Dina Denning, owner of Creative Stitches by Dina, Inc. (CSDI), member of the Norwin Rotary Club of North Huntingdon, PA
I joined the Norwin rotary club about 4 years ago. I was searching for the “good”, for the “humanity” in our community that I thought no longer existed………what I found was a heart touching, long lasting friendship thousands of miles away.
Our rotary group received an email from Deepak Agrawal from the Rotary Club of Rajkot Midtown, India, asking if we would like to send a doll, representing our nation to the newly formed Rotary Doll Museum. The task was given to me and I ran with it……….literally, I ran with it. I found a blonde hair, blue eyed baby doll, and made a dress, embroidered the American flag all round the bottom and decorated her in red – white – and blue. However, being a Teddy Bear artist, and really wanting to send a teddy bear, I sent an email to Deepak to clarify that he indeed was looking for a doll, and not a teddy bear…………Here is where my heart felt story of Humanity truly beings.
Deepak confirmed that yes indeed an International doll was what he was seeking, however, the Teddy Bears wee also in our picture. The Gif of Smile project was in its infancy. Once a month, Deepak and other Rotarians would travel to poverty stricken areas to teach children and their parents the importance of good hygiene, how to take better care of themselves, how to grow up healthier and make a better life for themselves. A “reward” of some sort was given for listening to all of this help. So Deepak thought that the teddy bears or stuffed animals would make for a great “reward”. This was a very basic concept because these families are so poor; the thought of ever being able to give their children a teddy bear or stuffed animal only existed in their dreams.
It was at that time, that I decided to jump in with all “four feet” and prove to not only me, but to my community and India that Humanity was alive and well. I made this our International project for the Norwin Rotary club. I began collecting new and gently used stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes. People in our community were cleaning out their closets left and right. My place of business was beginning to look more like a toy store instead of an embroidery company. When it was all said and done, we had collected 22 boxes of stuffed animals. Needless to say, I was thrilled!!!!!!!!!!
I kept in contact with Deepak throughout the whole collection of these animals. When I was ready to ship them out, I emailed Deepak to let him know that “Happiness” was on its way.
Never in all of my imagination did I have a clue what a profound impact we would have on all of those children in India. Newspapers, TV stations, and media of all sorts were in India for the arrival and distribution of these animals. Deepak sent me oodles of pictures with the children and their new found friends. The smiles on those sweet faces were overwhelming. If it did not tear at your heart, nothing would. Tears of joy and a heart that was filled with happiness best describes me. Humanity was alive and well……thousands of miles away and I made a difference. This was way more than I could ever have asked for…….all because of a stuffed animal!
Not only did I make hundreds of children feel good, but I found a True long distance Friend. Deepak and I have continued our friendship through emails and pictures. I have a picture of him, his wife and two lovely daughters on my desk at work.
So, here we are 3 years later and I decided to kick this project into high gear once again. I began collecting these stuffed animals from all over my community once again. (I think that North Huntingdon Township has the cleanest closets around) I now have 20 boxes of animals to send to India once again.
I decided to contact Federal Express to see if they would be willing to help out the Norwin Rotary club with the shipping of all of these boxes. I sent them all of the information and letters that I had received from the project 3 years ago……and once again, to my pleasant surprise, Federal Express said that they would ship all 20 boxes – FREE! Can you believe that – FREE. Again – another act of Humanity! My reason for joining Rotary was founded once again. A huge Thank You to Federal Express for this wonderful act of kindness.
It is truly amazing how one simple act of kindness can have such a profound impact on so many and so far away. I treasure my long lasting friendship with Deepak. Without Rotary, I never would have found him.
Norwin Rotary – Deepak and Federal Express, together with my community responding to my request for stuffed animals, proves that we do live in a very small world, all to be connected by something as insignificant as a teddy bear.
A warm and fuzzy day to all who read this.