Today is the first Sunday of Advent and the start of the Christmas countdown calendar ritual.

Calendars can range from the simple to the elaborate, but regardless of the details, its role is clear — counting down the days until the big day.

Ours has been in use for more than 30 years. It features 24 soft pieces that attach by Velcro to a decorated blue stocking that hangs on the front of the pantry door. Simple and functional but alas, often forgotten, even though it's right there, front and center, in my face.

Let's strive this year — even in the midst of the busyness of the season — to take time to remember the simplest joys the holiday can bring.

Ready, set — let the countdown begin.

Junior Service League of Grand Junction will host its annual Grant Awards Dinner on Dec. 9, when it will present $56,000 in grants to 24 local nonprofit organizations.

The funds were raised earlier this year at the Viva el Vino wine-tasting event. Organizations receiving funds are CASA, Clifton Christian Church Food and Clothing, Colorado Discoverability, Community Food Bank, Eureka! McConnell Science Museum, First Presbyterian Church, Freedom and Responsibility Education Enterprise, Girl Scouts of Colorado, Grand Junction Imagination Library, Grand Valley Catholic Outreach, Harmony Acres Equestrian Center, Hilltop Community Resources Inc., and HOPE of the Grand Valley.

Also, Karis Inc., Kids Aid, Mesa County Safety Council, Mosaic, St. Mary's Foster Grandparent Program, Steppin' It Up Inc., The Autism Task Force, The Counseling and Education Center, Fruita Thrift Shop Imagination Library, Western Colorado Area Health Education Center, and Western Colorado Center for the Arts.

The league also will award its first Breast Cancer Awareness Grant, a $25,000 grant, to the St. Mary's Medical Center Foundation.

Go to jslgj.com for information.

The Grant a Wish Program has a number of upcoming fundraisers.

■ Gift wrapping will take place from 3–8 p.m. Dec. 6 and Dec. 20 at Murdoch's Ranch and Home Supply, 3217 Interstate 70 Business Loop in Clifton. Donations will benefit scholarships for programs with positive peers and role models such as dance, music, art, sports, cooking, robotics and more.

■ The Downtown Fruita Window Wonderland Display Contest with judging at 4 p.m. Dec. 13. Fruita businesses have been invited to participate in the contest, and winners will be announced at the tree lighting about 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 14.

■ A Gourmet S'mores event will be from  5–8 p.m. Dec. 13 at Country Rose Boutique during the annual Spirit of Christmas walk in downtown Grand Junction. Donations will benefit the program.

■ Grant a Wish Program and nonprofits CASA of Mesa County and Mesa County RSVP Inc. will host the Festival of Trees bidding through Dec. 16 at Varaison Vineyards and Winery, 405 W. First St. in Palisade.

Call Mackenzie Dodge at 234-9808 for information on these events

Swedes of the Grand Valley will have a Christmas celebration from 4–7 p.m. Dec. 8 at Unity Church, 3205 N. 12th St.

A meal of ham, korv (potato sausage) and beverages will be provided. Bring a dish to share and a Swedish-themed item to donate for the silent auction. The program will include a St. Lucia procession and Swedish music.

Pre-register with Jeanette by Wednesday at 241-2945.

Friends of St. Mary's Medical Center will have a "Pictures with Santa" fundraiser from  10 a.m.–2 p.m. Saturday in the main lobby of the hospital, Entrance 1.

Cost is $10 per pose and includes one print. Additional prints are $2 each — five prints total. Use your own camera or phone, and no printing costs will apply. Net proceeds will benefit the St. Mary's Fund and the Micah Montag Pediatric Fund.

There will be $1 children's craft tables in the lobby with Santa (who will take a break for reindeer feeding from 11:30 a.m.–noon).

No pet photos will be taken.

Redlands Lions Club will host its annual chili supper and cake wheel raffle from 5–8 p.m. Friday in the Redlands Middle School cafeteria, 2200 Broadway.

"Besides our great chili there will be potato soup, flour tortillas, carrots, celery, beverages, and cake for dessert will also be available at an additional cost," a news release said.

The event will include face painting and balloon animals for children at no cost. Tickets cost $7 for adults, $5 for ages 7–17, and free for ages 6 and younger.

Tickets are available from any member of the Redlands Lions Club or at the door.

Friends of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center West Slope will have a Winter Kick-off Party from 7–11 p.m. Wednesday at Handlebar Tap House, 417 Monument Road, No. 1.

"No matter how you recreate in the backcountry, we hope you will join us as we come together to support the CAIC in their continued efforts in avalanche forecasting and education throughout Colorado," according to the GJSentinel.com calendar event.

Tickets for the 21-and-older event cost $25 in advance and $30 at the door, which includes one door prize ticket, two beer tickets, and a free taco bar.

Advance tickets are at eventbrite.com. Email info@friendsofcaic.org or call 970-985-4245 for information.

Kannah Creek Brewing Co.'s December firkin fundraiser will benefit the Grand Mesa Nordic Council and its dedication to promoting fun, safe and diversified cross country experiences on Grand Mesa.

The firkin will be tapped at 5 p.m. Monday at the brewery, 1960 N. 12th St. Proceeds from $5.50 pints and donations will benefit the council.

"GMNC grooms and maintains 50 km (31 miles) of ski trails on the Skyway, County Line and Ward trail systems on the Grand Mesa," the post says.

Submit Your Town and community news items by email to communitynews@gjsentinel.com, by fax at 244-8578, or by mail to 734 S. Seventh St., Grand Junction, CO, 81501.

Online calendar items can be uploaded at GJSentinel.com/calendar.

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