Flora awardBy Shelby R. Farrell


BELVIDERE – One 11-year-old girl was recognized statewide for achieving over 400 hours of community service over the last year.

While many kids her age have joined sports teams, play video games, or even started collections to fill their time, Skyler Melillo put her time to good use and tried to make the community a better place.

“I think this is better than being in girl scouts or something,” she said. “You get to do more stuff, and in other activities that you could do, you don’t actually do much.”

Skyler has been a Flora Grange Junior Grange member for six years, which was the earliest she could start. Her dad, Vince Melillo, started her in the group because he himself joined in 2004. He said he wanted to join the Flora Grange, which is four miles south of Belvidere, because the group is focused on community involvement, helping others and to get involved in running the Boone County Fair.

“The Grange does a lot,” Laurel Ratcliffe, the Flora Grange secretary, said. “We’re always trying to help those in need in the community.”

Political lobbying at the state and national offices is what sets the Grange apart from other fraternal groups, and it was one of the first groups other than a church to get the whole family involved, according to the Illinois State Grange official website. Members can join the Junior Grange from 5-years-old to 16. The Illinois State Grange Junior Director, Sarah Meyers, said that being a part of the Junior Grange helps kids learn how to do for others.

“If you’re doing community service as a child, the possibility that you’re going to continue to be an active, good member of society when you’re an adult is much greater,” Meyers said. “If you’re going out and doing all of this community service now, as an adult you will still do it. It becomes ingrained in your blood.”

Some of the community services that Skyler completed range from making cards, planting flowers and walking dogs at the animal shelter. As part of the Junior Grange program, the members have to complete a notebook of community service projects and donations over the year. The Flora Grange spends a lot of its community efforts on the animal shelter and with patients at the DaVita dialysis center. Skyler not only completed all of the Junior Grange projects, but she also helped at most of the adult projects.

She is also involved with her local 4-H club, where they also do community service, and she is part of the community children’s theater. Her practices and performances at the theater, along with her other forms of community service outside of the Grange contributed to her near 490 community service hours from October 2014 to October 2015. Skyler said winning the award only inspires her to help the more people and to try to win the award again next year.

“Flora should be very proud of her and know she does a lot all the time,” Meyers said.

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