HO! HO! HO! May all the warmth of the holiday season envelope you and your loved ones. There are countless feel-good, inspirational family stories that cheer us and warm our hearts during this time. One of my most vivid family Christmas memories deals with the lack of warmth … literally.
I live in the Appalachian Mountains and many folks do not realize how vicious our weather can get sometimes. Yes, we are known for our lovely Christmas trees, but we can also be remembered for
deep snow and icy, curvy roads. One of our Christmases past we were following our usual plan. My older son and his wife were coming for my Christmas Eve buffet and spending the night to be here with us on Christmas morning as well. (I am holding on to Christmas morning as long as I can! He is 30.) And my younger son was home from college and enjoying some “down time” visiting with high school friends.
There had been rumblings about a white Christmas, but we didn’t pay much attention. We were too busy with those last minute Christmas details. Thank goodness I did bake the Christmas morning casserole on Christmas Eve afternoon.
Well, you can guess what happened next. Snow started fulling, but first came the ice. The timing of the temperature dropping was perfect for laying down a good thick coating of ice on the trees and roads. Beautiful, you say? Bah, Humbug!!! We woke up on Christmas morning to no power of any type. Let me tell you folks, those beautiful gas logs are not much help in this situation. As soon as we all layered up with more clothes, we decided we HAD to have some coffee. So my brilliant younger son boiled some water on the gas grill we had on our deck. Then he poured the water through the coffee basket on the pot. Then he reheated the mixture and we had coffee! We took the egg casserole and wrapped it in foil and placed it on the grill as well. Presto! Breakfast.
This was good fur a while. But after presents were opened and we couldn’t use any of them, we were forced to play chess, work puzzles, and read. It was tough. No electronics. We became absorbed into these activities and were startled by what sounded like gunfire in the woods behind our house. “Out in the yard there arose such a clatter, we sprang from our puzzles to see what was the matter!” It was tree branches breaking from the weight of their ice coverings. It was a scary sound that just kept getting worse. We were getting colder by the hour and we didn’t want to face another night in the cold house. (We are located on the top of a mountain!).
So when noon came, we had a family conference and decided that we would try to make a run for it. We had no idea how bad the roads up to our house were, but just from what we could see outside we knew that absolutely nothing was moving. We began to execute our plan. We dressed, packed, took snacks and water, and began to venture out to the garage and driveway to prepare the vehicles. Fortunately, my younger son had a chainsaw in his truck. It was determined that he will be the lead vehicle because he may have to cut trees out of the roadway. My older son and wife fullowed next and then my husband and I brought up the rear once the road was clear.
Back to warmth, here is where we realize just how COLD it is. No, I didn’t say it was pretty … just like nothing I’ve ever seen.
The eerie sound of popping tree branches getting louder and more frequent was terrifying.
After hugs and warnings to be careful, we started out.
I had to close my eyes. I felt the slow grind of the SUV; I heard the unmistakable sound of the chainsaw roaring ahead, and I listened to my husband muttering to himself I asked my husband, “Is he okay?” I don’t know which was worse … my actual vision of the scary scene or the imagined vision of what could be happening when my eyes are closed. We must have looked like a modern-day Daniel Boone family.
We made it down and I breathed a sigh of relief as we voiced our thankfulness to one another. The plan was to travel on to Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house about an hour away, but in a tropical climate compared to where we’d been. But son No. 2 shocks us with this statement, “That was cool! I think I’m going to stay here and see how Claire’s road is.” What? I guess he needed another kind of warmth!
My best wishes for a very warm holiday season for you and yours.
Until next year!
A writer from North Carolina who started her career at the lifestyle magazine Bangle, Madison Frederick uses a pen name because she likes to write about personal amusing stories from her girlfriends. She is a semi-retired, happily married mother of grown children.]]>
The Social Security Administration’s primary job is paying benefits to 59 million beneficiaries, not acting as your financial advisor. The SSA doesn’t know all the variables that affect your decision about filing for benefits; however, the website, SSA.gov, has a lot of information that can help you in your decision-making process.
The Earnings Test shouldn’t keep you from working in retirement. The earnings test may reduce benefits if you are collecting Social Security benefits and earning income at the same time. When you
first receive benefits, if you have earned income and you are older the full retirement age, $1 in benefits is deducted for each $2 you earn above the limit, which for 2014 is $15,480. In the year you reach your full retirement age, this reduction decreases and after you reach your full retirement age, the reduction goes away. The reduction isn’t forever lost. Once you attain your full retirement age, Social Security recalculates and your future benefits are increased to account for the dollars reduced.
