How a trip to South Carolina gave Gardens teens a lesson in gratitude

Posted: 1:54 p.m. Thursday, June 09, 2016

Instead of sleeping in, sunning themselves on the sand or studying for college entrance exams, Gardens students’ lives are being changed by a five-day trip 500 miles north.

They’re talking about racial tensions in Charleston, S.C., a year after a white gunman killed nine people at a historic black church during a Bible study, and donning hazmat suits to scrape mold from a house flooded by rain from Hurricane Joaquin in October.

It’s part of Project Tikvah, coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County’s Jewish Teen Initiative. Tikvah is a Hebrew word that translates to “hope.” Seventeen Palm Beach County teens went on the trip from Sunday to Thursday.

Ruby Rosenthal, 16 of Palm Beach Gardens, was part of a team that helped bring hope to Patricia, a kind woman in her 50s displaced from a home that’s been in her family for generations.

Meeting Patricia made Rosenthal that much more motivated to scrape away at the mold. She had to put on a suit, mask and goggles before going inside the house ravaged by flood waters.

“We live in Florida, where this could happen any day, but we are so privileged that we haven’t been destroyed by a flood as great as this one,” Rosenthal said. “I really don’t know what would happen if we did.”

Hannah Welton, 16, was standing beneath where the floorboards should have been when she looked up at a light switch and realized she was working in a child’s room.

“All I could think of is if we weren’t there to help them, there was a child who lived in this room, and they wouldn’t have this room to come back to,” Welton said.

Project Tikvah is centered on social action. Hopefully, the newly inspired teens will continue their efforts back home in Palm Beach County.

Consider: One in six residents don’t know where they’ll get their next meal and more than 60 percent of children in the school district qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Helping at a food bank in South Carolina was the most eye-opening part of the trip for Jack Gabbe, 15.

“I’ve learned we can’t take things for granted. We need to be thankful for what we have,” he said.