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Volunteering, Reading Focus of Make a Difference Day

"Can I read the rest, please?" 9-year-old Allison Salyers asks her mother, Saprinta, who is about halfway through the book "Monster Tales: The Teeny Tiny Monster.

Sunday, October 28, 2001

"Can I read the rest, please?" 9-year-old Allison Salyers asks her mother, Saprinta, who is about halfway through the book "Monster Tales: The Teeny Tiny Monster."

Mrs. Salyers, obliging, passes the book on to her daughter, who then finishes reading to Madison Clement and Tori Stambaugh, both 7.

"Oh, yes! That’s Elmo’s marble! …"

A read-a-thon was one of the many things going on in the Ironton City Center Saturday during the city’s Make a Difference Day.

As the children were reading, just to their left Dean Mader of the Briggs Lawrence County Library sketched the number "23" on one cheek and the word "Bulls" on the other cheek of 2-year-old Justin Wells of Hanging Rock while Susan Beaver painted an American flag on the face of Brittaney James, 10, of South Point.

Meanwhile, Ben Eby, a forestry technician and firefighter at Wayne National Forest, paraded Smokey the Bear around the building.

"We like to do these things as much as we can," Eby said. "This is about the fifth or sixth showing we’ve done this year. The kids love Smokey to death."

The event was not just for the children, though. About a dozen non-profit groups also were on hand, passing out literature and talking with the grown-ups. It was a day for everybody, according to Mayor Bob Cleary.

"It was one of those types of events where there was something for everybody," he said. "Everyone was enjoying themselves."

One person having loads of fun was Audrey Weisenberger of Buckhorn Street. Weisenberger said she brought her four children, Jessica, 11, J.C., 10, Katie, 9, and Brittany, 7 to the City Center because she wanted them to have some safe fun.

"With what’s going on in America today, I’m not taking my kids trick or treating," Weisenberger said, adding she is "very nervous" about anthrax. "Right now, all I’ve got for my children is safe houses, and that’s what I’d call this. It’s a good place for them to learn."

Weisenberger said it was a good opportunity for her to learn as well as she picked up information from the various agencies scattered about the City Center.

"It was an educational experience for me, too," she said. "There were some great people here. I found out about a lot of good things I can do in the community."

It also made her feel like a kid again, she said.

"I’ve been read to, I’ve been packing balloons around, and I’m still not done yet," Weisenberger said after spending more than an hour at the City Center. "I’m getting ready to get my face painted."

Janet Ratliff, one of the event’s organizers, said the traffic in and out of the City Center on Saturday was steady.

"I feel like it’s been a success," she said. "This could be the beginning of an annual event to promote better literacy and more volunteering in Lawrence County. We need to do this."

Ratliff said many people donated both new and used books, including 500 from Grandma’s Gifts in Columbus. Children who read got to pick out a book and whatever is left over will be donated to shelters throughout the region, she said.

Linda Weingard, another organizer, echoed Ratliff’s sentiments.

"It’s been a great success," she said. "The community has really turned out for it. We’re going to work even harder to get more people involved next year."

Mayor Cleary also was pleased with the turn out.

"We had more kids than we did last year," he observed. "The kids had a good time and the organizations gave information to the parents. It looked to me like everybody was having fun."