Tag Archives: youth & children

Metropolitan Ministries

Metropolitan Ministries started as a cooperative effort among area churches to bring relief to homeless families and hungry people in the Tampa Bay area. Together they were able to accomplish more than the thirteen original churches could do individually. And that is a lesson we can all take from, and one that is at the root of what GET REAL Involved! is all about. Bringing student volunteers together for an even bigger impact than individual efforts.

GET REAL Involved! has long been a partner with Metropolitan Ministries, bringing groups there for the last three years to help with Backpacks for Hope, their back to school supplies drive, as well as each year for BOXES OF HOPE at Christmas time. But this month, our manpower was put to work moving their GED classroom across campus. We were seven students and two adults lugging boxes and equipment from the old classroom to the brand new facility across campus. The old adage many hands make light work was proven in how quickly we were able to accomplish the move.

After we finished the move, we broke up into two teams; one helped to clean the classroom furniture, and the other headed to the kitchen to give a hand there. One of our students, Kerianne Fernandez, is an old pro working with Metropolitan Ministries, and served as our guide almost as we began our stint in the kitchen. There were four of us in the kitchen and we had to wear hair nets and aprons (sorry no photos!) to insure sanitary conditions. Our new GET REAL Involved! student Jason, who is a strong young man, was recruited immediately for some heavy lifting duties, while Catherine, Kerianne and Jess were put to work filling large pots with mixed vegetables. Now, this was harder than it sounds. Met Min’s kitchen has an old table mounted can opener which requires a bit of finesse to operate. Catherine took command of this apparatus and proceeded to crush several cans before she got the hang of it. But in time, she, Kerianne and Jess has established a great rhythmic assembly line of opening, draining and dumping the cans of veggies into the pots. Jason kept the cans stocked for our assembly line, and we all were highly productive in a short 90 minutes!

Meanwhile, across campus, Jen had Alex, Andrew, Carlisle and Josh finish cleaning the classroom furniture and then they helped clean up the cafeteria as we were getting ready for lunch.

All in all it was a great and productive day, and we are looking forward to returning to Metropolitan Ministries on a regular basis to deepen our partnership.

Next month we’ll spend some more time in the kitchen as GET REAL Involved! serves at Open Arms Ministry on Sunday, March 8, 2009.

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Steppin’ Stone Farm

January took us back to Steppin’ Stone Farm to check on our crops! Back in September we’d helped the girls at Steppin’ Stone weed their cash crop of ornamental grasses. These crops help to raise money for the Farm as well as for scholarships for girls who leave the Farm with a recommendation. The growth we saw between this trip and the one last fall was amazing — and I’m not talking about the crops! (Although they really grew too!)

One of the neat things about our GET REAL Involved! trips is that as we continue to visit the same places we get to really see how our work makes a difference. And at Steppin’ Stone, we see the difference as the girls grow and gain confidence and clarity in their own futures.

We worked hard all morning side by side with the “plant girls” and had a lot of fun. We made some great progress. The plants will be going to the Strawberry Festival at the end of February, so it was important to get them in good shape. Everyone had something to do and kept busy. It was a great day. A little chilly, but that didn’t stop us.

We had a good age mix from Middle and High School. The Middle School guys put their energy to work clearing an overgrown area and moving pots and things. They were really helpful…after they got focused!!! šŸ™‚ Then we took the tour, which is always a fun part of the trip. Steppin’ Stone is a real working farm, from the smelly chicken coups to the full grown steer which will be shown at the Strawberry Festival! We saw the noisy geese, and the rambunctious goats, and the beloved pigs, which are pets and will not be breakfast meats ever! It’s always fun to get a peek at how animals are doing.

Well, next month we’re off to Metropolitan Ministries! Hope to see you there.

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Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Center

Well, despite the fact that we had one of our major schools in a State Football Championship, we still managed to bring over 20 students and adult volunteers to help out at the Holiday Center at Metropolitan Ministries. This place is an amazing example of what can be done when enough people care to give of their time. Metropolitan Ministries serves almost 15,000 families during the Holiday season. Providing food, toys and a whole lot of dignity and respect.

