Community Service in the Family and the Classroom


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Five-year-old Lanie Martin knows the value of community service. Throughout her young life, she has worked alongside her mother, Barbara, to promote kindness and make the world a better place. Lanie has learned that serving others not only helps them, but also brings her joy.

Barbara Martin says she often talks to her daughter about the importance of service, and encourages her to lead a caring life, whether by volunteering at local food banks or picking up trash. As the community service committee chair with the Brier Creek Elementary School PTA, Barbara Martin went one step further and organized an event for the entire school.

More than 500 students partnered with Operation Share House, a project of the Raleigh-based Stop Hunger Now international hunger relief agency, to bundle more than 26,000 meals of a dehydrated, fortified rice-soy mixture for undernourished children in Nigeria. Students came in 45-minute shifts over three days in June to complete the project. Each class listened to a presentation about world hunger before beginning their work, which Martin says drove their desire to help. Then they filled, sealed, weighed and packaged the bags, with a gong sounding in celebration for every 1,000 bags completed.

“They were so excited to hear that gong,” Martin says. “It was absolute joy and chaos. It was like they just won the lottery, and it was great to see the excitement and pride in their faces.”

This project is just one example of a movement among Triangle schools to incorporate community service into curriculum. Many schools are providing opportunities for students to get involved, and some are even instituting service requirements.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has employed the Service Learning framework and encourages schools to engage kids and parents within their communities to supplement the lessons being presented in the classroom.

Service learning includes parents

Carolyn Foxx, coordinator of special projects at N.C. Department of Public Instruction, says that Service Learning reconnects, motivates and fosters a sense of care and concern in the students by providing an outlet to experience the concepts they learn in school and build emotional connections. She says there are two ways teachers incorporate Service Learning: adjusting the curriculum to resolve a pre-determined community need or finding a community need to work on that fits with the existing curriculum.

“There isn’t anyone who’s teaching who can’t connect learning goals with service goals,” she says, adding that parents can work with children and their teachers to enhance civic education. Indeed, parent involvement in community service greatly increases children’s enthusiasm to help others as well as supports academic achievement.

In a study conducted by The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement at the University of Maryland, researchers found that “young people who grow up in a household where someone volunteers are twice as likely to volunteer regularly,” and “students who performed voluntary community service were 19 percentage points more likely to graduate from college than those that did not.”

Foxx says Service Learning programs aim to involve the parents and educate them along with their students. “Service Learning cultivates an atmosphere that says to parents, ‘We want you in and we’re happy that you’re here,’” she says. “We try to tap into the strengths and resources that our parents have by incorporating their expertise and planning.”

Members of the State Board of Education felt strongly enough about it that the board initiated an online resource for students and parents to find ways to give back. At www.ncpublicschools.org/students/getinvolved.html, service seekers can find links to local service organizations, which provide listings of service events and at-home project ideas to make the world a better place.

Local school community service programs

At some Triangle schools, service is as much a part of the curriculum as science. The Carolina Friends School in Durham and Chapel Hill stresses community service at all levels, says Kathleen Davidson, admissions coordinator. Children in the Early School learn the value of service by pursuing the school's motto, "We take care of ourselves, we take care of each other, we take care of our school."

The Middle School recently celebrated its fifth year of the Afghan Sister Schools Program, where students raise money to support schools in Afghanistan and exchange diaries, photographs, artwork and more with Afghan students. At the Upper School, in addition to a requirement of two service-based classes per year, students and teachers engage in an intensive end-of-year session that involves long-term service projects, both on campus and abroad.

In the Wake County Public School System, communications specialist Bill Poston says that while many schools don’t have requirements, students of all levels are encouraged to get involved in their communities.

“The teachers are finding creative ways to link the instruction they are trying to do with actions that will help students better understand the impact of what they are learning,” he says. “Strict lecture is not an easy way for students to absorb information these days, but by being able to actually show them the relevance of what they’re doing — by them having an impact — not only do they learn their lessons, but they also learn important life lessons,” he says. “It makes education real.”

Broughton Magnet High School in Raleigh requires 25 hours of nonprofit service work per year from each student for graduation. Established in 1994, this requirement has become a more positive piece of the students’ education each year, says Jayne VanGraafeiland, Broughton’s community service coordinator.

“We feel that it teaches them to be good citizens,” she says. “[The program] has caused them to be able to see that what they contribute makes a difference.”

VanGraafeiland says the best way to teach the value of service was to mandate the hours but have the students to choose their own projects, allowing them to make emotional connections with their experiences.

“There’s no ifs ands or buts about it,” she says. “You don’t graduate if you don’t do your hours. It’s as much of a requirement as English or math, and it’s been really successful.”

