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"Peace work blossoms with trees, Natalie"

"You know it's a small world when a pop superstar and a citizen diplomacy project that helps Southeast Asia converge - where else - through Bainbridge Island.But that's the happy news, as our own Peace Trees Vietnam organization this week accepted a $5,000 donation from pop singer Natalie Merchant.We've always liked Natalie's music, managing director Imbert Matthee tells us. And when a Peace Trees/Earth Stewards member approached Merchant's camp about helping their cause, she agreed to donate part of the gate from her June 16 concert at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville. The show sold out.Some background: Merchant cut her teeth as vocalist and creative catalyst in the '80s underground pop outfit 10,000 Maniacs, which spent a decade building up a sizeable following and touring with R.E.M. and other top-name acts. Merchant left the band in 1994, and has released several popular and critically albums on her own. A determined social activist, she also has campaigned for a variety of human and animal rights causes. (Pop archivists may remember when 10,000 Maniacs pulled their version of Cat Stevens' song Peace Train from their 1987 album In My Tribe, after Stevens endorsed the death sentence Islamic fundamentalists leveled against author Salman Rushdie.)We weren't fortunate enough to attend Merchant's show ourselves, but given her talent and their good taste, we assume a number of islanders did. Matthee reports that between encores, he was able to take the stage and give a brief but well-received presentation on Peace Trees and its work with landmine removal in Southeast Asia.They were already on their feet, Matthee said of the crowd, so it didn't have anything to do with me.Merchant's donation will help support the next Peace Trees contingent, which will head to Vietnam from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16. Volunteer diplomats are still needed to help plant trees and establish goodwill in a region too long torn by the madness of violence and oppression; anyone interested in signing on should give Matthee a call at 842-7986.Good music, and a good cause - good stuff. We applaud Natalie Merchant and Peace Trees Vietnam, for excellent humanitarian service that's a credit to us all.Rotary BankNo, they didn't willfully accept every piece of junk that rolled through the gate this year.And yes, prices were up a bit, too. But last Saturday's Rotary Auction was yet another smashing success, as evidenced by the happy throngs that carted away pretty much everything that wasn't affixed to the Woodward school building itself.As announced at Wednesday's post-auction Rotary dinner, receipts from this year's event hit an astounding $177,000 - up $41,000 from last year's total, and all bound for yet undesignated but no doubt worthy projects that will enhance the Bainbridge Island community.We quote one Rotary member, who upon hearing the total, told us simply:Wow!Couldn't have said it better ourselves."

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