Communities bloom with Carefest goodwill

Priya Patel, 22, left, and Bhavi Patel, 20, right, spruce up the landscaping around a Childs Park sign on 49th Street S in St. Petersburg on Saturday. Their sorority volunteered for Carefest.

LARA CERRI | Times

Priya Patel, 22, left, and Bhavi Patel, 20, right, spruce up the landscaping around a Childs Park sign on 49th Street S in St. Petersburg on Saturday. Their sorority volunteered for Carefest.

ST. PETERSBURG — The chores were typical weekend tasks, but they had a deeper meaning for hundreds of volunteers who spread out through this city Saturday morning.

About 770 volunteers joined in the annual St. Petersburg Carefest, a program that helps participants give back to the community.

In some cases, the recipients were homeowners who had been cited by city code enforcement officers, but were too poor or old to perform the needed work to bring their homes into compliance. The improvements included painting, minor roof repair, yard and garden work, and gutter repair.

Other recipients were communities or nonprofit groups who needed such things as painting, window repairs, community signs installed, and litter picked up.

The volunteers were a mixed bunch — members of local churches, students from the University of South Florida and St. Petersburg College, and employees of local companies.

"The main reason we get involved is, it moves our church from being inwardly focused to outwardly focused," said the Rev. Jonathan Anderson, whose Souls Harvest Fellowship Church joined with the Word of Life Fellowship to help spiff up a room at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, 2240 Ninth Ave. S, with some fresh paint.

"The root objective of Care­fest from its inception (is to) get out there … do what Jesus did," Anderson said. "That's the main purpose."

It's not only adults who participate. The Boy Scouts send volunteers and Souls Harvest also brings kids to help out. The event teaches children they can help, and instills the habit and spirit of volunteerism at an early age, said Sjana Venson, Souls Harvest's Care­fest coordinator.

Carefest began in 2002 as an outgrowth of the Supper Bowl, a sanctioned charitable event of Super Bowl XXXV.

That event was so successful that Tampa joined with Somebody Cares Tampa Bay to create the first Carefest week. Tampa challenged St. Petersburg to a friendly competition that year.

Since then, Carefest, a weeklong event that culminates in a workday of service to the community, has spread to other cities throughout the state, and attracted interest in Indiana, where it has been adopted by Bloomington.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at (727) 893-8450 or alindberg@sptimes.com.

Communities bloom with Carefest goodwill 09/20/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 25, 2008 3:50pm]

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