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Taking initiative to help others

Published May 25, 2004

All of us who share this planet notice on occasion a problem in society that needs fixing.

Some of us shrug and wait for someone else to take care of it.

Others say, "I can fix that," and set about doing so.

Today, kudos to the fixers, who in three different situations in North Pinellas, saw a need and didn't wait for someone else to handle it.

Religious groups unite to serve hot meals to Tarpon's homeless

Stephen Moch, the rabbi at Congregation B'nai Emmunah on Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs, was worried about the homeless families living in the woods near his synagogue.

Could he do something to improve their lives? He called the Shepherds Center of Tarpon Springs, an organization that provides services to the poor, and asked for help.

Moch and Bill Vasiliou, Shepherds Center executive director, hatched a plan to start a soup kitchen that would serve a meal on Sundays, the only day of the week no organization offered hot food to the poor in Tarpon Springs.

The idea created a problem, however: Congregation B'nai Emmunah has little more than a microwave for preparing food and is in a rather remote location to serve the working poor closer to downtown Tarpon Springs.

So Moch went looking for another partner. He found Mount Moriah AME Church in Tarpon Springs, where the pastor, Herbert Hollingsworth, immediately offered his church and its kitchen facilities.

Thanks to Moch, a hot meal is being served now on Sunday afternoons to anyone who cannot afford to buy their own food. Individuals or families are welcomed at Mount Moriah, 722 S Disston Ave., from 4 to 5 p.m. They are served by volunteers from the church and synagogue, who cook the meals using food supplied by the Shepherds Center.

Problem solved, and a further benefit is that a Christian church, a Jewish synagogue and a social service organization have dropped the kinds of artificial boundaries that normally would separate them and have united to take care of hungry people.

Mease rolls out free van service to give rides to the elderly, ill

When you are elderly, have health problems and no longer drive, how do you get to your doctor appointments?

If you don't have a friend or relative to drive you, you either cancel the appointment or get stuck taking a cab - an expensive proposition if you live on a meager fixed income.

A few years ago, Pat Rogers and others who volunteer at Mease Dunedin Hospital noticed that an increasing number of Mease patients missed doctor appointments because they had no transportation. Sometimes, elderly patients scheduled for surgery could not find anyone to drive them home afterward.

So Rogers and other Mease volunteers put their heads together and decided that a free van service was just the ticket. The van could pick up patients and take them to any of the Mease hospitals or clinic facilities in mid Pinellas and north Pinellas, then give them a ride back home. The volunteers held fundraisers and asked for donations to scrape together enough for a van.

In 1995, the service they dubbed Carelift picked up its first rider. Last week, it delivered its 100,000th passenger. The free service now has five vans and more than 100 volunteers who handle the transport in an area bordered by Alt. U.S. 19, Alderman Road, Sunset Point Road and East Lake Road. Those who need a ride merely call 734-6107 for an appointment.

Man works to help spruce up a low-income neighborhood

Alfred Quarterman is a Tarpon Springs senior citizen who has a habit of helping out, even if no one is there to thank him. A case in point: He has worked for years, sometimes with little help, to maintain Rose Cemetery, a historically black cemetery in Tarpon.

Quarterman also took an interest in the revitalization of the low-income Union Academy neighborhood in the city. As others worked on various aspects of the community improvement program, Quarterman wanted to do his part.

In 2001, he helped start a program that provided free paint and equipment for Union Academy residents who wanted to fix up their homes' exteriors. The Tarpon Springs Housing Authority provided official sponsorship, state and county grants provided funding, and volunteers helped the residents work on their homes.

To date, 77 properties have been spruced up, and the difference is visible.

* * * The lesson in these three examples is that you don't need special training, leadership skills or experience to start a project that can have enormous impact. You just need the desire to serve and the willingness to take the first step. Congratulations to these volunteers who stepped up to help. [Last modified May 24, 2004, 22:36:12]

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