Every Sunday, Palmetto Senior High School junior Katherine Heldt joins with other members of her church to feed the homeless.
“I go to Old Cutler Presbyterian,” Heldt says. “We make bags with meals in them, and then we take a bus or van to downtown Miami and pass them out.”
The church group sets up their food giveaway under a downtown overpass. When the homeless arrive, they are treated to a short sermon and then the volunteers hand out the food and drinks.
“We talk to them for a while about their week,” Heldt says. “I know most of their names. They are friendly. There are new people now and then. And we’ve seen people get apartments and jobs.”
Heldt has been going with the group to feed the homeless since the summer before she started the eighth grade, so she has had a lot of time to get to know everyone. And when one of the regulars breaks the cycle of homeless, she says she is happy. Working with the group has also helped her appreciate her own life.
“I’m more grateful for what I have,” she says. “It’s so satisfying to see them smiling and talking. I think people have a negative point of view about the homeless. Some people aren’t able to get jobs, some have disabilities and many of them just go from place to place. There are only so many beds.”
Heldt says she heard about helping the homeless from others at her church and, since she has always had a passion for helping others, she decided to do it at least once. “I immediately knew that I would be back,”Heldt says.
Heldt volunteers with her church to feed the homeless on Sundays, and then on Wednesday evenings she goes back to the church to work with the middle school youth group.
“We talk to them to see how they are doing, to see how their week has been,” she says. “They’ll talk to us about their struggles. It’s easier for them to talk to high school volunteers, we’re more relatable. We’ve been through it more recently.”
Heldt says working with the pre-teens has taught her patience and she has learned a valuable lesson about how to give the right advice to others.
Her involvement at church is matched by her involvement at Palmetto High School. She is treasurer of Interact and is handling the money that will be donated to help build a water purification plant in India. Heldt is also a member of the National Honor Society, the Science Honor Society, the English Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, the Pink Ribbon Club and Eight Habits of the Heart.
“We talk about morals and values of the school,” she says. “On every early release day we go into the freshman classes and talk about the values of our school. There is a book that we read from.”
She is in the club because learning about the Eight Habits of the Heart had a big impact on her freshman year.
“It is something most other schools don’t have,” Heldt says. “I want to share my experiences with freshmen so maybe they can relate.”
Heldt is also an athlete. She runs cross country and participates on the track-andfield team.
“I run the mile and I usually do the halfmile relay, the 800 relay,” she says. “I’m better in cross country; I really like running.”
ByLinda Rodriguez Bernfeld