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Anna Hershey and Girls Inc.

December 23, 2004

Each day they show up by the hundreds at 626 Washington Ave., girls aged 5 to 18, looking for recreation, life skills and a chance to do something more productive than hanging around the streets.

They're the clients of Girls Inc., a United Way member agency that helps young girls become young ladies who know a lot more than some of their peers about how to survive that journey - and how important it is to get an education beyond high school.

Without this agency's intervention and inspiration, the teen pregnancy rate here might be even higher.

As it is now, one of every 10 of the county's 18- and 19-year-olds were giving birth as of 2003. In announcing that figure, Washington County Health Officer William Christoffel said that reducing the rate would mean raising expectations for local young women.

Those who come to Girls Inc. get everything from help with their homework to instruction in team sports. Although there is a full-time staff, much of the work is done by volunteers, including Anna L. Hershey.

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Hershey has been a volunteer at Girls Inc. for more than 20 years, even since her daughter Karen suggested that she get involved.

In her time there, Hershey has been a tutor, has organized ski trips and golf tournaments and made financial contributions as well.

Hershey said she got involved because it gave her "an opportunity to give back to the community where I was born."

Though she's been a quiet contributor, Hershey's work has been noticed. So much so that when the agency's new $1 million-plus gymnasium was dedicated, it was named for Hershey.

We take note of this now because in this season of giving, we need to recognize those who have given not just money, but also their own time to interact with those who need direction if they're going to succeed.

It wouldn't be difficult to put in that time if we knew for sure what makes people successful. We suspect that for human beings, there's a different answer for every one.

For Anna Hershey and all the volunteers at Girls Inc., we thank them for taking them to reach those who need their help.

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