Hanukah is Well Represented in Apopka Thanks to One Special Go-Getter

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Naomi Grabish, a Junior Girl Scout now, has been in Girl Scouts since kindergarten. As a Daisy she has done several activities similar to what other Girl Scouts of her age would be doing. A typical, normal girl progressing through school, Girl Scouts, and life. It wasn’t until she came across a holiday display in her community of Apopka that this Daisy would be challenged to do more.

In 2014, Naomi (six at the time) and her sister (five at the time) were going through Apopka and noticed the city’s holiday display. It was beautiful, yes, but something was missing for Naomi and her sister. They both noticed that there were no Hanukkah decorations in town, only Christmas decorations. She and her sister declared in protest, “that’s not fair.” But, what could they do?

Being six and five, they came up with several wild ideas which involved putting up their own display. Naomi eventually settled on writing a letter to Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, asking him to address the issue. Although this wasn’t the first time Naomi had written to a politician (she wrote to Barack Obama when she was four,) it was the first time she was asking for something from a political figure.

She mailed off her letter before Christmas break and when she got back from her family vacation, Naomi had a letter waiting from the Mayor apologizing for the lack of Hanukkah decorations. The Mayor promised to remedy this oversight and affirmed it would be fixed the following year.

Now, holding on to a promise for a year can be challenging for anyone. This proves even more difficult for prominent figures like Senators, Commissioners and Mayors. Sure enough, December 2015 rolled around and there were no Hanukah decorations. There was no change in December 2016 either.

A friend of the family, who happens to be the pastor at the local Presbyterian church suggested Naomi speak during the public comment period of a city council meeting. This would get her in front of city officials and leaders of the community, and she’d have a chance to be heard in person. This year, Naomi attended and spoke at the city council meeting. Mayor Kilsheimer was in attendance and told her that he remembered the letter. He promised her that he would look into the situation and assured her there would be Hanukah decorations this holiday season.

Not to be forgotten again, Naomi decided to write another letter to the Mayor before the holiday season, reminding him that he’d promised her Hanukkah decorations. In late October, as she was volunteering with her Girl Scout troop at a Halloween event in Apopka, she reminded him once again that he had promised her a menorah. He replied that he was making sure it would happen.

 

Mayor Kilsheimer with Naomi Grabish

Two weeks later, when Naomi and her family visited the city council with her Girl Scout troop, Mayor Kilsheimer handed her a photo and explained that the city had ordered that menorah. He then told Naomi and her troop that the menorah would be displayed with the rest of the holiday lights, and would be lit on December 1, 2017 during their Annual Winter Wonderland event.

 

“As her mother and her Girl Scout leader, I am in awe of the way she embraces both the value of inclusion and the importance of everyone seeing themselves reflected in their community-of making sure everyone is represented and heard” expressed Erika Grabish

When reflecting on this experience, and the significance of having a menorah in her community, Naomi expressed that “It seemed unfair…Apopka is a small city, but it should be inviting for everybody.”

Being a Girl Scout also played a key role in developing her confidence. “Girl Scouts helped me to do this because in Girl Scouts I talk to all different kinds of people” said Naomi

When asked how she was able to persist over three years (a third of her life), her only response was “the stronger the fight, the stronger the girl.”

Naomi’s persistence, dedication, belief in herself and her ability to make change happen is an inspiration to all. It also proves you’re never too young to make an impact in your community.

 

You can visit the Menorah light display, along with the other Christmas decorations at the Kit Land Nelson Park in Apopka.

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