Extraordinary volunteer makes early start in politics

If you need a community volunteer in Chippewa County, chances are she is already taking action on the cause.

If you need a community volunteer in Chippewa County, chances are she is already taking action on the cause.

“It’s really important for people to get involved in their community,” said 17-year-old Abby Bell of Chippewa County.

Abby has helped serve dinner at a benefit for a family who lost their home in a fire, participated in a fundraiser to help provide heat to a low-income family and walks for breast cancer, all while being involved in 4-H.

With an interest in politics, Abby, 16-years-old at the time, became involved in 4-H Capitol Experience.

4-H Capitol Experience is a four-day conference that focuses on civic engagement and public policy. More than 100 teens from around the state converge at the state Capitol to experience state government in action and learn how they can influence policy issues. Participants interact with legislators, state agency staff members, lobbyists and other resource people to learn how policy is made.

During Capitol Experience, Abby spent time in the office of her home county representative, Frank Foster. Abby learned that she and Rep. Foster have common interests and views on many issues as they relate to Chippewa County.

“I thought he was doing a good job with our area, so I decided I wanted to help with his campaign,” Abby said.

Abby applied what she learned from Capitol Experience by completing a summer experience working on Rep. Foster’s campaign.

“One issue that was really impacting my community was a bill that was going to take away patrol cars around the prison,” Abby said. 

Chippewa County Correctional Facility has beds for more than 2,000 inmates. Part of the security for the Chippewa Correctional Facility consists of armed patrol vehicles and gun towers.

“A lot of people were very upset around here because to take away prison guards would be very dangerous since there are a lot of escape attempts,” Abby said. Abby educated members of her community about the risk of losing funding to the prison by walking door‑to‑door, passing out literature and making phone calls.

Abby also learned how Chippewa County relies on summer and winter tourism to help the small business owners in her community.

“Rep. Foster had a lot to do with the Pure Michigan campaign to boost the tourism,” Abby said. “There are a lot of small businesses, especially with tourism in the summer, as well as the winter for snowmobiling. Rep. Foster works hard to cut redundant and useless regulations that were hurting our small businesses.

“Every politician really impacts your life and your community,” Abby said. “Any person can still help out. Even if you’re not old enough to vote, you can make calls and knock on doors.”

Abby is currently in her senior year of high school. She plans to attend a Michigan university to major in political science with a minor in business to one day work in politics and open a bakery.

For more information on 4-H Capitol Experience or how to become involved in your community, visit www.msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/4_h.

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