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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Halloween Safety Tips

I grew up in the country with few neighbors.  When Halloween rolled around, my parents took us to a friend’s house so that my sister and I, along with our two friends, could walk through their neighborhood trick-or-treating.  It seemed harmless at the time but as I think back about it, I’m pretty sure we didn’t always think about safety first.  Up until last year, Gray never participated in true trick-or-treating.  Matt’s company always hosted something, so I never had to worry.  And because we too live in the country with few neighbors, this past year my sister and I drove him around my hometown to a select few houses so that family and friends could see him in action.

I’d never dream of turning Gray loose like my parents did with my sister and me.  That’s because according to State Farm from 1990 – 2010, Halloween was the deadliest day of the year for child pedestrian accidents.  An article on consumeraffairs.com stated that between 6:00-7:00 p.m. is the most dangerous time, and that more than 70% of the accidents occurred in the middle of the block, usually when excited trick-or-treaters darted between parked cars.

Halloween is just a few days away and because it is on a Saturday night, I think kids will be out in full force – having a great time and forgetting about all those rules their parents taught them.  So here’s a reminder for us all:
  • Drivers – be on high alert, use care when going through neighborhoods, never take your eyes off the road, and put those cell phones away.
  • Kids – trick-or-treat with an adult, always be aware of your surroundings, avoid distractions (you too should put away your phone), stay on sidewalks, look both right and left before crossing the road, cross only at street corners, follow traffic signals, carry a flashlight, and always walk instead of running. Remember to only visit houses where the lights are on outside, and never go inside a house.  Don’t forget to say thank you.
  • Parents – accompany your kids (and if you are like me you’ll constantly be barking out orders like stay on the sidewalk, watch where you are walking, look both ways).  Make sure your child’s costume is flame retardant, fits properly, doesn’t obstruct their vision, has reflector strips on it, and that any accessories like swords and such are soft and flexible.  Examine all treats before allowing your child to eat them.
Whew.  That seems like a lot to remember, but we love our kids – and yours, and we want everyone to have a great time, return home safely, and be able to share their stories for a long time to come.  Now get out there and score some candy and have a Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Cooking Related Fire Hazards

I am so guilty of doing this – leaving food cooking on the stove top unattended.  I’d like to blame my 8 year old son for this.  “Mom, can you come here?” he will holler.  “Gray, honey, I can’t.  I’ve got food cooking on the stove,” I typically reply.  “But it will only take a second,” he counters.  But that’s the thing, it can only take seconds for a fire to start.

According to the U. S. Fire Administration, cooking fires were the leading reported cause for residential fires for 2013 at 188,000.  Moreover, the National Fire Protection Association reports for a 2007-2011 compilation of data that unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor of residential fires.

We all know these things, but sometimes seeing them again proves to be a good reminder – for myself included:
  • Always, always, always stay in the kitchen when cooking – anything.
  • Keep things like oven mitts, dish towels, and paper towels away from heat sources.
  • When simmering, baking, or roasting foods (things you don’t constantly have to be on top of), still stay in the kitchen and check the items frequently.  If needed, set a timer to help you stay on top of it.
  • Use care when frying foods.  If you see threads of smoke, turn off the heat and remove the pan.  Smoke indicates that the oil is too hot.  Use care when adding food to hot oil to avoid splattering.  Keep a lid nearby, and in case of a fire, place the lid over the top and slide the pan off the heat.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher, that’s in good working order, handy.  Here’s some information to help you both choose the right fire extinguisher and keep it properly maintained.   
  • In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and leave the door closed.
  • Make sure you have smoke alarms at least 10 feet away from cooking appliances, per the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code.
  • Always have an escape plan, and be sure to practice it with your kids.
One final thought - did you know that 55% of homeowners from the statistics above were injured while trying to put out the fire themselves?  Use great care if you choose to try and put the fire out on your own.  Remember -- things can be replaced, repaired, and saved using restoration dry cleaning.  You cannot. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Special Scarves for Give A Kid A Coat

