Good News Blog


Thursday, Nov. 27, 2008

Rescue Missions Serve Thanksgiving Dinner with Dignity

Thanksgiving dinners are given out and shared across the USA.

Volunteers in Lebanon County in the USA started to prepare for the Thanksgiving dinner already on Tuesday.

Erma BLatt block for example was peeling small brown potatoes.

Blatt is considered one of effect from full imagine the community: she’s been 18 years with the Red Cross Lebanon County Christian ministries are now helps out the Lebanon rescue mission.

“I bring my own knife to peel. You can get it done a lot faster with a paring knife.

Whatever I can do to help make someone else’s day, makes my day.”

Erma and seven other volunteers will prepare today’s Thanksgiving dinner which is expected to be given to 150 to 200 people.

Paul topping, the missions director, said that preparations had actually started even earlier then Tuesday. Sunday volunteers were cooking turkeys. Monday volunteers were stripping the meat of the balls for hours.

Children from the new covenant Christian schools also chipped in. The hird graders made napkin holders.

Ingredients for the complete Thanksgiving dinner includes 14 turkeys, 9 gallons of vegetables and 150 pounds of potato filling.

For at least 50 years the rescue mission has been serving Thanksgiving dinners. But then the tend to be a cross-section of the people from Lebanon County.

In Charla, North Carolina, that Charlotte rescue Mission holds one of the biggest Thanksgiving dinners.

A big part of their Thanksgiving dinner is prepared by Charla families who delivered homemade desserts and goodies.

They’ll serve over 800 meals.

Monday, Nov. 24, 2008

US Marines Collect for Toys for Tots

I tend to write about Christmas items on our sister site Joy of Christmas, but as this is one of those events that for politically correct reasons is labeled “Winterfest”, I rather post about it here at Good News Blog.

The Las Vegas Arts & Entertainment committee of the Henderson Department of Cultural Arts and Tourism continually organizes some of the best events but always outdoes itself around Christmas time (or should I say “winter” time?).

According to their Las Vegas special events calendar the Christmas parade, the Winterfest parade for reasons explained above, will be held December 13, 2008.

The theme of this year’s parade is “Toys on Parade”.

What turns this into a good news item is affected the US Marine Corps, grand marshal of the parade, will be collecting for toys for tots.

Bonus item: apparently organized by another committee, Nevada Entertainment & Events (?), there is also a gingerbread house contest! I’m not a big fan of eating these anymore, and my doctor was simply shoot me for doing so, but I love how they look; they’re just really part of the traditional Christmas feeling (ooops, I mean “Winterfest” feeling…)

The gingerbread houses will be on display December 12 and Saturday December 13.

Don’t forget that you can win some really nice prices in either event and that the Christmas parade is still looking for sponsors.

See the rules and entry form for the gingerbread house contest here, the one for sponsorship of the parade here, and enter into the parade (and win prizes up to $1000) via this page.

Henderson Christmas images courtesy of roadsidepictures

Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008

Angel Food Ministry provides affordable food in Lehigh Valley

With the cost of groceries continuing to rise Angel Food Ministry is an organization which tries to help families to get solid, nutritious food for roughly half of the cost of buying it in the supermarket.

Operating through local churches across the USA Angel Food Ministry has also grown in Lehigh Valley over the last years.

Unlike many other charitable programs that Angel Food Ministry program is open to anyone. There is no minimum or maximum income requirement: there’s no need to prove anything. This is done so that people don’t feel you really hate it. Other programs at times require people to show their bills, their income, proof their budget.

Mostly “menus” are circulated by form pairs. They also take orders and unload the trailers of food. A typical menu includes meat and dairy products as well as frozen vegetables. $25-$30 will buy you a box of food worth around 60-65 dollar. There is no limit on the number of boxes that a family or a person can order.

Apart from the wreck alert mostly menu boxes there are also special books as was meat and chicken, fruit and vegetables. Special care is available for seniors which receive “senior” boxes. The senior books typically contains 10 heat and serve meals for the same price as a regular books.

To find an Angel Food Ministry outlet near you contact your local church.

Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008

Russell Crowe’s Ponytail for Charity

The Australian actor Russell Crowe, co-starring with Leonardo Dicaprio in “Body of Lies
“, will give his hair to Locks of Love.

He’s said to be attached to his hair but excited to help the children’s charity.

Locks of Love is an organization which makes wigs and other hair pieces for young cancer patients. Some but not all wigs are given away, most are paid for.

Russel Crowe has been growing his hair for his role in the upcoming Robin Hood movie “Nottingham.”

Before being able to donate his hair it needs to reach the minimum length of 10 inches.

Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008

Magic Bus Raises $350 Thousand for Poor Children

Magic Bus’ gala dinner at the Dorchester Hotel in London has, together with the fund raising auction, raised 200 thousand pound (USD $350 thousand).

The money will benefit poor street children in India, particularly those in Mumbai.

The coming year Magic Bus will reach more than 150 thousand children. Already in the past 10 years of the charity’s existence they’ve directly changed the lives of more than 30 thousand children.

New programs will be started for Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and rural Maharashtra.

Together with the recently launched MUM Awards, the UK is on a good and helpful road.

Monday, Jul. 21, 2008

Their field of dreams

Whether it’s Little League or the majors, there’s nothing like watching a ball game on a warm July evening. This summer there are 60 children playing a game they’ve never played before. The Miracle League for disabled children has expanded to Sioux Falls and those involved say it’s truly a field of dreams.

Sioux Falls, S.D. — It’s hard to count just how many miracles there are on this field. For Ron Griebel the miracle is the field itself.

Griebel heard about the special field about a year-and-a-half ago.

There are Miracle Leagues in Rochester and the Twin Cities. Griebel wanted one in Sioux Falls.

The field is made from a special rubber surface with a painted baseball diamond. Griebel raised $400,000 through private donations and got the city to donate land.

“When we approached the city of Sioux Falls, we said we didn’t want to be tucked away in some corner,” Griebel said. “We wanted to be where other ball fields were, because we want them to play when other kids were playing, so they feel like they’re part of the whole group and not shoved away somewhere.”

The Miracle League field is part of a youth baseball complex just down the street from the local minor league stadium.

Griebel says he wanted the field so his 17-year-old daughter Sammi could experience the joy of baseball.

Sammi has cerebral palsy and Griebel’s eyes glisten with love as he talks about his daughter.

“She loves to be outside and to play,” he said. “She was patient and she’d always go to her sister’s ball games. Now they get to come and watch her play.”

Griebel says playing baseball makes his daughter happy and that makes him happy. The feeling is contagious.

On the field, nine players in team t-shirts are in position. Each player has a ball buddy, a volunteer who helps make plays.

Sometimes that means handing them the ball to throw or showing them where to throw it. The buddies also assist with batting and moving the players in a wheelchairs to their base.

On the field, each players is unique. One claps her hands for every play. Another gets the ball and stands, frozen, as everyone yells together, “throw it!”

Umpire Lyle Smith also serves as pitcher and all-around cheerleader. He calls each child by name. Smith is the executive director of the Sioux Empire Baseball Association.

“I think it’s a great opportunity just to get involved with something, to interact with other children, to be in a situation to enjoy participating in a degree of physical activity,” he said. “They play a game, but that is a very loose term.”

The rules are simple. Everyone gets a hit. Everyone gets on base and everyone scores. There are no strikes or outs or errors. For Lyle Smith, the act of playing is the miracle.

