At Pasco-Hernando State College, a single community service club has pledged to help students in need, regularly makes Easter baskets for kids at the Spring Hill Boys and Girls Club, recently completed work on a Habitat for Humanity house in Pasco, have made dinners at Hernando facilities that help the homeless and those struggling with addiction and mental illness, have donated to Dawn Center domestic and sexual violence center, and over the holidays spearheaded a 170-pound donation of food, clothes, and gifts for Metropolitan Ministries.
Recently, the Pasco-Hernando State College Social and Human Services Club, the club that helps so many, asked the community to 'go the distance' for them; scheduling two fund-raising runs/walks for late March and early April to benefit the club.
And then, things changed. Like so many public events scheduled in Hernando County and throughout the world, the club's two athletic fund-raisers have had to be rescheduled in the wake of the Coronavirus health crisis.
"We actually had some participants come to us and say that they were willing to run for us anyway," said Eddie Williams, Ed.D, LMHC, NCC, MCAP, HS-BCP Program Director/Assistant Professor, Human Services. Williams is the club's faculty coordinator as well as a competitive marathon runner. "But we knew that postponing the events was the right thing to do."
Now the club's “Hernando Cares 5K” is scheduled to take place on the Spring Hill Campus, 450 Beverly Ct., Spring Hill, Saturday, September 12. Registration, which includes run/walk participation and goody bags, is $15 for students and $25 for adults. Volunteers are also needed for the event. For more information, go to https://www.active.com/spring-hill-fl/running/distance-running/hernando-cares-5k-2020?int=.
The "Social & Human Services 5K” will take place on the North Campus, 11415 Ponce de Leon Blvd, Brooksville, on April 17, 2021. For more information, visit https://www.active.com/brooksville-fl/running/distance-running-races/social-and-human-services-5k-2021?int= or call Dr. Eddie Williams for further details or questions at 352.251.8899 (Spring Hill Campus), [email protected]
What the club has not postponed is its ongoing service to campus and community. At this time, the club can accept donations of toiletries and canned food at the Spring Hill campus, to add to the college's Bobcat Pantry--an inclusive resource that offers necessary items for students in need. Donors can call Dr. Eddie Williams at 352-251-8899 to arrange a collection time on campus at 450 Beverly Ct., Spring Hill.
This effort corresponds with the club's overall mission of help and service.
"The Human Services Club is a social and service-oriented organization for those students of Pasco-Hernando State College who are interested in human services. As a social organization, the club plans and conducts activities intended to promote friendship and camaraderie among the members," read a mission statement released through PHSC. "As a service organization, the club promotes activities that enhance educational and professional opportunities for human services workers. The club conducts assistance projects for needy students and other community assistance projects. The club conducts fund-raisers in order to carry out these and other projects."
The Sept. 12 5K event will benefit the Spring Hill chapter of the Social and Human Services Club, which draws from its core membership of five members to plan and perform acts of good service, across the campus and across counties. The 5K is also going to fund the development of Hernando Cares (http://www.hernandocares.org/#top), a massive print and online help resource for people in need in this county. The site is being developed by a network of community, health and government organizations.
"Sponsorships will support the ongoing sustainability of the Hernando Cares Behavioral Health Resource Guide," read related event information. "With over 12,000 copies distributed and hernandocares.org, finding help for yourself, a friend, a family member, or a loved one is the place to start finding solutions to difficult situations. The Hernando Cares Behavioral Health Resource Guide has a list of service providers updated electronically quarterly and an annual printing to help those in need. The purpose of this guide is to link Hernando County residents in need of mental health and/or substance abuse services, as well as additional support services, to an agency/ organization that can help. You can refer to this guide if you, or a friend or family member, who is in need of services and you are not sure where to go for help."
Indeed, help is always the central focus of the Social and Human Services Club activities.
"I'm always asking students to pose one question to themselves," said Williams. "How can I help others?"
From collecting funds and material donations for charities across its five-campus service area to lending needed aid to students on campus, the club stands as a well-known community service organization comprised of PHSC students; many of whom are studying to become psychologists and social workers.
"At Easter, we make about 60 baskets for kids at the Boys and Girls Club (Note: Due to current conditions, this year's Easter basket project has been postponed). I've been told that the kids at the club get excited about and ask for the baskets each year. At Christmas we collect canned foods and clothes for people in need," said Williams. "Throughout the year, we can be seen making meals for homeless or substance abuse shelters, raising funds for domestic violence shelters, and participating in breast cancer awareness projects."
Williams feels that, by coordinating and participating in community service projects, students are learning skills and abilities that can't all be taught in the classroom.
"These students have to learn to work with people," he said. "To have positive regard for people."
And in the eyes of Ashley Green, education and outreach coordinator at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) of Hernando County, these lessons are well learned.
"These student volunteers help us to pass out fliers and petitions at events," she said. "They volunteer their time. It makes me so happy that other people care."
Timothy L. Beard, Ph.D., president of Pasco-Hernando State College, agrees.
"This is hands-on experience for these students," he said. "People are suffering, and the club is here to help."
And the students themselves are happy to help.
"It gives us a good feeling to provide human services," said Gretchen Samter, student president of the club's Spring Hill chapter. "This is a real-life experience and application. This is something you can't learn in a book."
Club member Shavonne Jackson, Brooksville Campus, agrees.
"I love it that we are able to give back to the community," she said.
"We can learn leadership, while helping with community problems like food insecurity, offering education about topics like eating disorders and human trafficking," said member Bonnie Rogers. "Giving back is a shared passion for us."
Member Amy Meckso counts the club's participation in a community suicide walk among her favorite group activities.
"We met with families affected by this issue," she said. "Hope was given that day."
And for members like Farah Bishop, hope begins at home.
"The club gives attention to our own students," she said. "We offer food and support on campus when they need it."
And in the eyes of member Elaine Mentry, both the PHSC campus and the surrounding communities can count on this club--whenever and wherever their help is needed.
"We're here to help you."