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Published: Thursday, 8/28/2003

Springfield youths shape lives

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A baseball game using bagels instead of balls, or a track-and-field meet with bagels for shot-put, discus, and other events, “would be so sweet,'' Amanda Baker said as ideas were discussed about potential fund-raising events for the coming year.

“You'd pay $5 to watch a bagel baseball game, wouldn't you?'' she asked as she and other Springfield Township-area young people talked about projects for the coming year for S.H.A.P.E.

She's beginning her senior year at Springfield High School. She began her freshman year as a charter member of the organization as it evolved from a group of adults who met regularly to discuss the needs of youngsters in the community.

The adults recognized there was little to no input in their discussions from young people, so gradually, Springfield Holland Assets Partnership for Excellence, was born.

The purpose of the group was defined by a survey of more than 600 students who identified areas lacking in their lives.

S.H.A.P.E. stresses positive role models, reading for enjoyment, involvement in the arts, programs that illuminate the dangers of alcohol and other drugs, and other positives in life.

Program director Cindy Hadsel said there is a perception that the organization is directly connected with Springfield Local Schools.

Although the school system was instrumental in beginning the program and supports it, “this is for all of the young people in the community and it's for the community,'' she said.

Ms. Hadsel said members of S.H.A.P.E. volunteer to work at many community events, such as the fireworks display and the annual Strawberry Festival, but they also help out in other ways. Some youngsters went to a store last year that asked them to sing Christmas carols.

School Superintendent Cynthia Beekley was involved in the group as it transformed into a youth-membership organization. She said there was little budget for programs until the Springfield Township trustees approved a grant of $40,000 to the organization about three years ago.

Most of that money has been used to produce an annual community calendar, the third of which is nearing completion now, Ms. Hadsel said.

Production of the calendar costs about $15,000 of the group's annual $25,000 costs, she said.

The group's director is paid a salary of $7,500 annually, and the remaining $2,500 is used for some of the group to attend an annual convention.

Recent donations of $5,000 each from St. Luke's Hospital, Paramount Health Care, the Springfield Local school district and the township are keeping the program in operation this year.

Last year Ms. Hadsel took four members to Minneapolis, for the convention of the Search Institute, a group whose values spurred the organization in Springfield Township.

She said that in addition to support from the community, the group's expenses are paid by fund-raising efforts.

This year, a bagel track-and-field meet may add to the group's treasury. It may not stay long, however, because as soon as Ms. Baker's idea for using it as a fund-raiser seemed to gain acceptance, the group came close to deciding that the revenue should go to a kitchen for the poor that had called asking for a donation.

Dr. Beekley said that sense of volunteerism and community involvement is one of the assets of S.H.A.P.E.

“It's difficult to measure the effectiveness of groups like this, but I think it's clear that it's very beneficial for those who get involved,'' she said.

Sarah Otis, president of the trustees for S.H.A.P.E. and director of the Southwest YMCA said the goals of the organization are not only valid, but even lofty.

Working with literacy and measuring it years later, and attempts to enhance spirituality may not end.

She said the group avoids the use of the word `programs,' but prefers the word `initiatives.'

“Programs have a beginning and an end, but initiatives continue,'' she said.



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