“I have been involved with baseball all my life,” he said. “I have always worked with the upper level kids college kids who had a shot at the majors. These are the bravest people I have ever seen.”

Parents in the stands cheer for every play and every player. For them it’s a miracle to be there.

They don’t even know the team names – someone says they’re all named after a major league team, but it doesn’t really matter. Randy and Julie Briggs watch their son Scotty. He has Down syndrome.

“Sometimes you feel a little short changed or left out. This makes you feel good,” Julie Briggs said.

“It fills that gap you have of never being able to go to a game and watch our son play ball,” said Randy Briggs.

It also means that Julie Briggs can play a role she never thought she could.

“We live by a big ball complex and you can hear all the cheers, and it’s like, ‘Oh man, we never get to do that.’ And now we do,” Briggs said. “I told my friend now I’m a baseball mom.”

Some people at the field just come to watch baseball. They cheer or just observe in quiet amazement.

Lyle Smith says the miracles will continue as the league grows, more kids with disabilities sign up and more volunteers act as ball buddies.

“I just think people enjoy being around there and trying to make someone else’s life a little more bearable in an hour of fun,” Smith said.

At the end of the game, on this field, every player is a winner. Umpire Lyle Smith says it goes further than that, because these teams share their miracle with anyone who’s got a warm summer evening to watch a ball game.

Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2008

Camp hits a grand slam

The bag of potting soil was too heavy for Bradly Fisher to carry alone.

When Gaven Urban saw Fisher struggling to carry the bag, he was more than willing to lend a helping hand.

Together, the two carried the bag to one of the three pots campers with Camp Grand Slam were filling with soil and flowers Tuesday.

Fisher said he likes flowers and likes to plant them, most of the time.

“I don’t like flowers with bees in them,” he said before getting started.

Camp Grand Slam (social learning and maintenance) is a camp to serve school age to post-school age kids and young adults with multiple disabilities from all over the county. It’s held annually by the Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center.

“It’s something out here for the kids besides pure academic summer school and is an extension of our program,” said Rhonda Carley, camp coordinator and multiple disabilities teacher at John Glenn High School.

The three day-a-week, four-week summer camp has 24 campers this year that are participating in activities like horseback riding, visiting local parks and lakes, making pizza, bowling, a field trip to The Wilds, swimming and other activities.

Planting flowers in three large pots at the Miracle League Field behind the Starlight School was their community service project for the summer. Last year as a community service project, campers wrote letters to troops.

“It gives kids the exposure in the summer because they have so much structure throughout the school year. They can reunite with friends and do summer activities they don’t always get to do,” said Diana White, a kindergarten through second-grade multiple disabilities teacher at Tri-Valley Local Schools and a camp staffer.

This year’s camp is Kate Geiger’s first, but a little more than one week into it, she was having fun.

“I like it. It’s a lot of fun. The kids are always in a good mood and they seem to like to come,” she said.

As a multiple disabilities teacher at Dresden Elementary School for third- through fifth-graders, she said it’s not only good for them to have something to look forward to in the summer but it also helps develop their social skills.

“It definitely helps all their social skills. They’re out in the community with people they don’t normally interact with. They’re not around their typical classmates and have to socialize with different peers,” she said. “Social skills are usually the most difficult for them. The more we can have them in a different environment, the more it will help them.”

Kolton Roush, a senior in the Muskingum Valley program, and Amanda Wells, who is post-school age, are camp counselors this year.

Mark Bellew’s favorite part of camp this year was getting Olive Garden for lunch, but said he also liked planting flowers at the field.

The flowers were donated by Timber Run Gardens LLC.

“I love Camp Grand Slam,” he said. “I have always enjoyed camp and love coming here.”

Monday, Jul. 14, 2008

Church helps to feed families on $30 a week

The dollar doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. Gas prices are high, food prices are rising, and families say they are feeling the effects.

So, what can one Charlotte church do to make a difference? Community of Christ congregation members will do their part by bringing Angel Food Ministries to Charlotte this month.

The nonprofit program got its start in the early 1990s when a group of families in Georgia decided to team up in an effort to purchase quality food at wholesale prices. Today, the program is run out of various churches in 35 states, with local sites including Potterville and Mason.
Offered to anyone

The monthly food menus can feed a family of four for one week and cost $30. Unlike other outreach programs, Angel Food is offered to anyone, regardless of income.

“We felt this was a community outreach, and that’s what churches are about,” said Donnie Gallimore. “The ability to stretch the food dollar is a hard thing to come by in this economy.”

Vera McDonald and her husband, Harold, congregation members for the past 50 years, are helping to organize the program at their church.

She said she was “shocked” when she learned how much food people can buy for $30. “To get that much for such a little amount is a surprise,” she said.

The Rev. Debora Crowley said Angel Food secures “restaurant quality” items, including meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables. She said the congregation’s new location on Lovett Street is perfect for the distribution of food.

“Since we’ve moved in here, we’ve anticipated that God will open doors for community outreach, and He has,” Crowley said. “This is the perfect location for this.”

Community of Christ had its first order placement Saturday. Those items will be distributed at the church July 26. Every month, orders will be taken from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month, with pick-up on the last Saturday of the month.

An estimated 15 volunteers already have been enlisted by the congregation to distribute food this month. Organizers hope the church will become a resource for local families.

Thursday, Jul. 10, 2008

Christmas in July charity

The office is decked out in red, white and blue, but they aren’t celebrating the nation’s birthday all month. President and CEO of the company, Don Crawford, arrived for work in a Santa Claus suit. Those who have worked at Delta Dallas for more than a year knew Christmas in July had arrived.

Delta Dallas, a Dallas-based leading provider of staffing and recruiting services specializing in administrative, accounting and call center staffing, today* announced the launch of its 10th annual Christmas in July. Throughout the month of July the company will sponsor a 31 day program of giving that it hopes will touch the lives of over 2,000 children in need.

It is common to see companies sponsor charitable giving opportunities during the Christmas holidays. But not many go all out to celebrate Christmas in July. With lights strung, a Christmas tree decorated in red, white and blue and the receptionist answering “Merry Christmas” every time she receives a call, Delta Dallas has thrown themselves into the Christmas spirit while temperatures outside are anything but wintery.

The purpose of the drive is to collect back-to-school supplies for children in under-served communities in Dallas and Plano. “We hope to make a significant difference in the lives of the children represented by the charities we have chosen to support this July,” said Yvonne Abel, executive director of client services for Delta Dallas. “Our employees, clients, candidates and friends look forward to being able to contribute supplies or cash donations to the children in our community.”

Delta Dallas’ Christmas in July campaign will benefit four local charities: Dallas Concilio, The Samaritan Inn, Shared Housing, and The Wilkinson Center. Non-profits receive most of their charitable giving from individuals and the corporate community during the Christmas season. During this time of year non-profits can experience a lull in giving. Delta Dallas hopes, with their Christmas in July program, to make going back to school a more successful experience for the underserved children in our community.

4-year-old boy wanted to give

Give credit to Brandon Wilkes Tidwell, 4, who grew his hair halfway down his back so that it could eventually be cut off and donated to make wigs for children who have lost their hair.

Brandon was just 3 years old when he saw bald children on television and decided he had to help them. He endured the indignity of being mistaken for a little girl in order to stay true to his goal. For the obvious reason, most donors are, in fact, girls.