My grandmother taught me how to crochet, but it never really stuck.  Periodically I pull my crochet hook and some yarn out and attempt to make a dishcloth, which usually takes me forever, makes my hands ache something fierce, and turns out lopsided.  So I get really excited when I have the chance to talk to someone that has a gift that I do not but really wish I did, and one that I really consider to be a dying art.
Recently, I had the privilege of talking to Emily Vail – a person that uses her gift to make gifts from the heart for others.  In 2008, Emily showed up at our A Cleaner World on Lawndale Avenue with 50 scarves that she’d crocheted over the course of the year; she wanted to donate them to Give A Kid A Coat.  The next year she came back, and this time she’d crocheted over 100 scarves during the course of the year.  And each year she comes back, having crocheted between 100-150 scarves, always wanting to donate them to Give A Kid A Coat.  This year is no exception – here she is dropping off over 150 scarves just a few days ago.
What made her start this little ministry?  “I don’t really think of it as a ministry,” she humbly replied.  “It seemed like the right thing to do.  I figured if there was a need for coats, then there was a need for neck warmth too.  This is just my way to contribute.”  So many folks that make contributions like this do it out of love, with a great deal of thought, and without any fanfare, and Emily totally fits that description.  To give you an idea of what I mean, Emily goes out of her way to choose a special type of yarn – one that has a softer feel, spending about $260 per year.  She does these in her spare time – after work or when she doesn’t have family obligations – and can crochet one in several hours.  (Which I find to be just amazing.)  Here’s the big thing – Emily has arthritis in her hands, so when her arthritis isn’t bothering her, crocheting helps keep her hands limber.  But when it is bothering her, crocheting a scarf hurts like the devil, and the thing that keeps her going is thinking about who might wear that particular scarf and how it might impact that person.

If Emily could have one wish as to what would come of this, it is that others with similar gifts would also use them in the same way.  “I could easily see church groups or youth groups that need a service project take this on,” Emily said.  “It would be so easy, and I can see it being successful.”  For the moment, Emily’s portion of this service project is already a success.  “We are always so thrilled to get the scarves each year,” said Carole Whisnant, Volunteer Coordinator for The Salvation Army in Greensboro.  “I have for so many years wanted to find out who she is and send her a thank you note but haven't been able to.  I have the scarves available at our warehouse during Give A Kid A Coat distribution for those who may need one.  If there are scarves left after distribution, they come to our Center of Hope Shelter and are distributed to kids and adults.  They are always so excited to receive them.”  Emily will be pleased to hear that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Give A Kid A Coat

Did you happen to see this?

This is my son, Gray, hamming it up at last year’s Give A Kid A Coat kick off.  He’s in the height of his glory in that photo, and here’s how that moment came about.

Gray is an excitable little boy.  He brings lots of enthusiasm to everything he does – there’s no half way with him – ever.  When I figured out that his fall break coincided with the kick off, I asked him if he wanted to help.  Of course, but he needed to be official.  So we got him a uniform shirt, name badge, and Give A Kid A Coat button and gave him a job.  He was going to help collect and count coats as they came in the morning of the kick off.

He arrived bright and early and ready to work, so Mike Smith got him started. 

The folks at Fox 8 liked his work ethic (and handsome hair) and began including him in their on-air spots.  And before you knew it, a star was born.  This newfound stardom only added to his enthusiasm.  He had lots of fun that morning, but the message of Give A Kid A Coat really stuck with him throughout the year.  Many times last winter he mentioned his coat from the prior year and wondered who had it and did they like it.

This year, my enthusiastic child is again raring to go.  He’s told his friends at school all about the program and how he gets to help.  More importantly, he’s already gone through his closet and gathered his outgrown coats.

A Cleaner World, Fox 8, 1075KZL, and The Salvation Army kick off the 2015 Give A Kid A Coat campaign this Friday, October 9 at the A Cleaner World located at 2527 Eastchester Drive in High Point.  There will be lots of food, fun, and giveaways.  And of course, Gray will be there -- running around full of energy and excitement – but more importantly, donating his coats.  Will you check your closets for coats to donate?
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