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Perkins volunteer wins Myra Kraft Community MVP award

Joe Markarian, 93, winner of the Myra Kraft Community MVP grand prize, with former and current Patriots (from left) Andre Tippett, Vince Wilfork, and  Tom Brady.

Joe Markarian, 93, winner of the Myra Kraft Community MVP grand prize, with former and current Patriots (from left) Andre Tippett, Vince Wilfork, and Tom Brady.

MORE HONORS: The latest novel for middle-grade readers by Newton author Carol Antoinette Peacock (inset), “Red Thread Sisters,” has received two new distinctions.

The coming-of-age story, about a girl who promises to find a family for the friend she leaves behind when she is adopted from a Chinese orphanage by a suburban Boston family, was recently named a Must-Read Book of 2013 by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, and a Notable Book for a Global Society Choice of 2013 by the International Reading Association. It was previously cited as a Parents’ Choice recommendation and Indie Next Pick winner.

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This is the sixth novel by Peacock, who says she was inspired to write “Red Thread Sisters” after a visit in 2004 to the Chinese orphanage from which she and her husband, Thomas Gagen, had adopted their daughters, Elizabeth , now 20, and Katherine, now 19, as infants. Peacock said she was “stirred” by the experience of volunteering for two days at the orphanage, where some of the caretakers still remembered Elizabeth and Katherine.

“You got the feeling of how the older girls, still waiting to be adopted, longed for a family, but also that they were very close friends,” said Peacock, who is a practicing psychologist in Cambridge.

Peacock conducted additional research on Chinese orphanages through surveys of adoptive parents across the United States. She credits her passion for the subject matter with enabling her to persevere through the seven years it took to finish the book.

“The theme is the connections between families, friends, and countries,” she said, “and the power that exists within each of them.”

For more information, visit www.carolpeacock.com.

MVP FOR PERKINS: At 93 , Joe Markarian has logged more than 13,500 volunteer hours over 27 years at the Perkins School for the Blind in his hometown of Watertown. His contributions also have resulted in a financial boon for the school, through the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.

Markarian was one of 26 people who recently received Myra Kraft Community MVP awards totaling $200,000. He was singled out for a special honor, however, with the grand prize of $25,000 going to the Perkins School in his name.

Markarian, a self-trained carpenter who taught music in Hopkinton for 26 years before retiring in 1980, leads a team of fellow volunteers in the school’s Assistive Device Center in building and painting toys and custom-fit furniture for students who are blind, deaf and blind, or visually impaired with other disabilities. They work with heavy cardboard that Markarian says is superior to wood because of its flexibility, allowing subtle adjustments and repairs with a quick trim or adding pieces with hot glue.

Markarian, who volunteers three mornings a week, is grateful that Perkins will receive such a large grant from the team’s foundation, but dismisses any praise, and insists he receives more than he gives.

“Volunteering at Perkins has made my whole retirement life more fulfilling,” said Markarian, whose gentle nature belies the World War II veteran’s former role as a drill sergeant in the US Army. “They treat me well and appreciate everything I do, and I can concentrate on making handicapped children a little more comfortable.”

ON STAGE: Five local teens will perform in the Boston Children’s Theatre production of the Tony Award-winning musical “Hair” next weekend at the Governor’s Academy, 1 Elm St. in Newbury’s Byfield section.

The cast features 30 actors from 25 Greater Boston communities and Florida, ranging in age from 14 to 19. They include Hannah Doyon of Arlington, Julia Kearney of Wellesley, Rachel Sachs of Southborough, and Lucy Aiken and Yasmin Yacoby of Newton.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. next Sunday; tickets cost $15 and $20 for adults, and $10 and $15 for students. For details, call 617-424-6634, ext. 222, or visit www.bostonchildrenstheatre.org.

NEW LEADERSHIP: Rachel Schoenfeld was recently appointed as the new rabbi at Shir Hadash in Newton.

Schoenfeld was the part-time rabbi at Shirat Hayam in Duxbury for the last seven years. Since 2010, she was additionally the part-time campus rabbi at Hampshire College in Amherst.

Schoenfeld also led Bible study programs for inmates and coordinated additional volunteer activities at the Nashua Street Jail in Boston, and organized and facilitated conversations about Israel and Palestine for the Philadelphia-based Jewish Dialogue Group in many cities over the past 10 years.

Schoenfeld earned a degree in Jewish education at McGill University in Montreal, and was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Pennsylvania. She said that being a rabbi combines her love of community, learning, and “relating to the divine.”

“How awesome it is that we gather to do these things together,” she said.

ELECTRIC YOUTH ABROAD: An ensemble of singer-dancers trained at the Franklin School for the Performing Arts will depart Monday for a two-week tour in England and France.

Electric Youth 2013 includes Michael Fajardo, 14, of Hopkinton; Maddy Williams, 14, of Medway; Jenna McDermott, 14, of Wrentham; and Franklin residents Madison Asgeirsson, 15; Kendra Dombroski, 14; Ali Funkhouser, 17; Graham Hancock, 16; Jocelyn Jones, 14; and Shaina McGillis, 14.

Performance venues include Disneyland Paris, and theaters in Bristol, London, Wimborne, and Windsor in England. The youths will also have time for guided historical tours during their travels.

Electric Youth delivers high energy, fully choreographed performances of classic rock and contemporary pop tunes backed by an eight-piece band of Boston musicians. According to Funkhouser, the broad appeal of pop music will help the group connect with international audiences.

“The newer, contemporary music is universally well known,” she said, “but we put our own spin on how the songs are performed, so there are still plenty of twists and surprises for our audiences.”

For more information, visit www.electricyouth.com.

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@ globe.com.
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