Delaying Social Security can make good tax sense. You should carefully consider your 401k and IRA withdrawal strategy in conjunction with your decision to claim Social Security benefits. If you can delay claiming Social Security until your full retirement age (and end up with a larger benefit), your withdrawals from your retirement plan accounts may be smaller, which can result in lower taxable income. Consider this: as much as 85% of a married-filing-joint couple’s Social Security benefits can be taxable, if their income exceeds $44,000. Instead of claiming Social Security at age 62, you
might consider tapping your retirement plan accounts. If you wait to claim Social Security until you’ve reached the full retirement age, you’ll be eligible for larger benefits, and reduce your withdrawals (which may be taxable) from your retirement plan accounts.
Please discuss any Social Security claiming strategies with your trusted advisor.
Angie Moore is a certified public accountant, having been with Kemper CPA for 18 years. She was graduated from the University of Illinois. She and her husband have a 12-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. They are avid Illini fans.]]>
My wife asked me what my father might want for Christmas. I said “World Peace.”
Truthfully at 81, “World Peace might be as practical as anything else I could give him. As I looked back on the 80 years I have known him. I realize, that whatever I come up with, he
had previously purchascd for himself. He has 1,300 golf shirts and no longer plays golf. In fact even when he did play golf, he was constantly upgrading his equipment on his own, so buying him anything short of Chivas on the rocks at the 19th Hole made very little sense.
Just a few yars ago when he did play, he was very impressed with himself when he found out that his 3-wood had more spent more time being engineered in a computer-generated wind tunnel than a
Saturn V rocket had – AND was constructed of materials that as he described “could not be found in nature.”
The nice thing about his “unnatural” golf club was that it fit his “unnatural” golf swing very nicely. Unfortunately, once he stopped playing golf; it did limit the Christmas, Father’s Day and birthday
choices (and greatly slowed aereospace research on golf clubs for people who hit the ball 173 yards).
He has always been a “tech junkie” as well and one would think with the exponential explosion of technology during his eight decades on this earth, those gifts would have eventually bought themselves, shipped themselves and then returned themselves, all without any human intervention.
However, where hi-tech gifts were concerned, he may even had a more selective criteria than in golf clubs.
Not long ago, 1965 to be exact, he had a new world-band radio that came complete with 6L6 power tubes, 12 v7x preamp tubes and dual rectifiers. It weighed about 400 lbs. and could pick up broadcasts from Radio Free Hungary. I believe he eventually ran a wire frum it into the bathroom plumbing so he could hook it up to all the copper piping in the house and create a two-car, two-bath
That eventually gave way to stereo equipment with the latest in solid state and quadraphonic sound. Further down the road came reel-to-reels, 8-tracks, cassettes, medal tape, video disks, Betamax, CDs and DVDs.
Each purchase required multiple trips to stereo stores where hipsters with tinted glasses and leather sport jackets yammered on about levels of harmonic distortion at 4 or 8 ohms. My Dad would always listen and then throw out some factoid he had recently read in Audiophile magazine. All the while, I just sat quietly and wondered why he even cared about hearing what was recorded at 80,000 Hz since he had basically lost his hearing in Korea in 1952.
After audio came computers and then phones. Although my Dad will be the first to admit he has trouble with the actual operation of a computer, tablet and phone, he likes the CONCEPT of computers, tablets and phones.
He also liked Steve Jobs more than Bill Gates and has since surrounded himself with enough “Apples” to create an orchard. At 81, he has enough downloaded music on his romputer so he can listen uninterrupted for 3.2 years. He said he wanted it all “in the cloud” so he could stream his 3.2 years’ worth of music to his choice from iPad, iPod(s), Apple Tv, iMac or iBook, or home theater.
One day I walked in as he was listening to music he had downloaded to his home theater, and he said it was coming “from the cloud.” I said. “Which device is streaming it?” His response, “I have absolutely no idea.”
That whole World Peace thing is looking like a better present all the time.
Todd is a writer and editor in So. Indiana. However, he is sitting by the phone waiting for Jimmy Page to call about reforming Led Zepplin, with the two of them sharing lead guitar duties. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]]>
The holidays are upon us! It’s the perfect time to celebrate with family and friends before the long, cold, dark winter months begin.
