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Debbie Arena creates memories

By By LYDIA GRIMES – Feature Writer
Debbie Bell Arena is not only creating her own memories, but is also helping others to create their own.
She is a unit leader with Creative Memories, which is a form of scrapbooking that is sweeping the nation as one of the latest hobbies.
Scrapbooking may be a hobby but those who are involved don't see it that way. They see it as a way to preserve that which may be lost.
Arena got involved with the movement in 1996 when her first child was born. She was working as a teacher in Pensacola at the time and she decided that she wanted to stay home with her child instead of working outside the home. She knew that she wanted to be involved in some sort of work but she wanted to be able to do it from the home. She remembered hearing a broadcast of "Focus on the Family" while she was living at Auburn which happened to about Creative Memories. She had thought at the time that it sounded interesting. She attended a craft fair and found some material that made her even more sure that she wanted to get involved with scapbooking, so she made the decision to become a part of the Creative Memories program.
She bought a kit from the company for $175 (it's $195 today). It contained everything she needed to get started. They also furnished her with an 'up-line' person for her training and support.
She really believes in what she is doing and is ready and willing to share what she calls "the mission" of getting people to organize and save photographs and writings in the right way.
Everyone has boxes and old albums full of photos that they have collected. There may even be an album left from grandparents sitting in a cabinet somewhere. The problem is that most of them are being collected, but not preserved. It is the mission of those who work with Creative Memories and other scapbooking programs to inform the public as to how to go about it the right way.
Creative Memories has a whole system set up teaching how to trim and place photos in acid free albums. Most people are not aware as to how destructive magnetic albums are on photographs over a period of time. They began to break down and either turn brown or start to fade. They, like other preserved items, need some tender loving care when it comes to storage.
Photographs are not the only things Arena and her group are interested in preserving. They believe that stories go along with the photos. Nothing will take the place of a loved one's own handwriting as a treasured hand-me-down.
Creative Memories and scrapbooking has become a big item with churches and groups such as the National Alzheimer's Foundation. Alzheimer support groups are very interested in the program. They believe that it keeps the past, as well as the present, in the minds of the patients. It makes a connection between caregivers and those suffering from the disease. Creative Memories contributed over $500,000 to the foundation last year and has now become a corporate sponsor of the organization.
Arena and her family live in Forsyth County, Ga. and as the children are growing into their school years, she sees herself having more time to devote to Creative Memories. Just recently she served as Regional Host of the Atlanta Region Convention in Atlanta and she works as often as her family schedule will permit. It is her hope and belief that her work will enable her husband to retire early from his job as an Instrumental Technology Specialist.
Arena was born in Marianna, Fla. and moved to Atmore where she lived for the first five years of her life. At that time the family, which consisted of her parents, Max and Nelda Bell, her brothers, David and Doug, and Debbie, all moved to Brewton. The children all attended T.R. Miller High School and were very active in academic and extra curricular activities. She was a cheerleader, a member of the honor society and was very active in the First Baptist Church Youth Group. She graduated from T.R. Miller in 1985 and attended Jefferson Davis Community College for two years where she received her associate's degree in 1987. She went along on a mission trip with the Southern Baptist Convention Home Mission Board to Orlando in the summer of 1987 and it was there that she met her husband, Alan. She returned to go to Troy State University in the fall of 1987 on a full scholarship. She majored in early childhood education and graduated in 1989.
She and Alan were married that same year and moved to Jacksonville, Fla. where she taught first and second grades for the next three years. She also taught music while she was there.
The year 1993 found the couple in Auburn where she worked on getting her master's degree and also became hostess to a large number of people coming to see Auburn play football.
She didn't let it take her mind away from her grades though and within a few months she earned her master's degree and graduated with a 4.0 GPA.
The couple moved to Tallahassee after her graduation for Alan to attend Florida State University to get his degree in library science. She got a job teaching multi-age groups in school.
The Arenas thought that they would be living in Tallahassee for some time but after Alan got his degree, they found themselves on the move again.
It was while they were living in Pensacola that their son, Anthony, was born and she began her association with Creative Memories.
These days Arena is busy raising her children, Anthony (1996), Michael (1998) and Jennifer (2002). She likes to read and play music with them and work on projects around the house.