County looking for sponsors for Adopt-An-Angel program

More than 1,000 children are expected to write letters to Santa Claus through the Lackawanna County Children and Youth Services Adopt-An-Angel program in hope of receiving gifts of school supplies, clothes, toys and even prayers for "grandpa in heaven."

With 600 letters in already, and 100 letters without sponsors, the agency is hoping the community will step forward to give a Christmas to children that CYS works with, many of whom come from families with drug and alcohol addictions or mental health issues.

"I am very sad because my brother (has) been in the hospital three times, and I would be really happy if you could (sprinkle) some of your Christmas magic on him to make (him) all better," wrote one 10-year-old girl to Santa. "P.S. I love Disney princesses."

Children and Youth Services has been running the Adopt-An-Angel program for more than two decades. Children up to age 18 write letters and CYS finds sponsors among businesses and individuals.

Last year, 758 children wrote letters to Santa. Based on how many letters have been received already, the county expects more than 1,000 will be received by Christmas, said Lisa Sohara, a CYS supervisor.

"Some of the kids are in foster care, but most are with family in homes," she said. "For some of these kids, these are the only presents they will have."

CYS provided the Times-Tribune with a sample of letters, which range from requests for uniforms, notebooks, pens and pencils for school, to video games and bicycles. Popular items so far this year are MP3 players and cell phones.

Sponsors aren't expected to dole out hundreds of dollars for video game consoles and shouldn't get upset if a child asks for something that might be expensive, said CYS outreach coordinator Gabrielle Palmieri.

"They ask Santa for what your child would ask for. They don't expect to get everything, but they're kids. It's easy to imagine a cell phone or game system," Ms. Sohara said.

One 11-year-old boy asked for a "PSP," a handheld video game console, but added "I would love anything you bring for me and my sister. Thank you. I will leave milk and cookies for you."

A 16-year-old girl asked for a CD player and "word-find books for my grandma."

"Plus, I would like you to say a prayer for my grandpa in heaven," she added.

The Scranton firefighters union, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 60, decided to sponsor 75 children this year, said firefighter Brian Murray, the program's coordinator for the union.

After reading the letters, the union has already decided to sponsor another 15 children, he said.

"The common thought is we're firefighters, we can take anything. But for a couple of our guys, reading these letters, they not so much cried but these letters certainly brought down their shield a bit," Mr. Murray said. "These kids are asking for hats, scarves, coats -- things we take for granted -- and we're going to do what we can to help them."

Contact the writer: cschillinger@timesshamrock.com You can be Santa

Children and Youth Services is looking for individuals, businesses and organizations to sponsor children through its Adopt-An-Angel program. To help, call CYS outreach coordinator Gabrielle Palmieri at 963-6781.

Credit: The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

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Two octogenarian volunteers have spent 8,000 hours helping others in Mesquite

Much of the success of the Sharing Life Community Outreach in Mesquite can be traced to the figure eight.

Two octogenarians -- Sammie Coats, 88, and Dorothy Compton, 83 -- have logged more than 8,000 volunteer hours together for the organization.

They are such a force that it probably feels as if they work eight days a week.

"They work five to seven days a week every single week, and they are the heart and soul of our organization," said Teresa Jackson, Sharing Life's executive director.

The two volunteers do everything from accepting donations to stuffing bags and helping people with their clothing choices.

Sharing Life Community Outreach -- one of this year's Dallas Morning News Charities -- offers an array of assistance, including food, clothing, school supplies, rent and utility assistance, literacy classes and job training skills to families in need in 11 ZIP codes in southeast Dallas County.

"They are always there; they are the most dependable backbone volunteers that I have," Jackson said. "They have given their lives over to volunteerism rather than just sit at home and wither away in their retirement years."

Jackson added: "We could not survive if we didn't have those two ladies."

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Oriental Trading Company Makes Gift Giving More Fun

Oriental Trading Company, the nation's largest direct merchant of value-priced party supplies, arts and crafts, toys and novelties, and a leading provider of school supplies and affordable home decor and giftware, recently introduced its new gift card program-creating a unique, gift-giving customer experience.

"We wanted to provide our customers with affordable and convenient gift giving options for friends, family, teachers and co-workers," said Sam Taylor, CEO of Oriental Trading Company. "With easy online ordering and innovative personalization features, our new gift card program offers a creative way for consumers and businesses to give gifts during the holiday season and throughout the entire year."

Oriental Trading makes ordering gift cards easy for customers, who can use their creativity and make the gift card more personal by uploading a photo of themselves, a friend, family member or group to customize their gift card. Standard gift cards come in six fun and unique designs. Gift cards are available in denominations ranging from $10 to $500, have no extra fees or expiration dates, and may be personalized for free.

Each gift card is delivered in a personalized greeting card and envelope, which can be customized for any occasion. Customers can choose from hundreds of greeting card designs. Gift cards are shipped free and arrive within 5-7 business days. Express shipping, including overnight, is available for an additional fee. Last minute gift givers can also send an eGift Card, which will arrive in the recipient's e-mail inbox within 12 hours - a perfect and welcome surprise to any inbox!

In addition to holiday gift giving, Oriental Trading gift cards are a perfect way to thank teachers throughout the year with a card they can use to purchase affordable classroom supplies, such as colorful storage units, bulletin board materials, teaching supplies, stickers, and incentives to reward and recognize their students.

Oriental Trading Company gift cards are easy to give and fun to receive. They can be ordered and redeemed online, by phone, fax or mail and be used to purchase from an assortment of over 35,000 products, perfect for individuals, teachers, schools, churches, businesses and non-profit organizations. Oriental Trading Company gift cards are a creative, affordable solution for any occasion. About Oriental Trading Company Oriental Trading Company is the nation's largest direct merchant of value-priced party supplies, arts and crafts, toys and novelties, and a leading provider of school supplies and affordable home decor and giftware. Recognized as one of the Top 50 Catalog Companies, Oriental Trading Company employs approximately 3,000 employees and offers more than 35,000 products to individuals, teachers, schools, churches, businesses and not-for-profit organizations. From pink flamingos, party supplies and grass skirts to holiday decorations, scrapbooking supplies, and crafts, Oriental Trading Company makes the world more fun! www.orientaltrading.com.

