Youngster's fundraiser helps family who lost home to fire
DANVILLE – Augusta Mansfield had to wait a little while to organize a community service project for her church choir, but it turned out to be a much greater service than anyone expected.
At 7 years old, Augusta took on a task that might challenge even some adults.
Robin Marlatt, music director at St. James United Methodist Church in Danville, thought the idea of picking up litter in the neighborhood was a good one, but she confessed she never really got around to getting the project up and running.
Then on her way to work at the church Nov. 19, she saw that a nearby house was ablaze just west of the church. It was the home of Juan and Sonia Munoz.
"My first thought was relief that the house fire was not the Habitat (for Humanity) house the church members had almost completed," Marlatt said. "My second was: Augusta might get her wish for a community service project after all. When I presented the idea of a family in need, she was immediately full of ideas."
A sale was Augusta's first thought, Marlatt said; then came what to sell and when and how to get people to contribute.
"For a 7-year-old, you would think it was an adult assignment. She spoke before the congregation, asking them to buy what the group was selling to help the neighborhood family. How she spoke was what impressed me most, for someone so young," Marlatt said.
"I asked if we could do the litter pickup as a choir group," said the serious young lady with dark hair and matching eyes. "Then when the fire happened, Robin gave me the idea to help the Munoz family."
Augusta is the daughter of Jim and Angie Mansfield. She worked with her mother on fliers to pass out to church members, helped organize craft projects and asked everyone to bake for a sale.
"I go with my mom when she picks up litter with her neighborhood group," Augusta said. "I thought our choir could to that, too, but when Robin told me about the Munoz family, I thought we could have a sale."
The sale included tree ornaments, cookies, brownies, candy, cocoa mix and wrapping gifts.
"My uncle gave me $20, too," Augusta said with a big grin. "Mom did a lot. She made decoupage boxes with M&Ms in them and helped me with other things."
Angie Mansfield is quite proud of her daughter's ideas.
"She had the ideas. The rest of us helped carry them out," Mansfield said.
When it was time to present the results of their efforts, Augusta gave the family a check for $1,300 from sales and donations. Church members had been asked to donate blankets, clothing and other necessities separate from Augusta's projects.
"The family wanted to rake leaves or clean up around the church because they were so grateful," Marlatt said. "We had to tell Mrs. Munoz, 'No, this is a gift' for her family."
"Mrs. Munoz was crying when we gave her the check," Augusta recalled.
"It is amazing what she did," Sonia Munoz said. "You don't expect people you don't know to help you so much."
The Munozes had lived in their little house surrounded by Davis and Franklin streets and the CSX Railroad tracks for 18 years.
The couple have five children, ranging in age from 9 to 18. The house is a total loss as a result of the fire and will be torn down.
"As the children grew, we asked the church if they could play on its parking lot across from our house," Sonia Munoz said. "We were so grateful for a place for them to play, and they picked up the trash there. We never knew they took much notice of us."
Augusta and younger sisters Callie Jane and Ellis are home-schooled by their mother.
"This was a huge project filled with many lessons," Angie Mansfield said. "Augusta learned how hard it is for people to be helped sometimes.
"She likes to organize things. She has an ability for organization way above her age. She made me a schedule."
The soft-spoken Augusta has many interests in addition to helping her community. She likes playing with her hermit crabs, listening to music and taking lessons on violin and piano, and will learn guitar from her mother after receiving the instrument for Christmas. She is also active in gymnastics and figure skating.
"We are so grateful for the help Augusta and the church has given us," Sonia Munoz said. "At that age, it is just so amazing that she would do such a good thing from her heart."
Another check for nearly $370 from additional sales and donations will be given to the family, and Augusta doesn't want it to be the last.
"I want to organize something this spring, something different," she said.