East Valley Tribune

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  • School comes through for Tribune toy drive

    A community-based gift drive organized by the East Valley Tribune ended this week with more than 450 donations to Cardon Children’s Medical Center.Sponsored by the Tribune, Ahwatukee Foothills News, Clipper Marketplace and San Tan Ford, community members, students and staff contributed a total of 463 gifts to give to children at the Mesa hospital this holiday season. Items ranged from toys and stuffed animals to movies, games and clothes.The Tribune and Ahwatukee Foothills News also sponsored a toy drive in 2013 to benefit Cardon.Approximately 300 of the presents came from contributions by students at Centennial Elementary School in Gilbert. Fifth-grade students at the Higley Unified campus spent more than a month organizing the drive among Centennial students.“Students went above and beyond and brainstormed ideas to raise money outside of school in order to purchase toys to donate themselves,” said fifth-grade teacher Colleen Costello.Costello said the initial goal was to collect 212 items as part of the school’s motto, “A.C.T. 212.” But the fifth-grade students’ ability to gather toys and donations for purchases enabled them to go beyond that mark.

  • Phoenix police chief let go over forbidden press conference

    Hours after conducting a press conference he was repeatedly asked not to host, Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia was fired Thursday afternoon.Garcia has been in the news over the past month for his relationship with city police unions. Last month those unions called for a “vote of no confidence” in the chief because of the way he handled post traumatic stress disorder in his officers.City Manager Ed Zuercher said the decision to fire the chief was made not because of the tension between Garcia and the unions, but because of his action going directly against his supervisors and conducting a press conference.“Today the police chief disobeyed a direct order, given to him, by me, through his supervisor, assistant city manager Milton Dohoney,” Zuercher said. “As a result, I fired him. I asked the chief to work collaboratively, and cooperatively, and respectfully, and to communicate with me and my office. That is the Phoenix way. He did not do that. We cannot expect our police officers to follow orders if the chief cannot do the same and lead by example.”Zuercher said there was no plan to fire Garcia before that press conference.During the press conference Garcia spoke out against the union’s vote of no confidence and against City Councilman Sal DiCiccio of Ahwatukee, who he says broke city charter by asking for his firing. He also asked for a two-year contract from the city of Phoenix. Zuercher said he never received a request for a contract from the chief.

  • Seton football coach Bowser reflects on 40-year career

    Rex Bowser sits down at a small table in the corner of a Starbucks in Chandler. The longtime Seton Catholic football coach sips his coffee in a laid-back, relaxed manner and begins to tell the story of his more than four-decade-long career.At first, Bowser wanted to be a basketball coach — football was a secondary option. He said he only received a single job offer after graduating college in 1972 and, along with being a basketball coach, part of the job included coaching eighth-grade football.Two years later, he left the hardwood for the gridiron.“The football, I don’t know, it just struck a cord or something,” Bowser said. “And I just went from there.”For 33 years Bowser coached and taught in Indiana and he had decided, at least for the first time, he was ready to retire. His eldest son had graduated from Purdue and taken a job with Intel in Arizona. Then his youngest son moved to Arizona and Bowser soon became a grandfather.He had a decision to make.

  • Chandler restaurant helps bring joy of toys

    Jolie’s Place is known for being a little Chandler eatery. But, just because it is little, doesn’t mean the restaurant can’t give back in a big way.Last year, as part of the Rockin’ For Kids event that helps donate toys to the Chandler Fire Health & Medical Department, Jolie’s Place donated roughly 400 toys. A solid number to be sure, but, this year, Jolie’s Place owner and manager Jolie Grant said it “blew it away,” collecting close to 600 toys.“We had no idea that it was going to be what it ended up being,” Grant said. “Obviously last year we had no idea. This year we thought, ‘I hope it’s as great as last year,’ and then to be even greater (than last year), it was borderline magical.”Jolie’s Place collected the toys as part of the Rockin’ for Kids event. Rockin’ for Kids is a concert where, instead of buying a ticket, patrons bring a toy to donate to the Chandler Fire, Health and Medical Department. A local band donated its time to come in and play for free.However, this year, Jolie’s place didn’t require a toy to get in to the event. Nonetheless, people donated anyway.“This year it was all just about karma,” Grant said. “We didn’t give out tickets or anything this year. People just brought toys because they wanted to.”

