February 04, 2023

Osceola sisters donate to veterans

Each year, Osceola sisters Jovee and Journee Blakely do a “Pay it Forward” project, where the two youths decide to help those in need.

This year, their project idea hit a little closer to home than usual.

The girls’ grandfather, Bill Campbell, passed away in September. Campbell had served in the United States Marines Corps during the Vietnam War, and was always proud of his service to his country. To recognize that, Jovee and Journee decided this year they wanted to help veterans in honor of ‘Grandpa Bill.’ Thus began their research to see what veterans, specifically homeless ones, were most in need of, and set about acquiring those items.

The two began to save their money while finding ways to make more.

Jovee, 12, had been painting rocks and making jewelry and keychains to sell prior to their final decision for their Pay It Forward project.

Journee, 9, saved her chore money, and did extra jobs to earn more.

The girls’ mother, Erin Blakely, let her daughters use the memorial money from her dad’s passing toward the cause. Blakely reached out to others to ask for sleeping bag donations and received 17; the girls bought eight more to bring the total to 25.

They then purchased drawstrings bags to fill with socks, stocking hats, gloves, hand warmers, ponchos, toothbrushes and toothpaste, various kinds of crackers and granola bars. Each bag also contained one of their grandpa’s flannel shirts or sweatshirts.

On Nov. 23, Blakely and her girls traveled to the VA hospital in Des Moines to donate the sleeping bags and filled bags to the area where veterans in need of such items can get them.

This year’s project journey has brought both tears of happiness and sadness to the Blakely family, but also overwhelming pride at being able to help others and finding a way to keep Campbell’s memory alive.

“His death has been super hard and overwhelming for us, but being able to do this and thinking someone, somewhere in Des Moines will be snuggled up in a warm sleeping bag with one of his warm flannel shirts on is just how his memory is gonna keep living in our hearts,” said Blakely.

Projects the girls have done in the past have included donations to the Clarke County Animal Shelter, delivering flowers to the residents of Southern Hills Specialty Care Center, and delivering assembled bags of supplies to safe houses in Des Moines.

Candra Brooks

A native of rural Union County, Candra holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Simpson College and an Associate's Degree in Accounting from SWCC. She has been at the Osceola newspaper since October 2013, working as office manager before transitioning to the newsroom in spring 2022.