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Article updated: 11/24/2012 8:25 PM

Geneva teen collects coats for sheriff's office

By Dave Heun

Inmates brought into the Kane County jail during the summer could eventually be on the list of those released six months later -- in the dead of winter.

If those people don't have winter coats, that's a cold slap in the face and not the best way to get off to a fresh start on life.

Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez and his staff have felt that a supply of winter coats would go a long way toward solving a problem that has existed for a long time.

Ted Spiro, a Geneva boy looking to earn his Eagle Scout honor, learned about this problem from his dad, the Rev. Peter Spiro, the sheriff's office chaplain.

In response, Ted created the "Second Chance Coat Drive" as his Eagle project and went on to deliver fliers door-to-door at more than 1,500 homes throughout the area.

The result was 300 donated coats for people who can use them, and a grateful sheriff's department.

It was another sign that people are willing to help those who are trying straighten out their lives -- and a good way to start is with a coat warm enough to deal with winter elements.

Coming of Corral: Yes, Virginia, that crowded parking lot off Main Street and Randall Road in Batavia last weekend was indeed the new Golden Corral restaurant finally open to the public. Readers who had seen my various "yes it's on, no it's off" comments in my column the past five years regarding speculation about this site's eventual opening had been sending notes about its progress.

It definitely was picking up steam in the past few weeks, especially when the parking lot light poles went up and the "now hiring" signs adorned the windows. So, finally, franchise owner Sam Gibson won't have to sound like a carnival barker or a riverboat gambler in speculating about when his Golden Corral would finally open.

It's there, Virginia, as sure as there are steakhouse buffets for adults and children throughout the land, there really is a Golden Corral in Batavia.

Jump-start holiday mood: If you need something to kick you into the holiday spirit, the Giving Trees display at the Geneva History Center on Third Street has always been just what the doctor ordered.

Area nonprofits and other organizations decorate trees to earn $1 votes, with the donation going toward the charity. The tree chosen as the favorite by visitors earns the right to keep 100 percent of the donations it received through voting. The others split the pot 50-50 with the history center.

In addition to helping great causes throughout the area, a visit to the Giving Trees display, which opens Tuesday, is a great way to get in the holiday mood.

On to other things: Pat Mullen will retire from his post as St. Charles fire chief at the end of this week. He spent about five years in that role, giving me enough time to get to know him as a member of the Tri-Cities Exchange Club.

It didn't take long for Mullen to move into a leadership role in the club as he was always willing to help the club's causes. I haven't been able to attend club meetings much in the past year, but here's to hoping Mullen at least continues in that role.

He still would have plenty to offer in making the Tri-Cities a great place to live.

Pushing for toys: Jim Wheeler of St. Charles is playing Santa Claus again -- sort of. He's not quite that round, but his heart is just as big at this time of year.

The former Pottawatomie Golf Course pro hasn't put away his Toys for Kids hat, continuing to head up the Tri-Cities Toys for Kids program to collect toys for children who otherwise might not enjoy a merry Christmas.

Wheeler said the program, entering its 29th year, is seeking donations of new toys or games, but also will accept money to be used to purchase gifts. Donations will be accepted at various locations throughout the Tri-Cities until Dec. 17. Those interested in helping can call Wheeler at (630) 429-0560.

An excellent choice: Carolyn Hill of Geneva is most definitely the straw that stirs the "Dancing with the Geneva Stars" drink. She's taken the lead role in heading up the popular fundraiser for the Geneva Cultural Arts Commission and the Geneva Academic Foundation since its inception four years ago.

But she'd be the first to say that Tim Vetang has been a crucial component as well. And she'd be right.

Having worked on this committee for the past three years, I've seen firsthand how important it is for someone with a wide range of experience in how the city operates and what it takes to stage a fundraiser be willing to volunteer to do his part. Vetang falls into that category.

It certainly was nice to hear the chamber of commerce recently honored him with its Wood Community Service Award. He is an excellent choice for the honor.

Those youngsters: As the prep football season has now come to a close with the final championship games Saturday night, I want to share this phenomenon -- simply as a way to acknowledge I am getting older.

The longer one continues to cover local sports events on the weekends, the younger the kids would appear each year. That's just been the natural cycle for me since becoming a sports editor at age 25 and continuing in some capacity to write about local athletes to age 59.

But I never thought they'd be looking this young. After interviewing Geneva High School freshman quarterback Nick Derr after one of his varsity games, it made total sense when I came home and told my wife, "The high school kids look like middle schoolers to me now."

In this case, it was pretty darn close.

dheun@sbcglobal.net

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