UCF students mentor youth at Orlando Children's Church
"Love never fails."
The youth at Orlando Children's Church reads the Corinthians verse off a blackboard at a picnic table outside. Along with the day's hot sun, the children are joined by UCF students who serve as mentors.
Orlando Children's Church is a nonprofit organization catering to the Central Florida area. It boasts 14 school buses dedicated to picking up the children from their communities and bringing them to the church, all of which is hosted by First Baptist Church of Maitland.
The OCC strives to help kids with the assistance of positive volunteers, about 25 to 30 people who assist with the Saturday service for the children to give them a positive experience that helps them get to know God at the same time. Its main focus is to feed the kids in the Central Florida area and give them positive time they may not otherwise get at home.
Reggie Thimothee, a senior health administration major, spends most of his free time with the kids at the church, hoping to mentor them in any positive way he can.
Thimothee has been volunteering at the church for about six months, but he's always had a passion to help kids. He encourages the kids to do something different every week.
"Kids are the future. I had good mentors growing up, and it helped me get to where I am today. These kids need mentors to teach them the right way," Thimothee said.
At the Orlando Children's Church, the kids are the main focus. Volunteers get together with the kids on Saturdays and feed them with food donated from McDonald's.
"The kids we help vary in age from 4 to 18 years of age," Thimothee said. "We break them up into groups based on age. On average, we have 200 to 400 kids regularly attending."
Thimothee wants to help the older kids develop essential life skills, such as schoolwork or résumé writing for finding their first job. Giving the kids someone to talk to is also very important.
"We help the kids individually and in groups," Thimothee said. "They are always happy to see us, so I know I am making a difference."
And he also hopes to connect with the children outside the walls of church.
"I'm working on a website now called youthtopia.com for the youth for when they're away from the church," he said. "They need to stay positive when online and away from the center. Technology is the way."
Jessie Tripp, a junior elementary education major, is another volunteer who enjoys spending his free time with the kids.
"My roommate asked if I wanted to go with him to an outreach program he attends. I said sure because I love helping and giving children time. They don't get much of it nowadays. But they really need it," Tripp said.
Tripp enjoys working with kids and hopes to do just that in his career. He likes to read to the kids and play different games from basketball to board games.
"The church gives kids in the community breakfast and a place to hang out. We are there so the kids have someone to talk to. We break up into small groups and have Bible studies with them," Tripp said.
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