Our ancient ancestors celebrated the winter solstice, which usually falls on Dec. 21 or 22, with stories, food and festivities, much the same way we now celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Yule.
And its interesting to note that our holiday beverage preferences are usually passed down from one generation to another. Take Champagne; this is a classic drink choice for the holidays. If
we want to add some ‘”sparkle” to an evening, issue up heart-warming toasts, or make an event extra festive, we tend to celebrate with a glass of bubbly.
Mulled wine also entices us to sip during celebrations, and it’s so easy to make. Just pour a red wine, usually Syrah or Zinfandel, into a slow cooker, add some spices: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, or anise along with some citrus, even a few drops of vanilla, before mixing in a splash of sherry, port or brandy for an added kick. Pop a cinnamon stick in the glass for stirring and enjoy a toasty drink.
Hard cider has that wonderful sweet-tart taste that sums up the flavors of autumn. Crafted from the unfiltered juice of fermented apples, this drink varies in alcohol levels. A hard cider produced in the U.S. can range from 3.5% to 12% ABV (alcohol by volume), but an English cider may contain only 1.2% to 8.5% ABV giving you the option to chose your “level of influence.” (A cider without alcohol is known as a “soft” cider.)
While we celebrate autumn with cider, in England and France the season is celebrated. with a centuries-old drink called Perry. Crafted from fermented bitter pears mixed with sugar, this tart beverage has an effervescent quality similar to Champagne. The drink has been marketed for years to women due to its more floral nuances and bubbly nature.
You’ve probably heard the traditional English Christmas carol; “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” Well, it refers to the drink known as a wassail. Wassailing denotes going door-to-door, singing carols that wish the residents good health and good fortune. In return, the householder offers carolers a drink from his wassail bowl, and allows them to warm up by his hearth. Wassail contains ale or cider mixed with apples, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg, and is served hot in a mug or bowl It is the perfect warm-up on a cold winter’s night.
There’s eggnog. and then there’s EGGNOG! This holiday staple can be non·alcoholic or loaded with holiday cheer. Traditional eggnog contains milk, sugar, raw eggs, and various spices – but
always nutmeg. For the festive version, add a liberal pour of whiskey, brandy, rum, bourbon or cognac. And if you’re searching for another reason to imbibe, look no further. Christmas Eve is also
National Eggnog Day so celebrate with a glass of sweet, silky cheer.
Another old fashioned holiday drink is popular only in the Midwest. The Tom and Jerry cocktail is a variation of eggnog made up of egg whites (beaten stiff) with vanilla extract, hot water and rum added before folding the egg yolks and sugar back in and topping with nutmeg. During the 1950s, special Tom and Jerry bowls and cups were sold for serving this special holiday drink. And. no, the name has nothing to do with the Hanna Barbera cartoon characters, Tom and Jerry. The beverage was actually created in the 1820s and mentioned in the book Life in London: Or the Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and His Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom.
Hot chocolate is the winter beverage we all grew up drinking so it’s no wonder this old favorite also has an adult version. Spiked hot chocolate combines milk, cream, sugar and chocolate before adding a kick of your favorite liquor. Old standbys include Amaretto, Kahlua, Baileys Irish Cream, Southern Comfort, rum or whiskey. Top it off with marshmallows, or some spray canned whip
topping – go ahead, we wont judge – add a sprinkle of nutmeg, and you have a comforting cup of holiday cheer.
The American Colonists celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Twelfth Night with a rousing mug of hot buttered rum. Since rum was one of the cheapest liquors available in the colonies, it was
plentiful, and by adding some molasses, butter and spices to sweeten the taste, this becunc the drink of choice during those cold, snowy winter months. It’s a drink that has withstood the test of time and is still a perennial favorite.
The hot toddy is a super-simple holiday drink to make because you can use whatever you have on hand. Made with any alcohol; bourbon, whiskey, run, cognac, all you add is boiling water, sugar
and spices along with honey and lemon, if desired. In Scotland, the Hot Toddy is believed to help relieve the symptoms of the cold or Bu. In other words, “it’s good for what ails you.”
Originating in Britain, the ever-popular holiday rum punch should be heavy on the rum with sugar, apple cider, cloves, and lemons or oranges added. (The original meaning of the word “punch” is “five,” and only five ingredients are used. to make this drink.) For some added Ho! Ho! Ho! ignite the rum before serving.
