Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

April 17, 2013

Kids’ Closet heroes

Pat Smith
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Today I’ll tell you about my grand adventure last week and expose some heroes you probably know, but before that - just a few more words about Fred E. “Skinny” Clemons who was born and raised in Greensburg and became famous in the race car news worldwide.

For those not on the Internet but interested in Clemons or racing, have someone print out copies of a few stories and pictures about him. An interesting fact, in 1925 he managed the Rushville motor speedway’s new dirt track. He and his wife Mabel had a daughter, Betty, who married Albert M. Rust, the subject of recent columns about his surviving the sinking of the Thomas McKean in 1942.  

Betty Clemons and Albert Rust had a daughter, Judy Rust Bodwell, who shared the story of her father and grandfather with me.

You will find that people continue to treasure a Clemons motor. There is a car he built that is on display in Europe. Why not in Greensburg? No idea. County Historian Russell Wilhoit sent a picture of Clemons’ marker at South Park Cemetery that the Daily News will print if there is room. Russell said he is adding Clemons’ memorial to his cemetery tour.

What does the word hero mean to you? A thesaurus gave as examples: brave man, superman, champion and conqueror. I prefer champion. See what you think after reading about my adventure last week.

I stopped by the Christian Church annex to see for myself what the “Kids’ Closet of Decatur County” is all about. Waiting in line were about 30 children with several adults. These were kids from kindergarten through the fifth grade. Already I was impressed. You may find this hard to believe but every one of those youngsters was well behaved.

One little girl sported a pretty little blouse. Another had on jeans with some sparkle on them. I thought of the Kids’ Closet” motto, “All kids deserve to feel special.” Sue Abplanalp had told me, “Sometimes all it takes for a child to feel special or get a boost of confidence is a new pair of shoes or a cool pair of jeans.”

The door opened where Jerry Abplanalp and Celia Grise were ready to help with registering. No financial information is taken or necessary. The only requirement is that the child be accompanied by an adult. Then we went downstairs where former teachers Sue Abplanalp, Judy Glore, and other volunteers were helping the children find what they wanted. More volunteers were due at 5 p.m.

Sue said many volunteers are teachers or former teachers, “because they know the need and they know what a boost it can give to a child. That boost can actually help their grades.” She said this project is intended to serve a group of students that don’t qualify for school lunches but still need help. Parents and teachers know how children experience growth spurts, and that a few new clothing items can make a huge difference when the season changes.

The kids remained well behaved, but the excitement was evident in their faces. Sue showed me a room that Lions Club members had built for the Kids’ Closet. That was a tremendous help. There is one room for the girls to try on items and another for the boys. Clothing is sorted by color and size which makes it easier for the kids to choose their items.

The heroes? Well, Sue and Jerry Abplanalp who started the Kid’s Closet, then there are the First Christian Church leaders that have given space, then there are the Lions Club members that built those marvelous shelves, then there’s Aldi’s that gave bags for the chosen items, then last, but totally vital, the volunteers including Melanie, Destiny, Steve and Chris Moore, Diana Horstman, Kelly Belt, Linda Newman, Barb Wolford, Jewell Chambers, Erica Kramer, Bonnie Fischer, Benna Moore, Rhonda Schmeltz, Cheryl Tarplee, Marilyn Frensemeier, April and Julie Hershauer, Sherry Stout, Bill Pratt and Krista Harmon. Yes, all heroes. Sue said there are about 45 volunteers, each one badly needed and they are hoping that more will volunteer. They are needed to wash, sort and hang donated clothing. They need more volunteers to work the day the Kids’ Closet is open.

The Kids’ Closet is run only on donations. Wal-Mart gave a $750 grant last year and the Decatur County Foundation gave a $1,500 grant. Churches help in many ways and Sandcreek Baptist Church gave an exceptional donation. As you can imagine, donations of new and slightly used clothing are always needed as are new underwear and socks.

What the Kid’s Closet volunteers need to now is form a board of directors. They need more donations, they need people that can explore grant options and they need more volunteers.