One wish, 1,000 cranes

Published 12:30 am Thursday, May 14, 2015

SALISBURY — By day, attorney Nancy Gaines is used to advocating for her clients, cross-examining witnesses and giving closing arguments to a jury. At night, it’s not unusual for Gaines to be concentrating on something she finds much less stressful, but just as rewarding.

She folds cranes.

Gaines and others with Families First have set a goal of folding 1,000 cranes this month — a crane for every $5 in donations this United Way agency receives in support of its Second Step anti-bullying program.

The Japanese believe if you fold 1,000 cranes, a wish will come true.

“This is our first wish, and we’ll see what happens,” Gaines says.

As the donations come into Families First for Second Step, Gaines and others are hanging their folded white cranes in a display window at the Salisbury Wine Shop, 106 S. Main St.

By the time the campaign is over, the window will be filled with 1,000 origami cranes. Gaines hopes something as simple as the cranes helps Families First maintain and expand its Second Step anti-bullying program.

“Our wish is to stop bullying in the schools,” Families First Executive Director Jeannie Sherrill says.

The weekly program costs about $28.93 per child over a year and is aimed at 4-year-old, kindergarten and first-grade students.

“$5,000 would send it over the moon,” says Gaines, a Families First board member.

She also hopes it raises awareness for Families First’s other important programs, such as Visitation Station, The Courthouse Child Care Center, Good Beginnings for Teen Parents and others aimed at strengthening children and parents.

“Families First does a lot of good things,” Gaines says. “We see a lot of what they do at the courthouse. People just don’t know who we are.”

Credit Gaines with the idea for the cranes, fashioned out of an 8 1/2-inch square piece of paper, She wanted a fund-raising idea that was different from the usual meet-and-greet gatherings with food and drink that so many of the same people are invited to on a regular basis.

Putting on those events can be quite labor and time intensive — and expensive in their own right. “The things we were doing were not always working out the way we would have liked,” Gaines adds.

Something triggered the idea as Gaines was browsing online, and she realized that if she could fill one of Salisbury Wine Shop’s window displays with 1,000 cranes, it could be quite beautiful, plus raise the profile of Families First’s programs.

At least a half dozen places downtown, including the Salisbury Wine Shop, have collection boxes to accept donations toward the cranes. Families First also has set up a GoFundMe site through which people can donate online.

That site is

Gaines says Second Step teaches young children some of the skills needed to avoid and deal with bullying behavior in others. Bullying tactics are something she sees in juvenile court all the time, Gaines says.

“We’re hearing really good things back from the schools on that program,” she adds.

Gaines also fully appreciates Visitation Station, which through the courts sets up safe weekend exchanges of children between warring parents or provides for supervised visitations for parents with their children.

The Court Child Care Center provided by Families First offers another safe harbor, where children can go and play while their parents conduct sometimes sensitive courthouse business.

“I really like the program working with teen parents, to keep them in school,” Gaines says of Good Beginnings and the Teen Parenting Initiative sponsored by Families First. The program teaches parenting skills and dramatically improves participants’ prospects for success by keeping them in school. It boasted a 100 percent graduation rate this past year.

Gaines is in the brainstorming mode again over what to do with all the cranes after the fund-raising effort is over. And she’s wondering whether more cranes might be in Families First’s future.

Remember, this is only a first wish.

You can contact Families First at 704-630-0481, by email at, or through the mail at 855 Crescent Road, P.O. Box 459, Rockwell, N.C. 28138. Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or