  • Gilbert school board steps away from text redaction

    Members of the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board are backing away from a controversial decision they made to redact a portion of a widely used biology textbook.The decision came during the board’s Dec. 16 meeting during a discussion about plans to redact a portion of “Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections” used among honors high school students. The board had voted to eliminate a portion of the textbook dealing with abortion in October, but the members leaned toward a recommendation by Superintendent Christina Kishimoto to review the issue and more than likely add supplemental content to the text. The board anticipated placing an item about the texts on a January meeting agenda.“I think there are ways in which we can engage students in learning about the preference for adoption in a way that does not require the redaction of materials that are not our materials to redact,” Kishimoto said.One of the issues she mentioned with a potential redaction of the biology book was violating copyright law, given the content of the book belongs to the publisher instead of the district. Kishimoto said adding any supplemental material, which teachers can use during discussion of the texts, would resolve any issues with the text without violating copyright law.The issues with the textbook began with a complaint alleging the Campbell book violates state law — Arizona Revised Statute 15-115 — because it references abortion without citing a preference to adoption or childbirth. The text makes reference to morning-after pills and the drug mifepristone during a section about contraception.The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a faith-based legal organization, sent a letter to the district asking it to change the books to comply with the state statute and offered recommendations on how to change it. The board ended up approving the redaction method during an October meeting, and Kishimoto planned to begin the process next summer to accommodate the massive amount of work needed to update all of the Campbell books.

  • Valley residents split on Obama’s Cuba decision

    President Obama's proposal to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba has elicited mixed reactions from Valley residents with Cuban roots."Hopefully the changes they've made are better for Cubans," said Barbara Dominguez, the co-owner of Mimita's Cuban Café in Chandler.Obama announced during a speech on Dec. 17 he has directed Secretary of State John Kerry to resurrect the nation’s diplomatic communications with the communist island nation that could result in the establishment of a U.S. Embassy in Cuba. Other steps mentioned are the removal of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism — a list of countries the Department of State alleges supported acts of terrorism and includes Syria, Iran and Sudan — and a possible increase in travel, commerce and general communication to and from the island nation.Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro also reached an agreement for the release of contractor Alan Gross, who spent five years in a Cuban jail."Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future - for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world," Obama said in his speech.None of the president's proposals would eliminate the trade embargo with Cuba - doing so requires Congressional approval - but it would represent a marked shift in the nation's relations with Cuba since the official implementation of the embargo in 1962.

  • Meet MACFest artists Phyllis Derosett and Nancy Niemeyer

    Thirty years ago sisters Phyllis Derosett and Nancy Niemeyer started crafting together, making gifts, kids clothes and stuffed animals. Friends and family enjoyed their creations so much that they started a business — Sew Many Friends. The company is one of Mesa Arts and Crafts Festival’s newest vendors.“We currently use cotton and vintage chenille bedspreads for our creations, making quilts, pillows, baby items, jackets and much more. American Girl Doll clothes are the newest addition to our handmade selections,” says Derosett, who makes her home in Gilbert.“We began over 30 years ago as a collaboration between three sisters who love to sew and create.  In the beginning we made soft dolls, Santas, angels, snowmen, bunnies and also items for children and kitchen gifts.  Sharing our ideas increased our selection over the years.  Before doing craft shows we organized a boutique and opened up our homes semi-annually to friends, relatives and the general public,” she says.While they miss their sister, Janet Gregory, who sells her creations from Hawaii, Phyllis and Nancy enjoy being part of the many craft show opportunities here in Arizona, including the Mesa Arts and Crafts Festival.The next MACFest is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 20 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. in downtown Mesa on North MacDonald near the Arizona Museum of Natural History. This is a free event.  Booth registration is available for $20.  More information is available at (480) 644-6500 or MacFestMesa.com.

