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Challenge for charity - Oprah show helps motivate local volunteers  

By MOLLY MONTAG
Times Herald

MARINE CITY- Most people think angels fly, but on Saturday morning they arrived at Mariner's Cove Senior Apartments in two school buses.

More than three dozen students, teachers and parent volunteers from Marine City Middle School delivered 50 brightly-wrapped boxes laden with a bevy of donated toiletries, cleaning items, blankets and food.

The residents were excited and surprised by the seemingly endless stream of students lugging the heavy boxes into the complex.

"I delivered it to one lady and she almost passed out on the floor she was so happy," said Jerrod Black, 16, of Marine City.
The students, calling themselves Oprah's Cove Angels, raised more than $4,000 for the gifts in less than a week as part of a challenge from talk-show host Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey gave $1,000 to members of her 300-member audience at a taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show, challenging them to use it to help people.

Marine City High School teacher Pat Biebuyck and St. Clair High School teacher Dorothy Derrow attended the show.

Marine City High School students filled the boxes for seniors and low-income families. Their St. Clair counterparts on Friday donated $13,476 to 7-year-old Maddie Trudel, who suffers from a rare form of bone cancer.

Biebuyck was visibly moved when the buses pulled up to her house to pick up the boxes.

Volunteers went classroom to classroom, spreading the word about the project. Student contributions alone accounted for almost $1,000, said Megan Tomasek, 16. Volunteers solicited other contributions from local businesses, as well as their families and friends.

Ruth Posey, 80, was grateful for the gifts.

"I never expected anything like this," she said.

The students also presented $500 to Downriver Helping Hands and delivered a carload of supplies to the local humane society.

Biebuyck will send footage of the projects back to producers early next week. She and Derrow have been invited back to the show for a taping on Nov. 21.

For many students, including 16-year-old Jamilee Lomerson, Oprah's challenge was their first experience working on a large-scale volunteer project.

"I've always wanted to help people, but I just didn't know how to," said Jamilee, of Casco Township. "It gave me an opportunity to do what I wanted."


Contact Molly Montag at (810) 989-6275 or mmontag@gannett.com.

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