Dress up your next party with a Holiday Tuxedo! This classy cocktail includes dry gin, dry vermouth, Maraschino Liqueur and orange bitters. There’s some controversy regarding who first developed.
the drink: the founders of the Tuxedo Park Resort in New York City or Prince Edward VII. Either way, a few sips will make you feel positively dapper this holiday season. Celebratc the season by gathering friends and family together, then make some drinks, pass the mugs and pour some traditional festive beverages to toast the holidays. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Solstice Greetings, Happy Kwanzaa, Blessed Yule! And may all your holiday wishes come true.
Joy Neighbors, from eastern Illinois, knows the wine industry will. She writes a weekly wine blog, has judged national wine competitions, and speaks nationally and internationally. Follow her blog at http://joysjoyofwine.blogspot.com.
By Bernie Schmitt
An old fashioned tradition and a new wave of holiday treats are keeping holiday elves at Charlie’s Candy Shop, 427 N. Second St., and at Pop Around the Clock, 1725 Han St., busier than ever this Christmas season.
These are hometown businesses that savor the appreciation they receive from their customers, near and far. Both specialty shops have shipped their products to all corners of the United States and even to sites overseas.
What’s more is that the products are made right here in Vincennes, on site, and freshness is the hallmark of both. So at this time of year creates incredible demand of the treats both shops offer, and that means more work and longer hours.
What’s more is that each is very much a family operation, too.
Charlie’s Candy Shop
On a late Friday afternoon, Lorrinda Ellermann and her husband, Bob, were busy making chocolates, in the basement of Charlie’s, where candy has been made since 1955. In between, they busied
themselves with preparing boxes of candy for shipment and waiting on customers visiting the shop’s showroom.
The Ellermanns arc co-owners of Charlie’s, along with Darrel and Emily Bobe, though it is Lorrinda who is the full-time manager, as the others have other full-time jobs. Bob works at Toyota, Emily is a nurse, and Darrel is the superintendent of North Knox schools.
But all of them give of their time to ensure orders for their famous product are filled.
“It’s a group effort,” Lorrinda Ellermann said. “They come in at night or whenever they can to help.” Famous for its caramel com and chocolates, Charlie’s began after Charlie Hamke gave metal cans full of caramel com to his friends to thank them for helping him remodel his home. Word got around and soon the phone began ringing with calls from people wanting to buy the product. In 1955, Lorethea decided that making candy along with the caramel corn, might be a good idea.
The rest, as it is said, is history. Charlie retired from Schultheis Furniture in 1968 to work fulltime with Lorethea, making candy and caramel corn. He died in 1978. Lorthea kept working until she
was 90, building the business into a classic institution.
“My grandparents were best friends with the Hamke’s,” Ellermann said. “We spent a lot of time here. Since they (Charlie and Lorethea) didn’t have children, she came to us first when she decided to retire. She wanted it to be as close to family as possible. For us it was a no-brainer. She even helped us with the transition.”
The entire operation was still in the basement of the Hamke home into the 21st Century. Mrs. Hamke died in 2006. That same year, Charlie’s was struck by lightning which caused considerable damage. The shop for closed for three months. When it reopened, the showroom was moved upstairs, caramel corn production moved next door, but candy was still made in the basement.
“I like making people happy,” Ellermann said. “People are happy when they come in and happy when they leave. It is such a positive environment. I feel blessed to be able to work here.”
While caramel corn and chocolate turtles have been the standard favorites over the years, Ellermann says that “anything chocolate’ does well during the holidays. Another Christmas specialty at Charlie’s is its homemade divinity and pecan logs.
“Everyone has his or her favorites,” she said.
The Bobe and Ellcrmann families continue to use Lorethea and Charlie Hamkc’s recipes.
“Why would we change?” Ellermann said. “The difference here is that it is made from scratch and we concentrate on the best ingredients. That’s what makes us so good.”
Pop Around the Clock
Across town Chris and Amy Bruggeman are popping com and ordering supplies and packaging orders for people and businesses that have placed orders online. At this time of year there were three others helping the Bruggeman’s create the variety of flavored popcorn treats that delight young and old.
