On Mondays and Fridays, Fernando and Joaquin Flores show up at Southside Presbyterian Church around 4:30 a.m.
The brothers help set up tables and chairs and make coffee for the homeless people the church will serve later that morning.
Around 7 a.m., Fernando, a 14-year-old freshman, will catch the bus to Tucson High. Joaquin, 11, will leave shortly after for Ochoa Community Magnet School, where he is a fifth-grader.
Douglas Larson oversees the Southside Presbyterian program and says the Flores brothers are his youngest volunteers. Many other volunteers are retired or older adults.
Sometimes the boys’ parents come. Sometimes the boys come alone. The family attends Southside Presbyterian.
“First of all, they are dependable and always here,” Larson says, adding that when they aren’t in school, they stay longer, sticking around to serve the food.
The boys started volunteering more than a year ago and enjoyed it.
“Every day is rewarding,” Fernando says. “Usually we get compliments about the coffee.”
Two mornings a week, Southside Presbyterian prepares about 300 hot meals and provides access to hot showers, clothing and haircuts. In 2017, the program will mark its 25th anniversary.
“We’ve gotten used to waking up early,” Joaquin says.
They plan to continue sacrificing a few hours of sleep to help their community.
“I know a lot of people who are homeless,” Fernando says. “Friends of the family. Some are family.”
Through the program, Larson says the older volunteers have gotten to know and support the Flores brothers.
“We feel like part of their family,” he says. “Fernando plays steel drums, and we go to his concerts. You can see we’re faithful to him as a family.”
And what these brothers have received, they want to pass on to others.
When asked why they volunteer, their response is simple: “It tells them someone cares.”