Storytelling is an ancient tradition. Pine-Strawberry’s annual participation in this celebration of sharing has been going on for 20 years. Saturday night was a success as Chef George Sanders of the Pine-Strawberry Senior Center treated 60 folks to a gourmet dinner. Students from Pine-Strawberry Elementary School delivered drinks, bussed tables and added smiles to the event. Chef George raved about the students, not just this year, but every year these kids assist and are hardworking, helpful and happy.

“I’m so impressed every year. It gives me hope for the future,” George said.

I joined the dinner crowd and was not disappointed. But more than great food, I observed strangers sitting at communal tables, introductions made and stories immediately shared. Conversation and laughter was the background music and the appetizer to our evening. I was fortunate to share my table with one storyteller, Doug Bland.

“The shortest distance between two people is a story,” Bland quipped with a slight grin, adding, “you can’t hate someone whose story you know.” Well said and positively proven as this room full of strangers shared a meal.

We then moved from the Senior Dining Hall to the Cultural Hall and were enthralled as six storytellers from all walks of life shared their stories and songs with about 150 people in the audience. Honoring Don Doyle, the man who first brought this event to Pine, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

We heard from Bland that the things we fear the most are usually in our heads. A lesson learned from a high school football story in which he was definitely not the star of the game. Joyce Baker told of an unusual Thanksgiving in Japan that with all its challenges was really what a traditional American Thanksgiving is all about — friends and family sharing a meal. Liz Warren provided a touching story about her cat to remind us that every day is a gift.

I am grateful for the gift of storytelling and hope you have time this holiday season to share your story with family and friends.

Toy drives

Have you dropped a gift off yet? It’s not too late. Here is how you can be a Christmas angel to kids in our hometown. Mountain Village Foundation Toy Drive is up and running. Mountain Village is a 501(c)(3) organization proudly helping friends and neighbors in the Pine and Strawberry area.

Mountain Village gathers the gifts and then in coordination with the food bank distributes the gifts to Pine and Strawberry children ages 1 month to 18 years. We are looking for unwrapped toys, games, sports equipment and stocking stuffers. This year, they will add hygiene items for the family. Look for the Mountain Village drop off boxes at your local businesses; if you don’t see a box, ask them why and encourage them to get a box from Mountain Village.

The volunteers can do the shopping for you so if you prefer to give a monetary donation, mail your check to Mountain Village Foundation, P.O. Box 715, Pine, AZ 85544. We will collect through Dec. 15.

Mountain Village thanks you very much for helping these families have a merrier Christmas.

ABATE of Arizona the High Country Chapter also has donation boxes in local businesses for their Barbie Hensler Memorial Toy Run.

Christmas kicks off

Community Festival of Lights is tomorrow — Saturday, Nov. 30 at 5:30 p.m. at the community center in Pine. Lights go on at 5:30 p.m. and carolers will sing in the Christmas spirit. Special guests, Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive at 6 p.m. Doors will be open from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. for photos with Santa. Bring your camera as there will be no professional photographer. There will be door prizes, refreshments, crafts and music.

Sponsored by the P-S Arts & Crafts Guild with donations from the P-S Business Community — they will also take donations for the P-S Food Bank. Bring a donation of food or cash.

More Santa opportunities

Starting Saturday, and continuing every Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. until Christmas, you may visit Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Rusty Pine Cone in the Old Settlers Village on Highway 87 in Pine, north of the Community Center. There will also often be face painters on scene along with miniature horses, a special kids shopping area and a lot of photo opportunities.

Bring your list and your little ones. They also have a letter drop off in case someone is too shy to visit Santa.

Friends of the Library Christmas potluck

I invite community members interested in learning more about the library to attend the annual potluck Monday, Dec. 9 at noon in the meeting room behind the cultural hall in Pine.

Come and enjoy the camaraderie and friendship with members of the Pine Library Friends. Bring a dish to share at the potluck.

We also use this opportunity to help the P-S Food Bank who request donations of cake mixes and frosting.

Pine-Strawberry Arts and Crafts Guild

The Pine-Strawberry Arts & Crafts Guild will be open Friday, Nov. 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 30 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. (during the Festival of Lights) and Saturday, Dec. 7 and 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Guild’s boutique is located at the community center. Local artists and crafters sell their handcrafted items at the market. This is a great way to shop local and support your community.

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