TAMPA, Fla. - Since 5th-grader Ben Leavy was 4 years old, he's taken part in a proud tradition at his school at the Academy Of the Holy Names, Community Service Day.
"It feels good to help people," said Leavy.
Leavy and his fellow middle schoolers will lead the younger students on this day of dedication to the community.
They are sorting out donations from canned goods to pajamas that will be passed to charities across the Bay area.
"We are putting a blanket, a book and stuffed animal in a bag," said 1st-grader Trey Diaco.
Cole Parkinson, another 1st-grader, said, "We are giving away stuffed animals and other things."
It is a tradition that started 13 years ago
"We want to help other children who may not have food," 1st-grader Riley Tobon said.
First-grader Lena Graham said, "We have been collecting food and toys every day for a long time."
This year, they're sending cards and candy to troops overseas, visiting nursing homes, dropping off toys at local hospitals and providing food to places like Metropolitan Ministries.
"It has grown bigger and bigger every year," said Katie Holland, with Campus Ministry.
Holland said every student at Academy of the Holy Names takes part, from the oldest in the high school to the youngest.
"But it has gotten so big that now we have two separate days. We have one for the middle and elementary students and then the high schoolers will participate on another community service day in January. So really a great opportunity for us to teach our kids about the importance of helping others. That's such a huge mission," said Holland.
Jake Judson is in the 1st-grade and is already leading the other kids.
"Community service is about giving people the stuff they need," said Judson. "It makes me feel good to help."
And while the kids may be providing the goods, they are the ones like Jake said that are taking away a valuable lesson.
"Because if you learn at a young age, it gets to be a routine and if you get into a good routine like that, it becomes a good habit," Leavy said.
Academy of the Holy Names invites any charity to reach out to them. If you are interested, you can call (813) 839-5371 and ask to speak to Katie Holland.
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