  • Quick look: New this week at the movies

    >> This information is provided in community partnership with Harkins Theatres. For showtimes, theater locations and tickets, go to HarkinsTheatres.com.New this weekAnnieAnnie is a young foster kid tough enough to make her way on the streets of New York in 2014. Left by her parents as a baby with the promise that they’d be back for her someday, it’s been a hard knock life ever since with her mean foster mom Miss Hannigan. But everything’s about to change when the hard-nosed tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks - advised by his brilliant VP, Grace and his shrewd and scheming campaign advisor, Guy - makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in. Stacks believes he’s her guardian angel, but Annie’s self-assured nature and bright, sun-will-come-out-tomorrow outlook on life just might mean it’s the other way around. Starring: Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Zayas, Cameron Diaz. PGCometHurtling back and forth in time over six years of a passionate, complicated relationship, the bright, skeptical Kimberly, and the tightly-wound Dell meet at Hollywood Forever, where they’ve both come to watch a meteor shower. It’s the start of a romantic roller coaster ride that leaps from a Paris tryst to a squabble in New York to the Hollywood Hills, taking risky and unexpected emotional turns with daredevil aplomb. Starring: Emmy Rossum, Justin Long, Eric Winter. R

  • KidReporter: Lots of laughs in ‘Junie B. Jones’

    I just saw the play “Junie B. Jones in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!” I thought it was really funny because all the actors were super old, but they had to act like first-graders. But they used high school desks for them so that they could fit. It was also funny because Junie B. kept saying words wrong like first-graders do a lot.The play was mainly set in an elementary school classroom and was about Junie B. Jones (Kate Haas) and how she had to deal with another girl named May (Kaleena Newman), who was her archenemy and the worst tattletale in first grade. Worst of all, Junie B. had picked May’s name for the Secret Santa Party. Oh, no!The funniest prop of all was the squeeze-a-burp. It was made from a piece of plastic that the actors pretended to squeeze to make the noise, but actually the noise was made by the sound guy who recorded a bunch of giant burps and used a button to make it come over the speakers whenever the actors squeezed it.There were lots of characters in the play including Classroom One teacher, Mr. Scary (Dwayne Hartford) and the music teacher (Jon Gentry), whose name was really funny — he was called Mr. Toot!  There was a cool part of the play that they added, which was a flashback to another Junie B. Jones book called “Shipwrecked.” In that part, we learned how Junie B. and May had argued and fought over whose ship was the fastest. This was the beginning of how they grew to not like each other very much.So, why should you go see this play? Well, first of all, the play happens around Christmas, the season of giving. There’s lots of laughter and fun, and cool characters and sets, and in the end Junie B. learns some valuable lessons about how it’s better to give than receive and not be mean.

  • 5 ways your family can experience the joy of giving back

    Between the beautifully wrapped presents under the tree, the candy, and Santa’s midnight trip, it is easy for kids to miss the message of Christmas. Why not shake things up a bit and get your children focused on the spirit of Christmas?It is never too late to start a family tradition of Christmas giving. Serving others is an easy and rewarding way to teach your children compassion and grow closer as a family. It also teaches your children a life-long habit that makes a difference in the lives of others. Here are five ways your family can give back this Christmas that your kids will love.Salvation Army Christmas Angel TreeStop by your local mall, Walmart, or other participating retailer and look for the Salvation Army Angel Tree. The trees are decorated with Christmas Angel tags that have the name and gift wishes of a boy or girl 12 years of age or younger. Selecting a child’s tag and shopping for his or her gifts makes for a meaningful and fun family outing. You can also pick an angel at SalvationArmy.christmas/phoenix.Feed My Starving ChildrenVolunteering at Feed My Starving Children in Tempe is an experience your family will enjoy and won’t soon forget. You will spend about two hours assembling and packing life-saving food packs that will be shipped all over the world to malnourished children. Gather a group (children must be at least 5 years old) and register for a packing session this holiday season. Hours and information are available at (480) 626-1970 or Fmsc.org/locations/tempe.

