Lia Haile, 11, of Manitowoc, Wis., a fifth-grader at Stangel Elementary School, created a community club of more than 600 adults and children who help her provide welcome bags, birthday parties, holiday celebrations and other items and events for children and families staying at a local homeless shelter. In 2012, Lia went to Hope House with her mother to drop off donations that her Girl Scout troop had collected. It happened to be one little boys birthday, and when Lia asked if he was going to have a party, the shelters director replied that there was no money for parties. I told my mom I wanted to have a party for him, said Lia. From that day on, I have been throwing birthday parties for every child who celebrates a birthday at the homeless shelter.
She now has plenty of help. After Lia formed a Hopeful Hearts Club to get people in her community involved and a newspaper published a story on her efforts, lots of adults and young people volunteered to work with her. Even the mayor joined my club! said Lia. That enabled her to expand her activities. In addition to birthday parties, Lias club gives each child arriving at Hope House a Welcome Home bag containing toiletries and a fleece blanket. The club also hosts holiday dinners at the shelter, as well as monthly events such as Easter egg hunts, ice cream socials, Christmas cookie swaps, pizza parties and family excursions. Lia works closely with local businesses to obtain goods and services at a discount for these activities. She also has coordinated drives to collect books for the shelter and school supplies for children in need. In addition, Lia won a $1,000 grant to improve Hope Houses backyard, and will use that money to install a fence, swing set and sandbox for the kids there.