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South Tampa News

Tampa fair connects student volunteers with charities

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Published:   |   Updated: March 10, 2014 at 07:11 AM

TAMPA — Daniel Stein is not 100 percent sure what will become of his future. But he’s 16, so he’s got time.

The one thing the Berkeley Prep junior does know, he wants to make life better for others.

“In terms of jobs, I don’t know at all what I want to do, but hopefully I’ll get to travel when I’m older and find ways to give back to people in other countries,” he said.

For now, he’s helping those in his community.

Sunday was the second Charity Awareness Fair and Expo, or CAFE, a program Stein started to get students involved in community service.

Packed inside the Hyde Park Village semicircle, large tables and popup tents served as satellite offices for more than 50 charitable organizations.

Alex Wood, a Tampa Prep freshman, and her friend, Alex Posada, a sophomore at Brooks-DeBartolo, attended the fair with their mothers.

Stopped near an Easter Seals booth, the group chatted with a volunteer.

“I just know that after I volunteer for a few hours, I usually feel really good about myself and about the community,” Wood, 15, said. “It’s just really good to work with people and I feel really lucky.”

Both have volunteered in the past.

There’s also the academic side to it.

“I hope to be able to volunteer for enough places to have enough volunteer hours by the end of my junior year,” Posada, 15, said.

Alex Wood’s mother, Sheree, was thankful for the face time she and her daughter were able to put in with the different groups there.

“I went out online trying to find some opportunities for her and I couldn’t get calls back or emails back,” she said. “To be able to talk to a person, we’ve got, already, a lot of exciting opportunities.”

Alex Posada’s mother, Sue, said she had a similar experience trying to connect her daughter with different charities. It was hard to contact people.

Furthermore, she was given a list of just names and numbers to other charities with no description, which didn’t make selecting an organization easy. Sunday, she was able to gather literature and ask questions.

“I was really excited to come down and check things out,” Sue Posada said. “Talk to people and really get some good information.”

Laura Olds, program manager for Best Buddies, had her booth set up and received plenty of encouraging inquiries.

“We have so many people coming up, really interested in getting involved, volunteering,” Olds said. “They have seemed really excited about the opportunities we have and they have so many choices around here. Their hands are filled with all sorts of flyers from all organizations, but they all seem really motivated and excited to start volunteering — students and adults alike.”

Best Buddies was established to connect volunteers with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. The organization, which started in 1989, also serves as a resource for those with disabilities.

Daniel Stein’s giving spirit was fostered at a young age by witnessing volunteerism from an intimate vantage point. His brother, Andrew Stein, a sophomore at Yale University, started Gearing Up for the Dominican Republic in 2008. The charity collects baseball gear to sends it to impoverished youth in that country, allowing them the opportunity to pursue a passion and escape their economical condition.

Now that Andrew is at Yale, Daniel has taken over as president of Gear Up.

Daniel’s father, Phillip Stein, said he tried to impart a helping spirit to his children.

“I just try to teach (my children) to give back to the community and I thought this was a great idea to help, not just one charity, but many different charities,” Phillip Stein said. “It was a way for him to really give back to the whole community. It helps him to understand what it takes to put on an event, the time and commitment. With school work, he’s really learned time management, which is great.”

Recently, a student in Newfoundland, Canada reached out to Daniel Stein, wanting to know how she could start CAFE in her town.

That falls right in line with Daniel’s hopes for his organization.

“The ultimate goal on an individual basis is to help students find their passion in community service,” Daniel Stein said. “But the ultimate goal for CAFE is for the event to spread to different cities so that helping kids find their passion can take place around the country and even internationally.”

For information, visit www.cafetampa.org.

edaniels@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1860

Twitter: @EDanielsTBO

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