpower.
Winn also said they will offer partial sponsorships to freshen up an organization’s annual event.
I’ve been to several fundraisers and events where Celebrations has donated services, and its contribution always has ramped up the style and impact. At the Durango High School Senior Girls Tea, for example, they created centerpieces reflecting the occasion with antique tea caddies and tea cups. They even hung chandeliers to glam up the meeting rooms at the Durango Community Recreation Center.
To apply, nonprofits need to email a request including their tax identification number and the state where they are registered as a 501(c)3; a 200-word summary about your organization including what you do, who you serve and main sources of funding; an attachment with a list of board members, advisory boards and volunteers who might be able to help; and a link to your website. Send it to email@example.com no later than Friday. If you’re asking for help to freshen up an existing event, attach a description of the event.
There’s not enough snow for these anniversary couples to take a sleigh ride in celebration, but I’m sure they’ll find something fun to do – Scott and Cindy Lancaster, Clark and Brigitte Cunningham, Tom and Ann Duft and Kip and Laura Stransky.
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