  • Sweet holiday treats put spin on favorite flavors

    Gingerbread cupcakesEach miniature spiced ginger cake is topped with cream cheese frosting, dusted with cinnamon sugar and decorated with a gingerbread man. They’re available, along with another seasonal flavor, chocolate-peppermint, through Dec. 24.$2.16-$4.05 per cupcake; $45.34 for a JOY box of 12 in gingerbread, chocolate-peppermint, red velvet and vanilla flavorsSprinkles: 4501 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. (480) 970-4321 or Sprinkles.comPanettone gelatoPanettone — an Italian sweet bread traditional at Christmastime — is one of many seasonal flavors on rotation here. Eggnog, peppermint, chocomint, pear and cinnamon, gingerbread and cannoli are among the offerings, but the selection changes daily. The attached Italian grocery carries authentic imported ingredients fit for a holiday feast, too.

  • 3 to Try: Food gifts for your fella

    Wondering what to get the men in your life this holiday? Instead of another tie or T-shirt, give him something that he can sink his teeth into. These locally owned East Valley businesses for sweets, suds, and savory food gifts will satisfy your sir this season.Von Hanson’s Meats2390 N. Alma School Road, Chandler(480) 917-2525 orVonHansonsMeats.netVon Hanson’s Meats in Chandler is a full service, old-fashioned meat market and butcher shop. These experienced butchers offer good, old-fashioned customer service and are happy to offer advice on selection and preparation of your purchase. Bundles and variety packs are prepackaged for a quick and easy way to deliver the meat lovers on your list something to sink their teeth into. Check out the Cattleman’s Choice Pack for an extra hearty deal.

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  • Chandler restaurant helps bring joy of toys

    Jolie’s Place is known for being a little Chandler eatery. But, just because it is little, doesn’t mean the restaurant can’t give back in a big way.Last year, as part of the Rockin’ For Kids event that helps donate toys to the Chandler Fire Health & Medical Department, Jolie’s Place donated roughly 400 toys. A solid number to be sure, but, this year, Jolie’s Place owner and manager Jolie Grant said it “blew it away,” collecting close to 600 toys.“We had no idea that it was going to be what it ended up being,” Grant said. “Obviously last year we had no idea. This year we thought, ‘I hope it’s as great as last year,’ and then to be even greater (than last year), it was borderline magical.”Jolie’s Place collected the toys as part of the Rockin’ for Kids event. Rockin’ for Kids is a concert where, instead of buying a ticket, patrons bring a toy to donate to the Chandler Fire, Health and Medical Department. A local band donated its time to come in and play for free.However, this year, Jolie’s place didn’t require a toy to get in to the event. Nonetheless, people donated anyway.“This year it was all just about karma,” Grant said. “We didn’t give out tickets or anything this year. People just brought toys because they wanted to.”

  • Actors Theatre to shut down, liquidate assets

    PHOENIX - Actors Theatre, which has produced compelling, thought-provoking and often edgy plays for nearly 30 years, is closing its doors.The Board of Directors has unanimously voted to cease operations and liquidate the professional theater company over the next 30 to 60 days.“The simple truth is we’re out of money,” said Actors Theatre Board President Renee Gerstman. “This was not the result of a single event, but a combination of factors, primarily based on the fact that revenues – both earned and contributed – did not meet expectations and we found ourselves in a cash-flow crisis.”Producing Artistic Director Matthew Wiener said that artists and staff involved in the scheduled productions of "Annapurna," "Stage Kiss" and "The Year of Magical Thinking" started receiving notification of the shut-down on Thursday. “As we were preparing to produce "Annapurna," we looked at the situation to determine how best to move forward,” he said. “We recognized that what Actors Theatre does and, most importantly, the way we do it is not sustainable in our community at this time. Among our strongest guiding principles is to pay everyone – and that includes artists and arts workers – a living wage. The economic dignity of our all of our artists and arts workers is one of our highest values, but our donor base and individual and season ticket sales were not substantial enough to provide the financial resources to support the cost structure of professional artists to the degree it needed to be.”Gerstman said the company will “work through outstanding obligations to the best of our ability during the next 30 to 60 days. We also know we will receive questions about tickets that have been purchased. Though we would like to say we will refund those tickets, we simply can’t. We’re hoping that our patrons and supporters will consider taking the expense as a tax deduction after consultation with their accountants or CPAs.”

