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Participation proves more helpful than give-aways

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image Falcon Towing in Wimauma sent instructors to teach women at the mission about basic auto maintenance.

The concept is that if someone puts time and effort into something, they will appreciate it more, and they’ll learn something from the experience that helps lift them to a better way of living both in the short and long run.

Things look different this year at Good Samaritan Mission in Wimauma.

No more standing in line for food baskets.

No more hand-outs for free.

So how then can it still be called a mission?

“We’ve found that people who have a vested interest in things are much happier, learn more, and get more out of what we have to offer,” said Good Samaritan’s Executive Director Bill Cruz. “We’ve started offering a unique type of educational opportunity for everyone who comes to us. Our adult education classes are a healthy balance of information, Christian discipleship, prayer and relationship building.”

Class attendance is used as an exchange for tangible goods that lift people eventually out of situations where they continuously need assistance. 

Classes are mainly held on Tuesdays during the day and Thursdays in the evening so that no matter what type of work hours a person has, they can participate, he said. There are a few things given on other days and times as well.

“We knew people wouldn’t want to study ‘nutrition’ but they might take a cooking class, so we call it that,” he explained.

This class teaches how to feed a family in a healthy way, which will help lower the high statistics of preventable deaths from out-of-control diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and many others.

But preparing and eating healthy food is far from all being taught at Good Samaritan. There have been classes on banking and finance and how to stay out of debt, keep a better house and learn a trade.

From sewing to basic auto maintenance, classes are being offered to people who come to the mission for help.

In return for each class taken, a coin is given that can be used in the mission’s new “store.”

“Instead of just being handed a bag of food or clothing, they get to go into our store and pick from shelves using the coins. Each coin gives them the right to fill one bag with things they choose.”

Cruz said the concept is that if someone puts time and effort into something, they will appreciate it more, and they’ll learn something from the experience that helps lift them to a better way of living both in the short and long run.

“We talk about marriage and parenting,” he said. “So if both parents come to two classes let’s say, on a Thursday night, they could each get two coins, equaling four bags from our store.”

The mission is seeking people from the community to teach things in all ranges — from painting and gardening to prayer and crafts, songs, finance techniques, or baking your favorite dish.

“It’s easy. If you have a specialty, you just have to fill 20 minutes of time. The first few minutes of each class is really a getting to know each other time,” he said.

Cruz, who is both a minister and a licensed therapist, his wife Theresa and their staff get a special thrill when one of the “students” first realizes he or she has something they can teach.

“It’s a real ‘ah-ha’ moment, when somebody realizes they have something they can give back.”

It can be as simple a thing as showing someone else how to bake a special recipe, he said.

Because people often bring their families to classes directly from their jobs, food is provided before evening classes start. 

The Sam’s Club store on Big Bend Road has developed a special relationship with the mission and gives them whatever would ordinarily be thrown away because of things like damage to the box or container, he said.

Little Caesar’s in Sun City Center provides pizzas. Goodson Farms has provided cooler space. Cadence Bank gave talks on avoiding credit card debt.

“It’s all about community,” Cruz explained. “Learning from each other, and being contributing members of the community.”

Good Samaritan can use whatever is offered, whenever it is made available, he said.

“There was a local fishing tournament on Father’s Day,” he said. “Right in the middle of the day I got a phone call asking if we could use fresh fish.”

The fish were delivered by local fishermen who had participated in the tournament. They were all gutted and cleaned.

Changes have been in the works since 2009 when Cruz talked with the Florida Department of Health about changing the items that went in food baskets.

“I knew we had to do something to help people towards a healthier diet when we saw the figures,” he said. But changes take time, and educating the people is a large part of that.

Churches and civic groups can choose from lists of things that are repetitively needed and hold internal drives for things like baby items, disposable diapers, hygiene and housecleaning items as well as for food. 

“For example, one group may want to have a child’s underwear day, while another collects toothbrushes.”

Those who want to find out more about the mission may visit www.gsmission.org or make an appointment for a tour by calling (813) 634-7136. It is located at 14920 Balm-Wimauma Rd. in Wimauma.

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