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June 12, 2014

Manning twins give up summer to help homeless

Ada — Think of twin daughters from Ada riding in the back seat of a car moving slowly through the city of Dallas.

 They’re looking out the side window of the car, hoping to see the Texas State Fair. Before long, they see something unexpected instead.

 Homeless people.

They were simultaneously saddened by what they saw on the streets of Dallas that day. They could have had a typical reaction. “Somebody ought to do something.”

Or, as is often the case with less thoughtful observers, “Somebody ought to move them out of sight.”

Hundreds of motorists drove by the same area at almost the same time, not seeing, not thinking and absorbed in their own thoughts.

The girls in the backseat didn’t need to ask why the homeless people were there, or feel compelled to give advice on how the homeless should overcome their plight.

They saw haunting eyes on gaunt faces; people who were going to get very cold in a few months if these girls didn’t do something to help.

Homeless people often feel others are looking right through them, as if they are ghosts existing in another dimension.

Yet, there they were in the flesh, and Maddie Manning didn’t look through them. Nor did her sister Morgan.

Both had just completed their seventh-grade year as students at Ada Junior High. They had just passed their 13th birthdays and were coming of age in apparently wonderful ways.

 Maddie couldn’t get the homeless people off her mind. The twins’ grandmother over in Ardmore, Patsi Manning, had taught the girls about crocheting, sewing, knitting and other handcrafts that would help them make pot holders, fleece blankets, scarves, hats, you name it.

For a long time now, they had made these things as gifts for family and friends.

“Then God put it on my heart to help these people,” Maddie said. She talked over this persistent feeling with her mother, Deidra Manning.

Enthusiasm began to rise, and Maddie’s twin-sister Morgan got involved.

“Instead of just giving to people we know, we could take it a step further and give to those who really need it,” the mother and daughters agreed.

“I told Maddie I would help her, and it has kind of grown on me,” Morgan said. “It’s nice to know somebody out there is going to know that you care about them.”

The germ of an idea was about to spread. The mother of three teenagers, Deidra is a blogger and the wife of John Manning, a systems manager with Chickasaw Nation’s IT department.

More importantly perhaps; she has blogger friends — and good ideas do have a way of going viral.

One of Manning’s blogger friends lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and has a homeless ministry in that part of the country. She passes out blankets, hot food and other items to homeless people on a weekly basis.

 “We contacted her,” said Manning. “She’s going to donate some things and we would like to travel to Bowling Green and deliver everything we’ve made ourselves if we can meet our goal.”

 And what is the goal?

 “Our goal is to make 50 blankets, 50 scarves and 50 hats. It’s the least amount we’d like to make,” said Maddie.

 That trip, if it comes about, would probably take place in October during a fall break.

 Morgan said she had made a fleece blanket the day before and planned on completing another one today. “I’m going to try to make a fleece blanket every day, if I have the fleece,” she said.

 Caleb, 14, their older brother by a year and a half, will be a ninth grader at Ada Junior High, and he has even chipped in to make a few items.

  The inevitable thought arises. This is the kids’ summer vacation. Aren’t these the days meant for doing very little but hanging out with friends, swimming, sleeping late, having fun and just being teenagers? What could be better?

  Maddie and her sister have decided to give all that up to work toward keeping the homeless warm next winter.

“After we get through this year, we would like to hook up locally with some people in this area” (to help the homeless in Ada), the girls’ mom said.

  The family attends Abba’s House Worship Center Church of God in Ada. Janice Steen, another church member, is a friend of the family.

 “I just know what they are doing is time consuming,” said Steen. “People donating their time, money and getting volunteers...what can be better than seeing the love of 13-year-old girls who are willing to help?

 “These little girls are amazing children,” Steen said. “They are giving up their summer for the homeless to make sure the homeless are warm for the winter.

 “They knew it would take a while to do this, so they got started with blankets — big pieces of fleece. They bought little throws to keep them warm and they tied the ends in knots. It’s really something,” she said.

  Maddie wrote a note for her mother, who gave it to church leaders one day, who, in turn, announced from the pulpit what the twins were up to.

 Materials and contributions began coming in immediately from individuals in the church, family and friends.

  One step has led to another and the movement is underway.

  Manning said volunteers are planning to get together soon so they can learn how to make these items.

 “We’re getting more hands to make things with so we’ll have more to give,” Manning said.

  Of course, as in all endeavors to spread the word quickly nowadays, Manning has posted the project on Facebook. Those who are interested can find her blog, “The Middle,” then go to “Operation Bundle Up Club” to find out more about this endeavor.

 “I feel pretty confident about this,” Maddie said. “I think my mom and my dad, and the whole family are really supportive of me. They have given us a bunch of encouragement to go on with this.”

  “We just keep all the things in the office room,” Morgan said. “We store all our yarn and donations and things already made in there. It’s quite a lot.  We’ve made a good bit of progress.”

 “I like to crochet loom knits,” Morgan said. ‘It’s like the stitches you get on a loom. It’s woven on there. It just makes it faster to mix scarves and caps, but we’re still going to want to make a few afghans.”

  The girls say they’re also getting a lot of moral support from their dad. “He’s a pretty good dad,” said Morgan.

 Those interested in getting involved will learn how to make fleece blankets with a couple yards of fleece.

 They want to do at least some crocheting, though they realize it is much more time-consuming.

 Still...

 “We want to do handmade items so the people will know that someone is willing to take time for them,” said  Maddie.

  Clementine and Tex, the family’s two little terriers, have volunteered to observe. Morgan says Tex has even been known to wrap himself up in some fleece — as long as no one objects.

 Somebody always does.

 So far neither pooch has managed to get tangled up in the yarn.

A nearby friend and eighth grader to be at Ada Junior High, Iesha Jackson also has volunteered to help them.

 They’re using loom nets to make some items.

 Can these girls make it through the summer without getting homeless fatigue?

 “I don’t think I’ll get tired of it at all,” Maddie said. “I’m going to just keep on going.”

 Note: The twins and their mother have established a website for contributions at www.gofundme.com/970zj0. When you arrive at the site, the Bundle Up Club should appear. Simply click on the “Donate” button.

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