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By Seth Kinker, skinker@thesuntimesnews.com

Abby Diuble, after finding out she won the 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Award. Photo Courtesy Angela Diuble.

Abby Diuble, an eighth grader from Manchester has been named one of two winners of the 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards for the state of Michigan.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is the United States’ largest youth recognition program based on volunteer community service. It was created in 1995 by Prudential and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) to honor middle and high school students for outstanding service to others at the local, state and national level.

Winners receive a $1,000 prize, a silver engraved medallion, and a free trip to Washington D.C. for the program’s national recognition events.

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Diuble is working to purchase specialized alarm systems that alert visually and hearing-impaired people to severe weather conditions, and dangerous smoke and carbon monoxide levels.

In 2015 a tornado tore through Manchester and the events that played out from there led to her efforts that earned her this award.

Abby’s older sister, Lilly, is both hearing and visually impaired. When the tornado hit the Diuble’s house, Lilly and their mother Angela had just made it to the basement steps.

“Our basement steps are right next to our dining room that we have on the west side of our house on the main floor,” said Angela. “Abby wasn’t home, but Lilly and I got to the basement steps, literally the top steps, as the tornado hit. Where we were standing a second before was destroyed. The west side of our house was destroyed. All the furniture was blown out the front window of the house through the room where we were just standing. The windows imploded so there was glass everywhere. We could have been killed.”

“Then the next day when we got upstairs to Lilly and Abby’s room, the wall was ripped off the house on that end. You could see outside, where Lilly had been laying her head five minutes before that, was open to the world.”

“The thing is, that it was really hard to wake her up. It took me a long time to get her awakened and so if we would have had an alarm system like what we’re trying to get people to have, she would have been awake already and it would have been a lot easier to get people to safety.”

While in temporary housing Abby brought up the subject to her mother, telling her they needed to do something to help visually and hearing-impaired people like her sister.

Since then Abby’s mother estimates she’s put in about 500 hours if not more into the project.

“Last night we had a board meeting that was three hours long,” said Angela. “She’s actively part of the decision-making process, it’s her deal you know? We have all these adults that have to be the ones making the decisions officially but she’s right here putting her two cents in.”

Angela and Abby spent the rest of the summer searching for the right alarm system. Many had smoke and carbon monoxide preventative measure but because the tornado was the driving force behind the project, they wanted to make sure there was a weather alarm component.

“I remember it distinctly because we had my computer set up on a card table,” said Angela. “All the furniture we had was card tables and chairs because all our furniture was destroyed, and here we are in this rental house looking at these alarm systems, it was kind of funny.”

 

They finally settled on a company called Krown Manufacturing, using a device called that Krown KA300, the system connects with a bed shaker to help wake a hearing impaired sleeper. It also includes an LED light that can be “seen” by many visually impaired users.

Once pricing was discussed they decided they needed to apply for a grant for money for the alarms which cost $257.09 each, $100 dollars off retail price. For many grants, however, you need to be a 501(c)(3), or a charitable organization, which was something the Diuble’s weren’t familiar with as far as the paperwork or what was required to become a 501(c)(3).

In June of 2016 they officially became a 501(c)(3), Diuble Family Vision, and were able to really start to try and raise money for the alarm systems. While going through the proper steps to become a 501(c)(3) Abby had begun to promote her project locally.

Abby has talked to all the local fire departments but also reached out to fire chief meetings in Lenawee county, who were all on board. She’s spoken to chiefs in Washtenaw County, Monroe County and plans on going to Jackson County as well.

In addition to fire chiefs, she’s talked with several school districts including the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) to try and gain support there as well. Because of privacy laws and the school’s inability to hand out the names of students, one of the things they are doing is letting teaching consultants talk to families that would qualify, letting them know about the alarm systems, and how to contact the Diuble’s.

The Ann Arbor Fire Department even put in for a grant on their behalf to try to get funding for all of Washtenaw County’s children that would benefit from the alarms.

“If you include all the visual and hearing impaired kids in the county, there’s like 450 or something like that who would qualify for this which is a huge amount. This grant was worth over $100,000,” said Angela. “Unfortunately we didn’t get the grant but anyone that we’ve talked to about it is very supportive. Right now we’re sort of plugging along family by family, so it’s sort of where we’re at right now.”

Through fundraisers with Diuble Family Vision, they’ve been able to purchase and distribute more alarms.

Abby has been involved with volunteer work since a very young age, volunteering with her older sister for the Foundation Fighting Blindness since around Kindergarten. She’s a member of the Leo’s club, 4H, and also does volunteer work with her confirmation class.

“It was truly my sister,” said Abby when asked about why she had been volunteering since such a young age. “She has hearing and vision loss and that kind of struck me because I’m more of her guide and she wants to be able to do things. The fundraising for people like Lilly to get help and maybe a cure for this is what I was wanting to do.”

“I always say that Abby is a right sider,” said Angela. “You know, fights for the rights of other people. She always chooses the underdog, if there’s someone getting picked on on the bus or school or whatever, she’s on their side. Always. She always takes the side of the person whose the underdog and wants to help people that can’t help themselves.”

Lilly and Abby both won the governor’s service award this summer for their volunteerism and while Abby will make the trip to D.C. this April, it won’t be her first time. Lilly won the same award in 2014.

 

“I was joking with people at the band boosters the other day saying we’re making this look like it’s really easy but it’s not,” said Angela. “You guys are gonna think this is no big deal, but it is a big deal”

Abby found out she had won the award last week when she was home from school sick with her mother.

“We were super excited,” said Angela. “She was home sick and it was so funny because I went out and got the mail and was like ‘Oh my gosh! Abby, there’s a letter for you from UPS. And so, I opened it and she was like ‘Oh my gosh!’ I posted that picture of her on facebook, and she’s smiling holding the letter saying, ‘It’s so awesome!’”

“They don’t give you any warning they just send it to you,” added Abby. “I guess that’s pretty cool, my best sick day ever is what my mom said. It was pretty cool.”

For more information on the Diuble foundation you can visit diublefamilyvision.org.

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