Darke DD honors Shellabarger at The House that Lulu Built

Huston passed out a couple of Shellabarger's paintings for members to look at.

GREENVILLE—In honor of their late friend Francesca (Franie) Shellabarger, the Advocacy in Action Club held their monthly meeting at The House that Lulu Built on Friday.

The club, organized through Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DD), holds informational meetings each month highlighting different resources around the county, as well as ways members can advocate for themselves.

The House that Lulu Built, of Greenville, opened in 2019, and is a local nonprofit grief care home. In addition to grief classes, the organization also provides a free home for families while they’re in town for funeral services.

Shellabarger, a member of the Advocacy in Action Club, passed away unexpectedly just before Christmas at age 24.

Members of the Advocacy in Action Club shared memories of Franie, and mourned her with help from the staff at The House that Lulu Built, and EverHeart Hospice.

Sue Huston, Darke DD Community Connections Coordinator, encouraged the members to express any feelings they have.

“It’s ok, however you’re feeling today, it’s ok, because it’s hard,” Huston said. “We did a lot of fun stuff with her, and she was a light in our lives. Her smile, her laugh, her dancing.”

Shellabarger was known for her positivity and strength, as well as her company Art of Soul. She sold canvas paintings with inspirational messages alongside art around the community, online and rented a booth at the Mini Mall of All.

House staff helped attendees write down, and brainstorm words that described Franie, for the song they wrote about her.

She also held multiple online art classes through Darke County DD, which were available across the state.

“There’s always the question of why,” Huston said. “There’s not an easy answer. I’ve known a lot of really amazing young adults in my life who have passed way too soon. Some of my kids’ friends from school. The question is, ‘How do you explain this to a kid?’ It’s hard enough for us to understand. What I said to them at the time, and I still believe this to be true, is that people were meant to impact us with their life well lived, and Franie had a life well-lived.”

Club member, and friend of Shellabarger, Sam Plock, couldn’t make it, but provided Huston with some words on his late friend.

“She was a champion of people,” he wrote. “She was a good example for us. She never let her disability stop her from living her dreams.”

To honor her impact and life, Kyle Wooten, friend of Shellabarger, shared a song he partially wrote for her. He allowed the club to finish out the song, and wrote the rest of the song on Shellabarger.

Huston also encouraged members who had never met her to work through other feelings of loss they had from losing other loved ones in their lives.

For any questions on the Advocacy in Action Club, follow the Darke County DD Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DarkeDD, or contact Huston at sueh@darkedd.org.

For more information on The House that Lulu Built, go to www.thehousethatlulubuilt.org.