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Woodstock resident, though herself challenged, continues to help others

'I know what it's like to be blind and see again,' says Woodstock resident Kelly Manser. Failed eyesight--partially recovered through surgery--gave her a deep sense of empathy and gratitude. Out of that experience, despite her own ongoing difficulties, came a drive to do positive things to help others in need.

Raised in Southern California, Kelly was very active in her young adulthood. Bike riding, water and jet skiing, and work as a fitness instructor at a health club kept her body strong. So, when she developed rheumatoid arthritis that began in her eyes, diminished her eyesight, and then moved to other parts of her body, she was despondent. It was hard to accept her lack of mobility. Describing herself in those days as a mix of depression and determination, she says, 'Even though I was a basket case, I kept going.'

It was Kelly's mother who set for her the example of determination. 'My mom has always been an inspiration to me. She has always helped others, and it has kept her feeling positive about life.'

In spite of the medication that helped her regain some mobility, Kelly could not return to her most recent job, as an insurance agent. But she found that helping others kept her spirits up. 'Even before I got arthritis, I would organize blanket, food, or clothing collections at work. Then when I couldn't go to work anymore, it really helped me to find ways to put a smile on someone's face.'

Some days Kelly is not well enough to do much, but on good days she has continued finding ways to help those in need. In 1996 she gathered blankets and stuffed animals from the Sunshine Division, and received meat donations from Columbia Empire Meats for victims of the Vernonia flood. Delivering the supplies in person gave her the chance to see many smiles of gratitude.

For the past several years she has collected blankets and coats for the Portland Rescue Mission. Last year, when Hurricane Katrina victims began arriving in Portland, Kelly helped the Sunshine Division collect canned goods for displaced people.

On Saturday, October 14th, 11 am-5 pm, Kelly is organizing a barbeque and raffle to raise money for Bradley-Angle House, a Portland shelter for women fleeing domestic violence. The barbeque will be held at her favorite neighborhood hang-out -- Mehri's Little Flower Bakery and Deli on S.E. 52nd at Bybee. Kelly notes that the fare will not be Mehri's gourmet baked goods or deli entrees; 'She is letting me use her restaurant for the fundraiser. I am barbequing hot dogs and hamburgers.' The price is right: $4.00 for a hot dog or hamburger, soft drink, chips, and a raffle ticket.

Raffle tickets are for gift certificates for Chili's, Applebee's and Outback Restaurants, and for a free overnight stay with dinner and buffet breakfast at Homewood Suites Hotel by Hilton in Beaverton. Also donated for the raffle are a Pink Lady apple tree, three blueberry bushes and two ferns from Seven Dees Nursery. Additional raffle tickets are $1 each.

Anyone wanting to donate household items, clothing or money for Bradley Angle House can pick up a letter with the Bradley-Angle House tax ID number on the day of the barbeque.