Several students representing the Manatee School for the Arts Action team sprang into, well, action Tuesday morning to make sure Palmetto children had a safe place to play and to unwind from the emotional turmoil created by Hurricane Irma.
Freshman Ranel Generosa said children, in particular, may be feeling more stress than parents may realize because they are busy taking care of other things related to the storm.
“This is something we really wanted to do for the community, to give kids needing some happiness right now,” he said. “I’m sure a lot of them have been in shelters for several days, and we wanted to make sure they had a place to come and play.”
Though schools remain closed for the rest of the week, about 21 current and former Action Team members responded to a late-night text Monday from Language Arts teacher Kevin Gush, who leads the program. The Action Team spent Tuesday getting 17th Street Park and Sutton Park ready to go for kids and families. It was no small task.
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Team members were ready to go and they really wanted to get out here to do these parks with a focus on getting the playgrounds cleared so the kids can play safely.
Kevin Gush, Manatee School for the Arts
The students piled mountains of debris along the roads surrounding the parks, ready to be picked up by the city at a later date.
“Parks and other city properties are the last thing we focus on in an emergency situation,” Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said. “Our focus is always on other people first, so these students coming out to give us a hand is truly an amazing thing.”
Queenie Zheng, a junior and captain of the team, said her neighborhood was in good shape after the storm, “So I wanted to come out and help other areas of the community.”
Joseph Hepner said that is what community is all about.
“We are all family,” he said.
Sending out a text between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. to dozens of teenagers and getting an immediate response, if any, isn’t something to be expected. Unless you are part of this community-service team who takes their service seriously. Gush said the responses from his current and former team members came at a rapid rate.
“I started sending out texts at 9 p.m. and by 9 a.m. this morning we had 21 show up,” Gush said. “And we’ll be back out again on Saturday. We were able to get two parks today and there was a lot of debris to clean up. But these team members were ready to go and they really wanted to get out here to do these parks with a focus on getting the playgrounds cleared so the kids can play safely.”