Multimedia Gallery Available: http://www.businesswire.com/cgi-bin/mmg.cgi?eid=6103795&lang=en

Keywords: Arts And Crafts, Children, Consumer, Discount and Variety, Family, Home Goods , Leisure, Men, Online Retail, Oriental Trading Company, Retail, Specialty, Women.

This article was prepared by Leisure & Travel Week editors from staff and other reports. Copyright 2009, Leisure & Travel Week via VerticalNews.com.

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Planners OK parking request for college

Action taken Tuesday by the Salina Planning Commission puts Brown Mackie College of Salina on the path to offering a new veterinary technician vocational training program.

Brown Mackie is seeking to lease space for the program, to include office space, classrooms and lab space, in an office building in front of the Reserves at Prairie Glen Apartments, 2515 S. Ohio, across from Jerry Ivey Park.

Planning commissioners approved a zoning amendment expanding permitted uses of the office complex to include business schools and small animal clinics.

Salina city commissioners also must approve the amendment.

The request was made by Salina Building Co., which bought the 12,000-square-foot office building from the original apartment complex developers, Overland Ventures, of Overland Park.

City planners were concerned about parking at the complex. Mike Bostater, president of Salina Building Co., said there is an agreement with First Southern Baptist Church, 2401 S. Ohio, to use 45 parking spaces in its lot for the clinic's students. The office complex has 46 spaces.

"That takes us to a little more than eight parking places per 1,000 square feet. That's an incredibly high number for most uses," Bostater said.

By separating the parking, any traffic bottlenecks when students are arriving or departing classes should be minimized, he said.

Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the zoning amendment, agreeing to waive a condition that shared off-site parking be located within a distance of 600 feet from the office suite. The distance from the office suite to the church parking lot is about 900 feet, but there is sidewalk access, said Dean Andrew, the city's director of planning.

Salina Building Co.'s zoning application will be considered Dec. 7 by city commissioners, he said.

Also Tuesday, the planning commission voted to recommend to the city commission an amendment to regulations that would add building supply stores and lumberyards, business schools, department and discount stores, and food stores and delicatessens to the list of permitted conditional uses in the South Ninth Street retail corridor.

The amendment was requested by landowner Norm Riffel concerning property that was formerly part of a ramp area between Interstate Highway 135 and South Ninth Street. The property was abandoned in the mid-1990s after the opening of the Schilling Road interchange. The change was requested to help prepare for future development of the property, Andrew told commissioners.

Wireless towers approved

Planning commissioners Tuesday also approved applications on behalf of Verizon Wireless for the construction of two cellular communication towers through leases with the Salina School District. One 130-foot tower, with stadium lights mounted on it, would replace an existing 90-foot light pole at the southwest corner of Salina Stadium, near Salina Central High School.

The other 120-foot-foot tower would be constructed 450 feet west of Salina South High School, 730 E. Magnolia. The tower could serve as a light pole as part of a future field-lighting project. The recommendations from the planning commissioners concerning the towers will be presented to city commissioners for consideration.

There was some discussion by commissioners about the threat of the towers attracting lightning. Glenn Skulborstad, a retired South High teacher and coach, raised questions about the locations putting students in jeopardy.

"What's the almighty dollar worth?" Skulborstad asked commissioners. "You can't buy a child's life."

Trevor Wood, representing Selective Site Consultants, an agent for Verizon, said the towers are fully grounded so that were a bolt of lightning to strike, the energy would be directed into the ground. He said schools in other locations in the Midwest and across the country have similar cell tower lease agreements.

Road closure approved

Commissioners Tuesday also gave approval to a petition filed by landowner Roberta Kaufman to close a portion of Cypress Street from Willow Drive to Commanche Avenue. Cypress Street is a block south of West Crawford Street, adjacent to Centennial Park. The recommendation from the planning commission now goes to the city commission.

The purpose of the request is for Kaufman to acquire land to expand the commercial lots she owns along Crawford Street to allow for future redevelopment. In return, Kaufman is proposing to pay for the design and construction of an extension of Birch Drive to Crawford Street.

-- Reporter David Clouston can be reached at 822-1403 or by e-mail at dclouston@salina.com.

Credit: The Salina Journal, Kan.

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Fill shoeboxes with holiday cheer through Monday

For Donna Smith, improving one child's Christmas is a matter of filling a shoebox with gifts.

Smith is a relay site coordinator at Jonesboro Baptist Church for Operation Christmas Child, a national program which began in 1993 and has collected more than 68 million shoeboxes filled with small gifts to give to children in need all over the world.

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan's Purse, a Christian relief and evangelism organization.

Several years ago, Smith's daughter helped with the program during the holiday season and told her mom about how much she enjoyed it.

"From that point on, we've been a shoebox family," Smith said.

Jonesboro Heights has been a relay site for Operation Christmas Child since 2003, she said. From there, the shoeboxes move to larger collection sites, like Charlotte, and then on to one of six national processing centers.

When Jonesboro Heights first got started with OCC, 23 other churches also participated and 2,676 shoeboxes were collected.

Last year, 4,160 boxes were collected and 72 area churches participated, Smith said.

"OCC is catching. Once you introduce somebody to this project, they just love it," she said.

Other organizations, like the Sanford Women's Center and the Central Carolina Jaycees, also participate, she said.

"It's not just a church thing, it's not just a Jonesboro thing," Smith said. "It's just as simple as filling up a shoebox with items that a child would enjoy."

Things like school supplies, coloring books, small toys, stuffed animals and toiletry items are all suggested items to fill a shoebox; but OCC asks that liquids, breakables, chocolate and war toys be left out of the shoeboxes.

"You might think it's kind of confining, but you would be amazed at what you can fit in a shoebox," Smith said.

Even during a recession, it's important to give at Christmas, she said.

"These boxes are going to kids in third world countries," she said. "Our poorest poor people don't understand what these kids go through. It's still important to give kids some hope and some joy."

Buying gifts for a shoebox can be done economically, too, Smith said, and buying gifts from dollar stores is encouraged. She said some who've donated shoeboxes have filled them for $15.

Smith called OCC "the highlight of our Christmas."

"People want to do something that matters. This is an easy way to help a child," she said.

Smith said a $7 donation is also requested, to pay for shipping and handling.

But if those interested in putting together a shoebox don't have the extra $7, "don't let that stop you from doing one," she said.

Smith said she could talk about OCC "forever."

"I love it. I have a passion for it," she said. "It's an easy, easy way to make a difference."