His hair has been cut and donated to Locks of Love, a nonprofit Florida group that accepts donated hair for wigs for children with hair loss. Brandon now looks more like a boy. But this may not be the end. He’s thinking about growing it out again for future donations.

We wish him well with any such goal. He’s truly a special little boy.

Tuesday, Jul. 8, 2008

Kids join forces for Shop With a Cop

Like many kids, Nick Novak doesn’t remember the gifts he got last Christmas, but he does remember presents under the tree.

Now the 7-year-old is joining forces with Kole Hendrickson, 11, to run a lemonade stand this Saturday to help make sure other kids have Christmas presents.

The pair also is joining forces with Mayor “Skip” Edwards and Fremont Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 37 to challenge other kids to sell lemonade on Saturday for the Shop With a Cop program.

“Help us help the other kids,” Kole said. “It’s fun and you get to help others. It’s a simple thing to do and you can change a life.”

Shop With a Cop is a program where FOP Lodge

37 raises money throughout the year to make Christmas a better time for underprivileged children. Off-duty officers take the children shopping at Wal-Mart Supercenter and spend $100 per child on winter clothing and an age-appropriate toy. Children are usually nominated by their schools and their families are invited on the shopping trip.

Edwards signed a proclamation marking July 12 as “Whet Your Whistle Day,” a day of challenge to area youth to run lemonade stands with Kole and Nick and donate the money to the Shop With a Cop program.

“I think any time our young people step up and support those less fortunate, it’s a good deal. I think we need to support it,” the mayor said, adding he admired that Kole and Nick wanted to challenge others to participate. “I think it would be nice if we could get a nice cross section of young people to do it. It shows responsibility on our young people’s part for stepping up.”

The boys and Edwards said they thought having the challenge during John C. Fremont Days might drive a few more people to participate.

Sgt. Bob Buer, president of FOP Lodge 37, thought a prize might help out with the challenge. He said the FOP will present the lemonade booth that turns in the most money by July 18 to dispatchers $50 in Chamber Bucks to be used at area merchants.

“It’s just awesome that other kids help raise funds for kids who don’t have as much as the rest of us,” Buer said. “That’s what (Shop With a Cop) needs. We can’t do this alone.”

This will be the fourth year Kole has run the stand outside his home at 428 W. 16th St. and the second that Nick will help out. Kole’s sister, Korri, 14, was a partner the first three years and in those three years more than $1,000 was raised through selling 25-cent cups of lemonade.

The boys said they learned the importance of helping others from their parents. In fact, Nick went to Costa Rica with his family on a church mission trip last year.

“I felt good when I did it,” Nick said. “You can help people.”

The boys said they have been spreading the word among their friends and hope the fundraiser catches on and that other kids want to help Shop With a Cop.

“You have it good even though sometimes you might not think you do,” Kole said. “I hope we can get a lot of money.”

Their lemonade stand will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, but there is no time limit on when competing stands can be open.

“We wanted to see if we could raise more money to help more people if other kids do it,” Kole said. “We don’t want to be in it all by ourselves.”

Monday, Jul. 7, 2008

Angel Food Ministries Program Helps People Save on Food

In these times, people don’t have to be out of work or in debt to feel the economic pinch of sky-high gas and food prices. One church ministry group is offering a way to get a lot more money out of those grocery dollars.

Everyone is trying to save money at the grocery store these days, by buying store brands and inexpensive cuts of meat, but in the end, it all still adds up.

“I went to the grocery store recently and the amount I spent in food, for just me, I’m a single woman, versus what I was spending a year ago was just ridiculous,” said Areia Theus.

Many, like Theus, are looking for a way to save big and that may be through Angel Food Ministries.

“A friend of mine told me about it in Dallas, Texas and she spoke so highly of it I figured it was a great opportunity,” said Theus.

On a recent Saturday, Theus joined 20 people and picked up food at the Total Grace Christian Center in Decatur.

“What’s in the package would be a variety of meats such as pork ribs, pork riblets, steaks, and chicken,” said Theus.

The food was supplied by Angel Food Ministries which offers a monthly menu that includes meats, frozen foods and dry goods like pancake mix.

“I get a variety of foods that I can live off for at least three weeks to a month and the food is good,” said Tracey Gordon.

The food isn’t given away, but it’s greatly reduced. Clients said they were saving up to $40 a month.

“I’m on a fixed income and this is one way I can make sure my ends meet a little bit closer,” said Riva Annette Zwarick.

People can place orders through local churches and non-profit groups. The orders are filled by Angel Food Ministries, which purchases the items in bulk from major suppliers like Bird’s Eye and General Mills. Angel Food Ministries then ships the orders out all across the country.

“It’s not donated, it’s not seconds. It’s purchased straight from the manufacturer. It’s all USDA approved and inspected and it’s name brand top quality food,” Director Angel Food Ministries Mike Wood.

The program was started 14 years ago in Monroe, Georgia and now reaches 35 states. Wood said there are no restrictions on who can participate.

There are many churches and non-profits throughout Georgia that participate in the program.

Washington Township teen grew hair for image, cut it for charity

Washington Township teen Sebastian Canigiani didn’t mind being ridiculed a bit by his friends for having long hair.

After all, he had grown it with the best intentions at heart.

Four years ago, the 13-year-old guitarist began letting his hair grow long to complement his rock star image.

About two years later, he made the decision to grow it longer and have it cut and donated to his father’s friend, Marty “Moe” Ferrari, who was diagnosed with cancer.

Ferrari lost his battle with the disease last August but Sebastian remained committed to a charitable cause.

He decided to give 13 inches of his wavy, brown tresses to the Locks of Love foundation.

Locks of Love, a nonprofit Florida organization founded in 1997, provides hairpieces to children in the United States who suffer from long-term medical hair loss.

Canigiani only had to grow his hair 10 inches to make a donation, but he went the extra mile.

His mother, Valerie Canigiani, her son will help four children because of the length and thickness of his donated hair.

Hair stylist Kim Hazy of Washington Township, a friend of the Canigiani family, cut Sebastian’s hair for free May 20.

Sebastian’s mother, Valerie, said the haircut was a drastic change for her son.

“He got quite a reaction in school the next day. Teachers didn’t know who he was,” she said with a laugh.

Sebastian said he now prefers his hair short, especially since the summer has arrived.

He said there was much more support than criticism for his deed.

“I got a lot of good comments,” Sebastian said. “A couple kids wanted to do it, too.”

Friday, Jun. 13, 2008

Angel Food Helps With Rising Food Costs

Churches across the state will be delivering 37 tons of food tomorrow to help Virginians with rising grocery costs.

One local church is participating in the angel food ministries program. The Orange Baptist church will provide forty five families with a box a meat, vegetables and other essentials

“It is approximately 20 pounds of food that will last a family of four about a week and a senior citizen up to a month,” said Melinda Clark of the Orange Baptist Church

The box costs thirty dollars but is valued at more than twice that. Angle food is hoping more Central Virginia churches will take part in the program.

Monday, Jun. 9, 2008

Sergeant pounds the streets for charity

A POLICE sergeant from the Caister and coastal villages safer neighbourhood team is set to pound the streets as he prepares for his first ever charity run.

Andy Brown has just started an intensive three month training programme in preparation for the Great North Run which is being held on Sunday October 5. The run is 13 miles long, starting in Newcastle and ending in South Shields and incorporates heights of up to 90 metres.