The gourmet popcorn shop will celebrate its sixth anniversary in March. Christmas is the store’s biggest holiday. Its Fort Sackville Style treat – a combination of cheese, caramel, toffee, and butter flavored popcorn – is popular at the holidays, but so is its peppermint twist and double drizzle cashew crunch.
When the Bruggeman’s began in 2009 there were about a dozen different flavors; now there are 70. Chris Bruggeman is an “cxcellent cook,” his wife said, and had made a batch of caramel com
that his friends enjoyed. That’s about when the idea to open a gourmet popcorn shop “popped in to his head.
“It really has evolved since we first opened,” Amy Bruggeman said. “We experimented with lots of things. Some of it worked, some did not. We usually have our most popular flavors out on display.”
The store lives up to its name during the holiday season, she said, because she puts in long days seven days a week at this time of year. Chris has a fulltime job during the day, leaving Amy to manage
the store through.out the week. He often comes with her during the evening hours.
“I enjoy working with people,” Amy Bruggeman said. “He introduces new flavors and recipes, and I get to present them. The look on people’s faces when they try our product is really enjoyable.” Pop Around the Clock got a bit of notoriety a couple of years ago, when the Daytime Emmy Awards Show program contacted the store to provide some of its product in the “swag” bags given to the actors and others attending the awards show. Organizers of the show learned of the store by way of the store’s website.
The business has tried to keep a competitive price for its products, a difficult task when popcorn is a commodity that fluctuates in price. The Bruggemans have paid as much as $70 for 50 pounds of popcorn, though $25 to $30 is more of an average.
“We try to keep our prices moderate and reasonable, despite that,” Chris Bruggeman said. He uses what is known as “mushroom” popcorn for most of its products. It pops into fairly symmetrical balls that are good for flavor-coating. The “butterfly” popcorn, the kind with which most people are familiar, is used for some products.
“The last 15 to 20 days before Christmas we do around three months worth of business,” Chris Bruggeman said. The couple was somewhat surprised as how quickly their products were selling and
at how much people really like popcorn. “It’s a true comfort food,” Amy Bruggeman said. “People really appreciate the quality of what we do.”
The Bruggemans have no plan to begin making candy or other products, though customers can expect different flavors and popcorn combinations.
“We are going to continue to focus on popcorn,” Amy Bruggeman said. “That’s what got us started. There is no reason to change.”
When former Vmcennes residents make it back home, during Homecoming or during the holidays, they tend to frequent Charlie’s Candy or Pop Around the Clock. Customers say they have to stop at Charlie’s or Pop Around the dock-as well as Bobe’s Pizza, before going back home.
“It’s a blessing to hear that,” said Lorrinda Ellermann of Charlie’s. “Yes, it’s quite an honor to be included in that category,” said Amy Bruggeman.
Evcry Christmas Eve, children go to bed eagerly anticipating a visit from Santa Claus. This merry gentleman is purported to visit the home of every good girl and boy, delivering gifts and cheer along the way.
Before the modem evolution of Santa Claus lived a very real and generous individual named Nicholas. In the third century, Nicholas served. as the Bishop of Myrna in present.day Turkey. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, believing that giving should be done secretly and sacrificially in Jesus Christ’s name rather than one’s own.
Stories tell of Nicholas paying the dowry for poor daughters to enable them to get married. He reportedly put coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. It is believed Nicholas helped to restore the hope of hundreds of people in his community, making him a beloved and revered Bishop. Throughout his ministry. Nicholas fervently shared his life and fortune with others.
Nicholas continued to be revered and commemorated by many Christians even after his death. His charity and unselfish works helped inspire generations of the faithful, and he eventually was named the patron saint of everyone from merchants to sailors to pawnbrokers.
No one really knows what St. Nicholas looked like. But in 2005, a forensic laboratory in England reviewed historical data and photographs of the remains taken from St. Nicholas’ grave in the 1950s. Researchers concluded that he was a small man, perhaps no more than five feet in height, with a broken nose.
This image certainly does not fit with the robust frame and other imagery awarded St. Nicholas in more modern years. St. Nicholas is believed to be the inspiration for Santa Claus, which was a name taken from the Dutch Sinterklaas, a contracted form of Saint Nicolass, or St. Nicholas.
Tales of the real St. Nicholas’ giving spirit were blended with a fictional personification by New York-based newspaper writers who blended the St. Nicholas name with the appearance of a
Dutch town citizen.. The goal was to reach out to the primarily Dutch immigrants living in New York at the time. This jolly elf image was given a boost by the publication of “A Visit From St.
