Teens tackle shortage of school supplies


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Teens from the “God’s SQUAD” youth group packed school supplies for low-income YMCA families Aug. 20 at the Suntree YMCA at 6300 N. Wickham Road. From left are Suntree Y operations director Joe Rowlette, Isabella Weiner, Suntree Y board member Rev. Bill Kearney, Zophia Kotala, Summer Hammond, Jena Lester, Joe Martinez, Noah Reneau, Morgan Kehoe, Olivia Voll, Natalia Merheb, Angie Garcia-Jones, Avery Antoniewski (in red), Sophia Bosco, Jen Reneau, Suntree Y volunteer Patty Fleischer and Burgin Antoniewski.

Photo by Mike Gaffey

Teens rolled up their sleeves when they heard that their less fortunate peers didn’t have school supplies despite charitable channels to obtain them. They gave up a Saturday morning to pack them in individual bags Aug. 20 at the Suntree YMCA.

They are members of the group God’s SQUAD, and though they are not officially affiliated with St. Mary’s Catholic School or the church, they all are current or former students of the prekindergarten-through-eighth-grade school. 

“These kids are amazing. They really have a heart to help others,” said Jen Reneau, a mom who started the group 3½ years ago.

The acronym stands for Students’ Quest for Understanding And Discipleship. 

“We are honestly just a group of teens who want to be Jesus to others through our three mission points: pray, serve and love,” Reneau said.

The students in need are fellow members at the Y who are on scholarship for their monthly fees. 

“People have a misconception about the Suntree area in which the Y is located, that there are not youth at risk that need scholarships,” Suntree Y operations director Joe Rowlette said.

“The truth is that many of our families in the area need help, and we don’t turn anyone away. When we hear that our families have additional needs, we are happy to organize a relief effort, and fellow members are the most generous and ready to jump in and help.”

A local Dollar Tree donated about 15 boxes of supplies and a local Walgreens donated about 75 bags to hold the supplies. 

God’s SQUAD members are frequent responders to requests for help, according to Suntree Y board member Rev. Bill Kearney.

“They are the first to jump in and help. They help us pack our Christmas boxes each year to go locally and around the world with gifts for children in need. I can’t say enough great things about these wonderful young people,” Kearney said.

The teens are gearing up to be of even more assistance as St. Mary’s welcomes a new priest this month.

“I know I speak for the teens when I say they are ready to be of even more service,” Reneau said.

An upcoming event will help raise money for swim lessons and swim team membership for childrens whose families cannot afford it.

Swim for Scholarships on Oct. 15 will give youth and adult members and anyone from the public an opportunity to collect pledges per laps they swim. The event will take place at the larger pool at the Cocoa YMCA. 

“We use the big pool so we can get more kids in at a time. ‘We swim so others can, too,’ is the motto.” Rowlette said. “It’s a great way for the kids to give back or to make the experience available to others less fortunate. It’s a fun party atmosphere, pumped up with lively music. It’s also a great event to have fun moving and being healthy.”

For the time of the event, directions or to obtain a packet of information to record and collect pledges, call or visit the Suntree Y at 321-259-2929, 6300 N. Wickham Road. For more information on God’s SQUAD, email Reneau at jenjon513@yahoo.com.