Members of Belleair’s Teen Advisory Council pose with the residents of UPARC’s Dryer Group Home. The teens are planning to raise money for improvements to the home. Sara Borger is on the far right and behind her is Commissioner Stephen Fowler.
BELLEAIR – A group of local teenagers is tackling a project that would be a challenge to the most seasoned of philanthropists, yet they are determined to finish it in a relatively short time. The project is building a porch on a UPARC group home; the teenagers are members of Belleair’s Teen Advisory Council.
The history of the group might help to explain how they got involved in such an ambitious project. The Teen Advisory Council was created by the Belleair Recreation Department last year. Danielle Felten, coordinator of special events, said it was a much-needed program.
“We discovered that we weren’t doing much for the teenagers here,” she said. “Our programs were great for younger kids and for the adults, but we were losing the teenagers. We wanted to get them back and expose them to the community. We could help them with such things as preparing for job interviews, get them involved in community work and let them know they have a voice.”
Recently the teens spoke with that voice and they said they were prepared to tackle the $10,000 fundraising project to pay for a new screened-in porch for UPARC’s Dryer Group Home in Largo. It is a daunting project that they hope will be finished before the end of the year.
Cameron Perrott of Belleair is one of the teens involved in the project. The 16-year-old who attends Clearwater Central Catholic High School said tackling the project wasn’t that difficult a decision.
“We knew it was for a good cause,” she said. “Sara Borger has a family friend who lives in the home and we knew by taking on the project we would be helping someone who was close to Sara.”
Borger is the former coordinator of special events for the town.
Perrott said the group home concept is something that is worthwhile.
“It helps people feel like they are in the community,” she said. “It helps them become more independent.”
Madison Orr Hauenstein is the development and communications coordinator with UPARC. The organization works on behalf of adults who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. It operates several group homes and provides employment opportunities for the residents. The Dryer group home in Southwest Largo is one of those, and two of its residents formerly lived in Belleair.
Orr Hauenstein said the involvement of the Belleair teenagers is inspirational.
“It is amazing,” she said. “It is inspiring to see a group of young adults with a bent to philanthropy. I’m a resident of Belleair myself so it is especially nice to see a group of my neighbors giving back.”
Like Perrott, Orr Hauenstein mentioned the name of Sara Borger as a driving force behind the project.
“I know Sara has a friend who lives in the house and she spends a lot of time visiting,” she said. “She obviously saw the need and has the resources to fill it, and she knows the people around the area who can help make the dream a reality.”
Borger was able to bring the need of the home to the teenagers who quickly embraced the project. She has also lined up a number of trades people who have donated their time and effort to building the porch once the money has been raised. Those people include her husband, Alan, who is a contractor and who will supervise the project, and Belleair Commissioner Stephen Fowler, who is an architect. He is donating the design of the project.
Once the project is finished the home will have a screened-in porch for the residents who apparently never miss a chance to go outside and enjoy the fresh air. Orr Hauenstein says they will love it.
“The residents are excited, how could they not be,” she said. “They relish any chance they can to go outside and enjoy it. The residents take great pride in their home and this will be part of it and we’re hoping it will be finished by the fall.”
In the end the credit has to go to the members of the Teen Advisory Council who have already held a fundraising car wash and will no doubt be spending countless hours this summer on various projects to raise money. Not a typical activity for a teenager in summer, but Felten said these aren’t typical teenagers.
“They are dedicated volunteers,” she said. “They live in the community and get heavily involved in their projects. They get community hours credit for school. They are invested in the community.