Raising money for others important to Wills Point student

Error message

  • Notice: Undefined index: taxonomy_term in similarterms_taxonomy_node_get_terms() (line 518 of /home1/vanzand1/public_html/vanzandtnews/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 0 in similarterms_list() (line 221 of /home1/vanzand1/public_html/vanzandtnews/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 1 in similarterms_list() (line 222 of /home1/vanzand1/public_html/vanzandtnews/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).

Jolie Parker, center, an eighth-grade student in Wills Point, stands with Sharon Stehsel, the President and Co-Founder of the ABC Room, right, and Terri Davenport, the ABC Room Treasurer. Prior to the Christmas holidays, Jolie raised $1,000 through donations to help buy Christmas presents for 39 foster children in Van Zandt County.


Jolie Parker recalled when she was adopted and was looking for a way to give back to others who were facing the adoption process as well.

“I have been in a happy home and I know there are other kids that are not adopted that are going through the process and I thought it would be nice to get them a gift that they don’t have,” said Jolie.

The Wills Point eighth grader has shown her willingness to help other children in a number of different ways.

“A year ago, we did our annual ‘Bunco’ event which is a fundraiser for us at the ABC Room,” explained Sharon Stehsel, the President and Co-Founder of the ABC Room. “Elizabeth Parker, Jolie’s mother, contacted us to let us know that her daughter, through a school project, won the top prize which was a television. Jolie wanted to donate the television to the ABC Room.”

Jolie’s school project involved raising funds for her class’ end-of-year school party. “This was not mandatory,” said Elizabeth Parker. “It was not something that I was forcing her to do. Jolie came to me and told me that the class was selling candy bars and that the grand prize was a 32-inch television. Her television was broken at the time. When she won the television, she insisted on giving it to the ABC Room.”

There were 60 bars in each box that were sold for $1.00 each. Jolie earned the television by selling 20 boxes totaling 1,200 candy bars for $1,200. “She exceeded way more than anyone else in her class,” pointed out Stehsel.

“The crazy part was that I heard from people who found out what Jolie was planning to do if she won the contest and people started giving me money without actually receiving any candy,” said Elizabeth Parker. “I had to turn that money in to the school and I ended up with the candy boxes. The candy boxes ended up at our youth department and the day care center in our church.”

Another fund raiser that Jolie got involved in occurred prior to Christmas last year. “A lot of kids can’t get anything for Christmas and I wanted to help them have a better Christmas,” emphasized Jolie.

Through the help of her mom, Jolie put out a video over social media asking people to help her reach out to other children for Christmas.

“Jolie came up to me one day and told me that she wanted to raise money for the foster kids at Christmas,” said Elizabeth. “She thinks like an older person at times. She said that kids who are in foster care are in someone else’s home who have other kids and they may need help buying things for the kids. The next thing you know, people are mailing in money and people are stopping me who have seen or heard about the video and are giving me money. I was blown away by the response. The donations totaled $1,000.”

The fund-raising drive began Nov. 12 and the $1,000 donation was turned over by Jolie to the ABC Room on Dec. 3.

With the donation, the ABC Room was able to buy Christmas presents for 39 children whose families were under investigation by Child Protective Services (CPS) for abuse or neglect.

Jolie, 13, is already thinking about the next fund-raising project but was not ready to discuss any details at the current time. “I am just waiting to see what comes up,” said Jolie.

So far as what she wants to be when she grows older, Jolie expressed an interest in pursuing animation as a career. She is also in the process of writing a book about the “old days.”

“Jolie has always had a heart for others before herself,” emphasized Elizabeth. “She shares God’s word with her friends and brings a lot of friends to church with her.”

“He Who Kneels Before God Can Stand Before Anyone” is a motto that she wants to deliver to people she meets. Another motto that she shares is “Faith Over Fear.”

Jolie is also involved with a non-profit organization known as Texas Hunt for a Cure. “She recently sold 300 tickets at a cost of $5.00 per ticket for a recent event they had,” said Elizabeth. “She went on a hunting trip in Italy, Texas and shot a ram and a hog. She has sold tickets for them on two occasions.”

The ABC Room opened its doors in May, 2001. “We started out through the work of the Van Zandt County Child Welfare Department,” said Stehsel. “I was a member of the child welfare board. Community Partners of Texas was an organization in Dallas that was headed by former First Lady Laura Bush and Jane Norrell. We were told at that time that they were trying to open Rainbow Rooms in every county in the state of Texas. We knew right away that there was a great need. At the time, there were 32 children in foster care in VZC. I was interested in getting a Rainbow Room started in VZC so I put an ad in the newspaper asking for help.”

Stehsel said that Karen Forester responded to the ad and within a week, the two ladies, who had never met before, traveled to Austin for a Community Partners of Texas conference regarding Rainbow Rooms.

“From there, things just started rolling,” pointed out Stehsel. “We found a building in the county. Everybody we came in contact with were on board with us. Our building was behind the VZC Justice Center on State Highway 64 in Canton. We were in a 10 x 12 building. We went out to the community and churches and received donations and contributions. We are not funded by any agency.”

Former Texas First Lady Anita Perry came to Canton for the Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting of the ABC Room in 2001.

“Today, we have over 200 kids in foster care in VZC,” emphasized Stehsel. “We have helped many kids over the years.”

In 2006, the name of the organization was officially changed to the ABC Room. “ABC stands for ‘A Better Childhood’ and that is what we go by,” said Stehsel. “It really says more about what we are. We have been so blessed by the churches and the community throughout the years. A number of youngsters have also helped us out. We are doing well.” Karen Forester passed away in November 2016.

The ABC Room moved into a larger building around 2005. “Albert Willingham led a group of men from Pruitt Baptist Church and they helped to add on to our building,” pointed out Stehsel. “Our building is now double the size compared to what we used to have.” In 2014, the ABC Room moved to its current location in front of the VZC Justice Center.

According to Terri Davenport, the treasurer of the ABC Room and a board member for the past seven years, the ABC Room is a non-profit organization that collects new items for the neglected and abused children of VZC.

“If there is an investigation and the family needs cleaning supplies, toiletries and other items to clean the home in order to keep the child in the home, the case workers can come to the ABC Room and get those supplies,” pointed out Davenport. “If they need clothes, diapers, shoes, they can come take care of those items as well. If the child is removed from the home, the case worker can also come to get items such as car seats, high chairs, gates for homes, clothing. We have items for babies through high school age children.”

Stehsel emphasized that the ultimate goal of the ABC Room is “re-unification and to keep the children at home.”

“Sometimes, the situation can be as simple as cleaning the house,” said Stehsel. “We have seen a number of cases that involve neglect. The ABC Room is an emergency resource for the children that are either removed or if the family is being investigated.”

The ABC Room also provides blankets, stuffed animals and school supplies, if needed. “We have also purchased beds which are made possible through the contributions that we receive,” said Davenport. “The contributions we receive help us to go out and purchase items that we do not have in stock.”