In the days following the heart wrenching Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, a quote from Mister Rogers went viral, reminding those of us at a loss for understanding, much less words of our own, that there is still immeasurable good in the world.
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world." —Mister Rogers
I've gone back to it often this week, and it's reminded me of all the great people I've met since I began covering the Land O' Lakes and Lutz communities in November 2011. Here's a look back at some of the people in your neighborhood who are helping to make the community, and the world, a better place.
If you pull into the parking lot of Christian Social Services at the right time, Jacquie Petet just might put you to work. The organization's executve director had been at her post for nearly 18 years when I met her last December. With a dedicated group of volunteers and the support of local churches and community members, Christian Social Services gives out between two and four tons of food to people in need every month.
A Passion Becomes a Mission
Owen Sarwatka of Lutz founded his nonprofit organization when he was a sophomore in high school. Today, the Academy at the Lakes senior continues to introduce the joy of baseball to local children with special needs, so that "Everyone can play."
Damaged, But Not Broken
At 16, Stephanie Roshell went to church a lot. But to her father’s way of thinking, that meant she must have been doing something wrong. He came home after a night of drinking and kicked her out. Her mother, fearful, did not intervene. Roshell, now 46, was homeless and on her own from that point on, she said. Co-founder of Operation Unwrap a Smile runs the nonprofit organization from her family's Land O' Lakes home, supporting at-risk Bay area youth as well as seniors in nursing homes.
Teen Offers a Hand Up to Prevent Crime, Change Lives
Steinbrenner High senior Ellen Kromer embarked on a project earlier this year to collect clothing and basic toiletries for incarcerated youth. The more help people receive when they’re given a chance to start over, the less likely they are to commit a crime in the future, Kromer believes.
Honoring, Supporting Our Veterans and Neighbors
In September, the Abilities Foundation and The Home Depot teamed up to renovate the home of Land O' Lakes resident Sgt. José Pequeño, one of the most severely injured servicemen to ever return from Iraq or Afghanistan. Volunteers from the GFWC Lutz-Land O' Lakes Woman's Club heard about the efforts and brought out food for the family and volunteers. It was a day that showed just how much can be accomplished when everyone pitches in to care for their fellow man, and a day that reminded me just how lucky we are to have people like Sgt. Pequeño in this great United States.
And of course there are the volunteers, club members, local business owners and community leaders who come together regularly and give of themselves so that Land O' Lakes can be a great place to live.
Thank you, all of you, for your willing hearts and helping hands.
"I've always wanted to have a neighbor just like you. I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you."
Want to thank a helper? Post your sentiments in the comments, or create an announcement.