BELLE GLADE, Fla. - While many kids are spending time at the beach or the mall, some local students are helping their neighbors to the west.
Hundreds of middle and high school students from Christ Fellowship Church are taking part in Mission Belle Glade this week. While they don't need a passport for the journey, they hope to make a world of difference.
More than 450 students packed Christ Fellowship's Royal Palm Beach campus on Monday morning. They're not only up early, they're willingly giving up part of their summer to spend a week in Belle Glade. After filling an entire truck with their bags, they loaded up the buses for the 30 mile trip.
"It's going to be an awesome trip!" said one teen.
"It's so much fun," explained another. "Best week of the summer!"
For three years, the young people of Christ Fellowship Church have converged on the community of Belle Glade. Last year, they fed at least two thousand people a day, taught 80 students in Bible school and painted 30 homes. This year, they're ready to do more.
"At Christ Fellowship, we really believe that we are most like Jesus when we're picking up and helping and serving others in our community and really being His hands and feet to this region," explained Senior Pastor Todd Mullins.
Glades Day School will be home away from home, but students won't be spending much time there. After a quick lunch, prepared by some of the 150 adults volunteering their time for the week, they boarded the buses again, ready to hit the streets to let people know how they hope to help them. This is Jenna Laucirica's third year taking part in Mission Belle Glade.
"It's probably the best feeling to come out and help other people," she said. "Helping other people is probably one of the best feelings ever."
Their presence is already making a difference.
"I think it's very wonderful that the organization is out in the community to help one another," said Jeanette Lane of Belle Glade. "That is very great."
Pastor Shaun Blakeney is pleased that students are not only helping change the community, they're changing their very lives.
"We live in a culture today, a society today that's very self-centered, very arrogant," he said. "We want our students to see there's something better than that, something outside of themselves and let our students see what it's like to serve and give back."
"You don't see a lot of this in Stuart," Morgan McLaughlin admits, but she's glad to be here, helping.
"We get to be a mom to the kid who doesn't have a mom. We get to be a sister to the kid who doesn't have a sister," she said, "and we get to love on them for the entire week."
Students will work in the community all day and conduct worship services at night at Glades Day School. They will serve a thousand pounds of food up a day, every day for a free lunch all week for the community. On Saturday, they'll wrap up their work by giving out free school supplies for the kids of Belle Glade.