MANATEE COUNTY — It wasn’t the typical weekend for Zach Larus.
The senior at Braden River High School chatted with other youths in a grassy field behind Woodland — The Community Church March 4 as flames from a campfire flickered against a black skyline.
Then, after munching on hotdogs and chips and swapping stories, he and about a dozen other high school students climbed into boxes to attempt a solid night’s rest.
“Sleeping in a box all night wasn’t the most comfortable thing,” Larus said. “It sounds simple — a simplified lifestyle — but it’s not. I was between cold and sweating (all night).”
Woodland hosted its first Kinetic Box Retreat March 4-5. During the event, East County high school students learned about homelessness and other life lessons.
Tenth- and 11th-grade students spent their Friday night packing sack lunches of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other treats to hand out to homeless individuals in Bradenton before camping under the stars. The next morning, they arrived in downtown Bradenton at 7 a.m. to pass out lunches before heading to the Salvation Army, where they scrubbed the facility’s bathrooms and dining area. They also donated to the Salvation Army bags for homeless children containing items such as Play-Doh and crayons, and bags with toiletries and other items for their families.
“It was really great to open my eyes to how (the homeless) have to live,” Lakewood Ranch junior Taylor Halligan said. “It was nice to start my spring (and spring break) off by giving to (others).”
Event organizer Jennifer Passmore, wife of Woodland’s senior Pastor Tim Passmore and the church’s preschool director, said the retreat was meant to show youths about poverty and to appreciate the things they have.
“These kids have no idea what it would be like, and what they have,” she said. “When you compare yourself to others, you compare yourself up. I don’t have this. I don’t have that.
“One of the ways you learn to be grateful is you get a good look at it and serving,” she said. “That’s the message of the church — serve one another and show the love of (Jesus) Christ.”
Jennifer and Tim Passmore in January started a group for high school students to be able to question what they believe and why so they will be better prepared as they venture out from their parent’s households.
As a result of those discussions, the couple decided to host a box retreat. Their daughter, Alex, had attended one at Christ Presbyterian Church two years ago, and the experience proved a valuable lesson in gratitude and service, she said.
“It was challenging; it opened my eyes,” Alex Passmore said. “(At the Christ Presbyterian retreat) we went two days without my phone, and I was dying.”
Larus agreed the Kinetic Box Retreat proved more challenging than he anticipated and also taught him valuable life lessons.
“I’m thankful for just having a shower and a bed,” he said. “I was astonished to find out (from the Salvation Army) we have hundreds of homeless people in this area.”
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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