Did you enjoy celebrating our country's anniversary July Fourth?
My husband, Glenn Nowicki, put together a block party this year. We were the first family to move into our new subdivision in late 2004, and Glenn has been the unofficial Good Neighbor, welcoming subsequent families with plates of cookies as they arrived and taking many of them Christmas goodies each year.
He's always wanted to do a Fourth of July block party, but he's been gone to visit family in Illinois or canoe down the Yukon River in Alaska in years past. Not this year.
He invited everyone in our 40-plus home subdivision to come. We'd supply the hamburgers, hot dogs and cold water; everyone else was to bring a side dish or dessert. And, because most of our neighbors are Latino, he had the invitation translated into Spanish.
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The neighbor across the street, Josefina Jiminez, was Glenn's co-leader, giving helpful planning suggestions, providing the condiments and paper plates, making side dishes, adding more cold drinks, helping arrange the long tables. Her husband, Lorenzo, added barbecued chicken and tri-tip to the huge potluck table.
We weren't sure whether there would be 10 or 200 people at the party; about 100 -- from toddlers to grandparents and singles to large families -- showed up, including friends and relatives. Name tags color coded to the block where people lived helped identify immediate neighbors. The weather, thankfully, was perfect.
Youngsters shot off small fireworks and lighted sparklers before dusk, with teens and adults later lighting the fountains and larger pieces in the middle of our cul de sac. The grand finale was an arrangement of about 40 fountains, set off at the same time.
The evening was a huge success and many folks said, "This was a great idea." I highly recommend it as a way to get to know your neighbors next year.
Cathy Line, controller of Valley Heart Associates Medical Group in Modesto, wrote to commend the company's receptionist, Christina Torres.
Last month, Christina found a wallet tucked down in a chair in the waiting room. It didn't have any identification in it, just a photo of a small child taken in the early 1990s with her first name on the back. And, oh yes, more than $1,000 in cash.
Although Christina could easily have used the money, "put it in her pocket and said, 'Oh, this will buy the extra groceries I need,' she instead chose the right thing to do," Cathy said. "She turned it into the building manager.
"Christina is a 'Generation Xer,' a group that certainly gets its share of bad press with reports of an entitlement mentality and an 'I want it without having to work for it' mantra.
"But Christina is a caring and giving person, one with character and integrity. No one came back for (the wallet), so the Modesto Police Department picked it up the next week."
If you're the one who lost it, you can claim it at the police station by identifying the child and photo.
As for Christina, Cathy said the Valley Heart staff plans to honor her at a celebration this month and give her a gift card to reward her for her honesty.
"We're so proud of her," Cathy said.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.