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Plainfield homeowner’s Christmas gifts stolen, but goodwill saves the day

J.P. Welch of Justamere Tree Farm IN Plainfield sells the last Christmas tree of a very successful tree season at his farm on Sunday. Welch said the farm handmade brooms were also big sellers.
LAURA RODLEY

J.P. Welch of Justamere Tree Farm IN Plainfield sells the last Christmas tree of a very successful tree season at his farm on Sunday. Welch said the farm handmade brooms were also big sellers. LAURA RODLEY Purchase photo reprints »

Imagine coming home and finding all the neatly wrapped Christmas presents you had placed under the tree gone. That’s what happened to Plainfield resident Beth Ley this past Friday.

Ley discovered the theft at 3 p.m. when she returned to her Prospect Street home after being gone for a couple of hours.

However, community goodwill made it possible for Ley and her family to still have presents to open Tuesday morning.

Upon hearing of the incident, Plainfield Congregational Church members immediately set up a fund so that she would be able to buy more presents for her two teenagers and other family members in time for Christmas. She is not a church member.

Police Chief David Wood said Sunday the theft at Ley’s home was the first in town since a rash of thefts last year. He said several people were apprehended after those incidents.

“Imagine the shock, when all your presents are stolen. I just can’t imagine,” he noted.

Commenting on the church’s efforts on Ley’s behalf, Wood said, “There are good people in the world and there are good deeds being done, right here, locally.”

He cautioned, though, that even in small towns like Plainfield, people should lock their doors when they leave their homes.

“Like many people in town, she left her door unlocked,” said Wood. “Locking doors can’t be overlooked.”

He said the investigation is ongoing and could not give any information on possible suspects.

•••

New year, new start

Members of the Village Congregational Church on Main Street in Cummington are exploring whether or not to expand their congregation to include people of the Unitarian Universalist faith.

According to Pat Keith, a 29-year member of the church, it is currently “open to followers of Jesus Christ,” and follows his teachings under the auspices of the United Church of Christ.

“That’s what we have been for years,” she said.

Church members are considering other options, she said, “because so many of us feel so diverse in our beliefs.”

Since September, with the help of two co-ministers, the Rev. Jonathan Rehmus of Colrain and Karen Johnston of Florence, a student of the Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn., the 20-member congregation has worked through a discernment process to see what this change would entail. The church hopes to finalize its decision by spring.

The closest Unitarian churches to the Cummington church are in Northampton and Florence, said Keith. “We want the Hilltown community to know that we have Unitarian ministers in our midst. We can serve more people who want that kind of focus and worship,” she said. As the church serves the community, everyone is welcome to attend and give their input.

Meanwhile, the church’s 48th annual Messiah Sing will take place at 4 p.m. Saturday. Everyone is welcome to come sing or simply enjoy the music.

New Year celebrations

Hilltown folk don’t have to travel to Northampton or elsewhere to celebrate the dawning of 2013. The festively decorated Blackburn Inn in Worthington will be serving up a New Year’s menu, featuring pan-seared scallops with mustard cream sauce, seafood scampi and prime rib, among other offerings, on Dec. 31 from 4 to 9 p.m. Guests can opt to stay overnight, but are urged to make reservations soon, as many rooms are already booked, said owner DeDe Shiffer. The five-room inn is located at 144 Huntington Road. New Year’s Eve dinner reservations are also required. The inn will be closed on New Year’s Day. For more information, call 238-0144.

At Worthington’s Liston’s Bar and Grill on Old North Road there will be dancing on New Year’s Eve with the band Free Radicals, as well as a surprise special guest. Dinner will be served until 9 p.m., and favors will go to revelers at midnight. There is no cover charge. For more information, call 238-5353.

•••

Christmas trees

Sunday was the last day of a very busy season selling Christmas trees at Worthington’s Justamere Tree Farm on Patterson Road.

“Because of the weather, a lot of people came out here,” said farm owner John Patrick Welch, who is known as J.P.

Along with the farm’s seasonal tree sales, Welch said their handmade broom corn, sassafras-handled brooms were popular. “The brooms went well,” he said,

“Now it’s time to get ready for sugaring,” he said.

Laura Rodley can be reached at lrodley.gazette@gmail.com.

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