With heat rising from the parking lot pavement and reflecting off the stark white walls of the church building, volunteers wiped their brows with dirty gloved hands and got to work.
Volunteers from Somebody Cares Tampa Bay, a network of independent, community-based nonprofit groups providing support to Tampa Bay ministries that assist the poor and elderly, helped with landscaping at the property on River Road in New Port Richey that was once home of the First Church of Christ, Scientist.
The community service event was part of a larger day of service called CareFest, a Christ-centered community-service day celebrated twice a year since 2002 on the Suncoast and around the state.
On Saturday, the volunteers gathered at 8:30 a.m. and spent several hours in the hot sun mowing the lawn, trimming trees and bushes and removing vines.
The city of New Port Richey owns the former church property and does not have the funds to keep up the building, said Mike Glass of West Pasco Outreach.
“CareFest activities are tri-county and it’s not just faith-based. Anybody can help clean up the community,” Glass said.
“This is about demonstrating our love for Christ in a practical way. Talk is cheap. That originated with Jesus.”
While Glass and his team were cleaning up the church, groups in several Suncoast cities were cleaning up parks and vacant buildings, as well as assisting the elderly.
Most of the locations Glass helps clean up are referred to him by Liz Nichols, the lone code enforcement officer in New Port Richey.
Glass said that he often sees neighbors coming out and cleaning up their own yards when they see the volunteers taking care of homes and buildings nearby. That’s the kind of impact volunteering makes, Glass said.
Glass’ son, William, a junior at J.W. Mitchell High School, in Trinity, has been helping his dad with community service projects for the past couple of years. He spent hours trimming tree branches and dragging them out front to be hauled away.
“People get discouraged when they go past and see that the property is a mess,” William said. “It feels good getting out here and doing something useful for the community.”
In the past, these volunteer groups have helped with cleaning of the Hacienda, installed an irrigation system at the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center, and painted playground towers at Sims Park.
Other organizations, such as the Well Worship Center, have also helped the city at the Recreation and Aquatic Center with trimming the bushes around the pools and pulled weeds from the Butterfly Garden. The Well Worship Center has also beautified the flower beds at Peace Hall, adjacent to Sims Park, along with cleaning and painting inside the building.
The fall CareFest is scheduled for Sept. 28. Details are not yet available for West Pasco sites, but you can check http://www.carefestusa.com for updates.