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Gift of pens a messageof gratitude

Three people — one in Modesto and a couple in Arizona — sent in information regarding Jim Gollnick of Ceres. For the past five years, Jim has been making specialty pens and sending most of them to U.S. military personnel.

His pens, made of various types of wood and accents, have gone to Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt (his son-in-law is part of the multinational force patrolling the border between Gaza and Egypt) and stateside.

Some have gone to San Antonio. "There's a rehab center there for guys who have been wounded," Jim said.

The retired machinist has made more than 500 pens so far. Each one takes about an hour to make. More than 350 of them have gone to the troops.

"It's such a little thing," Jim said. "It feels good" to be doing even a small service to people in our armed forces, he added.

Wal-Mart gave $19,150 to area schools last month through its Kids Recycling Challenge. From September through March, schools collected plastic retail and grocery bags. For each 60-gallon collection bag filled, the schools received $5.

The school bringing in the most bags also received $3,000. A $2,000 prize was awarded for second place, $1,000 for third and $250 for fourth through 10th place.

Area winners were: Fremont Charter School in Merced, $5,820; Sullivan Creek School in Sonora, $2,895; Summerville Elementary, Tuolumne, $1,825; Mildred Perkins Elementary, Modesto, $925; McSwain Elementary, Merced, $815; Las Palmas Elementary, Patterson, $810; C.F. Brown Elementary, Modesto, $785; Salida Elementary, $635; Soulsbyville Elementary, $610; and Northmead School, Patterson, $580.

Jo Ann Wilson of Ceres had an annoying time when she was shopping recently. She said she making an exchange and had her check ready for the extra amount, which turned out to be only $2.15.

"I didn't realize until that moment that my wallet was not in my purse and the clerk needed to see my driver's license (for the check)," Jo Ann said. "So, for such a small amount, I tore up my check and decided to use my ATM or a credit card."

Then she realized both of those also were in her wallet.

"I started to get nervous as there was now quite a line behind me," she said. "I was about to tell the clerk to cancel the transaction so I could go find my wallet, when the woman behind me — all I know is that her first name is Carla — offered to pay the $2.15.

"I declined, but she insisted. I was embarrassed but grateful."

Jo Ann hurried to her car to get the wallet, which had fallen out of her purse, but didn't have any cash to take back to Carla. She went back and asked the clerk if the do-gooder had written a check, thinking that she could at least write a thank-you note. Carla had not.

"I will 'pay it forward' to someone else in the near future," Jo Ann said. "Who was it that voted Modesto the worst place to live?"

Certainly not readers of this column.

Do you have a story about someone who has helped others or is a terrific role model? Send a brief item to Sue Nowicki at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352 or e-mail