The 33-year-old policeman currently bikes from his home in Hemsby to his workplace at Caister police station and will soon be ditching the cycle in favour of foot power as he steps up his training regime closer to the event.

He decided to take part in the run because of a history of heart problems in his family. His father was diagnosed with angina 15 years ago and suffered a near fatal heart attack. His grandfather died of heart failure and Andy’s wife has also lost members of her family to heart related illness.

Andy said: “One of the great myths about heart related problems is that they mainly only affect the elderly or people who don’t look after their bodies particularly well. I want to help raise awareness that it is a condition that can impact on people of any age and fitness.”

He added: “I have only just started training. I live in Hemsby and will be undertaking some practice runs around the village. It’s going to be a bit of an uphill struggle but I am looking forward to the challenge.”

So far, Andy has pledged to raise £550 pounds for the charity and is well on his way to achieving that target.

Friday, Jun. 6, 2008

Thousands of bike riders climb Tahoe hills for charity

Thousands of bicycle riders endured the steep inclines of the Sierra Nevada to enjoy the views of Lake Tahoe and raise money for cancer research.

More than 3,300 cyclists climbed about 2,600 vertical feet during Sunday’s 17th annual America’s most Beautiful Bike Ride.

The 100-mile route around Lake Tahoe is a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Some riders covered the distance in four to five hours.

Others took up to 12 hours, and were just happy to finish the grueling but scenic journey.

Children’s Miracle Network to celebrate 20 years

Children’s Miracle Network at Hendrick Children’s Hospital will celebrate its 20th anniversary during its broadcast Saturday and Sunday on KTXS-TV, with the goal of raising more than $750,000 to support children’s services at Hendrick Children’s Hospital, Hendrick Center for Rehabilitation and throughout Hendrick.

The funds raised through Children’s Miracle Network help local children by purchasing the latest in medical equipment and a variety of special programs to treat these special patients. All the funds raised stay in the Abilene community to help local children without regard to the way they are able to pay.

The Children’s Miracle Network began in 1988 through the influence of Dr. Jake Barron, longtime pediatrician. At the first broadcast, members of the Texas Midwest community celebrated raising $153,000. Last year, the total pledged was $718,827, and since its inception the total pledged is $6,901,192.

On an international level, Children’s Miracle Network is an alliance of 170 not-for-profit children’s hospitals. Every year, Children’s Miracle Network hospitals treat 17 million children in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Thursday, Jun. 5, 2008

Kind heart, short hair

Unlike most high school seniors, Lukas Garrison waited until after graduation to cut his hair.

The young man from Solon Springs has become known for his long auburn ponytail, which he has been growing since he was a freshman.

“At first I didn’t like it,” said his sister Haylee, 14, because everybody kept asking her about her brother’s lengthening hair. “Now I like it; it’s unique.”

Thursday, the 18-year-old donated his 20-inch long ponytail to Locks of Love. The nonprofit organization uses donated hair to provide hairpieces for children suffering from long-term hair loss, often due to cancer.

“Somebody’s going to appreciate that hair,” said Garrison’s mother, Traci. She said her son took a lot of teasing while growing his locks, but he didn’t let it bother him.

“He’s just got a very kind heart,” she said.

The hardest part of the process was going from a crew cut to bangs at the very start.

“As soon as I could get it back in a ponytail, it was in a ponytail permanently,” he said.

Garrison, a clarinet player, wore his ponytail to band concerts. He traveled to France, Italy and England with classmates as part of their AP English trip with his long hair held back.

It hasn’t kept Garrison from landing jobs. The teen currently monitors the boat landing for St. Croix Inn. One summer, his mother said, he held down three different jobs.

When asked why he grew his hair so long, Garrison said it was a combination of “sheer laziness” and a chance to help others.

He decided to try a “surfer” style for the next month and a half before it becomes a military buzz cut. He leaves for U.S. Marine Corps basic training in July.

“I’ve been interested in the military since I was 3,” he said. “I believe in serving my country.”

In a way, said his mother, he’s following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Ernie Garrison, who served in World War II.

Kids at school used to think Garrison’s long hair was “weird,” Haylee said, but “I think they learned to appreciate it.”

As stylist Meredith Johnson gathered and clipped Garrison’s hair Thursday at Regis Salon in the Mariner Mall, his mother and sister looked on.

“I like it,” Haylee said.

“What a difference,” said her mother.

For the first time in years, she said, it won’t take two days for her son’s hair to dry.

Garrison knows he will miss the hair, but he was glad to see it go. He smiled as he looked in the mirror.

“My head is really light now,” he said.

Johnson said Regis is one of many salons that collect hair for Locks of Love. It must be at least 10 inches long to donate, she said. While the customer still pays for the hair cut, Johnson said, the salon ships the hair out.

$1.6M-Plus Raised In Children’s Miracle Network Telethon

More than $1.6 million was raised during the 26th annual Children’s Miracle Network Telethon Saturday and Sunday on NewsChannel 5.

The telethon benefits the programs and families of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

NewsChannel on-air personalities hosted the broadcast, which also featured stories from patients, doctors, nurses and other supporters of the Children’s Miracle Network. The teelthon raised $1,650,394.

A nonprofit organization that raises money for children’s hospitals, the Children’s Miracle Network consists of Tennessee facilities such as the T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital in Chattanooga; East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville; Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center in Memphis and Wellmont Health System in Kingsport.

The telethon last year raised $1.65 million.

Wednesday, Jun. 4, 2008

Angel Food Program Helps Virginia Families

Strapped families struggling to pay increasing food costs can order a $30 box of food that participants say doubles their money.

“Going in the store and seeing the prices of things and then comparing it with what you get, honey, it’s a big, big difference,” said Helen Taylor, 89.

“I think the value is about $70 or $75,” said the Sandston resident, who so far has purchased two boxes from Angel Food Ministries, a Georgia-based nonprofit, nondenominational organization.

The boxes include restaurant-grade meats, frozen vegetables, fruits and dairy products, said David Mills, program director for Virginia and Washington.

The items are purchased in large quantities from such major suppliers as Tyson, ConAgra, Pilgrim’s Pride and Sara Lee, Mills said.

Anyone can buy the food, and food stamps are accepted for the boxes, which include 12 pounds of meat and can feed a family of four for a week or a senior for a month, according to Angel Food Ministries’ Web site. There is no limit on the number of boxes.

Not many Virginians know about the program, which operates in 36 states, organizers said. For example, 37 churches from Abingdon to Woodbridge participate, compared with about 800 churches in Texas.

“I want more people to take advantage of the food,” said Terry Alligood, a member of New Bridge Baptist Church in Sandston.

Alligood, an area coordinator, was responsible for bringing the program to the Richmond area about eight months ago.

“It helps you live a lot higher on the hog,” said Eleanor Grubbs, 86, of Varina.

“You can eat much healthier and a bigger variety. There are some things you have to add to it. As a rule, there isn’t bread in it,” Grubbs said. “I haven’t found anything yet I had to throw away.”

Boxed specials are also available. The specials are mostly savings on meat boxes.

More host site churches are needed in the Tidewater and Northern Virginia areas, as well as throughout the Shenandoah Valley, Mills said.

Churches have to apply, and the ministry makes a determination about their capacity to participate based on the details of their application and whether the churches are on the route logistically.

For Taylor of Varina, the program warrants more exposure at a time when people are penny-pinching to buy the basics.

