Small Steps members (L-R) Taylor Denes, Ryan Gresse, advisor Chelsea Halderman and Courtney Hockenberry.

They say the longest journeys begin with a single step.  For Chelsea Halderman, the young chairwoman of the CBC blood drive Thursday, April 19 at Urbana University, a great journey began before she even got out of bed.

Chelsea was a graduate assistant at Urbana and had just been involved in two very successful fundraising walks for a local animal shelter.  She wondered how she could reach out to other parts of the community that could use help, and get more UU students involved.  “I was actually lying in bed,” she recalls, “and all of a sudden ‘Small Steps’ came into my head!”

Several small, but determined steps later, “Small Steps” is an active community service organization on the UU campus associated with the “Servant Leaders” scholarship program.  Students who have earned community service scholarships will join Small Steps.  UU also requires freshmen to take part in community service activities during their first weekend on campus, and that has served as opportunity for Small Steps to recruit new members.

Sophomore Taylor Denes was a Servant Leader scholar and is now a member of Small Steps.  She donated at the blood drive and volunteered at the Donor Café.  Sophomore Ryan Gresse, a childhood education major from Springfield is a Small Steps member and also came by the drive to donate.  “It’s nice to give back to the community after what they give to us,” he said.

Chelsea Halderman, now an administrative counselor at UU, serves as the advisor to Small Steps while working on her M.B.A.  Small Step members have fanned out to support a wide variety of community service projects, including pancake breakfasts and healthy eating days for children at a local shelter, a “Senior Citizen Prom” at a local care facility, and fundraising walks for the animal shelter.

“Basically, we’re building relationships between Urbana University and the community,” she said.  “I think it’s really important for our students to find out what community service is, and find out there is something bigger than themselves out there.”

“I like going to the nursing homes and talking to people there,” said Small Steps member Heather Abdalla, a sophomore from Marysville as she chose a cookie at the Donor Café after her blood donation.  “I want to do good in the community and I think a blood drive is important.”

For Chelsea and her fellow volunteers, sponsoring a CBC blood drive on campus was just another determined step forward for “Small Steps.”

“Each donation can save up three lives, so it’s a good thing to pursue,” she said. “Saving lives is a pretty big deal!  Definitely, that’s a good cause.”


  1. First of all I want to say superb blog! I had a quick
    question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and
    clear your thoughts prior to writing. I have had a tough
    time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there.
    I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally
    lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or
    hints? Kudos!

    • One suggestion is don’t wait until you sit down to write to think about what you are going to say. When you have an idea for a subject, think about how you would write the lead paragraph. Store that idea away (or jot it down somewhere), then pull it out when you are ready to write. Chances are you will have refined it and rewritten it in your head a couple of times before you had a chance to sit down at the computer. This will help you hit the ground running, and you can build on your lead paragraph to tell the rest of the story.

  2. Mark writes all the material for the blog. I, Sher, may have put a couple short things up but he is the author. We are both past news reporters and deadlines help! But Mark is a story teller and a great writer.

    First of all, I think you need to have something important to say. Since we work for a nonprofit which happens to be a blood bank, there is always something. Second, every person alive is a great story and just asking some questions may be the only thing you need to do to find a story worth telling. You can always connect a great story to your purpose with a blog. Another trick might be to find photos and let them guide you into a topic.

    We have some cards, like flash cards, done from research on blood donors. Sometimes, all I need to do is pull three cards blindly and see how they combine to get some inspiration. For example, I just pulled three cards that say likely blood donors:
    • Prefer newspaper sections business and lifestyle
    • Are active consumers of news “I need to get the news every day.”
    • Like to go out dancing
    As a social media person, I like to pass along news stories often on Twitter especially those that deal with some aspect of health or blood. Now maybe I will add a post about Dancing with the Stars or a local business/lifestyle story. As an advertiser, maybe I would buy ads in Dancing with the Stars, or in the business and lifestyle sections OR I would slant my ad to a business person. As a writer, I could look for a donor or recipient story with the aspect of dancing. And I could also involve a local news personality or a national news person in a story…Robin Roberts had a bone marrow transplant and typically bone marrow transplant patients use blood. That’s how I could tie it back to my purpose.

    You could make cards appropriate to your audience of things you know about your audience or you could do facts associated with your main topics. Be creative and if it works let us know!

    But it all starts with a purpose. Deadlines help a lot. I can remember sitting in the newsroom with the 6pm lead story that had to be written, voice recorded, tape edited and I got writers block. First and last sentences are always the hardest and the most impactful. That is what I was struggling with until I looked at the clock, knew my deadline was hard and fast approaching… and said screw “craft” just write. I put words on paper and it turned out to be a really great story.

    Also, never try to write a final draft first. You can start anywhere in the story and organize it later. Back in the day Mark and I started reporting we had typewriters and carbon paper. LOL I fondly recall the “stizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz” sound of the roller spinning when I ripped a piece of triplicate paper out of the typewriter to start again.

    Have confidence. 🙂 Not every blog has to be a masterpiece. Just write and write and write and write…and some will be masterful.

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