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Educators hails three in area as super volunteers

Two individuals and one local business were among a select few recognized this week for their contributions to education in South Carolina.

Nineteen individuals and organizations across the state received the state Board of Education's annual volunteer awards. The awards are broken into four categories: businesses, civic organizations, individuals and school improvement councils. School districts make the nominations each year.

Local recipients included the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Foundation for its work with Spartanburg School District 7, Christy Kesler, a District 3 volunteer, and District 1 volunteer Margaret Russell.

Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Foundation was recognized for its focused effort at Cleveland Elementary School, especially in the areas of math and science. The foundation sponsored holiday wish lists for Cleveland students, set up health screenings, purchased school supplies and playground equipment and donated $60,000 to create an on-site science center.

Sheila Breitweiser, director of the SRHS Foundation, said the partnership helped renew in volunteers a sense of hope and optimism about what is possible in schools. Breitweiser said she was appreciative of the recognition.

"The administrative team of District 7 has been so forthcoming in their appreciation," Breitweiser said. "Nothing about this has been taken for granted."

Kesler, who recently moved out of state, was a volunteer at Cannons Elementary School in District 3. She served on the PTO and was president for two years.

Cannons Principal Karen Grimm said Kesler helped organize a new reading initiative, was a mentor to students, regularly brought in food for teachers on conference nights and recruited volunteers.

"She is a happy, cheerful person who was willing to spend lots of hours here to help in any way she could," Grimm said. "She gave it all she had."

Margaret Russell has been a volunteer at New Prospect Elementary in District 1 since her grandchildren, now teenagers, attended the school.

An avid reader, Russell spends time in the school's library at least three days a week.

She also helps in classrooms as needed. She likes helping students pick out books and tutoring them as they learn to read.

"I was so surprised, so stunned," Russell said of receiving the state award. "I'm glad they think that much of me."

The awards were presented Tuesday. For a complete list of winners, visit the state Department of Education's Web site at ed.sc.gov.

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Easy Access to Talent

WHEN it comes to an educated population, the Bluegrass can hold its own against any other midsize metropolitan area in the United States.

With more than a dozen colleges, universities and technical schools in the area, businesses here have access not only to a steady stream of graduates but also to faculty resources and the latest research and development. They also have access to support and guidance from the University of Kentucky.

"I've said for many years that the great cities of the future are university cities," said Robert King, president of Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

In the Lexington-Fayette County metropolitan statistical area, almost 33 percent of adults over 25 have a bachelor's degree compared with the national average of 27 percent, according to the most recent census figures. The number of residents with graduate degrees for the same demographic is 13 percent in the Bluegrass compared to 9 percent nationwide. These statistics put Lexington on par with cities such as Portland, Ore., and St. Paul, Minn.

Kentucky, like many other states, is trying to improve its educational attainment levels. And though the Bluegrass has the advantage of exceeding state and national statistics, the area will directly benefit from Kentucky's goal of better preparing students for college.

King said by passing Senate Bill 1 this past spring, the state has shown its commitment to making sure students who earn decent grades have the attained the education necessary to succeed at college. Progress will be tracked using the national ACT as a benchmark as opposed to the current Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS).

Currently, many Kentucky high school graduates are struggling at college and require remediation, said King. In fact, at Bluegrass College and Technical School, 75 percent of incoming students, including adults returning to school, require remediation in at least one area, said BCTS president Augusta Julian. Statewide the figure is more than half.

"This causes students to question their own abilities and keeps them from moving ahead as quickly as they'd like," Julian said.

King said this legislation will change that. "More students will be ready to go to college, succeed and graduate," he said.

The initiative also will help the state toward its directive to double the number of bachelor's degrees to mirror the nation's average. The state already has made some progress toward this goal, having more than doubled the number of degrees and credentials awarded statewide from 25,577 in 1998 to 52,031 in 2008. The number of graduate degrees awarded also almost doubled in the same time period.

Another state goal is facilitating students' ability to transfer between a community college and a four-year college, such as BCTS and UK, which have been working together to make this happen. This mission is becoming even more important, said Julian, as more students attend community colleges to take their prerequisites in this challenging economy.

Although Julian said the BCTS is educating more students on their way to four-year degrees and beyond, the school has a specific niche: to offer two-year programs in health science, manufacturing, construction and technical fields that fill specific job needs in the area and to develop shorter courses in tandem with companies in these fields to update or add new skills.

The challenge right now is that enrollment for this fall is up 7.5 percent as the state legislature struggles with budget shortfalls. BCTS has waiting lists for several programs it cannot expand without help from the state.

"It's a difficult situation," said Julian.

King said each university and college, like BCTS, has a niche that helps prepare students for the workforce. More than 80 percent of graduates of Kentucky colleges stay in the state to work. At Eastern Kentucky University, President Doug Whitlock said many graduates of the school find jobs in cities along the Interstate 75 corridor.

EKU, said Whitlock, provides students with opportunities in both vocational-technical programs and a broad-based liberal arts education. The school is one of the state's top providers of teachers, nurses and information technology employees. To better educate and attract future science teachers and science majors and aid in research, EKU is adding a state-of-the-art $64 million science building, which will open in the fall of 2011.

Meanwhile, the University of Kentucky is working not to attract and educate just students but businesses as well. The college has partnered with the city and state to help recruit and grow companies, in addition to helping distressed companies try and get their legs back, said Len Heller, vice president for UK's new Commercialization and Economic Development Office.

Over the past few years, UK has streamlined its efforts to work in partnership with the city and state on economic development. The joint effort is necessary to compete with other cities and nations and to respond as quickly as possible to new business applications and opportunities, Heller said.

Heller's office offers a wide range of services, including help with business planning; access to technology, intellectual and property rights; market research; and, even, entrepreneur boot camps. Several healthcare, engineering, and healthcare businesses have gotten their start through UK's business incubator, ASTeCC, before moving in to the community or out to the university's Coldstream Campus, which is being expanded.

UK also works with the Kentucky Small Business Development Center to help businesses find loans to get started or expand. In partnership, they have a special initiative to help companies in distress by looking at their business models, financials and processes.

"We've worked with 50 companies and were able to help a good majority of them," said Heller. "With some, it was just too late."

The latest innovation underway is an expert alumni network that connects businesses or start-ups with UK graduates who are now leaders in that particular field. The alumni, who will be thoroughly vetted, will volunteer a couple hours of consulting time. In a test run, 100 alumni participated and the number is growing as word gets out.