  • Fiesta District gets new look

    As the sun set Tuesday evening, Mesa unveiled a bold new look for the Fiesta District. Gigantic entry monuments at the intersection of Southern Avenue and Alma School Road were lit up for the first time, demarcating the entrance to an area once famous for its retail and now a prime target in the city’s campaign for economic rejuvenation.City Councilmember Dennis Kavanaugh has campaigned for improvements to the area for years, his focused efforts date as far back as the turn of the century. He bought his current home in the area in 1982, just four years after Fiesta Mall was established.“This is an exciting and positive step for the Fiesta District,” Kavanaugh said. “The city of Mesa is working hard to revitalize the area with new light poles, streetscaping, and now the addition of these distinctive new light-up signs. We are committed to once again making the Fiesta District a destination in Mesa.”Changes to Fiesta will make the most difference for retailers in the area of the “Southern Avenue Streetscape Project.” Ana Ramirez, property manager for Fiesta Mall, remarked the mall is already feeling the effects of the improvements. The focus of the project is unabashedly centered on drawing shoppers to the mall and surrounding businesses. Those establishments have patiently waited and worked with the city to complete the changes.“What we’ve got now is the first step to seeing this area come back and be as vibrant and beautiful as it once was,” said Gary Haydon, founder of Haydon Building Corp, which is overseeing the project “I’m always proud to see one of our projects finished, but I’m especially proud of this one.”Mayor John Giles recounted his memories of the area as the financial center of Mesa and expressed his desire to help rebuild the formative presence of the District.

  • IRS Mileage rates to change Jan. 1

    The IRS’ optional standard mileage rates will see a few changes effective Jan. 1.The amount for business miles driven will increase to 57.5 cents per mile starting on the first day of the year. Additionally, miles driven for medical or moving purposes will decrease to 23 cents per mile and driving for charitable organizations will be 14 cents.

  • East Valley has cheapest gas in Arizona

    Drivers across Arizona, including the East Valley, continue to feel the benefits of the recent decline in fuel prices.AAA Arizona reports the average pump price in the state dropped by more than 10 cents this week to $2.555 a gallon. The East Valley jumped over Peoria to sport the lowest average in Arizona at $2.436, while Flagstaff has the highest fuel costs at $2.877.The national average is down by just shy of 11 cents to $2.621.

  • Chandler Chamber hosting fashion show

    A Chandler Chamber of Commerce event for women in business on Dec. 16 will feature speed networking and a fashion show.The inaugural Chandler Chamber Women in Business Holiday Luncheon and Fashion Show will start at 10:30 a.m. with an opportunity for vendors to engage with one another. The fashion show and lunch will begin at noon. The cost is $25 for chamber members and $35 for non-members.The event is located at SoHo63, located at 63 E. Boston St. More information can be found by emailing WIB@chandlerchamber.com.

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Amazing Arizona Comics: The Webcomic – Zombie Santa Is Coming To Town! (Part 2)

Every Friday, the week’s worth of Amazing Arizona Comics: The Webcomic will be posted here for your reading enjoyment!  Of course, please visit the site for ongoing commentary, opportunities to win original art, and a jump on next Friday’s ...

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  • Take me Home: Tessa’s charms are subtle, but irresistible

