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Teens raise money to help the needy
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Teenagers selling holiday cards to support the Gift of Food are, from left, Bella Nole, Corey Connelly and Quinn Lombard. They are standing behind a blow-up of this year’s card.
BELLEAIR – It was a busy night at the Belleair Country Club. A holiday party was under way and dozens of people dressed in their finest were milling about, chatting and having a good time with their friends.

Among them were three teenagers with a mission. Their mission is to help the needy and what better place to find that help than among the well-heeled crowd at a country club.

Bella Nole, Corey Connelly and Quinn Lombard are all juniors at Palm Harbor University High, and this year they have taken on the task of selling holiday cards with the money going into an endowment fund to help Pinellas County’s Religious Community Services organization provide for the needy.

The teens actually are part of an organization called the Gift of Food. It is a student run organization that has focused its efforts on raising money for the Religious Community Services.

What in fact they are doing is aiming to top up a $200,000 endowment fund, which will then be able to provide RCS with money on a regular basis so they can purchase what they require for those in need.

Charlene Connelly, Corey’s mother, is the adult supervisor of this year’s group.

“Each year a new group of students takes on this task,” she said. “So we will sell cards this year and provide what we can toward the endowment, then next year another group will step in. When I got the call to see if I could help I asked Corey if he was interested and he was all over it, so here we are.”

The project began in 2001 when Sherry Sultenfuss of Harbor Bluffs and her daughters Katherine and Margo decided they wanted to help in some way and convinced friends to make a donation to help the needy. Since then every year the job has passed from group to group.

Sultenfuss was pleased with what she saw at the Belleair Country Club during that party on Nov. 14.

“It is fabulous that people are helping so much,” she said. “Our group has the lowest overhead around. All the money goes right into the endowment fund. And it is good for the kids, by doing this they are leaning a good life’s lesson.”

In fact the teenagers seem to be happy just helping.

“This is a chance for us to give back to a family in need,” said Corey Connelly. “This is the right thing to do, to get food to the people who really need it.”

Nole agreed.

“This is all about helping the community,” she said. “And people have been good, we’re just starting but so far people have been positive about what we are doing.”

The third teen in the group, Quinn Lombard, along with her mother, designed and produced the card. She’s happy with the result.

“My mom is the artist really,” she said. “This came out really good, we’re pleased.”

The Gift of Food organization raised more than $180,000 between 2001 and 2008. In 2005 the decision was made to put the money into the endowment fund so it could provide for RCS in perpetuity. In addition to selling cards the group also solicits donations from businesses, private sponsorships and grants from various foundations.

The mission statement of the group is two-fold. “The Gift of Food aims to help alleviate hunger, primarily for the working poor by asking the community to give back. The organization provides students with an opportunity to learn what it is to serve one’s community and to run a small business.”

The beneficiary of their efforts, Religious Community Services, feeds 5,500 people a month in Pinellas County.
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