Helena Belles host fifth annual tea party

By MACKENZEE SIMMS | Staff Writer

HELENA – With flouncing dresses and princess crowns, little kids lined the vestibule of the Church at Old Town on Sunday, March 17 at 2:30 p.m. for the fifth annual Helena Belles’ tea party. Each child took the hand of a Belle and gathered for an afternoon of dancing, crafts and food, designed to make each child feel like a princess for the day.

In their hoop skirts and dresses from By George, the Helena Belles waited patiently to be paired off with a little guest. Once they introduced themselves, they led their new friend to a table to enjoy snacks and refreshments. From there, the Belles let each child decide where the afternoon would take them—to the photo back drops, the arts and crafts tables or the dance floor.

According to Helena Belles Director Amanda Smitherman, this freedom is an important part of the tea party. How the day goes is determined by the Belles and their guests, not the event organizers.

“We let the girls, the Belles, do their own thing,” Smitherman said. “They take their guests, their little new Belle friends, and they get to mix and mingle. (We) let the Belle friend guide them to the different stations and they get to interact and we let them lead the way.”

Composed of girls between ninth and 12th grade, the Helena Belles are a community service organization that attends various Helena functions throughout the year. Smitherman shared that members are selected based on their leadership, academic achievements and involvement in extracurricular activities.

“They embody the spirit of Helena through their dedication to service, academic excellence and commitment to upholding the values of their community,” Smitherman said.

The Helena Belles board of directors spends months planning the tea party from arranging the event location to working with the Helena Belles’ junior board—comprised of members of the Belles—to decide on a menu and arrange the arts and crafts stations.

This year, the Helena Belles tea party served as a fundraiser for Vineyard Family Services (VFS).

“We’re a faith-based Family Resource Center,” VFS’s Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Grissom said. “We focus on feeding kids in need, promoting responsible fatherhood and helping families in crisis.”

During the event, the Helena Belles presented Vineyard Family Services with a check for $600, raised from tea party ticket sales. Since the tea party was for children, Smitherman explained that the Belle’s thought that the money should go towards a charity that benefited children in the same age group.

“We do hold (VFS) near and dear to our heart,” Smitherman said.  “Because their organization, the BackPack Buddies, helps benefit young children like the attendees at the tea party, we thought it was really a good way to connect for the girls and the attendees.”

VFS’s BackPack Buddies Program aims to support public school children that receive free or reduced meals from Shelby County Schools, Alabaster City Schools and Pelham City Schools. The BackPack Buddies pack bags of food and supplies to provide for approximately 1,200 students during the weekends.

Grissom shared that the Helena Belles have a history of volunteering with VFS.

“The Helena Belles have been amazing,” Grissom said. “They have worked with us for years, particularly with the BackPack Buddies program. We have a community packing party through the school year that they can plug in and serve, so many of the Belles have done that. They’ve also done drives and other things as well.”

VFS has two primary locations in Pelham and Alabaster. In Pelham, VFS houses their BackPack Buddies program and hosts their mother parenting support group, in addition to their administration offices. In Alabaster, the Family Resource Center is open to the community with fatherhood support programs, mentoring and workforce development.

Those wishing to learn more about Vineyard Family Services can visit Vfsdads.com. For more information about upcoming events for the Helena Belles, visit Facebook.com/HelenaBelles.

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