Chattahoochee Chatter: Post-holiday hunt for candy canes

December 25, 2013 

He got 28,000 last winter. "I wait until they get marked down to about 90 percent off and some stores just give them to me," Johnson said.

Johnson, 83, is pastor of United Congregational Church, which has five members. Come the next Christmas season, he distributes the candy canes to churches that send them to missionaries. He also donates them to local shelters such as House of Mercy, Valley Rescue Mission and The Salvation Army.

"The beauty of the candy canes is they are individually wrapped and stay fresh as long as you keep them in a cool place," he said.

On Monday, Valley Rescue Mission Director of Development Donna Pearce said, "He gave us 1,200 this year."

Pearce said some would be given out at the organization's annual Christmas meal.

"A candy cane is a real luxury for our clientele," she said.

•••

Sometimes, it's just as important to learn what isn't news, but it usually takes the same amount of reporting to figure that out. In either case, we often rely on public officials. Some are amazingly helpful and cheerful; others are amazingly inaccessible and uncooperative.

We put Susan Slater, the assistant nutrition director for the Muscogee County School District, among the helpful and cheerful. Here's why:

Last week, we got a call from a concerned mother who said her son told her that he and a few classmates were in a school cafeteria and given milk with expired dates -- from the year 2004!

We don't even want to imagine what 9-year-old milk would look like, let alone smell like, but it was our duty as a public watchdog to check it out.

The district's nutrition director wasn't available, so Slater was the unlucky official in the hot seat when our reporter called. Instead of being defensive, however, she patiently explained her department hasn't received any such complaints. Besides, she said, the milk deliverer and the cafeteria staff at each school check the expiration dates daily and discard unsuitable cartons. Nonetheless, she shared our reporter's commitment to determine the facts.

Long story short, Slater took the time to investigate and called back our reporter as promised. The rumor wasn't true.

"We pride ourselves on offering healthy and nutritious meals," she said.

And on offering this helpful and cheerful official. Thanks for your service, ma'am.

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