FARGO — When Bella Garcia first saw homeless people in the Fargo-Moorhead area a few months ago, she felt sad and wondered why they didn’t have a place to live.
Her first thought was to offer them space in her family’s northside home.
“It kind of caught me off guard. She wanted to take everyone home with us,” said her mother, Rosa Garcia.
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While the idea came straight from the heart, it obviously wasn’t practical.
After all, the family’s home is already fully occupied by Bella, her two little brothers and their parents.
Instead, 8-year-old Bella (pronounced bay-a) and her mom came up with a different plan — raise money doing one of their favorite activities.
They began making and selling treats to fund care packages for residents of local homeless shelters — an enterprise called Bella’s Dulce Sweets and Treats.
Bella’s reason for doing it is pretty simple.
“So Fargo can be a better, happy place,” she said.
Proceeds from the chocolate-covered pretzels and strawberries, along with Rice Krispie bars and cake pops, are being turned into items like bar soap, toothbrushes, deodorant, tissues and socks for shelter residents.
Bella has delivered care packages to the New Life Center, a shelter for homeless men and to the YWCA, a shelter for women and children.
Though Bella’s first focus was on helping people who are homeless, she’s expanded her charitable efforts to include animals in need of homes.
She recently donated a care package of dog food, treats, bowls, blankets, leashes and collars to 4 Luv of Dog Rescue.
“It hurts me that they have to be in cages and locked up, barking... not, like, having a happy life with a house, having food, having some fun. Wagging their tails always makes me so happy,” Bella said.
While her actions make others feel better, she gets something out of it as well.
“Very happy. Sometimes I get a little emotional,” said Bella, “just like happy tears.”
The second grade student at Horace Mann Elementary even uses a portion of her allowance, earned by doing regular chores, to buy some of the items.
Her mother believes it’s an important lesson to learn.
“If you give, you shall receive. You have to have an open heart to everybody,” Rosa said.
The visibility of Bella’s Dulce Sweets and Treats is growing with the help of a Facebook page.
Also needed are items for the care packages she puts together for homeless shelters and animal rescues.
Bella has received invitations to sell her treats at several local summer events.
On June 26, she’ll have her own raffle and treat sale at Prairie Den in downtown Fargo.
Baskets to be raffled will include gift cards for various businesses and restaurants around the F-M metro.
A month later, she’ll sell treats at the Casselton Summerfest in Casselton, N.D., being held July 22-25.
Bella already has a game plan for Christmas — to fill 150 holiday stockings and deliver some of them to patients at Sanford Children’s Hospital.
Daughter and mom hope others will be inspired.
“Everybody’s trying to help, so it’s awesome,” Rosa said.