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Around The World In Color: Arkansan takes hearts of Benton County women to Israel

Around The World In Color

Arkansan takes hearts of Benton County women to Israel

By BECCA MARTIN-BROWN NWA MEDIA

Posted: January 17, 2013 at 1:43 a.m.

 A project that touched the heart of an Arkansan in Israel stretched around the world to Bentonville and back at Christmastime.

Benton County Republican Women donated $1,000 and “a phenomenal” number of crayons, coloring books, markers and more to Save A Child’s Heart, according to Leigh Nogy, president of the local organization. The charity, based in Israel, treats children with heart ailments from all over the world.

The charity came to the attention of the local group because Princella Smith, a Republican activist from Wynne, is studying in Israel. Invited to speak to the women’s group during a visit home, she shared her passion for Save A Child’s Heart.

Smith was teaching English in China when she discovered the humanitarian organization, she explained.

Save A Child’s Heart rewarded her interest by naming her an ambassador during her China sojourn.

Then Smith, a political science graduate of Ouachita Baptist University, went to Herzliya, Israel, to study counter terrorism.

“I wanted to get that particular degree,” she said, “and I wanted to go to the Middle East. I’ve always had an interest in foreign relations, and I went to Turkey twice in 2010.

To me, the best way to learn about a country is to immerse yourself in it. And I’ve always had a place in my heart for Israel; it’s a haven for democracy in the Middle East.”

Once connected with Save A Child’s Heart, Smith visited the children’s home where youngsters wait for surgery and recover afterward. Many of them can’t run and play, she said, because of their ailments.

“They try to keep them as active as they can be – they’re kids! But without being able to move around much, it makes it a little challenging,” she explained. “So one of the things they like to do is arts and crafts.

“When I was at the children’s home, one little kid in particular kept following me around with a marker and a coloring book, and I finally figured out he wanted me to color with him. It’s the best thing in the world if you sit down and color with them.

They get the biggest smiles on their faces!”

Smith was inspired to collect art supplies for the youngsters and set out on what she dubbed “Crayons for Christmas.” She sought out Agape Church of Little Rock to serve as the Arkansas hub for crayon collection.

“Agape Church has been wonderful,” she said. “They have several international ministries, and when I called their associate minister, Cathie Dorsch, to ask for their help, she immediately launched into action.

The Agape Church staff has counted every single crayon that has come to their church. They have really kept up the excitement on the ground in Arkansas for this project.”

Smith set a goal of collecting 3,000 crayons, symbolic of the 3,000 lives that have been saved by the Israeli organization. She has collected more than 20,000, she said, 4,300 of them courtesy of the Benton County Republican Women.

“When you ask people for money, they think they don’t have enough to make a difference,” Smith said, “whereas if you give them something to buy, canned food, crayons, blankets or shoes, it becomes easy.”

Nogy, president of the Benton County Republican Women, said the response was “amazing.”

“Every year, we have a Christmas luncheon with other Republican women’s groups in the area – this year, it was with the Bentonville women – and I’ve been following Princella Smith on Facebook for quite awhile,” she said. “She’s done all kinds of interesting things, and when we invited her to speak, she asked if we’d be interesting in sponsoring her crayon drive. She was inspiring.”

The women’s organization also gave $1,400 to Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit organization that takes veterans to Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, Smith is back in Israel, waiting for a visit from Cathie Dorsch for “Crayon Day,” which they’ll host together at the Save A Child’s Heart children’s home, the hospital where children are treated and at another facility that specifically cares for children from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It is overwhelming to see a community so removed from Israel come together to provide this necessity for our children’s home and such a simple source of happiness for our heart patients,” Randi Weiss, leadership director for Save A Child’s Heart, said.

“We are grateful to the people of Arkansas for making this holiday season brighter for our kids.”

Smith said while she “hates to go back to money,” she would ask donors interested in giving now to visit the Save A Child’s Heart website at saveachildsheart.org.

“I want to use the attention we’ve generated with the crayons to try to bring in more funds for the organization,” she said. “For every heart surgery, it takes like $10,000, and the more money we get, the more surgeries they can do.”

Style, Pages 32 on 01/17/2013