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FUND-RAISER Local woman works to help protect kids from malaria



Published: Mon, April 18, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Deborah Johnson hoped to raise enough money to buy 200 mosquito nets to protect children.

YOUNGSTOWN -- When Deborah Johnson gets an idea, she doesn't like to mull it over for too long. For better or worse, she is usually quick to act on it.

So when Johnson saw a recent PBS documentary about malaria killing thousands of children each month in Africa and Asia, she went right to work.

The result of her labor was a daylong fund-raiser Sunday at the Buckeye Elks Youth Center to raise money to purchase mosquito netting for children's beds in impoverished countries.

"Kids are dying," said Johnson, owner of the nonprofit Ozone Business Gallery, which provides services to businesses. "I thought, it's 80 cents a net. Surely we can put something together and raise as much as we can."

Local vendors

What she put together was a collection of vendors who sold everything from homemade chocolate treats to books on black culture; a storytime program for kids; a children's rap concert; a fashion show; and an evening concert featuring R & amp;B singer Booker Newberry III.

"We can't donate millions. It's just local business people doing what we can," Johnson said. "I want to be able to say we bought 2,000 [nets]."

Vendors agreed to turn over a portion of their sales to the cause, but the bulk of the money was to come from the evening fashion show and concert, which cost $20 for advance tickets and $25 at the door, Johnson said.

The daytime activities were free.

Stories and songs

Youngsters listened to African folk tales and sang songs led by Barbara Eady of Cleveland, president of the National Association of Black Storytellers.

Meanwhile, in the vendors' area, Thelma Ingram of Youngstown was browsing. She had heard about the event on the radio and was hoping to make a purchase.

"I expect to get something before I leave," she said.

Alva Givens of Hubbard and her 12-year-old daughter Alisha were checking out the chocolate being sold by vendor Lorene Buggs.

"We just wanted to see the performance and see what it's all about and see how we could get involved," Givens said of the event.

For Johnson, 53, getting involved is her life. In fact, she admits, she often gets too involved.

"Projects get paralysis from analysis," she said. "There's always a good reason not to do something. I look for a reason to do something."

Asked if Sunday's event would become an annual occurrence, Johnson laughed and said: "I hope somebody stops me!"




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