WINTERSVILLE, Ohio – Barb Davis woke up one day with ideas running through her head.
The Wintersville resident wanted to help children and get involved with the National Make a Difference Day Project in 2002.
She worried about children who wake up in the middle of the night to hear their parents fighting, watch the cops show up and get taken away to a shelter.
How frightened they must be, especially without any of their belongings, she said.
Bears and books. She thought about her own beloved teddy bear, Tedster, and about her own love for reading – and that’s how her “Bears and Books” project came to be.
Children who visit shelters could receive a teddy bear and a book. The gift would give them something to do and perhaps calm them down.
Davis started writing to publishers asking for donations, but didn’t receive any feedback. Finally, she received an e-mail from Random House, saying that they liked her idea and they were sending some books.
When four cases containing 350 books arrived, Barb and her husband Pat were astounded. They had books ranging in reading levels from baby to eighth grade.
Now all they needed were teddy bears.
Davis wrote to stuffed animal manufacturers and, in response, the Douglas Cuddle Toys sent two cases that included 50 bears.
But they still needed 300 bears, so they contacted the Wintersville and Indian Creek schools to see if they could get students to donate new or slightly used bears. And they did – a total of 400 bears were collected.
Bears and books were given to 16 county agencies, depending on how many children they serviced in a year. They shared their extras to other agencies up and down the Ohio River Valley.
Barb’s Bears and Books won a state award in Ohio for the 2002 Make a Difference Day Project but this great feat was not the beginning nor the end of the couple’s charity.
Making a difference. The Davises always wanted to give to others and try to make a difference in their community.
They started their charity work in hospitals, visiting children and the elderly who might not have anyone visit them.
They took puppets and put on shows for the children, and they took a couple dozen roses and passed out flowers to the elderly.
2 Cheer U Up. About this time, they founded 2 Cheer U Up Inc., a private nonprofit foundation.
For charities, this means that they can accept contributions and offer donors a tax deduction for their gifts.
In the past six years, the couple has coordinated donations of more than $14,000 in toys to area organizations during the holidays.
Adopting Stacy. Last year, Pat Davis’ project was adopting the city of Stacy, N.C.
After Hurricane Isabel hit the city, the Davises collected goods, including clothing, canned goods, cleaning products and building supplies.
With the help of Ohio Valley residents, they gathered the much-needed supplies and in early November they delivered a 14-foot trailer filled with these items for the residents of Stacy and the surrounding small communities to use.
For this accomplishment, the Davises won a Make a Difference Day Project award on the national level.
Who they really are. Pat, 51, worked for 25 years in a Pittsburgh steel mill and has just as many years in construction work, often working 16-hour days between the two jobs.
Barb, 39, says when she was a young girl, her family barely got by. She has worked various jobs, from a waitress to a title clerk.
Pat and Barb met in 1994 and got married in 1998.
“I never really had anything until I met him,” said Barb.
Today, both are retired and it allows them to do the things they like to do, like their inflatable fun house for children.
They take it to fairs and festivals and the money they make goes back into the charity.
“It’s a lot of work but, boy, it’s fun,” Pat said.
The couple has no children, but the beloved teddy bear, Tedster, and dog, Caesar, complete their family.
A brother’s legacy. Pat’s brother, Keith, loved horses and volunteered his time and money supporting a local 4-H group.
When Keith died unexpectedly, the Davises decided they would keep contributing to 4-H in his name.
Over the years, the couple has donated trophies, $3,000 bleachers for the horse coral, and they sponsor children who cannot afford to go to 4-H camp.
They created the Keith Davis Memorial Scholarship for local teens in 4-H. Each year, they award two $1,000 scholarships to a boy and a girl.
Last year, only three girls applied for the scholarship. None of them knew until the scholarships were awarded that all three were given the scholarship.
“I like 4-H because the kids appreciate it,” says Barb.
The couple says a club only needs to call, and they will help the 4-H.
Keeping motivated. One of Barb’s driving motivations is the AIM Pregnancy Center in Steubenville.
It is a small, nonprofit organization that receives no government funding and has only three volunteer staff members.
“They help out of the goodness of their heart, that’s why I try to help,” Davis said.
She is collecting diaper bags, diapers, wipes, and powder to give to AIM, which helps young mothers.
AIM is teaching parenting classes and Barb wants to donate the diaper bags so after the mother finishes the parenting class, she could receive the bag as a graduation present.
The response to Davises’ idea is a garage filled with boxes of diapers and a basement full of boxes of baby socks and bibs.
Their latest project started when Barb saw a young foster child on television carrying his belongings in a garbage bag.
Now they are working to collect small pieces of luggage so the area foster care programs can give them to the children.
They are also hoping to gather items to place in the bags such as toothbrushes, combs, hairbrushes, etc.
“It’s a little starter kit until they get comfortable,” Barb Davis said.
Wishing and wanting. “My biggest wish is to never have to do this again – that there would be no starvation or sickness,” says Pat Davis.
But until then, Pat repeats the old saying, “if you give a man a fish, he will just come back to you for more; but if you teach a man to fish, he can eat forever.”
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