Small Town Big Hearts

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The Pine Senior Cultural Center was as busy as Santa's workshop last Thursday with volunteers from the Pine-Strawberry Pantry filling holiday food boxes for more than 50 recipients, including families and seniors living in the Pine-Strawberry area.

Each holiday gift box boasted a turkey with all the trimmings, homemade cookies and candy canes.

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Pine-Strawberry Pantry members Laverne Furr, Sharon Balentine, Thelma Anderson, Helen Palmer, Jean Bean and Marti Heinert (not pictured) spent most of Dec. 20 packing holiday gift boxes. The 50-plus boxes were then distributed to needy families in the Pine-Strawberry area.

The Strawberry Patchers contributed beautiful handmade Christmas stockings filled with goodies for the children. Also, the Strawberry Elite donated Christmas bags filled with gifts for the adult angel tree.

Early in the day, Walt and Willene Smith dropped off 60 children's quilts crafted by the DPS Quilt Angels.

Robyn Hill's, Kutz Etc. collected over $500.00 worth of food items for the boxes.

The Ponderosa Market also contributed food items to the effort.

In addition to the food and wonderful gifts, the Pantry also received generous cash donations.

Sharon Balentine, president of the Pine-Strawberry Pantry, praised the generosity of the Pine-Strawberry community, saying the support for the holiday benefit was overwhelming.

For those in need, food is distributed the first Tuesday of the month at the Senior Cultural Center. In addition to food, personal hygiene and laundry items are available. Hours and information are posted on the door at the Cultural Center, Highway 260 in Pine.

Last chance to contribute to Arizona Credit for Kids

Since Arizona Credit for Kids tax contributions must be made before Dec. 31, 2007, time is growing short to participate in the highly worthwhile program that has proven in past years to be a much needed financial boost for our small, rural school district.

Doris Randall, of Pine-Strawberry school, says donations have been rolling in slowly, but she's hoping contributions pick up as the deadline nears.

Credit for Kids gives taxpayers a credit against their state income tax liability for donations to public or charter schools in Arizona.

For tax year 2007, the maximum credit is $200 for single filers and $400 for joint filers. Our school, and all others who receive donations, must use the donated funds to support extracurricular activities or character education programs.

Taxpayers may specify which department will receive the funds.

You do not have to have children in school or live in the school district. You need only to be an Arizona state taxpayer.

The donation is taken as a tax credit when filing your state tax, and even if you owe no taxes and paid at least $400 ($200 for individual taxpayers) you will receive a refund for the amount of your credit.

Last year, Pine-Strawberry taxpayers donated a tidy $57,500 to our school, which represented more money per student than many larger districts in Arizona.

Our goal this year should be to surpass that mark and send a message around the state that Pine-Strawberry is a community that takes pride in our public schools and children.

Celebrate the New Year's Eve under the Rim

Rimside Grill in Pine will offer dinner selections of filet mignon, marinated/spice rubbed pork tenderloin or macadamia nut crusted Ahi Tuna.

All are served with scrumptious side dishes. Live music will be provided by Vyktoria Pratt-Keating. And of course New Year's Eve would not be complete without a champagne toast at midnight. Call (928) 476-3349 for more information and reservations.

Pine Verde Mexican Restaurant & Cantina will host a karaoke party from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. A New Year's Eve carne asada and enchilada dinner with side dishes will be a featured item on the menu. The New Year will ring in at midnight with champagne and party favors.

For more festivities, travel a bit farther up the mountain to the Mogollon Steak House and Lounge in Strawberry. The New Year's menu includes live lobster, T-bone steak or vegetarian pasta.

The venue also includes live music by the very popular Junction 87 band, party favors and champagne to toast in the 2008 New Year. Call (928) 978-7101 for reservations. Free limo rides will be available from 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. between Mogollon Steak House and the Pine Verde Mexican Restaurant.

So long, 2007

As the year ends, like most, I look back at everything that has happened and sometimes wonder, "what if?"

What if I hadn't started writing this column? I would have missed meeting so many great people in my towns. I have learned so much about the caring and giving people I live around. Thanks for your help and words of encouragement.

I remember as a child, wondering about starting the school year one year and ending the next.

I still don't know if anyone really explained that to my satisfaction.

I remember my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, telling us we would live to see the year 2000, but she wouldn't. Now, I think that was a somewhat strange thing to tell fourth-graders, but you had to know and appreciate Mrs. Cook. Then when 2000 was almost here, it was predicted that the end of the world was upon us.

Moral of the story, listen to your teachers, they know these things.

Have a safe and Happy New Year.

-- Kay Foster is a columnist for the Payson Roundup.

Contact her with items for this column at (928) 476-2788 or e-mail fosterkay@

msn.com.

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