They are four young girls on a mission, and they hope the Dearing Mayfest will be the answer to their call. Dearing Elementary fourth graders Mary Chandler Echols, Ashley Coleman, Kasi Radford and Ashlee Retheford are holding a raffle to benefit poor people in a rural village of Zambia, Africa.
Mary Chandler's interest was sparked by a Gospelink preacher from Africa who visited their elementary school to tell about life in Africa. Mary Chandler said she was burdened because the pastor, Ackim Chali, and other villagers have no electricity, no running water and no cars. During a break at school, Mary Chandler discussed with her friends the idea of helping the Africans.
"I told Ashley, 'Why don't we just start a fundraiser?'" Mary Chandler said.
The girls discussed fundraiser options with their principal, Laura Hughes, who encouraged the girls to do research and set reasonable goals. Mary Chandler said their ideas ranged from a canned food drive to collecting books, but each idea presented an expensive obstacle.
"I have to say they've been very persistent on everything they've worked on," Dr. Hughes said. "They didn't get discouraged."
Mary Chandler said she did research on non-profit organizations, which was time-consuming but helped her find a solution.
"It's not easy to find stuff on the computer," she said. "Especially if you don't know how to spell his name."
Through her research, Mary Chandler learned that adults in the African village ride to work on a bicycle, which typically cost $75. She decided to raise money for five bicycles for Pastor Chali to give to people in need.
"If we are helping the adults, then that's helping the kids, too," she said.
Dr. Hughes said the girls have set up collection cans at various businesses and will have a booth at the Mayfest. At the Bucks-for-Bikes booth, patrons may purchase a ticket for $1 to enter the raffle. At 2:30 p.m., after the Dearing Elementary chorus sings at the Mayfest, a drawing will be held. The winner of the drawing will receive one-third of the money earned, and the remaining two-thirds will be sent to Pastor Chali.
"I am very proud of these girls for stepping up totally on their own and having the patience and determination to work," Dr Hughes said.
For more information on Pastor Chali or the Gospelink mission, visit www.gospelink.org. For more information on the raffle, call Dearing Elementary at 706-986-4900.
The Dearing Mayfest begins with a parade at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 5 along the Augusta Highway in Dearing. The Mayfest, with carnival rides and craft vendors will be on the property in front of the old Dearing Elementary School. Admission is free, and free parking and a shuttle is available at Eubanks Lumber Company across the street from the festival. Miss Allene's Burger Battle is at 11:45 a.m., and the festival ends at 4 p.m.