Hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving break and the tryptophan has finally worn off. We are usually in town and the long weekend gives us time to relax and get things in order for the end of the year. At the Foundation, that means fundraising and it now is wrapped around Give to the Max Day due to the increasing popularity of this online giving opportunity. While that day is important for kicking off our campaign, I will be sending out letters for the next few weeks reminding neighbors to remember their non-profit community before the year end. While the economy slowly seems to be moving forward, budget tightening, jobless rates and the need for increased services continue to challenge our charitable organizations. More and more they are being counted on to provide substantial chunks of support for our most vulnerable citizens and most critical institutions. So, please remember to give as generously as possible to your favorite philanthropic orgs.

This is also the week of our annual Shop Home for the Holidays kick-off this Saturday. Once again an artisan's village full of local crafters will inhabit the lower level of Milton Square for the day and carolers will stroll the streets and stores of the Como Avenue retail area to entertain shoppers. Santa will make his regular appearance at the Park Midway Bank and his elves will give free reindeer-pulled sleigh rides from the bank parking lot. This year there will also be a tree lighting in the Milton Square courtyard at 5pm. It's always a fun day and a great way to get a jump on your holiday shopping, so join your neighbors and help to support our great local retailers north and south. 

D12 - Turkey dinner may be over, but the plate is still full for the district council as it facilitates discussions on parking plans, transportation studies, zoning issues and community building. I don't think there are any critical decisions to be made before the end of the year, but sorting through these many issues that will have an important impact on our community is full time job and a half. We are lucky to have executive director, Amy Sparks and community organizer, Lauren Fulner in place along with our committed council members.

Schools -  I'll follow up on last week's blog which reported on our visit by the principals of St.AP Elementary and Murray to say that community involvement in these institutions is critical to their success. We're moving into a time of some uncertainty with the transition to the new K-5, 6-8 configuration and the 5 district plan which will make school choice outside the community more challenging. With parents concerned about these district wide changes, community confidence in each site will be more important than ever. The Foundation will work with the schools to ensure creative and popular offerings in science, music and arts will continue to be supported as well as the tutoring essential to successful academic achievement for all. Both schools are at the top of charts in testing results and narrowing the achievement gap, but both principals know more needs to be done. I feel confident we have the right people in place to keep our public schools strong but they will continue to need our help to do that.

listserv - Must be the time of year appliances are wearing out as there are many requests for service recommendations. I haven't read any recent reporting of wildlife, but I have a few of my own. Saw a buck with antlers walking off Eustis near the woods along the sound wall, a red-tail hawk swooped into my alley to pick up a luncheon treat last week and on Monday night the sound of a large owl got me out of bed to grab my flashlight and track down a Great Horned owl perched high up in a tree, not only making the big hooting noises but also doing some great growl/meow sounds. Large bird, it was fun to see and no one called the police as far as I know to report an old guy with a flashlight in his pj's snooping around the block.

St.APnotes - Today is the last day (11-7pm) to take your yardwaste to the county site. I plan to load the car with my leaf bags and make the trek this afternoon. If you are doing likewise, don't forget to bring proof of residency, like a drivers license...Tomorrow (Thursday, Dec. 1 9-11pm) is the Murray Jr. High bookfair fundraiser at the HarMar Barnes & Noble. All proceeds go to support Murray programs and students will be performing from 6:30-9pm to add to the fun...Speaking of Murray, Cindy Thrasher is still looking for tutors to help out through the season and year. Contact her at cindy.thrasher@spps.org or 651.293.8740...Ted Kroeten of Joy of the People soccer is signing up teams for a big futsol tourney on Dec. 26-29 at the SSA rec center...Steve Townley, our community-minded local realtor, wanted me to remind everyone to "Adopt-a-hydrant" this winter. Check to see what the closest hydrant is to your house and work with your neighbors to keep it clear. If you have any fire problems, you will benefit greatly if the fire fighters don't have to dig around finding your hydrant. And as we have found out, the city maps aren't always exact. A little shoveling could make a big difference...finally, do your best to keep your sidewalks clear and ice-free for pedestrians. If you need help, check the bulletin board at Speedy, post a notice on listserv or contact D12.

That's all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor.