Annabelle Valentine Delivers Manchester Love (And Water) to Flint
Annabelle Celkis made her way up and down Main Street, in and out of businesses handing out cards and cookies to everyone she met on the Thursday before Valentines Day. If you are not familiar with Annabelle’s Valentines Mission, read about it HERE. Then on Saturday she and her family drove more than 700 gallons of water donated by Manchester residents and out of towners who read of Annabelle’s mission on-line, to Berston Field House – Center for Kids in Flint to hand it out along with Valentines & goodies.
Here is an account of the work Annabelle and her family did this year.
Thursday – Manchester
Things were different this year. Annabelle’s mother, Stephanie Celkis explained, “It was wild this time around because so many more people knew about her and so people were actually coming up to us and asking if this was Annabelle Valentine, and introducing themselves. And so many people said over and over how big she’s gotten and they remember her when she was just a little girl not even in kindergarten and I remember when she first started she was just a little Tater Tot now here she is a grown girl. This village has watched her grow. It really makes you feel like home.” Her mother continued, “There still were a few people that refused or hesitated a gift from her, asking if we were selling something. Hahaha. Not normal to just go around passing out cards and love. ”
Annabelle at Frank’s Place waiting for her heart shape pizza. It is tradition to have lunch here during the Annabelle Valentine mission and every year they make her a heart-shaped pizza. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Annabelle with Denise and Jim Collins of Frank’s Place. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Jimi presenting Annabelle with her heart shaped pizza. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Ron King and Tammy Melcher of Old National Bank posing with Annabelle as she made her way up and down Main Street. Photo courtesy of Celkis family.
Howard Polrey and Peg Townsend visted with Annabelle at Frank’s. . Howard was Belle’s biggest fan…he just loved her and her mission. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
The ladies at Comerica Bank always have treats for Annabelle when she shows up. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Joy Matthews, a local villager had a small gift for Annabelle. She said her heart was so touched she cried when she read about Annabelle so she came out that afternoon with the mission to find Annabelle and was very excited to meet her. She exchanged hugs with Annabelle and her mother. “It was so sweet. This is what it’s all about!,” said Annabelle’s mom, Stephanie Celkis. Photo courtesy of Celkis family.
Tom Abbo from the Marathon Station said his visit from Annabelle was the nicest thing anyone had done for him all week!
Annabelle posing with Sarah Stroud. Earlier, Annabelle visited LaRock’s Family Dental and they let her go in the back to hand out cards to patients and hygienists who were working. Receiving it meant a lot to Sarah that she was still carrying the card with her when she went to lunch at Franks and bumped into Annabelle again! Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Not photographed – Annabelle presented a huge basket of goodies and cards to the bridge construction crew. Her mother reports that the men were puzzled, but loved the ideas of cookies!
Paul’s classmates from MECC in the VanBogelen Preschool Class donated this much water for him so he could help out his sister. They also let “turtle”, the class mascot, go with Paul on this adventure so he could come back to school to tell about it. (Turtle appears in many of these pictures.) Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Annabelle’s parents, Stephanie and Ed driving to Grand Rapids the Sunday before Valentines Day to buy water with the money raised through GoFundMe. This turned out to be an almost 7 hour round-trip, but by doing it they were able to donate 2.5 gallon jugs instead of single gallon jugs and get more water for the money that had been donated.
Ed Celkis and Cheyenne Fox at Meijer Cascades Store #50. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Gary H. and Cheyenne Fox, service team leaders at the Meijer store helped load up the 500 gallons of water. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
480 bottles of water were donated by Lerner Publishing House, publishers of ” Love, Ruby Valentine,” the book that inspired Annabelle when she was 4 years old to start her Valentine mission. This is not the first time they have donated and gifted Annabelle for her mission. They write every year telling her how proud they are. This year her mother got to talk to the Author. She herself sent 100’s of book marks to Belle to give to her friends at school. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Nicole Bobo and family watched Annabelle and her brother while the Celkises picked up the water in Grand Rapids. A 4 hour favor turned into a 7 hour favor and they did it with smiles.
Paul helped with the cutting out and some sprinkles. He had to be taken off sprinkle duty or they would have run out of sprinkles early on. He is a Sprinkle enthusiast. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Stephanie made 600 little cut out heart cookies with homemade cream cheese frosting. She never wants to see a cookie and frost it again. She also made 200 homemade chocolate chip cookies. (Cookies sprinkled by Paul on left.) Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Saturday – Flint
The first person Stephanie talked to in Flint about donating water was Duwanna, the secretary at the Flint Fire Station. She arranged to take the water Annabelle was collecting and have it distributed there. Once Duwanna knew more about Annabelle and her Valentine mission, she realized that Annabelle would probably want to interact more with the residents then just drop off the water, so she arranged a meeting with the Commisioner of District 1, Bryant W. Nolden and to have the Celkis family deliver their water to the Berston Field House – Center for Kids. Stephanie is grateful because when they stopped by the Firestation to drop off Valentine goodies for Duwanna, they saw how the Fire Station distributed water and they would have had to just unload the water and leave because the the army was handing out the water.
At the Berston House, Annabelle and her family got to hand the water and Valentines to people as they drove up. With over 700 gallons of water, they thought they had quite a lot. Stephanie explained, “Imagine our surprise when that water was portioned out in a matter of 30 minutes! All that time preparing and organinzing to come and it was gone so quick. It was so humbling. It was so sad to see the allowed portions per family… not even enough for each person to have enought to drink, brush teeth, cook and etc. They are still in such a need for help. It was hard to witness. I just wished we could have done more. But everyone was so grateful and full of smiles. Not one person bickered or complained politically.”
Annabelle’s mother, Stephanie, trying on a real firefighter helmet at the Flint Fire House they first communicated with. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Annabelle and her brother Paul in a Firetruck. Paul trying on a helmet. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Annabelle trying on a gas mask. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Annabelle and her brother Paul with Luitenant Jerry Hunt who gave them a tour of the Fire Station and their water distribution system. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Photo from the Center. Inside they got to pass out a lot of love to kids and parents. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Annabelle hugging Commissioner Bryant. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
Residents drove up to the truck and even the Commisioner was out packing up the trunks of cars. Annabelle and her brother gave people pulling up a card and cookies. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
On the envelope of the big card Annabelle made for the City of Flint on behalf of Manchester, she drew people holding hands around the world “to let Flint know that we ALL love them.” Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
More than one person teared-up because of the card and the love that was sent. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
For the past 3 years, the Gregory family, who have a son with severe allergies, donate suckers and smarties for Annabelle to hand out, recognizing that recipients may have food allergies and be unable to enjoy the homemade cookies. Photo courtesy of the Celkis family.
After passing out Valentines to her village on Thursday, her mother asked Annabelle what her favorite part of the day was. She said, “Everything!” So then Stephanie asked “Why?” Annabelle answered that she loved passing out all the Valentines, but especially at the gas station where she met Tom and had made his day and she could tell that he really needed that. She also responded that she loved the way they got to talk to all the villagers, and tell the story, and the way they made new friends.
After they were done in Flint, her mother asked the same question. She responded that her favorite part was playing with the Valentine Bubbles (she passed out) with her new friends there. She wished she didn’t have to leave. But, her mother stated, Annabelle said, “Over all, my favorite part to everything was seeing so many smiles.”
Her mother, Stephanie, explained, “My child really loves to love. She believes it is her mission to teach others. She takes it very seriously. She said she even believes she is ALMOST like a Holiday person for Valentine – like Santa or the Easter Bunny or Jack Skeleton. She has said that the past couple of years, and it makes me laugh everytime. Not in front of her though.”
Stephanie wanted to thank everyone and for everyone to know how grateful she is. She said, “I am really proud of this village, my friends and family. She had support from all around the world this year. It is amazing and humbling to be a part of something like this. To work so hard to spread love, and have so many people power us up with their love. I would like to thank everyone for helping me support my child and give her the confidence to continue such things. Being a parent is hard, but when you have a whole village (literally), raising her, big things happen. With all my heart thank you. I am so proud to live where I do with people like you, and I am so proud of all my friends from around the world who have shared her story and helped support her.”