Combined, all these initiatives will drive the economy.

"In a global economy, the premium is on access to talent," said King. "What's needed most are highly educated workers. Employers will go where the brains are."

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Seizing Opportunities

A period of economic uncertainty. when travel budgets are under the knife, hardly seems the optimal time to invest in hotels. But Keith and Kelly Kite had a different perspective.

This uncle-nephew team of Indian River County developers saw decades-old motels struggling to serve business travelers across their region. Intuitively, they knew that executives calling on the revitalized Vero Beach-based Piper Aircraft Inc. would need lodging and meeting facilities. Not to mention that families of patients nearby hospitals like the Indian River Medical Center, which boasts a new affiliation with Duke University Medical Center for Heart Surgery,could use comfortable accommodations, too.

"Each heart surgery represents quite a few room nights," says Kelly Kite, managing member of Kite Properties in Vero Beach, developer of the new SpringHill Suites in unincorporated Indian River County. "The fact there wasn't a business-class property nearby to accommodate the aviation, medical and related industries drove our hotel decisions."

The Kites pooled $22 million investor capital and turned to Workforce Solutions and the St. Lucie County Career Center to help find some 50 employees and a dozen managers for their SpringHill property and a Hampton Inn they plan to open in 2010 in Okeechobee.

Fourth-generation Floridians who've lived along the "Treasure Coast" since the 1990s, the Kites are examples of home-grown entrepreneurs who saw--and seized upon--an opportunity. With business travel as a base, the Kites are certain tourism will thrive. Their SpringHill location is just three miles from the Atlantic. Two more hotels under development--including a 90-room Hampton Inn in Vero Beach. where Minor League Baseball has resurrected the old Dodgertown facility--will also benefit from area growth and help diversify the region's employment base. "There is a great deal of promise for the area," says Gwenda Thompson, CEO of Workforce Solutions.

Says Kelly Kite, "When we looked for a place with a steady supply of work and growth beyond tourism, we saw a lack of product in this particular market. We think our hotels will dominate the market for the foreseeable future."

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

Building on a firm foundation: Tourism remains a strong element of Miami-Dade's economic plan. In fall 2008, economic development and tourism lead, ers began partnering with American Airlines on a $4.5-million marketing campaign aimed at aggressively promoting Miami-Dade as the ideal place to live, work and play. And in spring 2009, the Florida (soon to be Miami) Marlins broke ground on a $505-million, retractable-dome stadium slated to be ready for Opening Day, 2012

International banking center: Miami is home to 40-plus international banks, in large part because of its multilingual workforce, more than half of whom claim Spanish as their native tongue and the rest divided among English, Creole, Portuguese, French and other European languages. In summer 2009, Scotiabank's Private Client Group chose Miami as the site for its first U.S. branch, anew facility devoted to regional wealth management services for non-U.S. residents and citizens, mostly from Latin America and the Caribbean. Dan Wright, senior vice president and head of international wealth management, anticipates an investment of $4.8 million and the creation of 10 new jobs over the next three years.

The natural choice: When California-based Molina Healthcare went looking for a headquarters for its Florida operations, Miami was the natural choice for the company that provides Medicare and Medicaid programs to seniors and low-income patients. Among the selling points: Miami's multiethnic base, the region's eligible beneficiaries and a general acceptance of managed care, which helped streamline the new employee training process, says David Pollack, CEO of Molina Healthcare of Florida. Molina will bring no new jobs to a 30,000-square-foot facility in the county's western Doral area. The firm today serves nearly 30,000 members, but hopes to top 45,000 by year-end. Says Pollack "To be a leader in the country, you need to be a leader in Florida."

Growing life sciences sector: Among the county's 1,700 life sciences businesses are Beckman Coulter, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), Boston Scientific, Johnson & Johnson's Cordis and Schering-Plough; soon, there will be more. The University of Miami--emboldened by President Donna Shalala's record $1.4-billion university campaign and the recruitment of leading clinical and genetics researchers who followed med school Dean Dr. Pascal Goldschmidt--in June announced the $80-million first phase of what will be a 1.4-million-square-foot Life Science Park near Jackson Memorial Hospital. Among the tenants: South Florida Proton Center, a $120-million cancer research and treatment facility slated to open in 2012. The park is expected to eventually employ 4,500 and generate $253 million in annual economic impact.

BROWARD COUNTY

Transformation breeds growth: Business in Broward continues to thrive under the mantra of "transformation." Building on the 2008 debut of its Excellerate Broward and CEO Council programs designed to lure corporate relocations, county leaders have seen growth in several sectors. W Hotels Worldwide opened its 23-floor, 517-room W Fort Lauderdale in 2009. And Nova Southeastern University has ramped up programs in nursing, pharmacy, physician assistant and occupational and physical therapy to meet local demand for skilled healthcare workers. The Fort Lauderdale-based university plans to open a branch in Palm Beach County near Scripps Florida and Max Planck Institute of Bio-Imaging.

Biofuels take off: When Craig Ash looks at the 10 idle molasses tanks at Port Everglades, he sees opportunity. As vice president of Brazil based Cepemar World Renewable Fuels, Ash is overseeing the company's $30-million bid to rehab the tanks and convert them into storage devices for its sugarcane-based ethanol, biodiesel and biofuel imports. His hope is for a future distribution hub to service the Southeast. "You can draw a direct line between the northern coast of Brazil and the Southeast U.S. he says. "It makes geographic sense for Cepemar to be here based on the location."

Communications cluster: Sarasota-based xG Technology Inc. is the latest company to find a home at the burgeoning wireless communications cluster in Sunrise. Canada's Research in Motion, Hong Kong computer and electronics manufacturer Foxconn International Holdings and General Dynamics Cq Systems alreadyhave facilities here.The appeal is a ready pool of workers with the ideal brain-power to create xG's low-cost mobile broadband networks, says Frank Peake, deputy COO. "We found Broward was the best pool of engineers without going to Silicon Valley." Another plus is the proximity of Florida Atlantic University; xG uses FAU interns and taps its courses for technical training.

