Jan. 3, 2011
by Jon Cooper
Danielle Dike is stranded in Virginia.
It’s not a really snow emergency that is keeping her in her hometown of Scottsville, unless you consider being snowed under by blankets a snow emergency.
“I was planning on leaving a little bit earlier maybe, to go back [to Atlanta],” she said. “But I cannot leave my house until Saturday because I’m still waiting on more blankets and coats from my dad’s high school to bring back.”
It’s not that Dike is preparing herself for the coldest months of the year. She’s looking out for those who can’t look out for themselves — the homeless — by collecting blankets, coats, sleeping bags and other items to keep people warm at night, people who may not have a roof over their heads.
The generous, caring spirit behind Dike’s undertaking isn’t just arriving in time for Christmas. It’s alive 12 months a year, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It’s been ingrained in her for 20-plus years.
“My family, we’re very much about giving,” said the junior from Scottsville, which she described as “about 20 minutes from anywhere,” with one stoplight, built in 2008. “Even if we don’t have a lot to give, we try to give to as many people and give as much as we possibly can.
“That’s something that I’ve grown up with,” she added. “I don’t ask for much. I never ask for anything that’s outrageous. I’m more worried about giving something to somebody else that they may not have that I may have access to.”
The story of the collection drive began at the end of the team’s annual Christmas party. There was food left over and Dike saw it as an opportunity to help others. She admits that she wasn’t alone on that train of thought.
“Christy Jones and I were thinking the same thing, that we could take all the extra food and we should take it to homeless people. Take it to someone who needs it,” she said. “So eight of us piled into a car and took it to this park. This park apparently has like 30-plus people sleep in it every night.
“When we got there to give them the food, one of the guys was like, I don’t really need food but if you ever have extra clothing or anything, we could really use that.”
When she got back to her dorm that night, she put the wheels in motion.
“I sent an e-mail to my family,” she recalled. “It said, ‘Hey this is what we did tonight. It really kind of shook me and what I want to do now is collect blankets and bring them back down to give them to these people. Collect blankets, collect coats, whatever you have to give to these people.'”
The e-mail would gain new life, as her father, Ed, who works at Monticello High School in Charlottesville, spread it.
When she got home for winter break, Danielle found an avalanche of blankets and coats. Enough to fill four huge moving boxes.
Those moving boxes are on their way to Atlanta, courtesy of a friend who took them in his car. Dike is not Atlanta-bound yet. She is waiting on the Monticello High School collection drive, which winds up on Saturday.
What might be an inconvenience to some is a way of life in the Dike household. Their holiday shopping takes on a whole different approach, as instead of buying for each other, they buy for a needy family provided by the county’s social services.
“They give us a family to buy for and each of us buys for a certain person in the family,” she said. “Honestly, that’s part of where the inspiration came from for me to help out with somebody who’s less fortunate in the Atlanta area.”
Dike, who plans on volunteering, along with other members of the Softball team, at an Atlanta soup kitchen, admitted that she plans on going right to a homeless shelter upon her arrival in Atlanta to distribute the materials. With it she hopes to distribute something even more important.
“By going and helping these people it kind of gives them hope,” she said. “That’s something that they really value. It’s like helping somebody else out and giving them hope that everything is going to be okay.”
Her hope is that other people will get involved.
“Hope strikes a fire,” she said. “I hope it strikes a fire in somebody else in saying, ‘Hey, this girl is out there playing big time softball but she’s still giving her time to help other people.’ Hopefully that strikes up a fire in people to do that.
“There’s stuff everywhere in Atlanta. Like with the food. One of the girls knew that there was a park where 30-plus people slept every night,” she added. “You can just look on the street and see people in need. Just give whatever you have to give. Just give it. I know that there is stuff in people’s houses just lying around that somebody else could use. So why not just give it?”