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We hear from Ben’s Bells founder Jeannette Maré that the ceramic chimes continue to have an impact around the globe. As of the end of 2018, more than 62,000 Bells have been hung worldwide, 200 public murals have been created (including several in Newtown schools), and more than 43,000 volunteer hours have been accrued. “Your generosity and support inspire people to practice kindness as a way of life,” Jeannette writes in an e-mail. “This year we are grateful for so many things, but we are most grateful for you!”

As we leave 2018 in the rearview mirror, former Newtown resident Christie Megill (daughter of Thomas and Marianne Polchowski, who still live in town) shared a photo with us of her son, Sawyer, and his maternal great-grandmother, Eleanor Vargoshe, of Shelton. Sawyer was born January 25, 2018, the same year that Mrs Vargoshe celebrated her 100th birthday on September 12, making the two a century apart in age. Pretty cool.

Readers may have noticed an announcement indicating that as of January 1, 2019, The Newtown Bee will charge for obituaries and memorials placed in the paper and online at newtownbee.com. We have held off on doing so for more than 140 years, but the reality of the modern world demands we charge a nominal fee for this service, which will help offset costs of doing business. Details can be found on page 3 of the paper or online under the Contact Us page.

As a new year begins, it seems a perfect time to thank all of the people who make up our fire companies, police department, ambulance corps, and all of the other emergency workers in town. We are grateful for the hours they put forth to keep all of us safe and sound. Thank you for all you do!

Are you an artist who loves working with fibers? Connecticut Woolcrafters Fiber Arts Community is planning its inaugural meeting for Tuesday, January 8, in the Genealogy Room of Booth Library, from 10 am until 1 pm. The gathering is a free, informal meeting that is open to all. Find out details in this week’s Enjoy section of the paper or in our online calendar at newtownbee.com.

Winter is the perfect time to hunker down with a good book. Did you know our only discount book store is located within the C.H. Booth Library? If you love borrowing library books, but adore book ownership, you’ll find a great selection of books from fiction to nonfiction, children to adults in The Little Book Store. Located near the main circulation desk, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find better bargains than these gently used (and sometimes new) books.

Speaking of the town library at 25 Main Street, the building’s lower meeting room will be abuzz with activity on Sunday afternoon. Newtown Historical Society will host its monthly program during daylight hours this month, instead of on a Monday evening, with the hope that more folks will enjoy the program. On January 6, at 2 pm, Wes Haynes will discuss “The Merritt Parkway: History and Future of A National Treasure.” Mr Haynes is executive director of The Merritt Parkway Conservancy, a nonprofit organization committed to the protection and stewardship of Connecticut’s largest and most heavily used — and dare we say, one of the loveliest, with those unique Art Deco overpasses along the very scenic route-cultural resource. There is no charge for the program, and light refreshments will be served following the presentation. Reservations are not required, but are appreciated; contact the historical society at 203-426-5937.

A reminder that The Candlewood Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Pootatuck Watershed Association are hosting a Christmas tree collection on Saturday, January 5, from 9 am to 1 pm. The drop-off site will be at the Deep Brook kiosk, off Old Farm Road in Newtown, behind Newtown Park & Bark. The trees will be used for creating trout habitats.

Newtown Troop 270 Boy Scouts will be picking up Christmas trees to raise money for Scouts. Tree pickup is scheduled for January 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, and 20. There is a suggested donation of $10 per tree. Visit goo.gl/forms/J6CCAsPVz4nE5OxO2 to schedule a date for pick up.

The demand for blood services never ceases for the American Red Cross. Mark your calendar for the blood drive at Newtown Congregational Church, 14 West Street, Tuesday, January 8, from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm. Generally, if you are at least 16 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, and are in pretty good health, you can donate blood. Those who donate in January are eligible for an American Red Cross T-shirt (while supplies last) and a $5 Dunkin Donuts gift card. You can make an appointment at redcross.org/local/connecticut.html.

Get ready for the next Brainstorm Experience, brought to you by the Avielle Foundation. Commentator Sally Kohn takes the stage at Edmond Town Hall on Thursday, January 17, at 7 pm, to talk about her research on what makes people hate. The author of The Opposite of Hate has reached out to many experts to discover lessons on civil confrontation and how to bridge disagreements. Register at flipcause.com/secure/event_step2/NDcxNjc=/38313.

Genetic testing has become a popular family pastime it seems. Has your family dived into the mysteries of your ancestry through ancestry.com or 23andme.com? The Newtown Bee is seeking residents to share interesting stories that may have come from genetic testing for a future story in the paper. Contact alissa@thebee.com if you have a tale to share. (We welcome unusual insights discovered through genetic testing of pets, as well!)

I’m always on the lookout for unusual insights around Newtown. Be sure to... Read me again.

Sawyer Megill, born in January 2018, sits on the lap of his great-grandmother, Eleanor Vargoshe, born in 1918, making the pair a century apart in age.
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