Act Locally formed when the program Hands-On, Minds-On St. Pete filled up quickly during sign ups last fall, and freshmen interested in learning more about local service organizations could have an opportunity to do hands-on service.
The areas of focus included the environment (Tampa Bay Watch), animals and the disabled (Southeastern Guide Dogs), the hungry (St. Petersburg Free Clinic's Food Bank), and families and children and support for the ill (Ronald McDonald House East).
This year, the group consisted of eight enthusiastic and engaged ninth grade girls who made the most of every opportunity.
They made fishing line disposal containers using empty tennis ball cans on Monday morning. In the afternoon, they attacked the smelly and tedious task of separating monofilament from debris for recycling the used fishing line.
On Tuesday, they helped socialize a litter of prospective guide dogs and walked and brushed older dogs in-training. They learned about the $60,000 investment made to raise a fully-trained guide dog and the importance of the dogs to be comfortable being handled by a variety of people and still be able to focus on their tasks when wearing the vest and working. In the afternoon, the group made paracord puppy collars in a variety of colors used by SEGD to identify puppies as they are going through various stages of screening and training.
On Wednesday, the group saw multiple sides of food as a basic human need. In the morning, the volunteers separated, sorted and bagged seven food items into bags for distribution. The six different cans of food and the bag of rice were a part of the monthly USDA delivery of surplus food. They group packed 150 bags for distribution. A few volunteers dug through large barrels of donated food items checking expiration dates. Following the work, the group enjoyed lunch at Chipotle. Before and after lunch, the group also compared prices and shopped for ingredients at GFS and Publix in preparation for the next day's lunch to be served at the Ronald McDonald House East.
The girls planned the menu, did a lot of math to figure out the shopping list and compare quantities and costs between two stores and shopped to make lunch for up to 50 people within a limited budget.
On the final day, the group started with an orientation at RMHE and did some light chores such as dusting, sweeping and vacuuming while the residents finished breakfast. With only one and a half hours, the girls divided up into small teams, organized during the menu planning stage, and cooked and baked.
Shannon and Julia made chocolate chip cookies from scratch. Meghan baked sugar cookies with help from Elizabeth, who also made the large Caesar salad in two batches. Karli took on the task of simmering the meatballs in marinara for the sliders and subs. Clara and Sylvia served as the griddle-masters expertly making stacks of grilled cheese sandwiches with cheddar, Swiss and muenster with some grilled with ham and/or tomato.
With one member missing on Thursday, the group welcomed a sophomore from another group who couldn't do the laborious work at the organic farm with her Cook & Serve group. Sophie, even with her dominant arm in a sling, floated among various tasks. She had experience from the day before when her group prepared lunch at RMHE.
Family members staying at the house while their children are receiving treatment at nearby All Children's Hospital dropped by between 12 noon and 1:30 pm enjoyed the spread. Though we had planned for enough food to include 30-35 residents as well as our students, we experienced a shortage and the volunteers opted to stay hungry and wait until after our job was completed to eat lunch out. They stayed focused through cleaning up, washing, drying and putting away of all the items we used for food preparation, as well as sweeping and mopping. After putting away the few leftovers and unused ingredients, the group stopped at PDQ to pick up lunch and spend the remaining time reflecting and completing the surveys.
Ms. Stevens was touched by the level of commitment to and interest in service shown by the participants, many of whom she had known since their middle-school days. With these emerging student leaders, she's hopeful for the service efforts at Shorecrest continuing to grow and reach new heights in the years to come.(more photos)