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UCF Social Work Students Deliver Hurricane Supplies to Vulnerable Citizens

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He was one of 30 senior citizens the group  helped Thursday.

"To see his smile, knowing it really helped. That's why I do it," said Andrea Predl, the UCF student who pitched the idea of providing low-income seniors in Orange County with hurricane supplies to her social work class at UCF. She is also co-chair of the Bachelor of Social Work Student Association.

She told the class of 30 students about the people she had gotten to know through her volunteer work with the nonprofit Seniors First, which delivers meals to more than 600 seniors in Orange County, among other services it provides. This summer she began delivering Meals on Wheels to seniors in Parramore, Pine Hills and East Orlando.

Jan Kerline, Seniors First CEO, said many of their clients are on fixed incomes and isolated.

"For many, the Meals on Wheel driver is the only human contact they have all week, Kerline said.

Jackson isn't alone. He has a daughter who lives in Haines City and she's been trying to get her dad to move into her home. But he won't budge.  The former orange picker and cement setter said he likes his independence. But that means things are tight and any help is welcomed. 

He was one of 15 seniors Perdl personally delivered hurricane kits to on July 24. Another group of students delivered the kits to another 15 of the most vulnerable members of the Orange County community.

"I saw the need," Perdl said." All of the clients I have encountered enjoy small talk and a smile, as I might be the only person they see for the day. Unfortunately, a vast majority of clients have little support from family and this was another reason why I chose to present the project to the class." 

Social work is more than just helping people in an office setting, said the three students on the route with Predl. It's about helping people in their own community.

The students used word of mouth to get people to donate items for the project. Students, faculty and staff at UCF and Valencia Community College partnered to collect supplies. Some more affluent seniors in the area who heard about the project also made donations. The kits contain blankets, nonperishable food, batteries, and first aid kits among other things.

Jimmy Payne, a Terry Avenue resident waited outside his door for Predl, Felix and Michael Morrison to arrive with his kit. As soon as Predl's car pulled up, he came over. He took his box and went inside. A few minutes later he came out again asking Predl if she could get him some batteries for his radio, because he would need one in case of a hurricane. He pointed to an AM radio with a broken antenna, full of dust and cobwebs.

Felix said the project opened her eyes. 

"I was a little worried at first, I mean it's Parramore and you hear about the shootings and the crime," Felix said. "I've never been to this part of town. I've been very sheltered and you get these stereotypes in your head. But seeing the human side of this, it really makes you realize that fear paralyzes you. They are just people. And people need to help people, and not just ask government to fix everything. I can help, we can help."

Note: The project was part of a summer course taught by Eileen Abel, associate professor of social work.

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