“I’m 89 years old, and I’m a widow. Social Security is not the highest-paying thing in the world, and this has really been a blessing to me.

“I just wish there were more programs such as this to help people in the same position I’m in and some who are in worse.”

Miracle League gives players chance to shine

Amanda Shellhouse wants to fly.

The 17-year-old keeps a picture of Dale Earnhardt Jr. near her bed and a poster of him on her wall. Whether it be on a plane, in a car or around three bases in her wheelchair, one thing is certain — Amanda likes to go fast.

Doctors diagnosed Amanda, born three months premature, with cerebral palsy when she was 18 months old.

She’s used a wheelchair ever since. Her speech is slurred and difficult to understand unless you’re accustomed to hearing it. But with some patience, you can get an earful. She has little use of her hands because of the spasms caused by the cerebral palsy. At 77 pounds, her legs are like spindles. Amanda needs others to dress her, feed her and help her with all the routine daily tasks most people take for granted.

And after spending her youth watching her parents and older sisters play softball and baseball, it was Amanda’s turn to fly around the bases. For six weeks, her family cheered her on just as they have her entire life.

Amanda plays for the Pirates. She’s No. 3.

March 29 — Opening day for the Dothan Miracle League.

Teams take turns squaring off on the field designed with a rubberized surface to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. There are six teams; two are for adults with disabilities. It’s a roller-coaster day. There’s laughter, some tears of joy. Near the fence on one side of the field, Amanda sits with her family. They’ve all come out — her mother, father, stepmother, sisters and grandparents.

It’s the Cardinals vs. the Pirates.

It’s clear pretty quickly this is not a normal ball game. First of all, nobody keeps score, nobody strikes out and you don’t have to knock one out of the field to get a home run. Each player has a buddy to help them during a game. When a player comes up to bat, their name and photograph are displayed on a digital screen at the back of the field.

Nobody loses in this league.

“I think it’s great,” Sandra Shellhouse, Amanda’s mother, said. “I think it’s one of the best things that could have happened to Dothan.”

By 1990, Billy and Sandra Shellhouse already had two daughters — Cindy, born in 1980, and Donna, born in 1984.

When Sandra found out she was pregnant a third time, she had neither planned on nor wanted another child. Six months into the pregnancy, Sandra was hospitalized with an abrupted placenta, a condition in which the placenta pulls away from the uterine wall. It can lead to premature birth and miscarriage.

Amanda was born three months early and weighed just 3 pounds.

There was swelling in Amanda’s brain, and a shunt was put in to drain the fluid. Amanda spent 45 days at Baptist Medical Center in Montgomery.

Amanda’s parents — who have been divorced 15 years now — took her home.

But something was different.

A year after she was born, Amanda did not sit up. She did not roll over. She was not doing any of the things her older sisters had done by that age. At 18 months old, Amanda was finally diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy encompasses a number of disorders caused by brain trauma.

The United Cerebral Palsy estimates between 1.5 million to 2 million children and adults in the U.S. have cerebral palsy; 10,000 babies are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year.

April 3 — The Athletics vs. the Pirates.

It’s a Thursday evening. Amanda’s normal buddy, Providence Christian School teacher Jordan Sanders, is unable to make it. Jordan’s daughter, Lauren, fills in as Amanda’s buddy. The entire Sanders family is active in the Miracle League. Mark Sanders, Jordan’s husband, is a Pirates coach. Their children volunteer as buddies for the Orioles.

Billy Shellhouse drives up from Sunny Hills, Fla., with his wife, Mary, for Amanda’s games. He watches his daughter intently when she’s on the field. After making it around the bases and back to home, he meets Amanda in the Pirates’ dugout.

“How did you like going all the way around?” he asked her.

“Good,” Amanda said.

She’s playing second base in the outfield. With Lauren behind her ready to scoop up the ball if it comes near them, Amanda talks to the Athletics’ players as they stop at second.

Amanda’s smile is visible from the dugout.

Back at bat, Lauren helps Amanda hold the lightweight bat. Together they hit the ball off a tee. The two then work their way around bases, Lauren pushing Amanda’s wheelchair.

From third base, Lauren yells back to Amanda’s family. “She said she wants to go faster.”

“She just got an electric wheelchair a few months ago,” Amanda’s sister, Cindy, said. “… The only speed she knows is faster.”

Billy Shellhouse yells some encouragement to his youngest daughter.

“Amanda, you’re doing real good out there,” he said. “You sure went flying around them bases.”

For the longest time, Sandra Shellhouse blamed herself for Amanda’s condition.

She felt enormous guilt after Amanda’s birth because she had not wanted more children when she found out she was pregnant.

“Then one day my mother’s preacher told me, ‘God don’t give these children to just anyone’,” Sandra said.

Today, she can’t imagine not wanting all her daughters. Amanda, she said, is her miracle baby.

April 19 — With the April 12 game rained out, the Pirates meet the Braves.

Amanda plays pitcher.

It’s chilly on this Saturday, so Amanda is bundled in jackets to keep her warm. She’s not having a good day, and it’s been a bad week. The headrest on Amanda’s regular wheelchair broke, so she’s using her electric chair. It’s more cumbersome and requires ramps just to haul it around in Sandra’s van.

It takes Jordan some time to get used to the electronic controls. It’s slow-going until Sandra increases the speed to help things along. Amanda didn’t like the slow pace of the electric chair.

“She wanted to go faster,” Sandra said.

A couple of young Braves players provide some needed levity during the game.

Six-year-old Jessie Hall bats for the Braves. She’s followed by Joshua Adkins, her best friend. Joshua bats and proceeds to first where Jessie waits. She won’t go to second until he hugs her.

It’s undeniably cute — Joshua bats and runs to first. He hugs Jessie, who runs to second. Joshua leaves first and runs to hug his dad, a Braves coach. Joshua and his buddy return to first. Joshua throws his hat on the ground. He then runs to the outfield fence and sits in the shade for the rest of the inning.

Amanda has had a tough road medically.

In 2003, she was diagnosed with scoliosis. It was so severe, she began having difficulty breathing.

She’s had five shunts in her life to keep fluid off her brain. The shunt connects to a tube traveling down her neck under her skin and drains the fluid from Amanda’s brain into her peritoneum. The excess fluid is eventually reabsorbed into her body.

A Baclofen pump is used to control Amanda’s spasticity caused by the cerebral palsy. A tube implanted under the skin of her abdomen connects to the spinal cord and releases the Baclofen in controlled doses.

It can be dangerous. Sandra Shellhouse remembers the death of one of Amanda’s classmates due to an infection around a Baclofen pump. But without it, Amanda’s spasms would be overwhelming.

April 26 — The Pirates vs. the Orioles.

Orioles player Buck McClendon is well known. His mother, Melinda, was instrumental in getting the Dothan Miracle League off the ground. Both Melinda and Buck’s names are on the field house at the Miracle Field. On this Saturday, Buck is running all over.

Like Amanda, every player has a story.

Michael Barber used to play Little League baseball and was an All-Star player at Eastgate Park. When he was 9, his family was in a car accident on the way to All-Star practice. Michael suffered a severe brain injury and now uses a wheelchair. He’s 18 and plays for the Pirates. His brother and sister, Brian and Nicole, buddy with him.

Michael’s parents are typically nearby watching. His father, Doug Barber, explains that Michael’s medication often leaves him groggy by the afternoon. But he knows Michael looks forward to the games. Just a mention of it brings a smile to Michael’s face.

