As one of Santa's "helpers" in the Traverse City area, (Santa) Al Lien of Traverse City always likes to say thank-you for "good deeds done with a happy heart."

"...I could have done this by letter, but I thought it should be shared with everyone," Al wrote. "A few days before Christmas, a young lad named Alex visited Santa's house at Cass and Front streets with his list for Christmas (and) included a gift for Santa. I was so touched, it brought tears to my eyes. As I promised Alex, I waited for Christmas to open it and to my surprise I found a "Wishlist Santa" from Michigan State University, all dressed in Spartan green.

"Thank you so much for such a thoughtful gift, which I will keep on the mantle over my fireplace. Alex, you have realized the real gift of giving at Christmas," Al wrote.

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Christmas angel Pat Sharpnack of Traverse City was helped by another anonymous Christmas angel this holiday season.

Pat enjoys finding Salvation Army bell ringers at Christmas time and anonymously putting a single $100 bill in the red can. This season she had three $100 bills for the Salvation Army cans, stating simply that God has blessed her more than she deserves and so she tries to give it back to those in need. These bills were in Pat's wallet when she stopped at North Peak Brewing to have some growlers filled.

The bar and waiting area were extremely crowded and when Pat went to pay for her purchase, without realizing it she dropped the three bills, which were folded in her wallet.

"I was in a hurry and my mind was not on anything other than getting out of the crowded establishment," Pat wrote. "A very nice lady tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I had dropped any money. I asked her how much she had found while I checked my wallet. Noticing that I was missing some folded $100 bills, I said 'yes, a couple of hundred dollar bills.' She handed them to me and told me I had dropped them. I thanked her, but after I left I realized that I had been so wrapped up in wanting to get out of there that I acted like I wasn't grateful. I want her to know that I am extremely grateful and that she is an angel who made my Christmas season worthwhile. I want to 'thank' her again a million times over."

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Pam Cook would like to thank the very nice man who stopped to help her on Silver Lake Road on Dec. 28.

A lot of snow had fallen in a short amount of time and made the roads very slippery. Some cars were only making it about halfway up "Green Hill" and Pam was behind them.

"Having to stop midway, my van would not go any farther. After only inching up the hill very slowly in a 20-minute period, a nice guy came along and took the time to help," Pam wrote. "All I know about him is that he was driving a later-model Dodge truck. Thank you so much for helping me out of a potentially much worse situation. You were a Godsend!"

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Wilma Miller of East Lansing spent an autumn week in Grand Traverse County with several of her Canadian classmates enjoying the sights, scenery, great food and wines, art galleries and more, but her real discovery was that area residents are very friendly and were very helpful everywhere they went.

"We couldn't have had a better week until I lost my credit card," Wilma wrote. "But lucky for me a good soul, Jim Sullivan, who lives on the Peninsula, came to my rescue."

Wilma wrote that Jim was walking his dog when he found her card on some weeds where the road grader had tossed it.

"Jim went to considerable trouble to find me," Wilma wrote. "So to him and the many friendly and helpful folk we met, I say hats off to you. You made our week."

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The Elk Rapids Chamber of Commerce and merchants would like to thank everyone who participated in the "Shop ER, Support Your Own" program.

The program was a success with 40 local businesses involved and nearly 150 shoppers who visited at least 10 of the stores to receive stamps that qualified them for prizes.

The winners of $50 Elk Rapids Rewards gift checks were: Brett Baldwin and Marjie Wilson, both of Rapid City; Don and Judy MacLean, Judy Matchett, Amy Schindler, Carol Smith and Lacorda Smith, all of Elk Rapids; Allen Davidson and Pat Griswold, both of Kewadin; Chris Cavanaugh and Mark Hullman, both of Williamsburg; and Amandasue Butterfield of Traverse City.

Items for this column may be sent to Northern Notes, Record-Eagle, P.O. Box 632, Traverse City, MI 49685-0632; e-mail sbeach@record-eagle.com.

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