PALM BEACH COUNTY

Thinking ahead: Palm Beach County's "Smart Start Palm Beach" campaign, launched in 2008, has four key elements: (1) expedited permitting in a cities, with specific emphasis on bringing key industry categories such as healthcare, energy/green companies and communications/information technology to the county's unincorporated areas; (2) a global headquarters initiative to catalog and showcase its available Class A space; (3) partnerships between business leaders, area chambers and mayors to create a business retention program; and (4) a "shovel ready" site program to analyze available properties throughout the county and match them with companies keen to move into and around the area within three to 36 months. One such success was Office Depot, the long-time county employer which just relocated to a new 635,000-square-foot facility in Boca Raton, retaining 1,700 jobs for the region.

Bio-business heats up: In spring 2009, Delray Beach-based biofuel startup Ag-Oil LLC planted 20 acres of jatropha; when the trees mature in 18 months, the seeds will be used to make biodiesel fuel. The company received a $2.5-million Florida renewable energy grant to build a $20-million biodiesel production facility that is expected to support more than 1,000 direct and indirect jobs, says Brian Weprin, Ag-Oil's project manager. Why Delray Beach? The location is seven miles from I-95 and a CSX rail line, and close to expansive agricultural property should the concept take hold. Says Weprin: "Our goal is to make sure we have the most efficient seeds and strains, and the room to grow them."

Signs of the times: Baron Sign Manufacturing in Riviera Beach has been making signs for 26 years and in 2008, topped $9.5 million in revenues. Ready to expand, founder Sandra Foland bought 4.5 acres in a county Enterprise Zone and built a 40,000-square-foot facility to house her 50 employees and growing operations. A half-dozen new businesses subsequently joined the sign manufacturer in the area, and Foland now has plans to add 15% more space to her existing building.

MARTIN COUNTY

Gaining recognition: Three Martin County employers won Governor's Business Diversification Awards in 2008: Sol Inc. for export excellence; Advanced Technologies Group Inc. for innovation; and Ecosphere Technologies Inc. for "green" leadership ("Green-to-Gold" category).

Expansion pending: In July 2009, Vaught Aircraft Industries Inc.--maker of various parts for commercial jet airliners--made tentative plans for a major expansion of its Stuart facility. If pending state incentives are approved, the $12.9-million expansion will create 100 direct jobs over three years.

Focusing on life science: The Business Development Board and the Economic Council have established the Martin County Consortium for Life Science Research Technology Advancement to capitalize on the county's proximity to world-renowned life science research institutes and to grow the life science sector.

Powering Up

>> Construction is under way at Florida Power & Light's new solar-thermal plant just outside Indiantown. One of three solar facilities FPL is building in Florida, the Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center will be the second largest solar facility in the world and the first-ever hybrid facility connecting a solar facility to an existing fossil fuel plant. Slated for completion in 2010, the Martin Center is expected to power 11,000 homes with 75 megawatts of electricity.

>> The $480-million project is being built by Abilene, Tex: based Lauren Engineers & Constructors with plenty of local help. Job fairs hosted by Martin County Wodcforce Solutions in April 2009 drew more than enough applicants for some 1,000 available construction jobs.

ST. LUCIE COUNTY

Growing Tradition: The biotechnology research cluster in the town of Tradition continues to grow and prosper:

* In January 2009, Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies moved into its brand new $40-million, 100,000-square-foot research center; employment is already running 50% over projections.

* The Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute division of Oregon Health & Science University has selected Whiting-Turner of Tampa to build its 105,000-square-foot facility on an eight-acre site next door to Torrey Pines. Some zoo scientists and support personnel will eventually work there. V&GTI and its scientific director Rafick-Pierre Sekaly, Ph.D. (who, in June, announced a major research breakthrough on a possible method for eradicating HIV infection in humans) are temporarily housed in some excess space at Torrey Pines until the new facility is up and running.

* The Alfred Mann Institute has acquired 22 acres for its planned 400,000-square-foot medical and life sciences research facility

* Martin Memorial Hospital--which does clinical trials for Tampa-based H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute--awaits Certificate of Need approval for a 300-bed hospital.

* Two I-95 interchanges provide easy access to the community of Tradition, where The Landing at Tradition, a 600,000-square-foot shopping center, now boasts 96% occupancy.

Extruding success: Todd Holloway was a wanted man in 2008. Florida, Georgia and his native Indiana were bidding to become the new home of East Coast Plastics, a Florida-based company Holloway had acquired and was looking to grow in a 50,000-square-foot space. Ultimately, Port St. Lucie won over Holloway thanks to its strong workforce and attractive financial incentives. The company began production in late 2008 and in June 2009 completed its new administrative offices. In all, the company brings 50 jobs--with hopes of growing to 70--and a client base spanning medical, military and commercial sectors. Though he commutes twice-monthly from Indiana, Holloway is pleased with the home he has found. "If it wasn't for Port St. Lucie, there's a chance we would have left Florida. They're very forward thinking here."

Collaborations drive underwater research: In May, Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute partnered with the University of North Carolina-Wilmington to spearhead NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology. With a $23-million grant, they will jointly pursue deep-water oceanographic research. Also under investigation: breast cancer research with deep-water sponges--in partnership with Burnham Institute for Medical Research; bluegreen algae biofuel work with the Smithsonian Institution; and additional research with submersible turbines for generating electricity.

Worker training: Accounts receivable firm Oxford Management Services received a $257,000 Workforce Florida Quick Response Training (QRT) grant commitment in October 2008 to hire and train 303 new employees at its new Fort Pierce location. Likewise, Port St. Lucie-based medical supplier Liberty Medical worked with the local economic development council, Enterprise Florida, Indian River State College and Workforce Solutions to secure its own QRT grant in January 2009 to train some 2,300 new and incumbent employees on new software.

Mas cerveza, por favor: Jupiter-based J.J. Taylor Companies has acquired from Thies Distributing the beer distribution rights to Martin, Okeechobee, Indian River and St. Lucie counties and is out to bid for a $5-million warehouse and distribution facility. The new 25,000-square-foot plant will be located in Crossroads Park on S.R. 70 between the Turnpike and I-95. "This area has great potential for growth," says Vice President of Operations Jose E. Rivera. "The highways make it easy for our employees."

Educational Opportunities

>>Indian River State College opened its new Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex in September 2009. The $40-million, 50-acre complex at Ft. Pierce houses trainees in counter-terrorism, homeland security, FEMA and emergency management in custom facilities that include a built-to-scale courtroom and an airplane once owned by boxing promoter Don King. Also opening this fall at IRSC: an $18.5 million Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) building. Elsewhere, Florida Atlantic University's Port St. Lucie campus has undergone a $12.2-million expansion.

