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Teddy bears being donated for Joplin relief

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By Amber Coulter

An Elizabethtown woman wants to help comfort victims of a tornado that ripped apart much of Joplin, Mo.

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To do so, Becky Meredith hopes to send the embattled town about 300 teddy bears.

“You still hear stories on the TV where people are still without their homes and children are still without some type of comfort, so I’m hoping a bear would bring some hope to them,” she said. “It’s something to hold on to when everything else seems to be falling apart.”

The effort isn’t that unusual for Meredith, who in October started a chapter of Hugs Across America, a nonprofit organization that donates stuffed animals to children in crisis situations.

Her chapter is named Kelsey Heartland Hugs in honor of Kelsey Briggs, who died of injuries from child abuse in 2005.

Meredith developed contact with the girl’s family and began collecting bears to give to children who need emotional support, such as those dealing with illness and abuse, and organizations that support those children.

Her living room couch displayed almost 300 bears.

Most of the bears have been donated by local residents, but donations have come from as far away as New Jersey.

Meredith said a sister chapter in Milwaukee plans to donate about 300 bears to tornado victims. She’d like to receive enough donations to match that by the end of July and still have enough bears to carry on her chapter’s regular mission.

Meredith said she has made it her mission to offer comfort to children in crisis situations, especially abuse, to make a difference in their lives.

“It’s never going to stop, but we need the children that go through this to know that there are people out there that are good and care,” she said.

As a mother of two young girls, Meredith said she has seen firsthand the importance stuffed animals can have to children.

That’s why she wants to send them to children who have been through the Joplin disaster.

“As a child, you think everything is perfect, like a fairy tale movie, but in real life, a child can be going through a lot of stuff,” she said. “That one thing could be what helps them get through their childhood.”

Meredith is accepting bears and money to buy bears and help pay for shipping.

Bear donation sites in Elizabethtown are at Dairy Queen on North Dixie Avenue near Kmart and Marathon gas station on North Mulberry Street near Motel 6.

Meredith can be reached at 351-6887 to arrange donations. She accepts any stuffed animals donated, but she requests that donated bears be new to avoid germs and to provide colors that will appeal to both genders.

Donations are tax-deductible, she said.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.