It was March 4, 2011. A car driven by a Department of Social Services worker was hit head-on along Pumpkintown Highway in Pickens County.
Nine-year-old Raven Stancell, who was in foster care, was inside. She and the DSS employee, Chrystal Harrison, were killed. Stancell's teen brothers were hurt. The woman who hit them, Julie Mason, was under the influence. She is currently serving a twenty year prison sentence.
For Sandra and Frank Hubbard, that tragic story hits close to home. They met Stancell at a class about American Girl dolls at a local library months before she died.
The Hubbards attended her funeral and vowed in the receiving line to do something in the little girl's honor. They took note that she loved butterflies, along with colors blue and purple. They also remembered that she longed to own an American Girl doll of her own.
The Hubbards decided to donate one doll a year in Stancell's name to Miracle Hill Ministries. They created the Butterfly Ministry for Girls.
"We thought when we considered giving one doll a year that we could be a blessing to a little girl, and God has changed that so much to let us know that we're the ones getting the blessing," said Sandra Hubbard.
Their efforts quickly grew. Two years later, they have given more than 100 dolls to girls in foster care across the Upstate.
The couple created a workshop for the dolls in the garage of their Easley home. They take in donations of gently used American Girl dolls from across the country. Sandra goes to work, fixing their hair and dressing them in outfits.
They are ready to be given to girls over the age of six. Those who are younger receive a Butterflies Doll.
When they are notified that a girl has arrived at a group home in the Upstate, the Hubbards prepare a doll and deliver it to her. They spend time with the child, introducing her to her new doll. They also give her a blanket, quilted by a local quilters group, a Bible, and an American Girl book.
It is often emotional, mostly for Frank and Sandra Hubbard.
"When we present the dolls it does attack us emotionally big time, but we are able to hold it together until we get back out together in the car and then we fall apart. It's just an emotion that overcomes us," said Frank Hubbard.
The Hubbards hope to grow their ministry beyond the Upstate. They rely on the support of people who donate gently used American Girl dolls. They also receive outfits and accessories that they give to the girls.
Next October, they will hold an American Girl fashion show in Greenville to raise money for their growing ministry. The Hubbards say their goal is to continue to honor Raven Stancell's memory, reaching out to other girls.
"That means everything," said Sandra Hubbard.
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