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools also have a community service graduation requirement. It was instituted in 2003 and requires each high school student to complete 50 hours of service before graduation. The district also integrates service learning into the middle and elementary schools by completing projects within teams or individual classes.

“It’s seen as an extension to apply and practice or demonstrate academic skills that are required, while doing something as a good citizen,” says Stephanie Knott, school-community relations officer.

Durham Performance Learning Center, a new virtual high school that will open Aug. 27, 2007, will also mandate that students complete community service hours. Principal Danny Gilfort says the specifics of the requirements have yet to be set, but the administration is hoping to use them to instill in the students the value of helping others. Gilfort says that although the students will take their classes online from home computers, he hopes they will come together to complete their community service requirements.

“In general we want our students to be aware of their roles in their communities and how their schooling is relevant to the communities and the world,” he says.

Helping Kids Connect Elizabeth Jordan, founder of Kids Connect (www.kidsconnectnc.org) and mother of two, says the best way to instill the value of community service in children is to do it with them. She says showing rather than telling encourages kids to emulate their parents’ work with helping others.

Jordan created Kids Connect after her son Jack was born because she was looking for ways to get him involved in service. The Web site serves as a one-stop resource for parents and families to find ways to serve their communities. It also features a calendar of service events, geographically arranged lists of service agencies and resources, and information for parents about how to talk to kids about issues within their communities and what they can do to help.

Jordan says the site has had more than 30,000 hits in its 18 months of operation, and a community of caring, civic-minded people is beginning to develop around it.

“Community building is a big part of it,” she says. “As kids see other kids doing this they learn that together we can do more and be supportive of one another. Everybody has a stake in their community, and everybody cares about where we live, so we’re creating a community within the community of people who share this vision.”

Jordan says it’s never too early to get kids involved in community service. Even simply taking kids along to service projects and letting them watch other people make a difference will inspire them to do the same when they are older because it gives them a small taste of the rewarding feeling of helping.

“I take my kids with me to my service projects,” she says of Jack, 2, and her daughter, Maddux, 9 months. “I try to expose them to as many positive experiences like that as I can. It makes them feel good and brightens their days, and when they get older, I’ll step it up a little bit.”

To parents, she suggests letting the kids do little things, such as taking lunch to Habitat for Humanity sites, so they can interact with people who care.

“There are many pieces to helping others, and teaching kids that the world is bigger than their own backyards is important,” she says. “By doing a positive thing you learn about yourself and feel good about yourself. You learn a lot and it’s fun and empowering to know that you can make a difference.”

Amy Bugno is a senior majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill and an editorial intern at Carolina Parent.

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Calendar

December 2019

Wear your favorite holiday attire and dine with Santa Claus. Enjoy a delicious brunch, stories and crafts, and take pictures with the jolly man from the North Pole. 

Cost: $10/child. Free for ages 2 and younger

Where:
Joyner Park Community Center
701 Harris Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Girls ages 5-12 take their favorite doll and have a creative time together preparing for the holidays. Register by emailing llpolkhouse2@gmail.com.

Cost: $22/attendee, $20/sister

Where:
Historic Polk House
537 N. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Telephone: 919-676-6368
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See dancers and a guitarist from Flamenco Carolina perform a Spanish style of music and dance.

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Ebeneezer Scrooge was visited by three spirits, but what about the next Christmas? With heartwarming excitement, discover how the Cratchit family has fared in the year that has passed since old...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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The Durham Medical Orchestra performs with special guest Joseph Alessi, principal trombone, New York Philharmonic.

Cost: Free

Where:
Baldwin Auditorium, Duke University
1336 Campus Dr.
Durham, NC  27705
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As a Christmas gift to our community and surrounding area, Wake Forest Presbyterian Church delivers the true Christmas story in a stirring virtual “walk” through Bethlehem to the stable...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
12605 Capital Blvd
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Sponsor: Wake Forest Presbyterian Church
Telephone: 919-556-7777
Contact Name: Meghan Reynolds
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Fun for the entire family, enjoy this wonderful, witty retelling of a classic fairy-tale. With a score consisting of well-known pop songs, follow Snow White and her Seven Dwarves as they try to...

Cost: $10-$60/person

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
Telephone: 919-996-8700
Contact Name: Blake Jones
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The choir presents its 49th performance on Handel's "Messiah."

Cost: Free

Where:
White Plains United Methodist Church
313 S.E. Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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The first day of winter is right around the corner! Help us welcome the season by making a snow globe to take home. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all ages (adult...

Cost: For all ages (adult accompaniment required for all children); FREE. Registration

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
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Telephone: 919-662-2850

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Children will enjoy this wonderful book written by John Denver reminding us not to forget about the wildlife this holiday season. We will make a craft then take a walk to look for our wildlife...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Join RTOOT as it performs the music of great Italian composers as well as beloved Christmas classics. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $9/adult, $3 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Dan the Animal Man brings some of his animals from his vast collection to entertain all ages. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Help find candy canes hidden in Bond Park before the Grinch turns them green. Ages 6-12. Registration required online. Choose course #127871. 

