SANFORD, Fla. – It’s often the smallest act of kindness that can provide the greatest reward.
Nylda Lopez, who lives in Sanford, wanted to say thank you to a group of students who did something most would consider quite unremarkable -- an afternoon of yard work.
But for Lopez, it lifted a huge burden and gave her hope for the future.
Lopez loves her yard and she’s accumulated many plants over there years.
“I love this area over here, it’s got lots of flowers,” Lopez said, pointing to the flower bed near her front door. “I love flowers. I wish I had more flowers.”
From sunflowers to periwinkle, papaya and hibiscus, Lopez’s yard has a little bit of everything.
“I stay in my driveway because I can’t go into the yard,” she explained while leaning on her car. “My balance is not good.”
Lopez has several health issues that prevent her from working outside. She also relies on a fixed income, which doesn’t leave much room for home maintenance. “I’ve been able to pay for lawn cutting, which is very expensive, but I try to keep it up as much as I can.”
Over time, her yard grew out of control and she didn’t know where to turn.
“Everything was like a jungle,” Lopez remembered. “Everything was overgrown and some dead trees needed to be removed.”
Help was just a few miles away. Students from The Geneva School in Casselberry spent the day cleaning her yard. It was part of the annual SALT Serveathon, the school’s community outreach and fundraising campaign.
“SALT stands for serving and learning together,” explained The Geneva School Director of Advancement Katie Deatherage. “We want them to have an opportunity to put into action the things that we talk about in the classroom. Things like giving of themselves, being grateful for what they have been given and expressing that through their actions.”
The school partners with 14 nonprofits, providing service hours. Meals on Wheels recommended that Lopez could use the help.
“Oh my, I didn’t know what 18 kids would be like. They came over, all of them, saying hello. Very respectful, very sweet, very kind,” Lopez remembered. “(The school is) doing a great job teaching character, having compassion for the elderly and caring for the community.”
Allie Coplin, Allison Forney and Tanner Dietel were part of the 8th-grade class assigned to the Lopez project.
“She was so nice,” Coplin said. “She had this really bright smile and she was so thankful for the work we did.”
“I loved doing it. It was so nice to give back to the community,” Forney added.
Dietel recalled the stories Lopez shared about her plants, including a cactus that was falling over.
“She really wanted us to keep that cactus because her granddaughter planted it,” he remembered.
The kids pulled weeds, cut branches, removed dead plants and replaced mulch. They even cleaned the gutters.
Lopez was so impressed she nominated the school and the students for the News 6 Getting Results Award.
“In 10 years, I think this is the first time that we’ve had someone go to such lengths to be able to give the school recognition,” Deatherage said.
“They are doing a great job with those kids and I’d like people to know,” Lopez said. “They give you so much hope for the future.”