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This is the story of a good cause.
And a good neighborhood.
And a good kid.
Our story begins at Southeast Middle School, where Henry has embraced his sixth-grade independence with gusto. He knows three locker combinations by heart, changes classes like a pro, stays after school for football games and dances and does his homework without complaint.
When the student council launched a service project called “Winter Wishes,” homeroom representative Henry Brown wanted to do more than just bring in a few cans of food.
So he e-mailed our neighbors. About 150 of them.
Fulton Heights has a very active presence on the worldwide web. We have our own Web site (www.fultonheights neighborhood.org) and an extensive listserv. If someone suspicious hangs around our new park, or graffiti appears on the side of a garage, or a car gets keyed or egged or even “bologna-ed,” which actually happened, we know about it almost immediately.
With just one e-mail, Henry reached about a third of the homes in Fulton Heights.
Our story continues on Quite Possibly The Busiest Weekend Of The Year. My datebook had a month’s worth of activities scribbled into three squares: wrap and ship gifts to South Dakota (priority mail), Angel Tree deliveries (Salvation Army), Culture Club annual cookie exchange (make 100 gingerbread cupcakes), Nellie’s Christmas program (need brown shirt), Clara’s dance recital (don’t forget tap shoes), buy Charlie’s birthday gift and Christmas CDs (no Hannah Montana!), teach Sunday school (Jesus in the manger), choirs sing in church (have girls robed by 10), Nellie to birthday party (wear socks for roller skating), buy 15 gifts for dance class (two boys, no lip gloss), attend Nutcracker (look for Toby), take Christmas card picture (with dog).
Oh yes, plus make, roll and cut out sugar cookies to hang on tree, a Ford Family Tradition.
To make things even more interesting, I was a single parent that weekend. With my blessing, my husband had gone on a trip with the guys.
Underlined three times, Saturday’s square read, “Winter Wishes pick up!!”
As the kids and I began driving around the neighborhood, I started to worry. We passed lots of houses with no luck. Henry tried to hide his disappointment.
Suddenly, we saw a bag. Then another, and another. Henry ran to porches on one side of the street, Nellie ran to porches on the other.
Donations piled up in the back of the van as we wound our way through Fulton Heights. We played Christmas music, and Clara called out the window, “Thank you!”
It started to rain. Beautiful rain! The kids cheered like it was snow.
Our story ends on Monday morning, when my husband and Henry delivered 55 coats, gloves and scarves, 12 bags of pet food and 104 cans to Southeast.
“The poor people and the pet shelter will really like everything you guys gave,” Henry wrote to the neighborhood that night. “Thank you so much, you did a great job.”
It’s the craziest time of the year: decorating, shopping, spending, wrapping, shipping, traveling, hurrying, baking, rehearsing, performing, delivering, organizing, worrying, partying, recovering and just barely sleeping.
But it’s also the most wonderful time of the year: giving.
nnnEmily Ford covers the N.C. Research Campus for the Salisbury Post.

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