Teen knows the meaning of Christmas

Published 2:11 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2012

AHOSKIE – What’s the best present one can give a young lady celebrating her 18th birthday?

How ‘bout a 4G cell phone; or an ipod; a nice travel bag; a piece of engraved jewelry; or an itunes gift card.

Here’s an idea….a can of tomato soup. For Desiree Harrell of Cofield, that’s exactly what she wished for and more.

While Harrell did indeed receive birthday gifts more appropriate for an 18-year-old, her main wish was fulfilled by family and friends invited to a Dec. 15 party, each bearing canned goods to help those in need during the holiday season.

“I had asked those that were planning to attend my birthday party to bring canned goods or an unwrapped toy,” said Harrell, whose 18th birthday was one day later (Dec. 16).

For Harrell, the thought of helping others was linked to family members and other acquaintances that she has witnessed being a bit down on their luck.

“I remember how my aunt felt after she lost everything she had in a fire at around this same time last year,” Harrell said. “Just recently I had a friend whose house burned down and she lost nearly everything. The store I work at, these two girls came in asking for help because their house burned down and they lost everything.

“I felt like with me being blessed with so much, why not help those that are really in need,” Harrell continued. “I guess it’s like giving back to the community, giving back to those who have helped me at one time.”

The canned goods collected at the party were donated to American Legion Post 102 of Ahoskie. There, Commander

Willie Watford accepted the donation and praised Harrell for her thoughtfulness.

“American Legion Post 102 thanks this beautiful young lady for her desire to reach out and help those in need, especially at this special time of the year,” Watford said. “We appreciate her donation and it will be put to a good use.”

Watford said donations such as the one Harrell made will be used in various ways – distributed during a prayer breakfast, open to the public, held the first Saturday of each month; or through his church where members are currently assembling Christmas baskets for 10 needy local families.

For Harrell, helping others in a time of need is exactly what she plans to do in the future. The current senior at Hertford County Early College High School is looking at a career in law enforcement, possibly as a homicide detective. She plans to launch that career by enrolling in the Criminal Justice program at East Carolina University.

“My mom (Dacia Sutton) works at a prison and I guess that led me to want to pursue something in the law enforcement field,” Harrell said. “I like to watch police detective shows and seeing the way they help out families really attracts me to that line of work.”

There’s also another reason Desiree is leaning towards a career in law enforcement.

“My cousin was murdered last year and that really led me to want to investigate crimes for a living,” she stressed.

Until that time arrives, Desiree Harrell is content on helping those in need at the local level.

After collecting these canned goods from those attending her 18th birthday party, Desiree Harrell donated the items to Commander Willie Watford of American Legion Post 102. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal