Carolyn Figueroa inspired a collection of $5,000 to help Panama City families.
By Brooklynn Hoffmann
A Palm Coast teenager recently organized a donation that delivered toys and $5,000 in gift cards to people in need before Christmas. She was inspired to do the project after watching a 2019 news broadcast about recovery efforts in Panama City. She was surprised to learn that there were people still living in tents more than a year after Hurricane Michael.
“Wanting to help people comes naturally,” said Carolyn Figueroa, who is a Flagler Palm Coast High School senior and is also enrolled at Daytona State College. “I live for the feeling of doing something bigger than me. These are the holidays. Everyone’s supposed to have a good time, and this group of people is left out.”
Feeling compelled to do something about it, she organized a toy drive, which was promoted in the Palm Coast Observer and at her church in Bunnell, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Her efforts were recognized by Andrew Larson, who oversees several of the church's congregations as president of DeLand Stake.
“She was inspired," Larson said. Her idea led members of the congregations to collect gift cards in addition to the toys. The result was $5,000 in gift cards that were mailed to Panama City, helping about 30 families have a "modest Christmas" that they wouldn't have had otherwise; the church leaders in Panama City were “very emotional and excited about it," Larson said.
Joseph Parsons, a member of the church in Bunnell, volunteered to drive the toys from Palm Coast to Panama City to help the people there — and to help Figueroa. “It was the last thing she needed to succeed," he said. Parsons made the trip on Saturday, Dec. 21, in time for Christmas.