Nicholas,” which was published around the same time.
Eventually, the merry Santa Claus portrayal began to outshine the more accurate St. Nicholas version as a religious man, fostered by political drawings and caricatures that depicted Santa as a chubby sort in a red suit. That image prevails to this day. Beneath the Christmas symbolism, the beard and the presents associated with Santa Claus lies a talc of generosity that originated with St. Nicholas.
By Rama Sobhani
Yes, Virginia, there is a Bill Bonhomme.
A lifelong Vincennes resident, Bonhomme is the living incarnation of the spirit of Christmas, a physical representation of the charity and goodwill that is supposed to be what everyone takes away. Bonhomme loves to play Santa Claus, but the red suit and bona fide boots he puts on look the part when he makes appearances at community Christmas events and the homes of friends and family are just the outward manifestation of the true-to-life Santa that lays beneath.
It has been many years since Bonhomme first started acting the part of Santa Claus, 41, by his count. What became for him a very busy schedule of making rounds as Santa Claus started with a bit
of reluctance on his part. As Bonhomme tells it, years ago he was asked by an uncle to don the Santa Claus costume to fill in for someone else who couldn’t make the commitment at the Knights of
“I said, no, I couldn’t do that, it just isn’t in my nature to do it,” Bonhomme said.
But his uncle insisted and soon, Bonhomme relented and agreed but only on the condition that he get the costume ahead of time so he could get comfortable with it. His uncle agreed., so
Bonhomme tried on the suit and decided to take his disguise out to others’ homes to see how convincing it was.
“I took the suit and went around to some friends’ houses unannounced. I had such a good time with it that I went and bought my own suit. The rest is history,” Bonhomme said. For the last 40-plus years, Bonhomme has been very a busy man come the time preceding Christmas. He makes appearances at just about every Christmas event there is in town, including visiting the homes of his loved ones to play Santa Claus for children and grandchildren. He was Santa Claus in the Vincennes Christmas parade for 16 years, stays in character for church events, including Breakfast with Santa at the Old Cathedral, and goes to private residences to take gift requests from good boys and girls all over the county.
The most compelling part of Bonhomme’s journeys as Santa may be when he declines to announce to anyone who it is under the red cap and beard, leaving questions about his identity, even among
“It was interesting. I found that you can go a lot of places dressed as Santa Claus and people don’t really question it,” Bonhomme said. “There was a lot of whispering, ‘Who is that?’ but there was kind of an understanding that if you did know (it was Bonhomme) you didn’t tell. People would ask who is that and someone would say, well, it’s Santa Claus, can’t you tell?”
Keeping the Earthly identity of Santa Claus a secret is part of the magic of Christmas, Bonhomme said. He has no shortage of interesting stories from his travels as Santa Claus and Bonhommc’s wife Judy has told him several times he ought to compile them into a book. As he recalled some of the kids who sat in his lap through the years, Judy Bonhomme reminded her husband about a young boy who kept getting out of line to look at Santa Claus, over and over again.
“Finally, he came running at me, stood right in front of me, looking at me and said, ‘Sharp boots, Santa,’ then turned around and ran right back into the line. That’s one of the funniest ones I can remember,” Bonhomme said.
“It’s tough to pick one that stands out more than others, every kid is different. I dealt with one child who only spoke German and one who was deaf, I’ve dealt with children who are mentally handicapped, children in wheelchairs. Those are the ones that stand deeply in my heart.
The little girls, especially will get nose to nose with you and their eyes arc so bright and they believe so deeply in Santa Claus and that’s what it’s all about, the fanwy of believing in Sant.a Claus,” Bonhomme said.
Forty-one years is a long time to do anything and the busy schedule as Santa Claus is getting a little long in the tooth for Bonhomme, so he’s cutting back on his public appearances but, luckily, has
found some younger blood to take on the mantle as he steps back from it. He and his wife will be moving away from Vincennes soon and Bonhomme said he’s glad the shoes of St. Nick will be filled
when he does.
“I’m always glad to see someone else doing it,” he said. “I enjoy doing it and I wish I could do it more. “Anyone who brings joy to another person’s heart is Santa Claus, whether it’s you or me or the guy across the street. You just have to have that spirit to bring joy.”
