VALDOSTA -- By noon Saturday, the Latter-day Saint Student Association had reached its goal for Operation Teddy Bear 2005.
Bonnie Spivey, a junior at Valdosta State University, was one of several members who spent Make a Difference Day at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints working on teddy bears. She was thrilled to see the 2,005 finished teddy bears, some packed in boxes, others stacked on the floor.
"It feels good because I know we are doing something for someone who needs it," she said. "It's a lot of fun."
Scheduled to work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Latter-day Saint Student Association members and supporters began working on Operation Teddy Bear 2006 once they had met their goal. Motivated by photos of smiling children holding their creations,they did not want to waste any time or risk not achieving the same this time next year.
Advisor Elaine Cronin said Latter-day Saint Student Association members and friends began working on Operation Teddy Bear 2005 in November of last year. The teddy bears completed Saturday will be delivered to the Valdosta Police Department, Valdosta Fire Department, Lowndes County Sheriff's Office, The Haven, Children's Advocacy Center of Lowndes County, University of Florida affiliated Shand's HealthCare and more for child victims of trauma.
Cronin referred to the teddy bears as a "bright spot" for a boy or girl who has a terminal illness, has lost everything to fire, has suffered abuse, or has been injured in an accident. Knowing this, she said many teddy bear makers hug and kiss each of their creations.
"They may not be professionally made, but they are filled with love," she said.
The Latter-day Saint Student Association was founded in January 2002 on the campus of Valdosta State University. One of its first community service initiatives was Operation Teddy Bear, a project "in which everyone could participate," Cronin said.
However, instead of purchasing teddy bears, the Latter-day Saint Student Association decided to make them by hand, developing a pattern and purchasing fabric. The first teddy bear was made in August 2002 and took more than an hour to complete, Cronin said.
"We've gotten much better now," she added. "Someone who knows what they are doing can make one in 20 minutes."
Working Saturdays as a group and individually at home, the Latter-day Saint Student Association completed 275 teddy bears by April 2003, a little more than its goal of 250. Some of them were sent to orphaned children in Afghanistan the following July.
The Latter-day Saint Student Association has completed more than 5,000 teddy bears to date. Their efforts have brought smiles to the faces of children at home and abroad, including children in AIDS hospitals and orphanages in Romania and Hurricane Katrina victims in Gulfport, Miss.
Other Make a Difference Day projects conducted in the area Saturday included a cleanup sponsored by Keep Lowndes/Valdosta Beautiful and the City of Valdosta. Children and adults worked alongside each other in the area encompassed by Oak Street, West Gordon Street, Melody Lane and Brookhaven Street.
Aaron Strickland with Keep Lowndes/Valdosta Beautiful described the cleanup as an opportunity for neighbors to help neighbors. He referred to it as a chance to assist the less fortunate, the disabled and the elderly and a chance to make the area safer for its youngest residents and visitors.
Hundreds more volunteers working with America's Second Harvest of South Georgia Inc., cleaning canned goods and other food packaging in stock, pulling outdated foods and cleaning the warehouse, both inside and outside. Director Frank Richards said Saturday's activities will help his group prepare for the busy holiday season.
Make A Difference Day is the most encompassing national day of helping others, a celebration of neighbors helping neighbors. Created by USA WEEKEND Magazine, the annual event takes place on the fourth Saturday of every October.
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