Two enterprising 10-year-olds got some surprise coaching Saturday from a seasoned political veteran in their effort to fundraise to buy a dog.
Former Alameda City Councilman Lil Arnerich was outside his Encinal Avenue home working when Natalie Leonard, his nearby neighbor, and her friend, Carly Doumitt, stopped by.
The girls arrived with high hopes and a tray of glittery bottle caps they hoped to sell.
It was the girls' first foray into raising money to buy a dog for Natalie who has her heart set on owning a dog — a small Japanese breed called a Shiba Inu.
Neighbor Arnerich, who was with the for 35 years before his 10-year stint as a city councilman, has 12 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. He is no stranger to kids or campaigns.
He immediately jumped in to help the girls develop a plan to attract buyers for their wares.
First Arnerich helped the girls paint an eye-catching sign. Then he provided them with a card table from which to sell their crafts. Next he set up construction cones to enable would-be shoppers a safe place to pull over. Finally, he offered the girls beverages and a lot of encouragement.
Drivers passing by stopped out of curiosity, attracted by the large sign which the girls held up high that read, "Help Me Buy A Dog."
Although only $8 was raised their first afternoon out, Arnerich also promised to make a donation to their cause.
Kelly Leonard, Natalie's mother, said she wanted to instill in her daughter that with dog ownership comes responsibility. Having Natalie raise some of the money for a dog herself, she said, was part of teaching her that lesson.
The family already has two 4-year-old rescue cats, Sammy and Tigger. Adding a dog to the mix will mean more work for everyone.
Natalie said she specifically wants that unusual breed dog because it is said to be low maintenance and not prone to barking. "It is small and looks like a fox," Natalie said.
Carly was happy to help her friend out, knowing she will be able to come play with the dog if and when it arrives. Carly and Natalie have been friends since kindergarten. They met when they were both enrolled at . Natalie now attends and Carly is a student at
Kelly Leonard said her daughter decided to make the sparkling bottle cap charms that can be put on a chain and worn as a necklace because they are very popular with kids right now.
The girls are not sure just what direction their future fundraising efforts will take, she said, or where they will sell their creations next.
No matter what happens, however, said Kelly Leonard, she is grateful to Arnerich for giving the girls a lesson in salesmanship she knows they won't forget. "He's watched her grow up and he's been wonderful to us over the years," she said.
Meanwhile, if you happen to be cruising down Encinal Avenue and see two ambitious girls holding a sign flanked by one proud mother and a grandfatherly coach, give them a wave. Better yet, stop and make a donation to help Natalie achieve her dream of dog ownership.
It's the neighborly thing to do.