Local woman continues crusade to help local youth

By Greg Miller

Last year, Tina Heaton began coordinating a program to help the youth who live in the South Hills Estates community.
   Now, Heaton says, the IRS is designating the program as a nonprofit organization. Heaton says the IRS told her that she would be receiving the necessary documentation in about 30 days.
   "The purpose that we would like to achieve is to see that every child realizes that they are something and someone special in life," Heaton said. "We want all the children to see that being from a single parent household does not make them any lower than someone that comes from a single parent household. If these children really set their minds to it and set a goal for themselves, and work hard, they can become something in life. One of them may end up being president one day."
   Bowling is one of the ways money is being raised to help the youth. "We're bowling for underprivileged children," Heaton said. "All the money that we raise by taking pledges for our bowling will all be donated to the underprivileged children of the communities of Elizabethton and Carter County to purchase school supplies and school clothing before school starts back." Pledges can be made either on a "flat rate" basis or a certain amount of money for each pin that is bowled over by a certain child.
   In addition to pledges by individuals, Heaton is hopeful that businesses will offer to match money raised by the children. Heaton and some of the children are asking city and county businesses to help.
   Parents of children enrolled in the program are "in training to get a job, coming off of AFDC, or going on AFDC. Some parents have jobs but are not making enough to make ends meet. All of the children that we are working with this year are from single-parent homes. Four children are being raised by their grandmother. We try to reach out and meet the needs of the children and the parents at this point in time."
   The idea to help the children in the neighborhood originated last year with Heaton's daughter, Kala Orren, 11. "All the kids played with her before we started this program," Heaton recalled. "When we had to leave and go somewhere, she felt sorry for the other kids that wouldn't get to go places. She used to take her allowance money or get out here and work for the neighbors trying to make a little bit of money, and she would take one or two friends with her every time we went somewhere."
   This year, Heaton's 14-year-old sister, Natasha Nave, "encouraged me to start a nonprofit organization. And she gave us the name of Volunteer Day Sitters."
   "They didn't have anything else to do, and I felt sorry for them," Kala said.
   "We go bowling, bicycle riding, roller skating. The kids play basketball, and they enjoy the water balloon fights. They like making crafts, beaded necklaces and birdhouses. The crafts usually don't cost too much, because the kids will save their two liter bottles and make birdhouses out of them. They will save their cans and make pencil sharpeners and flower vases out of them."
   Volunteer Day Sitters is currently serving children from three months to 17 years old, and children of any age are accepted. In addition to Heaton, volunteers include Brenda Caldwell, who helps with the crafts; Heaton's sister, 14-year-old Natasha Nave; 12-year-old Nikki Cole, who works with the children's hair; and Hazel Wetherall, who volunteers on weekends.
   "Our doors open at 7:30 every morning," Heaton said. "And some of the kids will hang around until 10 at night. Even when their parents are at home, some of the older kids still like to hang out and talk with the other kids and play the games with the other kids. Some of them, their parents have to drag them home."
   Heaton says she cannot foresee becoming a paid employee of Volunteer Day Sitters. "I come from a single parent household," she remarked. "My mom never had much to offer me or my two siblings, but she always made sure that we had love in the home, Jesus Christ in our hearts, and that we were always thankful for everything that we had. And my mother never asked for anything in return. Not only did she give me my life, but she gave me her life, too. Our services would always be free."
   To pledge for the bowling pin project, call Penny at Holiday Lanes at 282-6521.
   For more information, call 542-8687 or 741-3224.