BROOKSVILLE — Children's Crusade, a Nature Coast Technical High School organization founded Sept. 11, 2009, by social studies teacher Patrick O'Grady, was established as a way for students to help others.
Currently, the group is working with a local elementary school where a need for services was recognized.
"We're partnering with Eastside," said Nature Coast junior Tiffany Coelho, 16, who is the group's president.
There are two parts to what the high school students are doing. They have just ended a clothing drive for Eastside children and their families.
"Some families don't have the means to clothe their children," Coelho said, so the group set up the clothing drive. "We put out some posters and emailed teachers to tell their study halls."
To make things competitive, the group offered a pizza party to the class that brought in the most clothes. The winner was allied health teacher Lucille Ketcham's class.
O'Grady classified it as "an overwhelming win."
Now the Nature Coast students are focused on food.
"We're doing a food drive to help feed full Thanksgiving dinners … so they can have a nice Thanksgiving," said junior Hannah Bartlett, 16, Children's Crusade's public relations officer.
The students plan what they call a "bucket drop" to collect Thanksgiving food. They will list their needs and station themselves outside a local store.
"We kindly open the doors for people, and we welcome them to the store," said Children's Crusade treasurer Amalia Pike, a 16-year-old junior.
"It gives me a good feeling to help out," said sophomore Sydney Clingo, 15. "A lot of (Eastside students) get free lunch, so a lot of them wouldn't be able to have Thanksgiving dinner because it's not on a school day."
The plan is to feed 25 families.
"And some have six kids," junior Monique Sanchez, 16, noted.
The work will not end with Thanksgiving.
"In February, we have a retro dance," said Bartlett.
That event will be done in conjunction with Nature Coast's Shark Theatre.
Admission is canned food or $3. The two groups split the money, but Children's Crusade distributes the food. Other fundraising events include carwashes, yard sales and the sale of Blow Pops.
"We just love to help out," said freshman Haydn Feinberg, 14.
"I just get a good feeling when I help people who have less than we have," said freshman Manasseh McFarlane, 13.
"We also want to spread peace around our peers," said sophomore Rosina Anzalone, 15, the Children's Crusade secretary.
"Our main goal is to feed and clothe Hernando County to the best of our ability," Coelho said.
Children's Crusade is even more than that to sophomore Kayla Rifenburgh, 15, and her schoolmates. She said she and other members get to meet like-minded students at school, as well as help the community.
"I think we're all here for a few common reasons," freshman Allison Selg, 15, said. "Hunger doesn't take a day off. We all enjoy helping our peers and the less fortunate around our community and to spread peace."
O'Grady said he is "really proud of the students that are members."
"I want to help them establish values that will go on through life, such as compassion, caring, tolerance," he said, "and I think tolerance is really the big one."