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South Point teen offers cover for those in need

BURLINGTON - It may be 10 years before Miriah Gillispie has "M.D." at the end of her name, but that didn't stop her from helping people in need this summer.

The 17-year-old senior at South Point High School has done several community service projects during her summer vacations such as being a "Volunteen" at St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington, W.Va., working at a Cabell County, W.Va., animal shelter and working at her church camp. This year, her mother saw an ad for Branches, a domestic violence shelter in Huntington and gave her the idea to do a project for them. She gave the shelter a call to see what she could do.

Gillispie then embarked on her project of collecting blankets, sleeping bags and various personal items to be used for a camp for battered women's children in early August. She also collected used cell phones that would be refurbished and programmed for 911 use that would be given to women at the shelter.

Gillispie contacted the Briggs-Lawrence County Public Library, Southern Branch in South Point, and the Cabell County Public Library in Huntington to ask if she could set up donation bins. The libraries approved, and in the first two weeks of her project that has lasted during most of her summer vacation, she had 12 blankets, a tub full of personal hygiene items and 10 cell phones. Her mother's co-workers at Huntington Internal Medicine Group later donated 45 more cell phones.

She spread the word through newspaper community calendar announcements, the ad channel on cable television and the South Point channel at her school. She also drove around to several South Point area businesses with flyers and told her friends.

On top of this, she has handled a part-time job at the Burlington TCBY, cheerleading practice and cross-country practice.

"It's definitely taught me time management," Gillispie said.

However, she does not believe that juggling her project with other responsibilities has been that difficult. Cheerleading and cross-country practices are only three days out of the week, and they are on the same three days. Her job is part-time.

After recently delivering a truckload of supplies to Branches, Gillispie is almost ready to take another. Most of what she has collected is brand new.

"I was really excited. Neither my mom or I expected it to turn out like this," she said. "We just took a shot and hoped people would help."

This school year, Gillispie is her senior class president and hopes that the student councils of all four grades will do more community service projects, possibly having a fundraisers once a month.

Her plans could change, but after graduation, Gillispie wants to major in chemistry/pre-medicine at Marshall University.

"I want to help people and see the results," she said. "I want to see if maybe a diagnosis I've made will help people feel better in some way."

Her mother Luella believes that her project will also help her daughter's future medical career.

"This will show her the needs that the community has - including financial and emotional," Luella Gillispie said. "This well help her be well-rounded, seeing people as a whole, not just as a number or a gall bladder or a kidney."

Miriah Gillispie had the following advice for anyone else who wants to take on a similar project.

"Don't be afraid to ask," she said. "If it's for a good cause, if you ask, people will give. It's not as hard as it seems."