By Sean Barron
Arielle Kruezweiser, Courtney Marki and Alena Argiro have more in common with one another than their age and grades. They also love performing kind acts for others.
Perhaps most appropriately, the three 13-year-old, seventh-grade girls also are members of a group called Acts of Random Kindness and belong to a chapter started about four years ago.
“I like to help the community, and it sounded like a really good way to help people,” Courtney said during a recent ARK meeting at Holy Family Church, 2729 Center Road.
Melanie Jones of Poland started the ARK group about four years ago after a Poland Brownies troop disbanded, leaving the girls needing a similar way to serve the community with a sense of sisterhood.
The chapter was organized by Tina Kali and has 26 girls in grades three to seven. They perform a variety of community-service projects that include making bags of items for children at the Sojourner House Domestic Violence Center, sending used-book bags to Easter Seals Building Blocks Preschool in Youngstown and volunteering at an area soup kitchen.
Making a positive difference for those at the soup kitchen was a favorite activity for Arielle, Courtney and Alena.
“It’s made me feel that I’m a better person, and as long as I’m helping other people, I’m happy,” said Alena, adding that she hopes to be a professional soccer player.
Giving of herself at the soup kitchen as well as singing Christmas carols for nursing-home residents were top favorites for 10-year-old Simone Izzo of Poland, a Holy Family fifth-grader who joined while in third grade.
“I [saw] people who sometimes can’t afford to eat,” Simone recalled. “It’s nice to see the smiles on their faces and [for them] to know we care about them.”
The experience shaped her perspectives and priorities largely by making her more grateful for what she has, explained Simone, adding that she hopes to help others by becoming an eye doctor. A large portion of Simone’s aspiration to pursue such a career is her sister, Nicole Algelilli, who was in a car accident last November.
ARK members also have hosted benefit events for the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley, Kali explained.
In September 2008, the young members were collecting backpacks for youngsters at Easter Seals. Within a few years, awards began coming in.
In addition, the ARK girls received cardiopulmonary-resuscitation training through the American Heart Association’s Mahoning County chapter. In 2010, the girls were recipients of the local American Red Cross’s Hero Award for their service projects.
During their most recent get-together, the youngsters were preparing to donate blankets to the neonatal unit at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown.
About three years ago, Melinda Miller, whose 10-year-old daughter, Jayda Benson, is in ARK, came up with the blanket idea, Kali explained. Miller’s mother, Shirley Miletta, also spearheaded the effort and bought much of the fabric, Kali continued.
Miller had a relative who was born prematurely and was in a special-care nursery at St. Elizabeth Health Center. That made Miller aware of the need for blankets, Kali said.
Kali praised many of the girls’ parents for their assistance with the ARK chapter. “Our group could not exist without the support of all of the parents,” she added.
For more information or to start a group, contact Kali at email@example.com.