News

Floods inspire girl’s outreach

By JACINDA HOWARD, The Mirror

Scenes of flooded homes and soggy belongings flashed across the television screen Dec. 4 at Meredith Hill Elementary School in Auburn.

The newscast sparked the imagination of 9-year-old Alyssa Belceto.

Alyssa created Angel Helpers, a flood relief drive to benefit recent victims of the disastrous Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 weather and flooding. Alyssa hopes the goods she collects will help restore the holiday spirit for many families in the Centralia area.

The drive officially starts today and continues through Dec. 20. Toys, food, clothing and money will be accepted at a donation box at the Belceto’s church, Federal Way Methodist Church, 29645 51st Ave. S., in Auburn.

Finding inspiration

The drive is Alyssa’s idea, but is being undertaken with the assistance of her parents, Shane and Kristine Belceto. It all began when Alyssa came home from school after seeing the newscast, eager to tell her family what she learned during her social studies session. She wanted to help flood victims, but did not think it was possible, Shane Belceto said. He and his wife encouraged Alyssa to follow through on her idea to conduct a flood relief drive.

“We’re basically taking her idea and running with it,” Kristine Belceto said.

They are proud of their eldest daughter for thinking of others during the holiday season.

“Most kids have Christmas on their brain and don’t think about other kids,” Shane Belceto said.

Flood relief efforts begin:

Though Alyssa’s parents have encouraged her in her mission, the drive has been a learning experience for the 9-year-old.

“I’ve been doing everything I can to let her make all the decisions,” Shane Belceto said.

Since the time the project was a whimsical fantasy in Alyssa’s mind until now, the effort has taken the Belceto family by storm. A donation box was set up at the family’s church and Shane created a blog for Alyssa, complete with a YouTube video of his daughter explaining Angel Helpers.

The video is an accomplishment for the 9-year-old, a timid child who took dance classes before realizing she did not like being on stage, Shane Belceto said. Alyssa is doing whatever she can to let people know about her project, he said.

Spreading the word:

Alyssa’s teacher arranged for her to meet with her school principal. Alyssa then requested to set up a second donation box at Meredith Hill Elementary, but was turned down.

“She was very discouraged after talking with the principal,” Shane Belceto said.

Still, by the end of the week, Alyssa had expressed a desire to make and distribute fliers to educate her neighbors about the flood relief drive. With temperatures in the low 30s on Dec. 8, Alyssa, her father and her friend Linda canvassed the Belcetos’ neighborhood.

Together, the two girls boldly approached each house, flier in hand.

“Would you like to donate to the flood?” they asked neighbors.

Some neighbors refused, and many did not answer their doors. One questioned them on where the items would be sent and how to donate. A handful gave cash and food.

“You guys are doing great,” neighbor Ann Mayer said. “I’m proud of you.”

As of Dec. 13, Alyssa had collected $200 in checks, $100 in cash and three boxes full of food, clothes and toys, Shane Belceto said. Play items are the most important things to collect, “so the kids have toys for Christmas,” Alyssa said.

Delivering the goods:

With collection of flood relief items under way, the Belcetos now must decide how to distribute the goods. The family may personally deliver the materials to needy families and churches in the flood zone on Dec. 22, Shane Belceto said.

“The goal is to fill the van at a minimum,” he said.

Until that time, Alyssa will continue working to collect flood relief items.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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Check it out:

• Visit Alyssa’s blog at http://www.angelhelpers.blogspot.com/

• Visit Alyssa’s YouTube site at http://www.youtube.com/AngelHelpers.

Beside the donation box at the Federal Way United Methodist Church, the organization is also accepting cash contributions through its United Methodist Committee on Relief sector. The church is supportive of Alyssa and her family, but is taking a minimal role in the how the project is carried out, pastor Jon Short said.

Ultimately, the Belcetos are responsible for choosing how to collect and distribute the items, he said.

“It’s just amazing and wonderful she is a part of this congregation and wants to spearhead this thing,” Short said.

Those wishing to donate clothes, food, money or toys to the Angel Helpers flood relief drive can drop off goods at Federal Way United Methodist Church, 29645 51st Ave. S., Auburn. The drive officially begins today and concludes Thursday, Dec. 20.

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