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Organizers plan for CareFest SouthShore

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image Volunteers at a recent day of Somebody Cares Tampa Bay helped paint, yard cleanup and home repairs according to their particular skills.

“This is a way to honor the commands in the Bible to love God by loving your neighbor...”


RUSKIN — Norman Blanton means it when he says he cares.

Blanton, who has been the pastor of the Ruskin Foursquare Church since May, worked to bring ‘Somebody Cares Tampa Bay’ to Plant City (as ‘Somebody Cares Plant City’) when he pastored a church there. Now he’s doing the same for residents of South County.

“We held the event there for six years,” Blanton said. “It was a real joy, not just for the people who received help, but for the volunteers as well.”

A native of Plant City, Blanton lives in Dover and now that he’s working in Ruskin, he’s organizing ‘CareFest 2012’ under the umbrella of ‘Somebody Cares Tampa Bay’ for this area on Saturday, September 29.

As the self-appointed area coordinator of the event, Blanton has gathered a core group of volunteers to identify people who need some sort of assistance with home repairs or cleanup; keep track of people with specific skills like carpentry, plumbing and other aspects of construction and home maintenance; and to ask for donations of materials including paint, building supplies and bottled water.

The first thing Blanton did was to contact other area pastors and enlist help from the churches. He has also approached several businesses and is in the process of making the group’s needs known to area chambers of commerce.

Pastor Jerry Lubrano of Destiny Church, 2322 11th Ave. S.E. in Ruskin (south off State Road 674 between Ruskin and Sun City Center) has donated the use of his church for the event because he has the facilities to accommodate it. Groups and individuals will gather there the day of the event (Sept. 29) at 7 a.m. for a “kick-off” and registration.

The organizers hope to have advance notice of all who plan to volunteer but extra people may show up at the site if they find they can help at the last minute.

“Volunteers from all religious denominations, businesses, organizations and neighborhood groups will work side-by-side doing simple home repairs and yard work for homeowners in the community who are legitimately unable to do the work themselves. This year’s theme is ‘Bee Caretagious!’ (and uses the symbol of a bumblebee),” said Dana Perrotto of Apollo Beach, who has taken on the job as public relations coordinator for the event.

“Single moms, the elderly, the disabled, and low income families often have difficulty maintaining and repairing their homes. Needs such as exterior and interior painting, simple carpentry, plumbing and electrical work, yard cleanup, landscaping, and more may be submitted for consideration by anyone. The need will be evaluated and if approved, adopted as a CareFest project,” she explained.

Dana’s husband Trent has taken on the job of project evaluator and will work closely with Howard Roshaven, who will be acting as volunteer coordinator.

People with ideas and names for projects may call Trent Perrotto at (813) 454-9244 and prospective volunteers- or those with questions about volunteering- may call Roshaven at (813) 642-9645.

Both say if a machine answers to leave names and numbers and they will call back.

Meanwhile Blanton is available for general questions about the event at (813) 309-3558.

Volunteers in groups headed by these persons will check out suggested projects and evaluate the time and materials necessary to perform them. Volunteers with special construction or maintenance skills will be matched with projects, and all others will be assigned where they are needed.

The earlier projects are identified and volunteers enlisted, the smoother the event will be.

“We have to know the project is doable within a 4-to-5 hour time period,” said Blanton. Every volunteer is asked to show up dressed in work clothes and bring tools of their trade; or for yard work or whatever they think they may need.

After the registration, volunteers will spend until 1 p.m. and then return to Destiny Church where they will be treated to lunch, music and a celebration of the day’s events.

Both volunteers and recipients will be served and asked if they would like to speak about their specific experience.

The only specific qualification (besides being really in need of help) is that they own the property and sign “owner releases of liability” so that no lawsuits can be filed against any helper organization or volunteer.

“This is a great way for kids to earn community service hours,” Dana Perrotto said. These hours can be ordered by the court for juvenile probation or voluntarily done to be used toward Bright Futures Scholarships. As reported earlier this year in The Observer News and Riverview Current, the amount of volunteer hours now required for these scholarships has been substantially raised for the graduating class of 2013.

Preteens as young as 12 may work alongside adults with signed parental permission, and Blanton said the events he held in Plant City were well-attended by youth groups. Anyone 18 or older may work as an adult once he or she is matched with a project. There is no upper age limit, although Blanton reminds volunteers that a lot of the necessary work will be done outdoors.

“It’s mostly things like plumbing leaks, painting and yard cleanup,” he said, which led into a story about an elderly couple in Plant City when the husband had cancer. “He’d been a junkman, and had a lot of things in his yard. When he fell ill, the city cited him with $100 a day fine. We went in and cleaned it up spotless, front and back.”

View a CareFest promo video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=qebpOLDsqtk or log onto www.carefestusa.com. Both these websites will give people the opportunity to view what happens at these events, but remember they give telephone numbers for “Somebody Cares Tampa Bay” (at 727 exchanges) so South County residents are asked to call the local numbers given in this story instead.

“This is a way to honor the commands in the Bible to love God by loving your neighbor,” Blanton said, citing several passages of Scripture.

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