“These kids, right here, enjoy this so much,” Doug Barber said. “This one hour, they are like everyone else.”

Like any teenager, Amanda has her good days and bad days. A lot of it, her mother said, is frustration.

“She gets so frustrated with herself, especially when she’s trying to tell you something,” Sandra said.

Amanda has a memory like you wouldn’t believe, Sandra said. She does well on her tests at school, which are given to her verbally by a teacher. And she remembers what she learns. Numbers, however, mean nothing to her. She routinely “lies” about her age.

She could be a good boss one day, her mother attests. But while she’s in the 10th grade at Northview High School, Amanda’s school work is on an elementary level.

“I would love to see her go to college, but I’m realistic about it,” Sandra said.

With big brown eyes and her mother’s olive complexion, Amanda doesn’t look much like her older sisters. Sandra is Amanda’s primary caregiver. She easily lifts Amanda in and out of a van.

Attending school to get her registered nursing degree and working as a licensed practical nurse, Sandra leans on both Amanda’s maternal and paternal grandparents for help with Amanda when she needs it.

Sandra doesn’t worry about what will happen to Amanda if she no longer can care for her. Sandra knows Amanda’s father and stepmother as well as her sisters will step in when needed.

“They have never treated her any different,” Sandra said of her other daughters. “They’ve never been embarrassed or ashamed to have her around … If something happens to me, I really don’t worry about her.”

May 1 — The Pirates vs. the Cardinals.

Coach Ronnie Tucker reached a goal when Melissa Pearson, the spirited ham of the league, hit a pitched ball. Tucker cheered Melissa all the way to first base.

“My goal was to get all of them not in a wheelchair to get a hit with a pitch,” Tucker said.

Chaz Tenzel-Walser for the Cardinals hit one out of the park. It’s the second for the season.

One of Tucker’s customers heard what he’d been doing and wanted to do something for the Pirates. So each player on the team got gift certificates to Dairy Queen.

Yes, Amanda has disabilities. But in so many ways she’s a typical kid.

Her favorite television shows are “Full House,” “Golden Girls” and “The Cosby Show.” She has all six seasons of “Full House” on DVD. She enjoys Nick at Nite and likes to drift off to sleep with her TV on a timer.

She likes to go to the beach. She loves the water. She wants a boat.

She likes sardines with hot sauce.

She likes to sip on a Coke-flavored Icee, and buddy Jordan Sanders brings her one for every game even going into “emergency Icee” mode when the Icee machine at her usual store broke.

Magic Moments, an organization that grants wishes to kids with disabilities, has offered to grant Amanda a wish.

She wants to fly.

She studied Hawaii in school and wants to see a volcano. But she’d settle for a cruise or flying somewhere sunny.

May 10 — Pirates vs. Dodgers, final game

It’s the Saturday before Mother’s Day, and the Pirates only have five players show up. It’s a good day. Amanda’s smile comes quick.

“She likes the outdoors,” Billy Shellhouse said. “She loves to sit on the porch.”

Amanda’s wearing dark sunglasses to block the glare in her eyes. She looks over her glasses at her dad.

“I see you, Amanda,” Billy said.

The game ends, and the players take to the field to congratulate each other, as they have every other game. Pirates Coach Mark Sanders announces that Amanda’s grandmother is providing popcorn and Coke for the team. Sanders, a pharmaceutical rep when he’s not coaching the Pirates, gathers the team around in the dugout to formally end the season with a team yell.

“Go Pirates … Argh!”

Former lifeguard will make waves to help charity

Ex-lifeguard Mark Lowing, 48, talks tactics with mental health charity worker Leonard Goff this week as he trains at The Venue in Elstree Way, Borehamwood, for a two-mile charity swim.

Mr Lowing, of Berwick Road, will be raising money for Watford-based mental health charity Guideposts, which also has a Borehamwood-based outreach group, when he takes up the challenge on June 18.

He said: “Guideposts has helped me in the past so I thought I would give something back. Swimming two miles means I will have to be in the pool for 128 lengths.

“I have been in training over the past few weeks at The Venue, where I used to be a lifeguard, so the length of the swim should be fine.

“I am sure that I will come out looking like a prune though.”

Mr Goff said: “It is a fantastic thing that Mark is doing for Guideposts and I really admire him for his efforts. The charity will really benefit from the money raised.

“We provide activities and days out for people in the group and so it is tremendous to receive such support like this.”

Tuesday, Jun. 3, 2008

Miracle League gets a miracle of its own

The act of giving was also center field Saturday afternoon in Myrtle Beach.

Employees from the Sheraton Broadway Plantation presented an enormous check to The Grand Strand Miracle League.

The Miracle League is a baseball league designed exclusively for children with disabilities.

And the check wasn’t just dollars and cents, it was for $58,123.92.

The emotional presentation was quite a surprise to Miracle League volunteers.

Sheraton employees say they held bake sale, auctions, and just about anything else they could do to raise money.

Wayne Rickman, Vice President of Sales said, “One of the project managers literally came to our houses and took all of our garbage out of our garages, took it down to save more auction house and they made thousands of dollars for that event.”

Sheraton employees said the money is the result of three months of fundraising.

Teens can raise money for charity by watching movies

The United Way of Quinte has reeled in a unique fundraising event aimed squarely at teenagers.

The Starlight Film Festival will be an all-night, chaperoned, movie marathon for high school students with free unlimited popcorn and soft drinks and even video arcade games.

The venue will be the Famous Players Belleville 8 cinema at the Quinte Mall from midnight Saturday, June 28 and runs until 7:30 a. m. Sunday, June 29.

The cost is $20 per student with all proceeds going to the United Way.

“We’re using it as a way to engage the youth from our community in the United Way of Quinte,” said Sara Marlin, campaign associate.

She said there is an existing partnership between the United Way organizations in Canada and Cineplex Theatres that other communities have taken advantage of by holding similar all-night movie marathons to raise money.

“These have been successful events in the past and this will be the first year for it in the Quinte area,” she said.

Marlin said four students from Loyalist College’s business administration program have worked alongside the United Way to plan and promote the upcoming event.

The theatre will provide the facility as well as four movies, unlimited refreshments and free arcade games all night long.

“The movies will run throughout the night and students can also play arcade games if they don’t want to watch a movie,” Marlin said.

The four movies to be shown are The Devil Wears Prada, Mission Impossible 3, Disturbia and Blades of Glory.

Marlin said there will be no admittance into the theatre after 1:15 a. m. Sunday.

There are only 300 tickets available for the Starlight Film Festival.

High school students can purchase their tickets at the United Way’s office at 249 William St. or at the Quinte Mall Info Kiosk.

Monday, Jun. 2, 2008

Field is where dreams turn into miracles

Unlike most young moms, Lisa Surgo can pronounce it, spell it, and define it. It’s a medical condition called the Congenital Disorder of Glycosylation. There are about 20 varieties of the syndrome and the rarest of them, the kind her son Kyle has, is limited to about 40 cases in the whole world, she said.

His is a metabolic disorder that affects the heart, liver function, and the size of the brain. Its victims are developmentally delayed, which is actually a rather odd term considering its victims, sadly, often aren’t around long enough to develop all that much in the first place.

The medical experts warned Lisa and her husband, Todd, that Kyle would never see his 5th birthday. They said he would never walk in any way, shape, or form. Had the Surgos asked, the docs would have told them Kyle would never play baseball or swing a golf club either. And they would have been wrong about that too.

