10-year-old girl forgoes birthday to help children at Macon's Methodist Home for Children and Youth

wcrenshaw@macon.comFebruary 16, 2013 

When 10-year-old Mary Elizabeth Paris’ parents asked her what she wanted for Christmas, her answer might have made many a mom and dad weep with joy.

Mary Elizabeth’s parents had gotten used to it, though. She told them she had everything she needed, and instead wanted to help children who weren’t as fortunate.

“She’s always been our little tenderhearted one,” said her mom, Mandi Paris.

For Christmas they gave their selfless child a movie about selflessness, “The Blind Side.” It’s the true story of a family who, while driving home one night, saw a homeless child, turned around, picked him up and took him home. They eventually adopted the child, Michael Oher, and he later became a first-round draft choice of the Baltimore Ravens.

The movie, which Mary Elizabeth has seen about 20 times now, made her think even more about children less fortunate than herself.

With her birthday coming up on Feb. 5, she told her parents they could spend their money on something better than a Chuck E. Cheese party. She told her friends and church family that instead of giving her a present, they could give a donation to help children in need.

The family lives in Woodstock, but is originally from Perry. Mandi Paris’ dad is Perry City Councilman Joe Posey, so they visit here often. When Mary Elizabeth was pondering how she could help the less-fortunate, she thought of the Methodist Home for Children and Youth in Macon.

They contacted the home and asked what were the items needed most, and Mary Elizabeth went to work. When members of their church, Roswell United Methodist, found out about her mission they were touched that a little girl was forgoing her birthday to help others. She also got donations from friends at school and through Facebook.

She ended up raising $335 and many donated items.

On Saturday, the family showed up at the home, where about 80 children live, with a van-load of toiletries and various other items.

“I didn’t think that many people would give,” Mary Elizabeth said.

It wasn’t the first time she had done something like that. For her birthday last year, she collected baby food for needy babies, although that wasn’t nearly on the scale of the children’s home donation.

“This year, I wanted to do something bigger,” she said.

Mary Elizabeth got some help with unloading from her little sister, Maddy, 7, and brother, Whit, 5, as well as her dad, Steve Paris.

They plan on making the donation an annual event now.

The Methodist Home for Children and Youth has been in operation since 1872. Some are from the foster care system, some are given up voluntarily by families who for various reasons are unable to look after them, and in some cases parental rights have been terminated. Children can remain at the home all the way through college if necessary.

Jeff Lawrence, the home’s vice president of programs, said Mary Elizabeth’s initiative is much appreciated.

“What’s important is that a child of that age would have a heart for ministry,” he said. “This just means another generation of young Methodist children are going to grow up with a heart for the Methodist home.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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