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY

Flying high: Vero Beach-based Piper Aircraft--fresh off its May acquisition by investment management company Imprimis--is slated to roll out its $2.19 million PiperJet "very light jet" by 2012.

Play ball: Dodgertown--the Vero Beach facility that was vacated in 2008 when the Los Angeles Dodgers moved their spring training to Arizona--undergoing rejuvenation. Minor League Baseball now holds three five-year leases on the four-diamond facility and is making big plans. With 89 rooms, tennis courts, an Olympic-sized pool, conference center and up to 300 employees during peak events, this unique facility has undergone a $2-million facelift and will host college and high school tournaments, Major League umpire training and corporate team building, says Craig Callan, vice president of Minor League Baseball-Vero Beach. "Our target is 40 to 45 weeks of business a year."

KEY WEST/MONROE COUNTY

Cruisin' in: Cruises and the revenue they generate in disembarkation Fees and sales of merchandise, food and beverages remain vital to Key West's economy. At just over 80,000, arrivals in May 2009 were double the number for the previous May and contributed to giving Key West its best May ever for cruise traffic. Elsewhere in the Keys, tourism remained strong. Despite the high cost of gasoline, 79% of all Keys visitors continue to arrive by car, and more than half of those are Floridians coming from Tampa southward. "The greatest amenity we have is U.S. 1," says Kevin Speidel, Waldorf-Astoria area general manager and managing director. "That road leads to a Caribbean vacation destination."

Putting heads in beds: The Southern-most Hotel Collection is adding to its portfolio of Key West accommodations to meet increased demand, says Matt Babich, general manager and minority partner. The company bought and subsequently razed Atlantic Shores Hotel and the Sands Beach Club, then opened 80 oceanfront rooms at its newest property, Southernmost on the Beach. When Babich arrived in the Keys in 1988, occupancies were 30% in "shoulder" seasons. Now, he's seeing strong guest figures year-round.

Regional Assets

Universities/Colleges

* Barry University

* Broward College

* Florida Atlantic University

* Florida International University

* Florida Keys Community College

* Florida Memorial University

* Indian River State College

* Lynn University

* Miami Dade College

* Nova Southeastern University

* Palm Beach Atlantic University

* Palm Beach Community College

* St. Thomas University

* University of Miami

Airports

* Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

* Key West International Airport

* Marathon (Florida Keys) Airport

* Miami International Airport

* Palm Beach International Airport

Seaports

* Port Everglades

* Port of Fort Pierce

* Port of Key West

* Port of Miami-Dade

* Port of Palm Beach

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Closet opens doors a little wider for teachers

The nonprofit that gives teachers the opportunity to "shop" for free school supplies has grown and expanded again.

The Teachers' Supply Closet in West Ashley had allowed teachers from 10 high-poverty schools in Charleston and Berkeley counties to take advantage of its goodies, but now teachers in 21 schools can shop there.

"The teachers literally cry when they leave here because they're so thrilled," said Deborah Halon, who runs the store.

Teachers can go to the Teachers' Supply Closet and pick up free school supplies for their classrooms with no strings attached, and it appears to be the only store of its kind in the state.

The store opened in spring 2008 to six Charleston County elementary schools where more than 95 percent of students live in poverty. As awareness and support for the nonprofit has risen, so has its ability to serve more teachers.

The store began opening its doors this spring to schools in Berkeley and Dorchester counties with 95 percent poverty -- no school in Dorchester qualified -- and the nonprofit lowered its poverty threshold to 90 percent this fall, which increased its number of eligible schools to 21. Seventeen of those schools are in Charleston County, and four are in Berkeley County.

The nonprofit's long-term goal is to serve all Lowcountry schools with more than 70 percent of students in poverty, but it will take time to build to that.

"We want to keep the quality and level of expectation what it is," Halon said.

Halon and another part-time staff member are the store's sole employees, but they've managed to provide $95,000 worth of supplies to teachers this year. Many in the community still don't realize that a place such as the Teachers' Supply Closet exists, and Halon said she'd like to raise more awareness about it and continue to increase partnerships with organizations and businesses to host supply drives.

One collaborative effort that Halon is particularly excited about is with the Riverdogs, which again decided to adopt the nonprofit for its upcoming season. The first 100 people who bring school supplies to each home game this year will receive an admission ticket for $1.

"There's a lot going on," she said. "It's exciting. The need is only going to grow."

Teachers who shop in the store seem grateful for its existence, as evidenced by the surveys they fill out after they shop. One teacher wrote this spring: "Most of the items that I was able to get today I consider necessary to run my classroom. If I was not able to get these supplies, the funds would have come right out of my pocket. I usually spend $1,200 a year."

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What happens when school supplies are in short supply?

Teachers make a difference.

Even with limited supplies. Even with shrinking budgets.

They still make a difference, Teri Howard says.

"Teachers are being asked to do more and more, and I'm proud to say have risen to the challenge," Howard, who teaches Title I Reading at Lincoln Elementary School in Ottawa, said.

Howard said teachers need supplies -- crayons, scissors, glue, pens, staplers, hole punches, folders -- to do their jobs and help students succeed.

But those supplies sometimes are difficult to come by Howard says, especially in a struggling economy.

"We make a difference," she said. "We take each child and differentiate the instruction so each may learn to the fullest of their potential."

Howard says school districts provide some of the necessary supplies -- copy paper more than anything else -- but teachers are responsible for coming up with the cash for extra supplies -- like construction paper, markers and paint, to name a few.

"The school gives a budget yearly to teachers to purchase classroom needs," she said. "It helps, of course, but with bigger class sizes and more curriculum, it stretches pretty thinly."

Howard said some teachers spend up to $400 on supplies yearly in order to help students meet annual yearly progress and other state assessment requirements.

"Students need to respond to learning by doing," Howard said. "Is it realistic in the business world to run a business without the supplies?"

West Franklin Superintendent Dotson Bradbury said although unfortunate, the reality is that teachers always have purchased extra supplies for their classrooms.

"We try and provide teachers with the supplies they need while understanding our budgets continue to be cut," Bradbury said. "Our teachers do an excellent job of not wasting supplies."

Bradbury added that it is difficult during tough economic times because each school principal has a building budget -- from teaching supplies to restroom toilet paper.

