TAMPA – Academy of the Holy Names middle school students recently fanned out across the Tampa Bay area helping 16 organizations and charities.
Meanwhile younger students, some only 4 years old, stayed at the South Tampa school creating gifts for others.
The annual Elementary School Community Day of Service on Nov. 3 had about 550 students from prekindergarten through eighth grade – as well as numerous parent volunteers – involved in the projects.
All also heard Derrick Riggins, a former foster child and now child advocate, speak. He spend 14 years in Florida’s foster care system before aging out of the system. He went on to obtain a master’s degree in social work.
“I wanted them to know how people gave to me,” Riggins said, as he walked through the projects under way at the school, located at 3319 Bayshore Blvd. “It’s small things that they do that can have the biggest impact.”
Those projects included creating cards for distribution to veterans and active-duty service members via Red Cross, filling food bags for the St. Vincent de Paul Society food pantry, bagging lunches for Faith Café and Trinity Café to distribute to the homeless, adding ribbons to donated stuffed animals for underprivileged children, and making blankets for hospice patients and wreathes for nursing home residents. They also folded and prepared a newsletter for bulk mailing.
The Community Day of Service began about 13 years ago, Katie Holland, a campus minister, said.
“We wanted everyone on campus to focus on helping others,” she said. “The high school students do it in January during Catholic Schools Week.”
The campus ministry budget funds the supplies for the projects; families also donate items for the food, toy and pajama drive.
Students in grades five to eight traveled offsite to assist agencies including Egypt Lake Elementary, Everyday Blessings, Feeding America Horses for Handicapped, Metropolitan Ministries, Pinellas Hope, Religious Community Services Food Bank and the Santa Maria Mission.
At the Santa Maria Mission in North Tampa, mission coordinator Ondina Hernandez praised the group.
“They’ve been a beautiful group,” Hernandez said. “They’ve done a cleanup of the building, prepacked toys, picked up trash. And they have done everything with a smile.”
Erin Lee, a fifth-grade teacher accompanying the students, agreed.
“It’s been awesome,” she said. “They had a great spirit about it.”