Teens from around Tampa Bay are choosing to spend part of their summer vacation serving others as part of the Good Samaritan Project organized by the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, Office of Youth Ministry.
“The Good Samaritan Project is a way for me to strengthen my faith in God and to serve others and to really follow what Christ said – to love one another as I have loved you,” said Claudia Vitale of St. Paul Parish in Tampa.
Vitale joined 240 other teens the week of June 24-30 to serve at a variety of agencies in Pasco and Hernando Counties including: The ARC Nature Coast, Metropolitan Ministries, Sunshine Christian Housing, Notre Dame Catholic School, Safety Town (which is run by the Pasco Sheriff’s Office), Youth and Family Alternatives (a foster care agency), Gulfside Hospice, Sunrise Domestic Violence Center and others.
Thirty-nine teens helped with painting, mulching and moving a fence on the property of the Hope Youth Ranch in Hudson. They had to work outside in the sweltering heat but that did not deter them from accomplishing what they set out to do.
“These kids are seriously working and getting things done,” said Ampy Suarez, Education Director of Hope Youth Ranch, a nonprofit school for children with autism and other special needs located on a farm like setting. The large property requires a lot of upkeep that can be costly. This is the fourth-year students from the Good Samaritan Project have volunteered to lend a hand.
“They have been such a blessing,” said Suarez. “It’s wonderful to have them here helping us.”
This year, the Good Samaritan Project expanded to Pinellas County with a service week July 8-14. During that week, 80 teenagers, 15 college students, and 20 adult chaperones have been volunteering at various service sites, such as RCS Food Bank, DayStar Life Center, Veteran’s Memorial Park, Pinellas Hope, the Homeless Empowerment Program, St. Vincent de Paul Society Food Distribution Center, Keep Pinellas Beautiful and others.
The Good Samaritan Project started in 2012 with summer service projects in Pasco-Hernando Counties. The five pillars of the Good Samaritan Project are community, service, leadership, prayer, and growth.
Photo Caption: Good Samaritan Project volunteers take a break from serving the community. Photo Credit: Mary Blenke