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Meet Your Neighbor: Tireless volunteers give from the heart


By Marilou D. Horton

Through a charity group page on social media, Georgia native Christy Whited and Heather Saab-Crotzer of Alabama formed an immediate bond five years ago. The two residents of Long Beach for less than eight years are now inseparable and known around the Coast for being the ultimate volunteers.

Long Beach resident Rosie Paugh Hanson described the duo as selfless volunteers and shoppers for fundraisers.

"The list is long, but, when they run as a team, they get done what needs to be done," Hanson said. "Long Beach is fortunate to have them. They are involved in the schools, Camp Awesome, the Humane Society, and our local gifting groups, to name a few."

Together, Whited and Saab-Crotzer donate their time as athletic boosters, spearhead food drives for needy families, and organize (and lead) fundraisers for various non-profit groups. The ladies are involved in Camp Awesome, Sleepy Head LLC, and are administrators for five different Facebook pages. Their participation includes a Santa Stop, book fairs, assembling Easter baskets, and assisting heavily in a summer food program.

A few of the ladies’ pet projects involve providing a merrier Christmas for many children in Long Beach by anonymous gift-giving and also raising money for the Long Beach School District's upper elementary school through an annual Spring Fling. This year's spring event, complete with games, food and visits from the local fire department, sheriff's office and the mobile command unit, was held on March 31.

As Saab-Crotzer wrapped up the school's annual spectacular, Whited completed annual funding raising for Camp Awesome. Whited explained that the special needs camp, the brainchild of Honey Leblanc, is staffed entirely by volunteers and includes two sessions - one for children under thirteen, and another for adults. Attendees are paired with a personal counselor who accompanies them to activities such as swimming, a casino night, an evening of painting, makeup sessions and a spa night. Whited and others on her team have been responsible for raising money to make the camp possible and fund the various activities.

The next project and fundraiser for the duo is Sleepy Heads Inc. The non-profit organization, the ladies said, is dedicated to helping people with narcolepsy and other severe sleep disorders get the rest they need. Sleepy Heads' mission is to donate beds to those who need them, and the ladies are planning a benefit drawdown and silent action on Saturday, September 9, at the Long Beach Activity Center. Doors will open at 7 p.m., and tickets, which include a meal, are $40. The Stephens Brothers will provide live entertainment, and there will be a $2,500 prize. The public is invited and must be 21+ to attend.

Even with all they have on their plates, the volunteers spend hours serving the Long Beach School District, also. Though Saab-Crotzer no longer has a child enrolled in the school district, she is both a track and football booster for the Long Beach Middle School and Harper McCaughan Elementary School PTOs, as is Whited.

"I have been on the PTO since my daughter was in kindergarten, and now she is twenty-three," Saab-Crotzer explained. "I didn't want her to go to school without me, so I just stayed when I went to school that first day to drop her off. I started in the parking lot, and one day they let me inside," she joked.

As exhausting as it is, the ladies also run concessions for the sports teams on Monday, Thursday and Friday nights. Whited does all the ordering of each event's snacks, drinks and food items. Regarding social media, both ladies serve as administrators on the Facebook pages for Long Beach High School football, Harper McCaughan Elementary School, Long Beach Middle School and Long Beach Neighbors.

With the ladies immersed in so many activities, it can be challenging to list each one. To outsiders, it may appear exhausting, but the two women say they love every minute of it. Both noted, however, that additional involvement is needed within the community.

"Volunteers are on a decline; we are struggling right now. Parents don't realize that participating in the event might require only an hour. People think they must be there the entire time, but they don't." Whited stressed it is optional for an interested volunteer to have a child on track, football, soccer, or any other team in order to help.

"It's great doing what we do," Saab-Crotzer said. "The students are appreciative, and it is so rewarding to provide for them." As both headed out to pick up supplies for their next event, the Long Beach ladies noted they wouldn’t have it any other way.


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