Cost: $10/child

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC
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Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

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Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Get into the holiday spirit by decorating cooking, making a craft and enjoying a holiday children's show.

Cost: Free

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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The Wake Forest Abilities Choir will present an evening of holiday music under the direction of director.

Cost: Free

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

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Celebrate pecans at the State Farmers Market.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Join us to learn about how Habitat for Humanity helps build houses, hear a Christmas tale and then build a graham cracker house of your own. Call to, 919-245-2532. Best for ages 4 and up with a...

Cost: free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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Is there a man in the moon, and is the moon made of cheese? Sip on some hot cocoa and listen to some of the stories people have told about the moon and find out if there is truth to them. Then...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is required for everyone, and adult accompanime

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd
Apex, NC  27529
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Discover family traditions from North Carolina and around the globe. Create art, enjoy free access to Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism, and have a special visit with Santa.

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art East Building and Museum Plaza
Raleigh, NC


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Bundle up and enjoy an evening around the campfire learning about creatures of the night and listen to Native American tales about some of our favorite nocturnal animals. Roast marshmallows and go...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Kids ages 5-12 enjoy indoor activities while parents enjoy a night out. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Wear white clothing and play games, tumble and dance. Enjoy pizza, drinks and more. Ages 5-10. Registration required online. Choose course #127487.

Cost: $18/child; $28 for two children per family

Where:
Middle Creek Community Center
125 Middle Creek Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
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Friday, December 13, 6:00pm, at both the Millbrook and Wake Forest Campuses. Put on your Christmas jammies, grab a blanket and come out for a  festive night to watch the classic animated...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crossroads Fellowship
2721 E Millbrook Road
Raleigh, NC  27604
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Sponsor: Crossroads Fellowship
Telephone: 919-981-0222
Contact Name: Lorraine Entwisle
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Have some fun and make something great at the Clay studio (and parents can sneak away and grab a bite or do some shopping at Northgate Mall). Each kid will complete and paint a piece of pottery...

Cost: $18 per child per workshop

Where:
1058 West Club Blvd
Durham, NC  27701
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Telephone: 919-560-2726
Contact Name: Lauren Tannenbaum
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Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

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Sing along with the band as they perform holiday favorites of Christmas, Hanukkah, the winter solstice and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
, NC  27513
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Celebrate the love and joy that this season brings by creating art inspired by a Christmas tree. Register online. Choose course #126761.

Cost: $32/resident, $42/nonresident

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Give rugby a try. Take part in tag rugby pick-up games every Saturday morning at Baileywick Road Park, near the Second Shelter.  No experience necessary. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
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Our Reindeer Romp is open to the entire community and our Girls on the Run families. So join us! Celebrate as nearly 1,000 girls reach their end-of-season goals – the finish line is only the...

Cost: $30 - $35

Where:
Koka Booth Amphitheater
8003 Regency Pkwy
Cary, NC  27518
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Sponsor: Girls on the Run of the Triangle
Telephone: 919-401-6307
Contact Name: Jamie Botta
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Ages 5-12 make a picture frame for the holidays. Snack provided. Register online. 

Cost: $30/resident, $45/nonresident

Where:
Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. 

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Travel with us to Puerto Rico with books, games and arts and crafts!  Join the staff of ISLA (Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition) for a fun filled hour! Best for ages 3 and up with a...

Cost: Free Gratis

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

One ticket admits the entire family to decorate a special gingerbread house. Supplies provided. Workshops available at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Allergy-free workshop available at 11 a.m....

Cost: $40

Where:
Family Preschool
4907 Garrett Rd
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: Family Preschool
Telephone: 919-402-1500
Contact Name: Sue Henson
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Family Wildlife Series: Holiday Habitat Helpers Saturday, December 14, 2-3 Attract winter wildlife to your backyard by providing or improving their habitat.  Create simple outdoor decorations...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd
Raleigh, NC  27614
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Embark on a wild ride with favorite Disney characters Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and many others in this fun-filled getaway featuring unexpected hijinks and character interaction. Purchase tickets...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us as we watch for meteors during the Gemenids Meteor Shower. Local astronomers will help us observe these shooting stars and other phenomena in the night sky. As a bonus we may see or hear...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

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Favorite Christmas songs are presented in authentic Nashville country style with dazzling guitars and fiddles along with soaring harmonies. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $25/person

Where:
Wake Forest Renaissance Centre
405 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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See the choir perform beloved Christmas songs with guest vocal group AVANTE. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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