TAMPA — The Community Service League began as many things do with young girls: They wanted to form a club.
Lauren Williams, 10, and 11-year-old twins, Carson and Sykes Eckhard met in a basketball league and discovered they all lived in the New Suburb Beautiful neighborhood of South Tampa. They named their club the CSL after each of their first initials, and set out to change what they could in their city.
On Wednesday, they arrived at the Trinity Cafe, a nonprofit restaurant that serves the homeless, carrying a plastic quart tub filled with the fruits of their hard work.
What they got back was something they placed close to their hearts, spurring them to do more.
For their first project, they passed out fliers asking neighbors to set out canned goods on their porch. The girls collected new underwear, unused hurricane supplies and whatever else people left and dropped it all off at Metropolitan Ministries.
They started on other projects. They made vanilla sugar cookies using one of their mom's secret family recipes and sold them at a bake sale. They sweetened powdered lemonade and sold it for a quarter a cup at a summer lemonade stand.
The girls kept working with no stated goal until they saw a news story about the Trinity Cafe being in desperate financial shape. They made it their cause.
Wednesday, the trio — Lauren with red and blue rubber-banded braces and the twins in collared T-shirts — came downtown, into a land of backpacks, worn-out sleeping bags and concrete stares. They walked up to the Trinity Cafe carrying some warm clothes to donate and their plastic tub filled with assorted loose change and dollars.
It added up to $111.29.
Cindy Davis, Trinity Cafe's program director, introduced the girls to the cafe's volunteers.
"If more people did the same thing that you did for us, we'd never run out of funds," she said.
She told the girls that their contributions, which included Christmas money and allowances, would feed 36 people.
In return the girls received loud applause, a hug from cafe patron Colleen Valcourt, 49, and three silver Trinity Cafe pins that they stuck to their chests.
"They're awesome," Carson Eckhard said.
"I'm going to put it on my backpack for school," added Sykes Eckhard.
And with that, the girls had their first CSL merit badges to help them with their next mission: recruiting more members.
Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.