Alot has changed in the past few years. Angry Birds became a national pastime. Maxi dresses and skinny jeans came back into style. China surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest
economy. Innovative technologies disrupted whole industries. One thing hasn’t changed, though, and that is Americans’ generosity, especially when it comes to giving.
While it’s true that philanthropy suffered some setbacks following the financial crisis and Great Recession, Americans have given tens of billions of dollars to support charitable organizations. Between 2006 and 2012, more than $135 billion went to charity, according to a tax study by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, which accounted about 80 percent of charitable gifts in the United States. Americans who earned more than $200,000 a year donated about $77.5 billion during the period, while Americans who earned less than $100,000 a year gave about $57.3 billion.
During 2013, Americans reached deeper into their pockets and gave even more. The 2014 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy reported wealthy donors gave 28 percent more during the year. People earning between $1 and $5 million gave about $25,000, on average, while those earning more than $5 million gave about $166,600, on average. Americans also spent a lot of time – 200
hours or more for many study participants volunteering.
Although many studies of philanthropy focus on wealthier donors, it is clear philanthropy is not limited to wealthy Americans, large companies, or foundations. In fact, according to Philanthropy
magazine, the vast majority of money given to charities each year comes from individuals – some are wealthy and some are not: “The fireworks show that delighted your town this week. The children’s
hospital where the burned girl from down the street was saved. The Rotary scholarship that allowed you to become dear friends with a visiting Indonesian graduate student. The church-organized handyman service that keeps your elderly mother in her home. The park that adds so much to your family life. These gifts, many of them products of small offerings from thousands of everyday residents, accumulate in powerful ways to make our daily existences safer, sweeter, and more interesting.”
Philanthropy is becoming a family affair, according to The New York Times, as parents strive to raise children who are socially responsible and understand the importance of giving and community service. “… Philanthropic giving is increasingly a family affair and children are getting involved at younger ages. Of the group with donor-advised funds – admittedly a group skewed toward the charitably inclined – 94 percent said they had taught or were teaching their children to give to charity.”
Rich and poor, young and old, Americans have been supporting diverse causes -education, basic needs, health, religion, arts, and others – which are near and dear to their hearts.
The reasons for making charitable gifts are probably as diverse a the people who make them. In fact, it’s likely many people give for more than one reason. Altruistic motivations – the source of fulfillment gained by giving, the desire to make a difference in a community or the world, the drive to support political, religious, or philosophical beliefs – are often complemented by financial ones, including:
Charitable tax deductions: Qualifying charitable donations, both cash and property, can be deducted when taxpayers itemize.
Estate tax reductions: The National Council of Nonprofits pointed out the estate tax provides an incentive for wealthier Americans to “give back to their communities through nonprofit organizations.”
Charitable IRA rollovers: Through 2012, Americans age 70 1/2 or older could have up to $100,000 sent directly from their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) to charitable
organizations. These distributions met required minimum distribution rules without creating taxable income for the IRA owner. ‘The rule may be extended, but has not yet been.
Land conservation easements: Through 2012, donors who give some or all of the development rights on a piece of land to a government agency or nonprofit, receive a federal income tax deduction. The rule may be extended, but has not yet been.
Some charitable tax benefits fall into the “tax extender” category. These are pieces of legislation that expire and must be reapproved every few years. When this article was written it was unclear whether IRA rollovers and conservation easements would be extended into the current tax year.
While not everyone has a plan for giving, many people have put strategies and budgets in place to guide their philanthropic efforts. The vehicles they employ to accomplish their goals vary significantly. Some have given online through crowdfunding platforms, but many opt for more traditional options, such as:
A will: People become more philanthropic as they get older, according to Philanthropy. Giving often peaks between the ages of 61 and 75. One way older Americans give is by providing for a charity through his or her will.
An endowment fund: One or more donors can leave money or property to a charitable institution with the expectation the assets will be invested and help finance the activities of the non-profit.
A charitable remainder trust: Typically, assets are contributed to an irrevocable trust that pays income to donors and beneficiaries for a period of time (including a lifetime). Contributions to the trust generally are tax deductible.
A charitable gift annuity: This is a contract and not a trust. In return for an irrevocable gift of assets, a charity agrees to pay an annuitant of beneficiary a stream of income over a lifetime. The donor receives a charitable tax deduction.
