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4-H youth offer phone charging station for Clearwater neighbors without power

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When much of Pinellas County lost power due to Hurricane Irma, the Reed family’s neighborhood was among those that went dark. The Reeds’ two sons, Breighton, 12, and Emmerson, 9, heard that their neighbors needed to charge their phones to call family and friends.

That’s when the boys’ many years in Florida 4-H really kicked in. They had to find a way to help their community.

“After working to clean up some neighbors’ yards after the storm, the kids wanted to figure out how else they could help those around them,” said Laurie Reed, the boys’ mother and 4-H club leader in Pinellas County. “They said, ‘What if we used our generator to charge people’s phones?’”

The boys put out a call on their Homeowners’ Association’s Facebook group: Anyone who wanted to charge his or her phone could come to the Reeds to power up. They just had to look for the table the boys had set up, complete with charging towers and a hand-drawn sign saying “Power available to charge your phone!”

Breighton, left, and Emmerson Reed with their hand-drawn sign inviting neighbors to charge their phones. Photo by Laurie Reed.

“So far, about 30 people have come by from the neighborhood to charge their phones, with more coming each day,” Reed said.

Breighton and Emmerson have been 4-H members in Pinellas County since they were each 5 years old. They are part of several clubs, including the Earth Explorers, which focuses on learning about the environment, as well as the forest ecology, archery and marine sciences clubs, Reed said.

Reed’s younger son, Emmerson, also participates in 4-H public speaking contests.

“Public speaking through 4-H had made a big impact on him,” Reed said. “Before age 7, he was very reserved and would hardly speak to anyone. Now, he can stand up in front of people and give a presentation. His confidence could be part of the reason he was so comfortable reaching out to his neighbors and inviting them to come to him for help.”

The Florida 4-H Youth Development Program is administered by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension. Alyssa Bowers, UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County 4-H agent, said she wasn’t surprised when she heard about how the Reeds jumped at the chance to help their community.

“One of the components of the 4-H pledge includes committing oneself to serving others, and Breighton and Emmerson have embodied this by taking the initiative to assist others in a time of need,” Bowers said.

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By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, grenrosa@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

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