BROOKSVILLE — At the end of the last school year, Patrick O'Grady had an idea: Start a student club that would work to help others.
The social studies teacher sought feedback from his students at Nature Coast Technical High School.
"I received such an overwhelming response," O'Grady said. "I felt this was something I needed to do."
More than 35 students showed up at the first meeting of the Nature Coast Children's Crusade on Sept. 11. The group began with small projects: carwashes, canned food drives and feeding 10 families in need at Thanksgiving.
The group's biggest project yet — the Shark Aid 2010 "Giving Back to the Village" Charity Concert — will take place Saturday in the football stadium. It's a joint venture with the United Way of Hernando County.
Bands scheduled to perform include Southern Reign, which plays Southern rock and country; Radio Therapy, a rock band composed of graduates of Nature Coast Tech; Act of Class, a group with an '80s punk sound that includes grads and current students; 3 Weeks Notice, a '70s rock band; and Lights Burn Down (formerly September to Remember), an upstart band of Nature Coast students.
The event will collect food to restock local pantries and raise money for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a program that provides free books to preschool children and is offered locally through the United Way. Admission is $1 and two nonperishable food items.
"These young adults are excellent at what they do," said Kathy Jones, executive director of the Hernando United Way. "I am very impressed by the issues and concerns they bring up, and I'm very proud to be associated with them. They are great for the community."
The food collected at the concert will be distributed to the following United Way-sponsored pantries: Behind the Stone Ministries, Love Your Neighbor, Jericho Road Ministries, People Helping People, Nativity Lutheran Church and New Beginnings Youth Shelter.
Other Nature Coast clubs will participate, offering carnival games, face painting, baked goods and other food. Also, the school's cosmetology department will be open for hair and nail services.
"Just to build up the supplies in the food pantries is an outstanding task," Jones said. "They are really depleted. (The food) doesn't last too long in these hard times."
She said she was surprised and happy to learn that the Children's Crusade also decided to help with the Imagination Library.
"They know how important education is," Jones said. "Statistics show that 33 to 34 percent of the families don't have a book in their home. So this program really does help. … Now, more than 700 children are receiving books in the county."
The Children's Crusade recently started its own Web site, nctchildrenscrusade.webs.com. The home page includes the group's mission: "For as long as there are families that cannot put food on their tables, clothes on their backs or need books for their children to read, we will be here."
O'Grady, the club sponsor, says the group, which has 25 active members, meets every week. And each week the members have new ideas.
"They want to do more and more," he said. "It's great. I hope they never stop."