"Our teachers buy extras they want students to have out of their own personal funds," he said. "While not ideal, it's something classroom teachers have done for many years."

Howard wouldn't argue with this notion. She says young teachers typically spend less money on supplies because they make less money annually.

"I'm sure it's different for all teachers," she said. "I probably spend $400 a year, mostly on motivators, instructional materials and organizers."

In addition, Howard says usually she buys books, snacks, notebooks, baskets, tubs and special paints and markers for her students. All of these items help make her job easier and help students achieve more, she said.

"It is a rewarding and demanding job," she said. "I daresay, the corporate boss could not run his or her company with the same lack of supplies that we do and make the difference we make. But that's my opinion."

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Sacramento boy wins Mexican art contest

Juan Misael Gonzalez-Montanez, a shy 8-year-old who loves to draw, has won his family of six its first-ever computer.

Juan, a third-grader at the Smythe Academy in North Sacramento, was one of 15 top winners in an international art competition sponsored by the Mexican government.

His award-winning crayon and watercolor picture shows the first flag of Mexican independence containing the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe, an important national and religious symbol in Mexico. The flag was raised by Father Miguel Hidalgo on Sept. 15, 1810.

Hidalgo -- with his now famous grito, or yell -- rallied the town of Dolores to battle the Spaniards. "Hidalgo proclaimed the end of slavery in all Mexico, including California," said Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, the consul general of Mexico in Sacramento.

"Our independence was not achieved until 11 years later, after a long and bloody war, and Father Hidalgo was killed in less than a year," said Gonzalez Gutierrez.

Juan was the first Sacramento winner in the 13-year history of the competition. Este Es Mi Mexico -- This Is My Mexico -- was sponsored by the Mexican government for children 7 to 11.

This year's theme was the bicentennial of Mexican independence and centennial of the Mexican Revolution.

Other winning submissions depicted the revolution that began Nov. 20, 1910, to overthrow President Porfirio Diaz, who had ruled Mexico for more than 30 years.

Juan was one of 15 top winners out of 6,266 entries worldwide for the official 2010 Mexican calendar. The top 120 drawings -- done by children as far away as Russia and Argentina -- will be part of an exhibition at the History Gallery in the Museo del Caracol in Mexico City, where Juan was born.

"I draw 15 to 20 minutes a day," said Juan. "I like making the Mexican flag and stuff."

His sister Adriana, 13, added, "he also draws cars, superheroes, a lot of stuff." She called the winning picture "a good thing so I can remember about Mexican history, and I want to learn more about my Mexican culture."

It's also a good thing because the family -- which includes Luis, 12, and Daniela, 15 -- will finally get a computer, a $1,500 desktop, this week.

"I'll do my homework -- math projects in pre-algebra -- and check my grades," said Adriana. "Right now it's hard because I have to go to the library to use a computer and sometimes it's not open."

Juan could have chosen a digital camera, a drawing kit or school supplies, but he chose the computer.

"I want him to do his homework, mainly," said his dad, Daniel Gonzalez.

"It's beautiful," he said of his son's drawing, "I know he draws all the time but I never knew he submitted it."

Gonzalez said he came to Sacramento from Michoacan in 2000. Five years later, the family joined him. Gonzalez is now a cook in a local restaurant while Juan's mother, Maria Gonzalez Montanez, works at a plastics factory.

Juan was honored Sept. 15 on the steps of the Capitol before 5,000 Mexican Americans celebrating Hidalgo's call to arms 200 years ago, the consul general said.

But Juan doesn't plan to become an artist. "I want to be a cook like my dad," he said.

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College fair shows high school kids the possibilities

From the University of Puget Sound fieldhouse, the future looked bright Monday night.

Wanna-be engineers, actors, musicians, hair stylists, physicians and other teens with college and careers on their minds swarmed the second annual College and Career Fair sponsored by Tacoma Public Schools. Organizers were expecting more than 2,500 students to attend the event, which drew college recruiters from around the Northwest and around the country, along with a few from Canada and Europe.

Many students cruised the aisles with parents, browsing among 175 information booths offering information on everything from well-known Northwest colleges to West Point. The fair also drew local employers, including the City of Tacoma and MultiCare Health System.

"We have talked college for years," said Corrine Moore, who was there with her son, Roger, a student at Truman Middle School. She believes it's never too early to start planning, even though her son's career ideas are still evolving. He's interested in engineering, but also wants to attend a school with a good soccer program. And he wouldn't say no to a music scholarship.

Stadium High School sophomore Bailey Ness dreams about becoming a writer and has already started on a romance novel that's set in her high school. (Don't worry. She's changed all the names.) She picked up information from both the University of Washington and Western Washington University, and she also learned about a college she hadn't considered before: Sweet Briar College in Virginia.

Fortunately for Bailey, her parents Dee Dee and Mike have been socking money away into Washington state's college savings plan, known as GET, or Guaranteed Education Tuition. It allows families to purchase credits toward college tuition at today's prices for college in the future. (Learn more at get.wa.gov) The fair also featured sessions on financial aid and the college application process.

Marissa Madison, a Stadium senior, isn't sure where she's headed after graduation. But she said she's interested in cosmetology or "artsy stuff" like design.

"That's what these things are for," she said of the fair's wide variety of offerings.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635

debbie.cafazzo@thenewstribune.com

In Federal Way

The Federal Way School District hosts its annual "Life After High School" Career and College Fair on Wednesday, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Todd Beamer High School, 35999 16th Ave. S. in Federal Way.

Representatives from colleges, technical and specialty schools, trades, and the military will answer questions. Seminars will cover topics including scholarships, financial aid, college admissions, SAT/ACT, and personal essays.

For more information, call 253-945-2581.

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Caneel Bay staffer raising donations with marathon run

Carolyn Rebeck, sales manager for Caneel Bay Resort, is combining her personal and professional lives by running in the upcoming New York City Marathon as a fundraiser for Friends of Virgin Islands National Park.

Caneel has pledged to donate 50 cents for every dollar Rebeck raises, up to $1,000. Her fundraising goal is $3,000. The race is one week away and already she has raised $2,900.

Rebeck, 27, has run the Chicago Marathon twice, the Brooklyn Half Marathon, and, for the first time this year, St. John's 8 Tuff Miles.

"That was so hard," she said.