Kyle turned 5 in January. His little legs flail furiously to make his walker move. He played in his first T-Ball game the other evening, had a couple hits, stopped a ball in the field, and made a strong throw toward home plate.

“Our whole family was here and there wasn’t a dry eye,” Lisa said. “We were all bawling like babies. Once again, Kyle beat the odds.”

It’s called the Miracle League and, friends, there has never been a more appropriate name for a sports group.

They’ve been a miracle short, though. While some of its participants are ambulatory, many are not and it’s a tough deal to make those wheelchairs and walkers move on dirt or gravel infields and basepaths, even with helpers doing the heavy lifting. It won’t be long, though.

The city of Northwood has a small piece of land in a large park being developed near the fire station behind the ball diamonds at Lark Elementary School. It has agreed to lease that parcel to the Miracle League for 50 years. The lease terms? $1.

They have their land. Now they need a field with a synthetic, rubberized surface. It costs $160,000 and the Miracle League, behind President Jeff Barton and his board, have worked exhaustively in tough economic times to come up with nearly $140,000. The rest will come in one windfall, courtesy of this summer’s Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic Presented by Kroger.

If you’ve ever wondered what kind of good this annual LPGA golf tournament has done from contributing $5.8 million to various children’s charities since its inception in 1984, well, wait a few months and drop by the Miracle League’s new stadium.

The whole tab for labor and fencing and other building materials will surpass $300,000, but just about everything, with the exception of the playing surface, has been donated.

Yes, take a bow, because we are a community with a big heart. One look at these kids, their wide eyes, their smiles; then take in the sound of their laughter and joy and, well, it couldn’t be any other way.

The name most synonymous with the Farr Classic is Se Ri Pak, the event’s five-time champion. Kyle Surgo and nearly a dozen of his Miracle League friends and their helpers, like Kyle’s big brother Andrew, and their parents met up with Se Ri yesterday behind Lark Elementary and it was mutual love at first sight.

The kids taught Se Ri their game, then she taught them hers. A girl named Olivia decided Se Ri was her new best friend, so the golfer helped her buddy hit the plastic baseball off its tee, then held her hand and ran the bases. Later, they took to the field together to play second base.

“They may have handicaps, but they’re having fun and enjoying the day,” Se Ri said. “I can’t think of anything more important. I think this a great experience, and not just for them – for me too. This is as good a time as I’ve had off a golf course.”

But then she was right back on it, sort of. When the kids were done playing baseball, they gathered around Se Ri and the Pink Panther mascot from Owens Corning and learned to hit a golf ball. The LPGA Hall of Famer wrapped her arms around each kid, helped them draw the club back, and then sent a Titleist flying across the field.

Tyrus Carroll thought this was about the greatest thing since, well, baseball. He is a whirling dervish of constant energy. Born with Down syndrome, this sweetheart of a kid also has a rare metabolic bone disease. He’s been through open-heart surgery and so much more, said his mom, Chantillie Doering. But he’s all about rough and tumble, and the Miracle League is just part of his baseball life.

“At home, I can get five or six kids from the neighborhood lined up to play ball, and they want to play with him,” Chantillie said. “It’s incredible. This sport is helping integrate him into the community. He just loves to play ball. In the middle of winter, I’ll pitch him a snowball and he’ll hit it with a shovel.”

Do you like baseball, Tyrus?

“Yeah,” he shouts.

Why? What do you like to do?

“Bat. Throw.”

Do you come here to play with your friends?

“Him,” Tyrus said, pointing at the Pink Panther.

Later, after hitting his first golf shot, Tyrus dropped the club, ran out of Se Ri’s embrace, and hurried to give the Pink Panther a high five.

Kyle Surgo, who has never spoken, took his turn at golf too, but was soon back on the baseball field, making a high-pitched sound suspiciously like laughter as brother Andrew pushed his walker around the basepaths.

“This means the world to us,” Lisa Surgo said. “The Miracle League is just that, a miracle. Somebody is giving these kids a chance to be normal.”

There are hundreds of baseball diamonds in the metro area and there are games every night where healthy kids are throwing curves and stretching doubles into triples.

There are dozens of golf courses where healthy kids are hitting 250-yard drives and getting up-and-down for par.

There is not one of either where you will find more joy and passion for life than Se Ri Pak witnessed yesterday morning from a dozen very special kids on the field behind Lark Elementary.

Do you believe in miracles?

Dumpster Diving for Charity

Members of the Otterbein College in Westerville will station themselves by dumpsters on campus to collect usable furniture and other household items that can be sent to charitable organizations during the student move-out from 10 6 p.m.on June 9-11, 2008. Michelle Acker, organizer and psychology professor at Otterbein says, “As many of you have observed, when students move out of the dorms, they throw away many usable things. This throwing away is not usually planned; rather it is a function of last-minute ‘Can’t-fit-in-the-car-itis.’

“Over the past 5 years, my faculty comrades and I have fished out of the dumpster 5 vacuum cleaners, 3 working refrigerators, a large cooler, 3 full-length mirrors, several lamps, comforters and towels in almost new condition, a dartboard, many half-filled bottles of laundry detergent, area rugs, sealed food, office supplies, many clothes hangers and plastic totes, an Easy-Bake oven in the box and much, much more. All of these things could be kept out of the landfill and used to help other people.”

They will have at least 22 faculty members stationed near the dumpsters on campus on their move-out days. This will help keep usable items from even going in the dumpsters in the first place. Michelle says that local charitable organizations will be there each evening to pick up the usable goods.

“ForKids” family is part of Habitat for Humanity’s building blitz

Habitat for Humanity of South Hampton Roads has begun a building blitz. June 2-7, local builders, donors and volunteers will build 16 Habitat for Humanity Homes in the Huntersville neighborhood of Suffolk.

“Thanks to our local builders, 16 local families will realize the dream of homeownership,” said John K. Morgan, III, Executive Director. “We are so grateful these homebuilders are working to make our community a better place.”

One of the homes will belong to a mother and daughter. Jan and Alexis moved into the ForKids Emergency Shelter “Haven House” a few years ago. It was through that program where someone encouraged them to apply for a Habitat for Humanity home.

Now, their dream is coming true.

A butter yellow house with hunter green shutters and a pink “High School Musical” bedroom. That is nine year old Alexis’ dream home. It may not sound like such a reach, but for a ForKids family who has experienced homelessness, just dreaming of a home is everything.

This week Alexis and her mother Jan will be among the 16 families to move into Habitat for Humanity homes in Suffolk’s Huntersville neighborhood. They will be living in a community filled with newcomers. A community filled with children. A community filled with hope. Alexis is excited “My new friends are going to be my neighbors. We’ll have all kinds of fun.”

Three years ago Jan and Alexis were not having fun. They were barely living day to day. They were evicted from a rat infested apartment that was filled with mold and bugs. Jan had escaped an abusive marriage and they had no where to go. The first glimmer of hope came when Jan and Alexis moved into ForKids Emergency Shelter “Haven House”. Like all ForKids programs, “Haven House” offered more than room and board. Therapists, case workers, clinicians, and people who care welcomed Jan and Alexis into the program.

“The first night I lay on the bed and cried. Alexis was already upstairs with the other children having a ball. I looked at our room. There were two bunk bends and a dresser. I knew then I had to make a decision. I can get up and try to do what the program wants me to do and put my faith in God, or I can leave and live out of my car.”