    Tessa, a 3-year-old sweet, gentle, affectionate gal, is happiest when spending time with her people. She has beautiful, bunny-soft fur that you just can’t keep from petting over and over again. That’s OK though — this type of behavior is encouraged by Tessa, considering she loves attention and loves to be petted. Tessa especially enjoys petting if it involves ear rubs, chest rubs, chin scratches, or all of the above. It is fun to watch how much she appreciates being pet. Don’t be surprised if Tessa climbs into your lap for cuddle time. She’s hoping to not only score additional petting, but brushing as well.She is a big time lap kitty and will come right over if you pat your lap and call to her. Of course, she’s totally OK with making herself at home in your lap without being explicitly invited. Tessa expresses contentment with soft purrs and occasional kitty kisses. If your lap suddenly becomes unavailable, Tessa is happy to retire to a high perch on the nearest kitty condo, where she is content to keep an eye on her surroundings. Tessa doesn’t really seem interested in toys — she’s much more interested in getting attention and affection from her people.Tessa doesn’t mind other calm, friendly kitties; however, she prefers observing kitties as opposed to interacting with kitties. People on the other hand, she adores — no observation there. Tessa not only makes a great snuggle buddy; she’d also be a great reading companion and would be happy to warm your lap as you watch your favorite movies and TV shows together. This mellow, laid-back kitty will do well in a variety of homes and is hoping you consider adding her to your home.If interested in learning more about Tessa, fill out an application for her today at www.azrescue.org.

  • Gilbert church provides carnival for sick children

    Life Community Church hosted a holiday event to entertain more than 100 kids with life-threatening illnesses.The Gilbert church’s Christmas Carnival had children arrive from across the state to celebrate the holiday with boat races, puzzles, dancing, face painting, golf, crafts, a snowball fight and a visit from Santa.

  • Keeping the Faith: Evacuate or evolve

    On Sundays you will usually find me in a church somewhere talking about issues of Christian faith. What I talk about, while the details change, is usually along the same theme: God’s love is inexhaustible and that love – demonstrated in Jesus – is the crux of our faith, not all the stuff that has been added to it. While my theme is fairly consistent, where I speak is not; and I don’t mean simply the location. I speak in churches that are conservative and those that are progressive; churches that are anchored to a denominational tradition and those as independent and free as the air; churches built of stone capped with spires, and those churches that meet behind the tinted glass of rented storefront space.The diversity of these experiences is magnificent. I see, almost weekly, that the church is a variegated garden of color and expression from Christians who meet in living rooms to those who meet in cathedrals – as it should be. Undoubtedly, some of these churches lack the marketing punch to attract today’s “church shopper.” This too, is as it should be.Not long ago I was in an inner-city church that had a shortage of the enticing ecclesiastical bells and whistles. There were no fog machines, Broadway-worthy children’s programs, shredded-blue-jean-wearing-worship-leader with an acoustic guitar, young-hip-spike-haired-pastor, and no in-house lattes, projection screens, or live Twitter feeds (I’m not against any of these things and particularly enjoy acoustic guitars and lattes).This church occupies a large, stately building that was once part of a large, stately neighborhood; a neighborhood filled with young, working, ladder-climbing families. Those families, rather monolithic in race and culture, have grown older and moved to the suburbs. This church is now the conglomeration of Caucasians, African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians – a reflection of its now multi-cultured surroundings.The church has made a very intentional decision to remain where it is, and not beat a hasty retreat to the suburbs where it is a bit easier for “hip” churches to gain traction and grow. Again, I’m not against cool, suburban churches; but in some cases these churches are transplants from the city, because transitioning with the neighborhood is simply too difficult.They move out and away from the communities in which they were incubated because they are now strangers in those communities. So it’s easier to raise the war pension required to purchase land and build new shiny buildings out by the new bypass and mall, than to do the excruciatingly difficult work of changing. Evacuation is sometimes just easier than evolution.

