Taking ‘Pot-Shots’ at Brilliant Library Cards

Love hearing from my buddy Ashleigh Brilliant (creator of the “Pot-Shots”), who writes to let us know what adventure he is up to.

The Public Library of the City of Stratford, Connecticut (population 50,000) contacted Brilliant recently – completely out of the blue – and asked for permission to quote one of his “Pot-Shots.”

It seems that the Stratford people were redesigning their library card, and wanted to put one of his Pot-Shots on the new ones.

“I have great reverence for libraries,” Ashleigh wrote me, “and to me, this would be almost as high an honor as to be inscribed in stone over the library entrance.” So he was happy to say yes, without even thinking of making a charge.

They issued him the very first library card, with the number on the back ending in “0001.” There on the front is his copyrighted Pot-Shot #3245: “The closest you will ever come in this life to an orderly universe is a good library.”

With the honor of being perhaps the first known author to be officially quoted on a library card, Brilliant has now set his sights on becoming the first epigrammatist to receive the Nobel Prize. (Hey….it could happen – after all, the Angels won the World Series!)

Goodbye Hank

A fond farewell to Hank Van Wingerden, one of the four great brothers from Holland who came to America in the 1960s and started a flower empire. The Van Wingerdens were flower growers in the Netherlands. When bureaucratic regulations and red tape had found their way into the flower industry, the oldest brother, Case, started researching other options. He told me that he found, through the university's geological system, that little Carpinteria had the perfect climate, soil and water for growing flowers.

So in 1967, the Van Wingerden brothers – Case, John, Bill and Hank – (and sister Agatha) pulled roots and replanted their families in Carpinteria to start the Dutch Brothers nursery. They began growing carnations, later freesias and mums; and now Gerber daisies are the big crop. The Van Wingerdens grow 90% of the Gerbers used in the United States today.

Like all the Van Wingerdens, Hank had a great work ethic, was generous to the core, and had a great sense of humor. I remember him on the greens at the Santa Barbara Lawn Bowls Club. He was just so funny, full of life and unabashedly silly; he was altogether delightful. When we had one of our parties there, we could always count on Hank (along with his wife and sister and brother Case in the lead) singing enthusiastically some Dutch song from the homeland.

So Hank, may you blossom in Heaven.

Angels Bearing Gifts

All the charities are out in force for their annual beg – but here’s a very different and special one: Angels Bearing Gifts, a project that remembers the forgotten.

The project started five years ago when Evelynn Smith-Herman, a parent of a child with a developmental disability, was Christmas shopping. On a bit of an impulse, Evelynn bought little gifts for 13 individuals with developmental disabilities or special needs. She then wrapped the gifts and delivered them to the individuals anonymously. She did the same thing the next year and was inspired by the response she heard from the caregivers. In 2003, she recruited many of her friends and interested individuals to help out, and 37 “special” individuals were able to receive gifts on Christmas and Chanukah.

Evelynn had a nagging feeling that these 37 people were just a fraction of this population that needed to be remembered, and so she created Project – Angels Bearing Gifts, a non-profit corporation.

Quite simply and sweetly, here’s how it works: Project – Angels Bearing Gifts matches individuals with developmental disabilities and who do not have someone to remember them during the holiday season with individuals who can help bring some happiness into their lives by giving them a special gift.

The project serves individuals with developmental disabilities – including mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism and other significant developmental challenges.

Because these individuals need help and support, most adults with developmental disabilities live in group homes. However, many adults and even some children with developmental disabilities have lost their families and do not have anyone to remember them. Volunteers work year-round to bring surprise special gifts to more than 100 beneficiaries on birthdays, Valentine's Day and during the December holiday season.

For more info on the project, call 969-5500 or contact info@angelsbearinggifts.com. The mailing address is PO Box 50418, Santa Barbara, CA, 93150-0418.

Or come help out on Monday, December 18, from 6 pm 9 pm. There will be a big ole wrapping party at the Carpinteria Women's Club, 1059 Vallecito Road. (Yes, teens can get community service hours by lending a gift-wrapped hand here!)

Seeing a Good Thing

Rick Feldman is quite passionate about sight care for the youth, and he puts his money and minutes where his mouth is – donating eyeglasses and a lot of his time in related projects in the community.

Feldman was honored by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors with a resolution recognizing him for his “Right to Sight” program giving free eye care and glasses to disadvantaged people for many years.

In fact, this Sunday, December 17, he will be sponsoring a Health Day at his Eyeglass Factory on Milpas Street, where at least 100 kids will be seen.

This event will be a classic example of a private-public partnership as Feldman joins SEE International (with Dr. George Primbs and Dr. Barry Mast), Lions Sight & Hearing Center, Clinics on Wheels, Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics. It’s a great collaboration, and congrats to Feldman.