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Inspire Me: On the wheels of giving

Who she is:

Nine-year-old Alesha Hudson of Lugoff. Enjoys skating, playing and riding horses. Attends Doby’s Mill Elementary School.

What she’s done:

Three years ago, after becoming interested in community service through her grandmother Virginia Hudson, Alesha decided she wanted to start something of her very own.

“I said, ‘well what do you want to do?’” Hudson said. And she said, ‘I want to give bikes to kids.’”

Together, the two set out to learn everything they could about setting up a nonprofit, including filing the right paperwork. They even made sure to set up a nonprofit account at First Palmetto Bank in Lugoff, and in 2006, Outreach Bicycle was born.

An Idea Grows:

That first year, the pair decided they would start small, with the goal of six bicycles. The two spent countless hours scouring the phone book, writing letters appealing for support and networking within Alesha’s church and school.

Then something happened. Word began to spread and six bicycles soon grew to 36.

“Donations came pouring in and we had a few people who purchased and donated bicycles outright,” Hudson said. “... But we were both just so surprised. Alesha’s mouth just flew open.”

Encouraged by the show of support, the Hudsons decided to set their sights a little higher over the next two years.

“Last year she said to me, ‘Grandma, I want to do 50 bicycles’ and I thought ‘Oh my goodness,’” Hudson said.

With the help of guidance counselors at area schools and the S.C. Department of Social Services, Alesha and her grandmother are able to identify and match needy children with brand new bikes.

What’s happened since:

Alesha’s enthusiasm for community service recently caught the attention of executives at Build-A-Bear Workshop. In April, she was selected as a semifinalist in the company’s 2009 Huggable Heroes competition, which recognizes young leaders. And although Alesha did not advance to the final round, she remains committed to providing kids with new bicycles.

To date, the two have raised more than $2,300 for Outreach Bicycle and provided more than 150 bikes to needy children. How does that make Alesha feel?

“Happy. It’s exciting giving them away.”

For more information, call (803) 438-0145 or mail donations to the Outreach Bicycle Fund, First Palmetto Savings Bank, 70 Highway 1 South, Lugoff, SC 29078.

OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND

Additional volunteer opportunities in the area:

11TH CIRCUIT JUVENILE ARBITRATION PROGRAM: Seeks volunteers to work with Solicitor Donnie Myers’ office conducting arbitration hearings with first-time offenders. Will be conducting training sessions beginning in September. Must be at least 21 years of age, have a high school diploma and no criminal record. Information: (803) 785-8355.

EDVENTURE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM: Seeks volunteers to help with “Blooming Butterflies.” For professionals, college students or teenagers. (803) 400-1163

SOUTH CAROLINA STATE MUSEUM: Seeks volunteers to help in every department: research, gift shop, school groups and exhibits. (803) 898-4912 or jennifer.lee@scmuseum.org.

COOPERATIVE MINISTRY: Seeks furniture donations to help supply homes of families now living in area shelters. Drop off at 3821 W. Beltline Boulevard or call to schedule pick up (803) 799-3853 ext. 312.

AMERICAN RED CROSS: Seeks volunteers to join disaster relief efforts. Stop by 2751 Bull St. (803) 540-1200 or visit www.centralscredcross.org or www.volunteermatch.org.

CONGAREE NATIONAL PARK: Seeks volunteers for variety of programs, including resource management, visitor services, facility maintenance, special events. 100 National Park Road, Hopkins. (803) 647-3974; www.nps.gov/cong

COLUMBIA MUSEUM OF ART: Seeks volunteers to assist the public during “Turner to Cezanne: Masterpieces from the Davies Collection, National Museum Wales” exhibition, through June 7. (803) 343-2170; www.columbiamuseum.org

MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY ASSOCIATION: Volunteer counselors needed for summer camps. Must be at least 16 and able to lift and care for campers. (800) 572-1717 or www.mda.org/clinics/camp.

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