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Having a ball

S ALISBURY — It started in Greensboro, with a group of folks who got together to turn ordinary chicken wire and Christmas tree lights into something extraordinary.
And now, Salisbury’s a place where Christmas light balls are shining in greater numbers, thanks to members of John Calvin Presbyterian Church and local citizens.
About 15 turned out for the decorating workshop Saturday, which followed the annual decorating of the sanctuary and fellowship hall by parishioners.
Richard Browne — when asked his occupation, he quipped, “pastor’s wife” — helped unspool the chicken wire on the floor of the church fellowship hall.
A few feet away, John Wilson sat wearing heavy leather gloves, braiding together the end strands of the wire to form a cylinder.
“I don’t know anything about this. I came here today to learn,” Wilson said.
Nearby, his wife, Judy, was fixing a string of lights around one of those wire frames — the ends of the cylinder bent together, tied with wire and then “mushed” until mostly round.
Once the ball has been rolled into shape, it’s a matter of wrapping the strands of lights around it, much like wrapping a ball of yarn.
The biggest thing John Wilson learned: “You just have to remember that chicken wire was invented to hurt people!” he said with a grin.
The Wilsons aren’t members of John Calvin Presbyterian. Judy said they just enjoy volunteering and attending local events.
“It’s just being a part of the community,” Judy said.
Pastor Kellie Browne said this is the third year members have hosted the workshop on making Christmas light balls.
The church provided the wire, and there were some refreshments on hand.
In exchange for the materials, people were asked to bring cans of food for donation to Rowan Helping Ministries’ food pantry.
Plus, the experienced folks gave decorating tips.
Richard Browne talked about how some have made a simple pulley system for raising the light balls into treetops.
Tie twine around a baseball, then toss it high into the branches, he said.
The other end of the line can be tied to the light ball to form a makeshift pulley.
One caution: “If you’re not careful, you may end up with a permanent decoration in your tree,” he said.
Judy Wilson said that Christmas lights are not just a fun craft project, but a good way to bring people together once they’re lit and in the trees.
“It’s a visual thing. People go out and look at the lights, instead of getting caught up in the shopping and running around,” Judy said.
“It gives the people something else to do, to go out and see with the kids.”
Pastor Browne said that, with Saturday’s collection, her church is on its way to having collected one ton of food during 2012.
“Our people are really good about giving,” said Rev. Browne.
She said the Christmas food drive is part of a regular series of food collections, all of which goes to Rowan Helping Ministries.
“I think everybody thinks f the food drive around Christmastime, when everybody is giving,” she said.
But the need is year-round.
Aside from giving back to the hungry, some of the Christmas light balls will be given to senior citizens to help brighten their yards, and their spirits.
These programs help form friendships, Rev. Browne said.
And, just as hundreds of Christmas light balls now adorn neighborhoods in Greensboro, where the fad started, she said that Salisbury might follow suit.
“Who knows what will happen?” she said. “It all started with one or two guys in that neighborhood, too.”

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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