The most recent race was Chicago just three weeks ago. At that race she clocked in at 4 hours, 40 minutes, but she said she was going slow to save herself for the New York race. The previous year, her first marathon, she came in at 4:20:00.

A New York resident, Rebeck entered the annual lottery for the city's marathon one year ago. When she got the news that she won a spot, she began to think about how she could use the opportunity to do the most good.

"I was lucky enough to get in and decided to link my professional life and personal life together," Rebeck said.

The race will be a fundraiser for the park -- through the nonprofit Friends of V.I. National Park -- and she will be decked out in the turquoise and white Caneel Bay Resort colors and logo.

"For both personal and professional reasons, the V.I. National Park really holds value for me," Rebeck said.

Caneel Bay Resort is on national park land, and the resort and the park work hand in hand to preserve St. John's cultural and natural resources. The nonprofit Friends of V.I. National Park share that goal, providing programs and funding initiatives to engage the community in the park and its resources.

"It's a great show of support for what we do in protecting and preserving the park," Joe Kessler, president of Friends of V.I. National Park said.

He said the Friends will be watching and cheering her on on Nov. 1.

The money raised will be a general donation to the nonprofit. Friends of V.I. National Park runs a number of programs including eco-camps for children to study marine and terrestrial ecosystems; SKIP (School Kids in the Park) designed to familiarize V.I. students with their National Park through hands-on learning and site visits; creating and maintaining accessible park trails; scholarship funds, and more.

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The Great Pumpkin and 'Pumpkin Man's' statue; all those helicopters

On a recent walk past the Dominic T. "Nick" Venetucci statue adjacent to the Pioneers Museum I counted 26 pumpkins. Are these started from seed or plants? Who plants them and when? And what happens to the mature pumpkins?

" Chris J. Hermes

ANSWER: Oh Great Pumpkin, is it you?

Not quite. The pumpkin seeds, usually a couple of packages, are planted around mid-May and the city waters them. They're usually small to medium pumpkins, just like those the "Pumpkin Man" planted for the kids from this area to pick.

The pumpkin fairy is Beth Ortiz, manager of Downtown Business Improvement District, who said the district agreed to do this when area residents, many of them school kids, raised the money for the sculpture after Venetucci's death in 2004.

Who harvests the pumpkins? Well, if Ortiz is quick enough, she does it herself. Sometimes, just like this year, she goes over to pick some pumpkins before they're too big and they've already gone home with someone else.

Ortiz will finish the pumpkin season by cutting down the vines.

What were those helicopters?

It was amazing Monday when a large number of Army helicopters flew in formation over the city. What was happening?

--Amy

ANSWER: They had just returned from training in Fort Irwin, Calif. It was a squadron of 16 AH-64D Apache helicopters heading home to Fort Carson.

Why zig when you can zag on I-25?

Just south of the Woodmen/I-25 interchange, near the overhead electronic sign near Zio's restaurant, all three lanes of southbound I-25 jog about 5-6 feet to the left. The diversion widens the right breakdown lane and nearly eliminates the left breakdown lane. There are no obvious visible reasons why the lanes need to make this unusual excursion, and I think it presents a traffic hazard. Drivers cruising down the interstate are expecting the road to continue in the usual straightforward manner.

-- Bob Bean

Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Wilson explained, "The City maintains that overhead sign and the highway lights. Instead of having to close a lane every time they do operations work, there is that jog which allows space for city crews to park their vehicles when they have to work on the sign or the lights.

This will all go away when I-25 becomes four lanes in the future."

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U.S. Cellular Launches $1 Million Campaign to Help Schools

As the economy's slow recovery continues to take a heavy toll on our schools, the need for additional funding has never been greater. That is why U.S. Cellular is continuing its commitment to education with a $1 million donation to schools.

Once again, the Calling All Communities campaign will award $100,000 to 10 schools across the nation. Public and private schools, kindergarten through high school, big or small, all are eligible to win. From Nov. 13, 2009, through Jan. 15, 2010, individuals 18 years or older can visit any U.S. Cellular store to get a code to vote online for their school. There is no purchase necessary and you don't have to be a U.S. Cellular customer to vote. The 10 schools with the most votes will receive $100,000 to use however they choose.

"Many school districts are literally in crisis mode," said Jeff Childs, senior vice president and chief human resources officer for U.S. Cellular. "As a company, we care about kids and the quality of the education they receive. The passion and energy of our 9,000 associates will help spread the word as we get behind this common purpose."

There is plenty of evidence of the need for help. At least 36 states have cut or proposed cuts to education, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. A University of Washington study projects that states will cut an average of 18 percent of their education spending over the next three years.

According to a survey conducted by the American Association of School Administrators, 76 percent of school administrators report that the economic downturn has negatively affected student achievement.

The drastic budget reductions are forcing many school districts to eliminate academic programs, extra-curricular activities, staff and basic school supplies. More than three in five parents (61 percent) believe the quality of education will suffer because of school cutbacks.

Last year's Calling All Communities campaign was driven by U.S. Cellular associates' grassroots efforts and communities rallying behind their schools. More than 120,000 votes were cast for 6,500 schools across the country. Winners represented public and private schools in Wisconsin, Illinois, Oklahoma, North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, Nebraska and Iowa. Funds were used for everything from scholarships and computer labs to playgrounds and gymnasium renovations.

Wendy Hooks, principal of Brogden Primary, a winning school in Dudley, N.C., spoke of other intangible benefits of being a Calling All Communities champion.

"Our school and children really needed this money as most of our kids come from working class families," said Hooks, whose school is featured in U.S. Cellular's national advertising campaign. "What we lacked in financial support, we more than made up for in spirit and hope."

Visit our Calling All Communities Facebook page and www.uscellular.com/callingallcommunities for pictures and videos from the 2009 campaign.

The 9,000 associates of U.S. Cellular believe a wireless phone enhances people's lives and a wireless company should be in the business of bringing people together. U.S. Cellular has a wide range of monthly plans, including those with unlimited nationwide calling, unlimited free incoming calls and options to prepay. The company has a growing catalog of phones like the BlackBerryA Tour and Pearl Flip, and the touch-screen LG Tritan, which offer e-mail and Web access. Based in Chicago, U.S. Cellular is the nation's fifth-largest full-service wireless carrier, serving 6.2 million customers across the country. To learn more about the company visit one of its retail stores or uscellular.com.

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