TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Young men in the Gentlemen’s Quest of Tampa mentorship program spent their Saturday morning surprising Tampa families by purchasing their groceries and toys.
Gentlemen’s Quest of Tampa Inc. is a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to helping students reach their full potential. The group’s director, Tavis Myrick, serves as the young men’s’ mentor and prioritizes their academics, behavior, community service and more to help develop them into wonderful men.
8 On Your Side has followed GQ for the past two years as the students wrote books, became published authors, and handed out thousands of dollars in scholarships. The gentlemen most recently gave back to their community by surprising Walmart customers.
“I wanted to be very picky with this because I really wanted to find someone I felt truly needed this,” said Keith Canady, Senior at Brandon High School.
Canady is the current president of GQ. After walking the aisles of Walmart for nearly an hour, then spotted Lavette James.
“When I saw Ms. Lavette I saw her, she actually picked up a can and I saw her put it back,” Canady said. “I was thinking maybe she did that because she couldn’t afford it.”
Canady was right. The moment he approached James, she was in shock.
“‘Hello, how are you doing ma’am? My name is Keith, I’m a part of Gentlemen’s Quest, which is a youth mentoring program,'” he said to James. “‘Today, we’re at Walmart trying to spread holiday cheer and I chose you so we can pay for everything in your cart.'”
“‘What’?” James responded. “‘All my food?” Stop playing! I need y’all to pay for my food, I do, I need that. I need y’all to pay for my food baby,'” James said as she fell into Canady’s arms in tears.
GQ paid James’ $150 total.
“This is such a blessing especially right now during the holiday season, food is so expensive,” James said. “I put so many things back today.”
James recently moved from Georgia after falling on hard times.
“Coming from a bad place, mental health, I left Georgia about five years ago and my daughter saved my life,” James said. “Now, coming back off of COVID, trying to get the bills and our life back in order.”
GQ touched five family’s lives during their Walmart trip.
“Oh my God, I thought it was a joke,” Debra Ellis said. “I couldn’t afford everything, so I kept putting things back, trying to make a choice. I even got a cake that was broken to make things meet. It means so much that we have young men that we can be proud of.”
The young men were touched by their own efforts.
“Just to help someone and see that they are really blessed to be helped really made my day,” said Telvin Mexile, Junior at Hillsborough High School. “It felt heartwarming. I know what it’s like to be down and be hoping for a blessing to come your way. When I grow up, I want to be a nurse so that I can help more people.”
Canady said it also made him want to continue giving back to his community.
“I just felt so wholesome, and just grateful I was able to give back to someone who really needed it,” Canady said.
GQ spent a total of $770.98 in an effort to spread holiday cheer.