By Jennifer Shrader
La Grange News
When Fuller Center founder Millard Fuller died a year ago in February, then-8-year-old Lillie Barnes Ogata shed tears along with her parents as the organization called out for volunteers.
“She said, ‘I’m just a kid, there’s nothing I can do,’ ” said her mother, Carmin Ogata, who is a second cousin of Fuller.
The Ogatas often would see Fuller at family reunions.
“It was really cool to be able to get to know him,” Lillie Barnes said.
Fuller’s funeral in Americus and memorial service in Atlanta were the girl’s first funerals.
By the time her birthday rolled around Nov.16, Ogata had come up with a suggestion that may have been a tough sell for a young child: instead of birthday presents, why not collect donations for the Fuller Center.
“She told me to sleep on it, but right then I said I want to,” Lillie Barnes recalled.
By morning, it was official. She didn’t even have to twist her friends’ arms to get them to donate.
“They were happy to give money instead of going out and finding a present,” she said.