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Saturday, November 24th, 2007

Area youth show they care

By Betty Lawrence

The Belna family's garage in Rockford was filled Wednesday night with members of. . .

Several area young people are living proof that good deeds are happening right under our noses.
Alyssa Belna, a sophomore at Parkway Local High School, has dreams of becoming a noted events planner and has been honing her skill at coordinating, along with her love of working with children, by forming a club for local children that meets monthly.
"We call ourselves the Shanty Club because we started meeting in my dad's old workshop behind my grandmother's home in town (Rockford)," Belna said.
When the club formed more than two years ago, some of Belna's younger family members initially made up the club. News of the club has spread by word of mouth and now, more than a dozen area children show up at the remodeled workshop each month to work on a project and simply enjoy being together. Parents drop them off and pick them up, she said.
When she needs help, other family members and a few close friends lend a helping hand.
November's project consisted of filling boxes for soldiers serving overseas and making Thanksgiving cards for their families. They take turns bringing treats to share.
To turn the old workshop into a clubhouse, Belna and volunteers painted the building and when the word spread, carpeting was donated and installed. An old workbench was transformed into a "teacher's" desk to hold donated materials for use by the children, such as paper, markers, stickers, etc. Small tables and chairs fill the room.
On Wednesday, Belna, along with a number of her high school friends and other family members, helped more than a dozen youth fill the boxes that will be mailed out in the near future. This time, because of space, they gathered in her parent's garage in Rockford.
When it comes time to mail the packages, the post office in Celina offers free mailing boxes, she said.
The club has filled, packaged and mailed boxes to the military people serving overseas four times now, she said. This time, the boxes will be mailed to Mark Heinl, of Coldwater, who is serving in Iraq.
"When we get enough items to fill the boxes, that's when we mail them out," Belna said.
All items to fill the military boxes have been donated, along with the postage expense.
Assisting a lending hand with the club's activities are Courtney Belna, Lindsay Shellabarger, Kayla Hileman and Dominika Nemcova, a Parkway Local exchange student.
Last month the children enjoyed a Halloween party at the clubhouse, complete with games, treats and even a haunted Shanty tour.
"Everyone has been so generous. I really like doing this. The club gives the kids something to do and they have a lot of fun. I think, years from now, the kids will remember coming here and just having fun," Belna smiled.
Another Good Samaritan who has climbed on board to help America's military men and women serving overseas is Rose Wilson of rural Celina.
Wilson, 19, is a 2006 graduate of Celina High School. She began sending packages earlier this year to soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq after using the Web site, www.anysoldier.com to locate soldiers and get the information about items they needed.
With the help of donations from her mother's co-workers, family and friends, she has been able to mail dozens of packages to at least four servicepeople overseas.
The packages are filled with everything from ear plugs and snacks to deodorant and socks.
"One of them is a woman who requested baking items, so I sent baking powder, soda, pasta, etc., things like that. I heard back from her, thanking me for the box," Wilson said, adding that all the boxes sent are divided up and used by all the military personnel in each unit.
She had mailed out boxes on two separate occasions thus far and plans to mail more at a later date.
"I just think it's important for people to know about some of the good, positive things that our young people are doing," said Belna's grandmother, Betty Belna.
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