  • Local Jewish preschool follows Reggio Emilia Approach

    The Reggio Approach, viewing children as competent and capable humans, full of potential, is an approach that goes hand in hand with Judaism, according to leaders at the Chandler Jewish Preschool, and that’s why it was selected to govern the thinking at the preschool when it opened just over a year ago.“When you go talk to someone in childhood education they say things like, ‘Children are our future, we give them the skills to grow and be in the real world,’” said Shternie Deitsch, director of the preschool. “Our take is a little different. Our take is the kids matter the way they are now. They are full people with intelligence, ideas, emotions and they are important as they are now. We view the kids as little explorers and researchers and we try to make the environment such that invites them to explore and learn on their own.”Deitsch said the Reggio Emilia Approach, based on ideas from Loris Malaguzzi in Northern Italy, fit perfectly with ideas that were instilled in her growing up Jewish in Boston, where her Rabbi would take time out of his day several times a year to meet with just the children. Instructors at the school are asked to present an idea to a child and allow them to take the learning from there. The kids are encouraged to ask questions and come up with their own answers by investigating and thinking critically.The preschool is clearly different from traditional preschools, for several reasons, the moment you enter the classroom. There are no overwhelming colorful cartoon letters or numbers — the décor is all natural and much of it is homemade. Alongside the traditional alphabet, there’s also a Hebrew alphabet. This time of year there are no Christmas trees, snowflakes or Santa Claus on the wall, but there is a menorah on the table, handmade menorahs in one area and dreidels in a basket on the floor.“The kids participate in creating the environment,” said Tara Leafman, one of the instructors at the school. “Our A, B, C’s and 1, 2, 3’s the kids colored the paper and we created the experience for them. They are very connected to the classroom itself.”While there are no specific religious lessons, the traditions and ideals of Judaism are seamlessly woven in daily in the classroom.

  • Keeping the Faith: The gift of mercy

    Some years ago I read about Charles Brown, a World War 2 pilot on his first mission, just before Christmas, 1943. His B-17 had been shot to pieces by German fighters and anti-aircraft guns. Half his crew was wounded, his tail gunner was dead, and he was flying alone over Germany, barely able to keep the plane aloft.Then, as if things could not be more desperate, Brown looked to his left and locked eyes with Franz Stigler, an ace German fighter pilot flying no more than a few feet off the B-17’s wing. Brown’s blood went cold; this was the end.Stigler, the German pilot, was thirsty for revenge. The Allied forces were responsible for his brother’s death, and they had been relentlessly bombing his country’s cities. Now he had a chance to retaliate. But as he came up behind the low-flying bomber, he recognized that it was shot to pieces. He could see the dead and wounded crew inside.Stigler, with one hand on the trigger and another on his rosary, couldn’t shoot. Instead, he nodded at Brown and protectively escorted the bomber over the North Sea and to the edge of Allied airspace. He took one last look at the American pilot, saluted, and peeled away.Brown landed safely, survived the war and eventually returned home where he would marry, have children, go to work for the State Department, and retire in Florida. But the older he got, the more Brown thought about that December day above Germany. He decided that he must find that German pilot.His search was showing little progress when he received an unexpected letter. It was from Franz Stigler! It read, “Dear Charles, all these years I wondered what happened to that B-17, did she make it or not?” Stigler was now retired in Canada and was making the same improbable search. The two pilots became best of friends, meeting as often as possible, corresponding, and talking weekly by phone.

  • Orlando: The Eucharistic Community of Francis of Assisi

    The Eucharistic Community of Francis of Assisi emphasizes “community” over going to church to pursue personal piety or to fulfill religious obligations. We consider the spread of Christianity in the early church due to how Christians loved and served one another. Therefore, we are devoted to one another through prayer and service.We are a sacramental community gathered around the person of Christ who feeds us with His words in Sacred Scripture and by His example. We see faith as a verb and not as a noun; we are more interested in how we live rather than in how we believe. Our articles of faith are limited to those of the Nicene and Apostle Creeds. Everything else is considered a matter of personal piety.We are a path and not a place. We view our efforts as an ecumenical participation in the efforts of entire Mystical Body of Christ. We do not have a backyard, a pope or national boundaries. We reach out to those in the greatest need of God’s mercy, like Francis of Assisi did, wherever they are.We have worship services, adult religious education programs, and outreach services such as providing food and clothing for the homeless, working with abandoned children in Peru, starting a chicken and egg cooperative in Guatemala as well as Bible study and prayer sessions.We have a Cindy Miller musical concert on Feb. 28, 2015 at the Red Mountain Center-Mesquite Auditorium, 7550 E. Adobe St. in Mesa to raise money for our Guatemala project.All are welcome to our worship services at the Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church, 1159 Greenfield Road in Gilbert. Our services are at 4 p.m. during the fall and winter; and at 5 p.m. during the spring and summer.


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