This Monroe teen has been fundraising for nearly a decade. Here's why.

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MONROE — When she was just 6 years old, Ava Grace Arnold helped her mom serve lunch at Oaks of Righteousness. That inspired a fundraising effort that’s been going on for nearly a decade.

Today, Ava, 15, is a sophomore at Jefferson High School. She’s raised more than $4,000 and countless food items for the Monroe ministry.

“I call her my little angel,” Oaks’ Pastor Heather Boone said. “She is just the most amazing and talented young lady ever. She has been with Oaks since we started with the Miracle on Second Street (campaign) nine years ago.”

Ava, the daughter of Kevin and Angel Arnold of Monroe, sells handmade bracelets, cards and wood crafts. Every cent she makes goes to Oaks.

Ava Grace Arnold is shown at a recent craft show. All the money raised at her booth goes to Oaks of Righteousness.
Ava Grace Arnold is shown at a recent craft show. All the money raised at her booth goes to Oaks of Righteousness.

The Arnold family attends Newport’s Kirby Church, but has been helping at Oaks for years. Ava’s grandmother, Judy Greene, volunteers several times a week at the ministry.

“She helps with bookkeeping, keeping the food pantry running. She’s the first face you see there,” said Ava's mom, Angel. “We’ve been there to serve lunch, that’s when Ava first got interested. She connected with the kids who came to lunch. I could see it in her eyes and knew this was not the last time she was going to do something.”

Ava (standing) is shown at a craft show with her grandmother, Judy Greene.
Ava (standing) is shown at a craft show with her grandmother, Judy Greene.

“She would collect toys and things to give to the kids at the shelter,” Boone said.

Ava said she’s grateful for her own life circumstances, and that's what inspired her to help others.

“It’s just something in my heart. I thought, this would be so much fun to do this, raise money," Ava said. "I have a home and a beautiful family. Some other kids don't. I just wanted to help them out.”

Ava’s first venture into fundraising involved Christmas and Hello Kitty coloring sheets, which she colored and sold to her family for $1 each.

“I wasn’t really good. I raised close to $100,” Ava said.

Next, she advanced to $2 manicures and pedicures.

“(Family members) were always very good sports,” Angel said.

Ava has also sold her clothes and toys to raise money, and she's donated Christmas and birthday money to Oaks. In 2017, at age 7, she made her fundraising official and started the nonprofit The Art of Giving.

“I was making the coloring sheets. I said, I can turn this into a full-time thing. I didn’t know what to call it. My cousin was visiting and she said, The Art of Giving. I loved that," Ava said.

Today, through The Art of Giving, Ava sells beaded bracelets, earrings, stickers, cards painted by her sister, Isabelle Arnold, 20, and wood projects made by her grandfather, Chip Greene.

Ava Arnold sells beaded bracelets to raise money for Oaks of Righteousness.
Ava Arnold sells beaded bracelets to raise money for Oaks of Righteousness.

Her family pays for all the supplies.

“We buy the cards. If she needs more beads, we go and get more beads. We consider that our donation to Oaks,” Angel said.

Ava sells the items at local craft and vendor sales. Just before Thanksgiving she made $500 for Oaks at the Craft & Vendor Show at the Jefferson Recreation Center.

“She has done shows at home, garage sales and Ellis Library,” Angel said. “When people come to visit her at these shows, she tells them about Oaks and that she gives 100% of her proceeds to Oaks. People are always so very generous.”

During the school year, Ava is busy with two downriver acting groups and JHS’ Student Council and Student Prevention Leadership Team, so she makes many items in the summer.

Ava Arnold is shown with her mom, Angel Arnold, at a recent craft show at the Jefferson Recreation Center.
Ava Arnold is shown with her mom, Angel Arnold, at a recent craft show at the Jefferson Recreation Center.

“She made hundreds of bracelets last summer,” Angel said. “She knew once school started she’d be pretty busy, so she banked up all the things.”

With Ava’s donations, Oaks has bought some needed items, like a new roaster for the kitchen.

“She works with Pastor Boone on the best way to use the money. She’s bought Christmas gifts for the kids at the shelter and items for the food pantry, whatever Pastor Boone needs. Something broke with the plumbing one time. Ava was talking to Pastor Boone; she didn’t know how they were going to fix it. Ava came up with $200 for her,” Angel said.

Ava Arnold (left) is shown with Oaks of Righteousness' Pastor Heather Boone.
Ava Arnold (left) is shown with Oaks of Righteousness' Pastor Heather Boone.

“She literally raised enough money to help with that repair,” Boone said.

Ava has also inspired others to help Oaks. She and her Teen Group at Kirby Church collected food for Oaks’ food pantry.

“She spearheaded this with the girls. She talked with the girls and the moms. The girls raised over $1,500, shopped and then took all the food to Oaks and organized the food pantry,” Angel said.

“She got the whole youth group involved," Boone said. "They did dinners and all kinds of fundraisers to collect things for us. She knows what our pantry needs. It’s inspiring to see how she’s motivated so many young people."

Ava Arnold and members of a Teen Group at Kirby Church collected food items for Oaks of Righteousness. The girls are shown with Pastor Heather Boone.
Ava Arnold and members of a Teen Group at Kirby Church collected food items for Oaks of Righteousness. The girls are shown with Pastor Heather Boone.

Ava also volunteers at Holiday Camp, Special Olympics and Night to Shine at 2|42 Community Church. She sings on the Worship Art Team at Kirby Church and helps with its Student Ministry. She’s thinking about a career in elementary school social work. She plans to continue helping Oaks.

“I 100% want to help and keep doing it. I enjoy it. It really brings me joy," Ava said. "God has put it on my heart and I’m going to do it. If I don’t, I might miss out on the opportunity to help someone in need."

Ava Arnold (right) and her best friend, Alyssa Kostoff, bought and delivered food to Oaks.
Ava Arnold (right) and her best friend, Alyssa Kostoff, bought and delivered food to Oaks.

Ava encourages others to get involved.

“If we all did a little, it would turn into a lot,” Ava said. “Other people are loved and are beautiful. They were made by the creator for a purpose. Oaks does a great job showing people the love of Jesus and that they have a purpose.”

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“She’s a humble and sweet little girl,” Boone said. “She has a heart for service and she loves God.”

To contribute to Ava's fundraising efforts for Oaks of Righteousness, email gra7ce@yahoo.com or call 734-735-3853.

— Contact reporter Suzanne Nolan Wisler at swisler@monroenews.com.

This article originally appeared on The Monroe News: Jefferson High School student raises money for Oaks of Righteousness