ROUND ROCK — Gina Bradshaw didn’t realize a five-hour drive to visit her daughter at the University of Texas in Austin would lead to a community-wide effort to help Texas Baptist Children’s Home, but she’s glad it did.
Sixteen high school students and two teachers from Garrison made the 250-mile trek from their East Texas hometown to deliver much-needed food items and provide some hard labor.
“Honestly, I was surprised they wanted to come this far,” said Brenda Gilbert, volunteer coordinator at Texas Baptist Children’s Home, part of Children at Heart Ministries. “They are the only school that has made such a long drive just to help us out.”
The idea came about after Bradshaw, a member of Holly Springs Baptist Church in Garrison, passed the children’s home campus on her way to visit her daughter at college. Seeing the home reignited a long-held desire to help, in some small measure, the children who live there.
“I’ve always said I wanted to do some service at a children’s home,” she said. “And because we are such a small community, we don’t have the opportunity to do this type of outreach very often.”
Bradshaw approached the principal at Garrison High School, where she is the business teacher, and found him supportive—so supportive he encouraged the whole school to become involved.
Bradshaw also is the adviser to the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which took the lead in raising money and collecting 1,000 boxes of cereal for the children’s home.
“We feed 150 residents on this campus every day,” Gilbert noted. “So, cereal and other breakfast foods are a huge help to house parents.”
Bradshaw worked with another faculty member, Leslie Nichols, to help sponsor the trip, but she gives most of the credit to the students who were involved.
“The kids really turned up the heat on this one,” she said. “Everyone got excited about this project. Kids held signs out by the bus stop and held fund-raisers. Even our churches began holding cereal box drives to help out. It really became a community effort.”
After arriving in Round Rock on a Sunday afternoon, the group had barely put their bags down before joining the children on campus for chapel and then heading out to buy supplies to refurbish the recreation room inside the children’s home activity center.
The student volunteers also repainted a relief apartment adjacent to a family care cottage.
“This was probably one of the best groups I’ve ever worked with,” Gilbert said. “The kids are just so polite, and everyone was willing to do whatever needed to be done. They were just wonderful.”
Besides experiencing their first school-sponsored road trip, the students from Garrison High took away something else back home with them to East Texas.
“It’s pretty eye opening,” said Lauren Lackey, a Garrison High School student. “Being here makes us appreciate our parents and just how good we have it.”
And the Garrison students were happy to help the children.
“These kids have gotten so much out of this experience just by doing something for someone other than themselves,” Bradshaw said. “I hope, more than anything, that they have learned the joy of serving others. That alone more than makes up for the miles.”
Miranda N. Bradley is the communication manager for Children at Heart Ministries.