No doubt the sounds of Alexis’ laughter drifting down the stairs helped Jan make that decision. “I knew when I took that first yoga class at Haven House there was hope. It was the first thing I had done for myself in years.” For four months she worked on budgeting, parenting, and all the other tough programs ForKids requires. Jan immediately got a job as a Bus Driver for Norfolk Public Schools. Alexis also dove right in and became part of all the programs ForKids offers.

Following success at Haven House, Jan and Alexis were accepted into ForKids’ transitional housing at “Elizabeth Place”. They’ve lived in their own apartment for two years. “Having my own place meant everything.” Now that space will become a lot larger.

In November of 2006 ForKids staff encouraged Jan to apply for a Habitat for Humanity Home. On the day her divorce was final, Jan found out she and Alexis were among the 50 finalists. Then in March 2007 she received the word that she felt was sent from above. She and Alexis were going to get a home! “I felt like I had won the lottery. I never thought I’d get a home. I said, Lord if it’s meant to be…. I thank everyone for this blessing.”

Jan and Alexis worked 251 sweat-equity hours for Habitat for Humanity to earn their home. Alexis received credits for her grades at school. The biggest credit came this past week. Alexis learned she won the national essay contest for Habitat for Humanity. She told her mother she was proud to help earn their home. In her essay Alexis shows how far she and her mom have come since that first night at Haven House in September 2005.

“My mom and me want to plant flowers everywhere. I’m so happy I don’t have to keep moving around. Me and my mommy used to lay in bed at bedtime and pretend how our house would look. It is all mine and nobody can hurt us. My Habitat Home means a lot to me because it will be my home and that means a lot to me.”

Alexis plans to paint her bedroom pink and go with a “High School Musical” theme. She’ll be able to start painting soon.

The opening prayer ceremony for the Habitat for Humanity Huntersville Builder’s Blitz is Monday June 2 at 6:45 in the morning. After a full week of hard work, the dedication and key ceremony is Saturday June 7 at 1:00.

Jan and Alexis feel overwhelmed, excited, and blessed to be moving into their new three bedroom home. They embody the ForKids mission. Together they’ve moved from homelessness to home ownership. A journey made easier, according to Jan, by the dedication, love, and support from ForKids. “I never would have made it without ForKids.” If Jan had left that first night, they’d be living in her car instead of moving into a butter yellow home with hunter green shutters and a pink “High School Musical” bedroom.

Saturday, May. 31, 2008

Lots of love

Adding Definition Hair & Spa would like to thank all who participated in or made donations during the recent fundraiser for Locks of Love.

Sarah Waite from Winnisquam School District approached us with the idea, and we’d like to thank her.

To all who participated, especially those who donated their hair (which was approximately 27 individuals), we would like to say thank you.

Adding Definition Hair & Spa is an official Locks of Love salon, so those who could not make it during the fundraiser may stop by anytime to donate.

Thanks to Mulligan’s Restaurant & Tavern, which supplied food for the stylists and volunteers.

Thanks also go to Paul Mitchell School of Hair Design for allowing students to come and help our stylists with this very important fundraiser. Thanks to 94.1 FM, the local newspapers and WMUR for announcing this event.

Church offering low-cost groceries

First Baptist Church of Morris has partnered with Angel Food Ministries to provide the community with low-cost groceries.

For $30, you receive a box of food which is enough to feed a family of four for approximately a week or a single adult for approximately a month.

There is no application process nor is there an income requirement. If you eat, you qualify.

The food items are top-quality and purchased from major food producers throughout the country to ensure the best food comes to your table. Orders are placed ahead of time and the food is picked up the third Saturday of each month.

Payment must be made at the time of ordering. Cash, checks, or LINK cards are acceptable payment. The menu changes each month and there are additional specials you may purchase, along with the regular box

Friday, May. 30, 2008

Town supportive of baseball Miracle

Could a “Miracle League” baseball field be coming to Amherstburg?

If town council, Amherstburg Minor Baseball and the Amherstburg Rotary Club have their way, the answer will be a resounding yes.

A Miracle League field would be the first of its kind in Canada with 172 currently under construction in the United States. The field is a synthetic surface which is designed to allow children with disabilities the opportunity to play baseball. The surface is similar to the Rotary Club Inclusive Playground which is currently under construction at Toddy Jones Park. The local field would be constructed next to a premier baseball field at Larry Bauer Park. Early estimates on cost have it between $300,000-$325,000.

Rotary Club president-elect Mike Vossen said it was a great feeling to see kids getting a chance to get a hit and score a run.

“It was an idea stared in Conyers, Georgia in 1999 by a Rotary Club down there,” he explained. “We want to bring it to Canada and put the first one in Amherstburg.”

Vossen added that several local Rotarians have visited a similar facility in Michigan and have seen it benefit that area. He believes that building a Miracle League field locally would benefit the town and this region.

“This is my dream, to build a field in Amherstburg,” said Vossen. “This isn’t just an Amherstburg thing. This is an Essex County thing.”

According to a report from Manager of Recreation Services Ron Dzombak, a “new allegiance” has been formed between Rotary and Amherstburg Senior Baseball’s Chuck Bondy to build the field south of the proposed premier baseball field at Larry Bauer Park. Minor Baseball is seeking a $75,000 Trillium Grant for the premier field with that organization offering assistance to help build the Miracle League field.

“The baseball initiative can be accommodated within the Bauer Park area without any impact on existing soccer fields. Additional acquisition of lands is required to expand soccer and baseball facilities,” Dzombak wrote.

Dzombak, who himself has a son with a disability, said that once constructed the fields would offer “an inclusive environment where sport and understanding come together and where able bodies and children with disabilities watch each other learn baseball, grow and enjoy the same sport. The co-operative nature of this unique development between these two longstanding organizations within Amherstburg demonstrates the strength in this community towards children.”

Councillor Bob Pillon said Dzombak is “doing a heck of a job” and voiced his full support for the project.

“This town is going to work with you and do everything we can to get this off the ground,” said Pillon.

Rotarian Alison Baldwin said the project could also impact other children, noting her daughter was able to volunteer with disabled children. She firmly believed the project will occur.

“This is a very giving town. This is a town with a huge heart,” she said. “This is a town that does follow through.”

Mayor Wayne Hurst said he too visited the Michigan facility and that “they do a tremendous service to that particular region.” He said Amherstburg is a great community that has people that want it to be sustainable.

“Big things happen when you do the little things right,” said Hurst.

In a related note, council endorsed a new baseball tournament at Centennial Park run in conjunction with St. Francis Advocates. Dzombak noted that in 2007, Bondy approached the town in requesting assistance in producing a baseball tournament to benefit children with disabilities in conjunction with St. Francis Advocates. The latter group operates residential homes across Essex, Kent and Lambton counties. The tournament will be June 28 and will see roughly 80 children playing baseball in a “supportive ‘everyone-wins’ event.”

“There will be other associations (involved) from around the county,” said Bondy.

Deputy Mayor Robert Bailey said he was thrilled to see the event come to town particularly one where children of all abilities can participate. He also thought it would help bring people to town and was glad to see a vision from community individuals.

Councillor Rick Fryer applauded Bondy for stepping forward and bringing the event to town while Mayor Wayne Hurst said council was prepared to help ensure the tournament is successful.

“A vision without a plan is only a dream,” said Hurst.Tow

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