1. The Education Gradebook

Shorecrest Prep students brighten family's home

Published Mar. 8, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — The last time Hamide Lika painted the outside of her home was 20 years ago.

That was before her son, Jeffrey, got into a car crash that left him in a wheelchair.

Since Jeffrey's accident 17 years ago, Lika and her husband, Zulfi, now 68 and 80 years old respectively, spent most of their time and resources taking care of him. Their home came second.

"It was in pretty bad shape," she said.

The Likas' home needed renovation. The door to the bathroom that Jeffrey uses was too small to fit his wheelchair, and the exterior of the house was cracking and peeling.

Students at Shorecrest Preparatory School first learned about the Likas through a relative who works at the school, and wanted to find ways to help them.

School officials reached out to the Abilities Foundation, a Clearwater-based nonprofit that assists disabled people.

In the past three years, Shorecrest students had raised $2,500 for the project, said Su Stevens, Shorecrest service learning director.

"The foundation found ways to match the funding," she said, by getting donations from Home Depot and local contractors.

As part of the deal, Stevens asked the foundation to let students get hands-on experience and meet the Likas. This worked out well as students have to perform 25 hours of community service. Called Service Week, or Mini-mester, students get a break from regular classes so they can participate in projects in locations ranging from St. Petersburg to New Orleans and Guatemala.

"This really pushed the students to be more community minded, and to be globally minded," said Mike Steele, a Shorecrest teacher.

The pieces finally fell into place last week — eight students were assigned to help the Likas. For two days, students prepped and painted, cleaned and mulched. Contractors will be working on expanding the bathroom in the coming weeks.

"I can't say enough about the students, about how hard they work and how they attacked the project," said Frank De Lucia, president and CEO of the foundation.

It was hard work, but gratifying, said Skyler Ellenburg, a 17-year-old Shorecrest junior.

"It really means a lot to see the people you are helping, as opposed to working and not seeing the results," she said.

The best part was meeting the Likas, said Ali Appelbaum, a 16-year-old sophomore.

Jeffrey Lika checked in on everyone during the two shifts, and made sure everyone had safety goggles on and gave opinions on paint colors.

"They are such sweet people, and they are so nice and so welcoming to us," Appelbaum said. "They are so thankful, and it was nice to see that they really appreciate it."

The students' touch brightened the home the Likas have lived in for 34 years — and neighbors have noticed, said Hamide Lika.

"The house was in dire need of painting," she said. "It is wonderful, there are no words that can describe that what they did for us. I truly mean that. I am very touched by all of this."