GET REAL Involved! volunteers assisted with distribution of food this year in the food shopping area. Taking turns, we greeted guests, identified their needs and assisted them in choosing food from the well-stocked aisles! Christmas songs in the air and smiles, smiles, smiles! It was fabulous!

We began by unloading the 90 BOXES OF HOPE we had collected in December – 3,000 pounds of food! And the 37 toys we had collected as well. Those items were on their way to making someone’s Holiday that much more special! We then headed into “the tent” to begin our shifts as holiday helpers!

The feeling that happens when you get the chance to meet new people, spend time with friends and really bring some joy is an amazing one! An experience recommended for one and all.

Next stop: Steppin’ Stone Farm on January 17th. See the website http://www.getrealinvolved.org for details!

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Steppin’ Stone Farm

Well the latest GET REAL Involved! trip took us to Steppin’ Stone Farm, and what a great experience it was! Steppin’ Stone, for those who do not know, is a home for at risk teenage girls. It’s 85 acres of working farm on the Alafia River in Lithia, FL. and there are up to 27 girls there at any one time. They live in group homes and work the farm, which means tending to the animals and a nursery where they grow ornamental plants and grasses.

There were about 20 of us, and we got there a little late, but the girls were there waiting for us. First we went on a tour of the Farm. They have steers and chickens and pigs and goats. Some of the girls, called “steer girls” are in charge of taking care of the steers as part of a 4H program for which they get high school credit. The chickens provide fresh eggs every day! The girls have chores and school each day — either they are tending to one of the farm chores, or preparing meals and manning the kitchen. There isn’t much down time.

The tour is always my favorite part of a visit to Steppin’ Stone. Three “old girls” give us a tour of all the animals and the group homes and give us a glimpse into a day in the life of a girl on the Farm. There are strict rules, but it doesn’t seem to be stifling or severe there. The girls are happy and seemed filled with renewed purpose — chief among that purpose is to change their lives. The girls are open and friendly and have a bright outlook.

After the tour we got to work helping them tend to their “cash crop” of ornamental/architectural grasses and plants. The crops are sold at the Strawberry Festival to raise money for scholarships. And with only up to 27 girls there at any given time, and all the other chores that keep an 85 acre farm going it sometimes is tough to keep the nursery in great shape. Enter our 20 sets of hands! We whipped through several rows of beds in about three hours and got those plants in great shape. Now the task for the girls is much more manageable.

After our work in the nursery we got to eat lunch with the girls. It was a special occasion in that one of the girls was celebrating a birthday. Her whole family had come up from Miami and made homemade fried chicken, shepherd’s pie and green beans. Yum! Everyone had a great time, and really enjoyed the food.

The students who went seemed to be impressed with the girls and their ability to overcome some fairly big stuff and clearly are facing life with a renewed outlook. That gave us all something to think about.

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Backpacks of Hope at Metropolitan Ministries

The first GET REAL Involved! community service project of the 08-09 school year was to Metropolitan Ministries Backpacks of Hope. What a great day. What a difference Metropolitan Ministries makes in the community. I think they had like 4,000 families come through to pick up a fully loaded backpack to get their kids ready for school.

There were about 14 of us, not bad for the first project of the year! And we served food to the guests, and managed the haircutting area. That was a really neat addition this year to the Backpacks of Hope: they offered families haircuts from a local hair cutting academy. It was just like a barber shop, down to the little boys crying over their first hair cut!

About halfway through our shift the skys opened up and the rain dumped down on the crew that was serving on the food line! They were drenched! It was hilarious. They had to scurry inside and try and get dry with paper towels! I mean they looked like they had been dunked into a pool they were so wet. What a downpour. For the rest of our shitf they tried to dry off and they helped us manage the line for hair cuts.

The barbers completed about 100 haircuts — they were amazing. And the families were so excited to have the new service provided this year. Great idea! All in all it was a really good day. We got to help people, run screaming in the rain, meet some new folks, and hang out with friends.
It was Emily E.’s last GET REAL day with us as a student. She’s off to Samford and we’re going to miss her!
That’s all for now!

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