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Leila S. Case: Angels in our midst

As we move toward the fourth week of Advent to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day, the frenzy of activity slows to give thanks for His birth.
‘Tis the giving season that began in Bethlehem on that starry, starry night thousands of years ago. People were curious about the bright star that shone in the East and traveled from near and far bearing gifts of frankincense and myrrh to pay homage to the tiny infant wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger, watched over by the Angel in heaven. Mary and Joseph named him Jesus.
We celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day by offering gifts of glad tidings, though frankincense and myrrh, but whatever passes our fancy to those we love. A hug and a kiss for a loved one or friend are sufficient. A gift of yard work for a kind neighbor or a shut-in is a lovely present. A tin of cookies or toasted nuts, or better even a box of cheese straws, or a blowsy red poinsettia.
When I was a child, my father asked me what I wanted for Christmas and, of course, I always told him — but his pat answer was, “Oh I believe Santa will bring you an orange to hold and if you are good you can eat it.” Well, yes, Santa did put oranges and Brazil nuts in my stocking that hung by our fireplace, but he also brought me what I whispered in daddy’s ear: a dydee doll that came with a trunk full of clothes the year I was eight, a pair of silver roller skates with a key to wind them when I was seven, a bike was under the tree the year I turned 11 that I really never learned to ride well without falling off (still can’t). I had a charmed childhood and believed in Santa and fairies and elf men much longer than most children, and actually still do.
All of this to say, we have angels that walk among us. You know them, too. They perhaps are your neighbors or friends or family members. I know the angels in my life.
Americus and Sumter County is filled with angels with hearts so full of love and care for others.
It is always difficult to single just one out of so many because we have thousands in our midst. And hundreds come to my mind like our neighbors in Plains Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, who have given so much not only to our community but internationally through their work with The Carter Center; Chet and Mary Ann Crowley; my editor Beth Alston; former resident Mary Wysochansky, a humanitarian if I ever met one; Dr. Gatewood Dudley and his wife, Cindy, who I would trust with my life; our priest Fr. Jeff Wallace; Billy and Kitten Carter; Charlotte and Ross Chambliss who do many good deeds for those in need; Ruth Jones, who has a lifelong history of giving; Bill and Ann Harris. And the Salvation Army who are distributing gifts to 80 local families in need.
Betty Pope is a humanitarian and angel personified. She was honored last week by Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) with an honorary doctor of public service that you read about in other editions of this newspaper. Betty, her late husband John Pope, and her parents, the late Jimmy and Doris Deriso have a long history of service and philanthropy in Sumter County and beyond, having shared their time, talent and finances. Their gifts have touched literally thousands of lives.
Betty is most deserving of the honor and said, “It was most unexpected and I am very humbled and honored — the Lord led me to do what I did.”
Family members and friends by the score turned out in support for Betty at GSW’s commencement, including a surprise visit by her granddaughters Devin Post of Durham, N.C., and Shannon Post, of New York City who was accompanied by Evan Mascagni; Betty’s daughters, Kerri Post of Americus and Kelli Kindred Phillips and her husband David Phillips of Nelson, New Zealand; Joe and Jean Deriso Suber and Jim and Patsy Deriso Winter of Americus, and longtime friends former President Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. Incidentally, Shannon and Evan, an attorney for a non-profit organization, made an hour and half documentary on pesticides that premiered last fall in New York City, that is so impressive Netflix and the Discovery Channel are getting involved. Betty’s other grandchildren, J.D. Post of Seattle and Victoria Phillips of New Zealand, visited Betty for Thanksgiving.
Elsewhere, it was a mother-daughter New York City venture for Terri and Sydney Joiner, 10. They rendezvoused with former residents Judy and Anna Johnson, 12, of Fayetteville, Ark., and enjoyed seeing the Broadway hit “Wicked” and the fantastic “Rockettes.” They visited Times Square and the breathtaking Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center as well as venturing down to the sobering 9-11 Memorial — a moving experience. Incidentally, this was Sydney’s first flight and her mom says she loved it.
The large ceramic planters filled with native plant materials that beautify our central business district are the work of many hands provided by members of the Sumter County Federation of Garden Clubs. On two recent weekends, they sold fluffy red velvet bows for wreaths, tree toppers or mailboxes at Farmer’s Feed and Seed to help pay for the plants used in the planters. They not only reached their goal but went over. Those participating were Phyllis and Malcolm Argo, Frances McNeilly, Louella Pace, Cindy Williams, Elaine Henderson, Phyllis Tucker, Diane Johnson and June Ewing.
Welcome to Jim and Kay Cato Melvin who have moved from Dawson into their new home at 218 Taylor St., and to Café Campesino opens in its new location today at 134 W. Lamar St., downtown!
Merry Christmas y’all.

Leila S. Case lives in Americus.