A donor-advised fund: These are private funds that are administered by a third party and give the donor tax deductions as well as significant control over distributions to charities.
You may give a lot or a little. You may do it today or in the future. You may teach your children or find a sense of fulfillment. You may improve the world or gain a tax benefit. Regardless of the reasons, Americans have continued to give to the common good even when our economy has suffered – and that’s really something.
Brad Dillon and his wife, Shannon, live in Vincennes, with a beautiful daughter named Harper. He is the president of Dillon Wealth Management, founded in 2006, and now located in Vincennes. He has been a wealth planner for 17 years and is an avid golfer and sports enthusiast.
The opinions voiced in the material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. We suggest you discuss your specific situation with a qualified financial, tax, and/or legal advisor. Annuity guarantees are based on the claims paying ability of the issuing company.
LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.
Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through CWM, LLC, a registered investment advisor. CWM, LLC and Dillon Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial.
This is for all of the under-appreciated retail clerks, restaurant cooks, waiters, waitresses, secretaries, delivery persons, nurses, firefightcrs, and police officers – and all others-whose jobs in service
keep things rolling in our 24/7 America.
The holiday season is an especially busy one for most of us, but more so for the workers who keep working, even while the rest of us are enjoying time off enjoying the holiday with our families and friends.
There are a lot of people who must work on holidays – emergency personnel, nurses, doctors, and others – but there are many more retail clerks, convenience store cashiers, and restaurant workers working harder and longer during the Christmas season. We should appreciate them.
I’d like to think that most people are kind and good, but over the years I’ve witnessed enough incidents of human insensitivity toward service industry workers to challenge that thought. I’ve never understood why some people will treat a waiter more like a servant than a server, or why crabby shoppers take out their frustrations on a cashier who is just doing her job.
I’ve seen how crazy folks can get when they’re serious about getting their hands on what they want. During one Christmas in the early 1980s, there was a Cabbage Patch Doll craze. To make matters even more delirious, the 3D (Danners Discount Department Store) that carried the dolls was only getting around 25.
The morning they came in, the line stretched around the building for a block or more.
The scene was surreal. When the doors to the store were opened, dozens of people rushed into the aisles, half- running, half-sprinting toward the toy section where the dolls were displayed. In less than two minutes, people pushed and shoved to eliminate every one of those 25 dolls. It was Darwinian in scope; only the strongest got away with a new Cabbage Patch Doll.
Women comprised most of that shopping crowd, though there was at least one man in the mix of the chaos in the doll aisle, a man who had a Cabbage Patch Doll ripped from his hands by a seemingly desperate late–comer who was dismayed that the shelf was empty. She took off in a rush, and the stunned fellow stood there a few moments with his bands still grasping a package no longer in his hands. It was brazen and not fur the faint of heart.
It’s a shame that some retailers stage events that promote feverish crowds of shoppers who see the race for materialistic goods some kind of competitive sport. It’s great to get a good deal, but the price we pay for this silliness is far more than what we save by elbowing our way through a crowd toward cheap electronics.
It is ironic that our pursuit for the perfect holiday- our quest fur giving – sometimes results in stressful, negative energy directed toward holiday workers. December has become a frenzied month in this modern age. It is just as hectic for the employee who helps us find the right size, the college student taking our fast-food order, or the cashier taking our money.
Remember that the sales clerk doesn’t order the merchandise, and they can’t change or bend the rules. If you must show your l.D. to write a check, then show your l.D. If you have to bring a receipt for a return, bring a receipt. Store clerks don’t make the rules, they have to follow them. It’s not their fault if the clothes don’t fit, if the latest version isn’t on the shelf, or if you think the price is too high.
I admire those who have to keep their mouths shut, smile, and serve people whose rude behaviors and bad manners, not to mention offensive language, the ultimate signs of disrespect. I don’t know that I could bold my tongue.
So be kind this holiday season. A lot of people are working when they would like to be where you are, doing their own shopping for their own families. They want to enjoy the holiday too. Offer words of encouragement to the cashier with sore feet. Give your server an extra buck. Smile, even if they don’t have the right size. Exercise patience, civility, common sense, and thoughtfulness. Such consideration might go a long way toward finding a true spirit of Christmas.
A freelance writer and photographer, Bernie Schmitt is an assistant professor of English at Vincennes University. He lives with his wife, Nancy, and family in Vincennes.]]>