Polar Bear Plunge is Feb. 6
By Ed Simmons
The voice on the phone trembled. "They're going to cut off our electricity today. We've asked for an extension but they won't give it to us. We have four young children and nowhere to take them," the 24-year-old woman named Jessica said. This occurred last Thursday, New Year's Eve. She and her husband owed the power company $210. He needed until Monday to pay it. But the representative wouldn't grant the extension.
To this young mother trying to keep her four children warm, this was unjust. She called The Caroline Progress. The reporter made several calls to the company and one call to Wrights Chapel United Methodist Church which hosts the yearly Polar Bear Plunge. Last February, helping to keep folks like Jessica and her family warm, 41 people wearing outlandish, comic costumes jumped into freezing Lake Caroline. The air temperature was 42, and the water 35 with ice bobbing on it. Backed by sponsors, they raised more than $20,000 to help needy families pay heating bills.
This year's Fifth Annual Polar Bear Plunge is Saturday, February 6. Individuals and teams are now contacting Wrights Chapel to volunteer for plunging. They include members of area churches, representatives of local businesses, community and school officials and various big-hearted daredevils. "We get cold so others stay warm" is their slogan.
They may get very, very cold, because Lake Caroline is presently frozen over. Local businesses and community organizations participate as corporate sponsors by pledging $100 or more. Serving on the coordinating committee for the first time this year are representatives from Salem Baptist. Also on the committee are members of St. Mary of the Annunciation Catholic Church. Connie White Carneal of Wrights Chapel is the coordinator. Michael Smith from St. Mary's was last year's top fundraiser, bringing in $2,700 and winning the coveted "Gold Plunger."
As things turned out for Jessica, as her anxious day wore on, Molly Gee of Wrights Chapel called her and the electric company to begin to arrange assistance. Then The Caroline Progress was told, after several calls to the electric company, that "Cold Weather Guidelines" were now in effect and Jessica's heat wouldn't be turned off until it warmed up a little. But that was not what Jessica's husband was told. After calling the company several times, he was told they were no longer in the computer to be cut off, but nothing was said about Cold Weather Guidelines. Then Jessica's grandmother called to say she would pay the bill. And so for the time being, another Caroline home would stay warm.
For the sake of other struggling families, a band of brave, scantily-clad, laughing souls meets by the shore of Lake Caroline five Saturdays from now at 10 a.m. They'll line up along the water's edge as the crowd looks on. Bracing themselves for the shock of the cold, and no longer laughing at everyone's crazy costume, they're now silent. And when the horn sounds, they'll dash into the chilly, perhaps freezing water and dive in... They'll come up sputtering. And most will get out quick. Very quick. All so others can stay warm.
Want to Plunge? Want to sponsor? Registration packets are available at Wrights Chapel. Or call 448-1251.