The YLP class got hands-on experience during Human Services Day. It began with a game of Hunger 101 at the RCS Food Bank. The class collected 163 pounds of food to help feed Pinellas County’s working poor. After a brief talk from CEO Kirk Smith, the kids engaged in the Hunger Games. The exercise, which provided each participant a simulated example of poverty, was eye-opening to many of the participants. The kindness displayed by the kids was encouraging.
More hands-on experiences awaited them at the next stop. The Arc Tampa Bay (TATB) began with an overview of the programs delivered by CEO Sheldon Hershman. The class played a quick, fun game with TATB participants. After competing, they joined them to make music in a therapeutic drum circle. Before leaving, the class engaged in sensory training. Their movement was restricted by oven mitts and their communication was greatly decreased by GIANT marshmallows. They were requested to perform ordinary tasks with these restrictions. They quickly experienced the challenges of TATB participants. The class provided TATB with art supplies for their Harborside Studios, including paint, chalk and canvases.
More gifts were shared at the next stop. The Homeless Empowerment Project (HEP) was given toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss for their full-service dental clinic. The YLP class walked the beautiful campus and heard about all the quality services afforded to the veterans and their families. Unfortunately, the class didn’t have time to shop at their popular thrift store. The tour culminated with a delicious lunch served in their cafeteria. Of course, they had their wonderful homemade desserts to cap off the visit.
The Lighthouse of Pinellas was the next stop. The class was welcomed and immediately thrown back into the hands-on experience. They were blindfolded and asked to navigate the conference room. All made it, but the traversing was slow and steady. Next, they were shown how to work a computer with little to no sight. Finally, they were able to interact with a teacher who teaches preschoolers how to ‘see.’ A few brave volunteers were blindfolded and participated in some of the kid’s educational games.
At the SPCA of Tampa Bay, the kids got time to play. After delivering toys for dogs and cats, they got to engage with the animals. The highlight was two obviously domestic squirrels that made an uninvited visit to the dog pen. The squirrels were completely unaware of the dog who was trying to get them. It created some havoc but also a lot of laughs for the class. They visited the horses and goats before leaving for the final stop.
The class day ended at Pinellas Safe Harbor. The class donated shampoo, deodorant, soap, and other hygiene items. They were able to tour the facility and see where the participants slept. Many were shocked by the ‘modest’ living conditions. The staff presented all the positive opportunities for help offered at the shelter.
The YLP class had a great day and gained knowledge about a few of the programs helping Pinellas County residents. They enjoyed learning, participating, and helping at each stop. Most importantly, they appreciated their many blessings. By the day’s end, they were exhausted both physically and mentally.