2 East Middle School students find way to help Somalis Fund-raiser earns honor for volunteers

March 28, 1993

Lis Denham and Kathy Beam, seventh-graders at East Middle School, organized a carnival and dance to raise money for relief work in Somalia.

The Westminster students planned entertainment, including a disco, face painting and carnival games, for the Jan. 19 event. The festivities attracted about 50 people and raised $200 for American Red Cross relief efforts.

Organization's comments: Beverly Thomas, who teaches language arts at the school, was recruited by the students to help with the fund-raiser.

"Actually, this whole program was initiated" by them, Ms. Thomas said, and the 10 to 15 teachers who helped "were just kind of advisers."

She said the students decided on the activities, organized the volunteers and did the rest of the work.

"I was impressed with their dedication to the cause," she said. "It's easy to get an idea" for a project, she said, but not everyone follows through and finishes.

Volunteers' comments: Lis said she and her friends had been planning a pizza party in December, until she saw a television feature on the hardships in Somalia.

"I couldn't stand it," she said. "I started crying."

She said she told her friends, "I can't spend my money on a pizza party when there are people over there who are starving."

Lis went to her mother and said, "Mom, there has to be something I can do."

That's when her best friend, Kathy, suggested a fund-raiser dance.

With another friend, Kristen Spears, they got permission from East Middle School principal Donald Reck to hold the event. They recruited Lis' brother Mike and his friend Bobby Henderson, both students at Westminster High School, to be disc jockeys for the dance.

Lis searched for "appropriate" door prizes, such as balls shaped and colored like world globes. Teachers also donated candleholders and artwork.

The girls decorated the gym with Christmas lights, crepe paper and cut-out photographs of Somalia.

Because of schedule conflicts, they had to hold the dance on a Tuesday, and they were a little disappointed with the turnout.

Lis said they endured a bit of teasing for their involvement with the project. But, she said, "The dance wasn't about me. It was about the Somalian people."

After the dance, the girls made a number of phone calls to find someone to forward the money raised to Somalian relief. Eventually, they decided on the American Red Cross. "We felt real good about it," Kathy said.

Lis said she now wants to turn her hand to helping homeless and hungry people in the United States. She is going to suggest to the Teen Recreation Council that they plan a citywide or countywide fund-raiser, perhaps a lock-in, to help raise money for soup kitchens and other relief work.

"I hope that when I'm older, I can do more than I can do now," she said. She said she'd like to open a soup kitchen one day.

Volunteers' background: Lis, 12, has two sisters and two brothers. She has been active in band, chorus, soccer, cheerleading and swimming. She is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Kathy, 13, has one brother. She is a member of the school band, and she also sings in chorus.

To nominate someone as Volunteer of the Week, call 751-7900 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Nominations may

be faxed to the office at 751-7916.

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