Middle School is hard on any girl no matter if you're popular, pretty, smart and have it all together or shy, quiet, stay to yourself it's an awkward phase for most.  Trying to fit in and find your place among the crowd can prove to be an impossible feat.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a 13-year-old girl preparing for life in another new school whose moved around more than a dozen times before trying to make friends and anxious about what others might think.  Angel here and that young girl was me.

I remember it so well.  I walked into Burns Middle School on the first day wondering what other girls would be wearing and who would be my new friends.  Well, as you would guess most of those girls were in outfits from The Limited, Hamwear and clothes from Bacon's (now Macy's) looking absolutely perfect.

It was overwhelming.  Being in middle school is awful then add being new and not having cool clothes, it's a recipe for failure.  I know clothes don't make a person but when you are a young teen girl, guess what they make a huge difference.

I remember meeting Nancy Whitmer for the first time when I started school.  She was the Youth Service Center Coordinator and really nice.  She helped me get acclimated to school and got me involved.  My momma and her became fast friends because she provided her with lots of resources to help mom find her way.  My momma wanted me to have the best experience possible and excel in my new school.

I never knew we didn't have money or even really about hard times I just knew the things I experienced were a part of life with just a mom.  Momma never shared our hardships with me she just worked hard and did what she had to do to make ends meet.

I do remember the first time I realized I was different from the other girls in my class.  It was winter and super cold outside.  I didn't have a coat and momma just didn't have enough after everything was paid to buy me one that year.  Ms. Whitmer came to get me out of class one day and took me to the mall.  She asked me where my friends all shopped and I said excitedly "The Limited".  Well, she walked me right into the store that day and told me I could pick any coat I wanted (I'm pretty sure it wasn't protocol) but if you know Nancy she did it her way and took care of her students.  She had them wrap it in a big beautiful box with a ribbon as they used to do.  There are not many times in my life I can even remember at 40 years old I have felt that special.

I returned to school that day with a brand-new beautiful coat from The Limited and a new found confidence.  In many ways that coat changed the course of middle school for me.  It may sound silly but it did.  I felt special like I belonged for the first time ever.   When I came home that night my momma said something to me I will never forget "Angel when you are older I want you to promise me you will pay forward the kindness of what others have done for us when we could not do for ourselves."

Fifteen years later after my momma passed on I was tasked with cleaning out her home.  Going through her room I was taken back to find in the back of her closet in a plastic dry cleaner bag my coat from The Limited.  She had saved it all those years.  Nancy's kindness and the support of The Goodfellows Club opened the door for a world of possibilities in years to come for this girl.

I always wanted to do just what Nancy did for me growing up and as God would have it I got the opportunity.  When Nancy retired in 2013 she gave me a call and told me she was leaving Burns.  She told me she thought I'd make a great Youth Service Coordinator but had no say in the hiring part.  I am always amazed at how God writes our stories.  I was honored with the job of taking Nancy's place for four years and experienced story after story of families benefiting from The Goodfellows Club.

Seeing the kids display a recognizable confidence I remembered as a young girl years ago and watching the relief/joy in parents faces reminded me life always comes full circle and if we are lucky enough we sometimes get to witness it head on in a beautiful way.

I could share story after life-changing story from their generosity made possibly by our community and donors who selflessly gave to help others.  The Goodfellows Club does so much more than just clothe children.  If you have never had the chance to get to know their mission please do.

I am not sure who donated to help my family but I promise the ripple effect was immeasurable.  It helped shape me into who I am today and has allowed me to teach my own children the importance of caring for others.  THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES.

My request to anyone reading this if you are able it's just $75 to clothe a child for an entire school year.  Maybe $75 is a bit much just give what you can, rally your friends and make it a tradition each year, or even ask for donations for your birthday or Christmas.  There are so many ways you can help whatever you do just do it.  I promise you will change lives!


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