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De Soto National Memorial undergoes renovations, tech upgrade

The Visitor Center at the De Soto National Memorial near Bradenton, built as part of the National Park Service Mission 66 initiative, recently underwent its first major renovations since its construction in 1969. 

The renovation project took six months to complete and includes fresh paint and updated fixtures, the installation of a new welcoming station and front desk in the Visitor Center, and upgrades to the audio-visual system that plays the National Memorial’s park movie — a feature that Lead Park Ranger Daniel Stephens says is central to the park’s mission.  

Stephens describes the renovation as a “top-to-bottom thorough cleaning and across the board audio-visual upgrade.” The newly enhanced lighting, sound system, and 75-inch LCD television, Stephens says, is a “huge technological improvement” from the outdated projection system that was replaced in the renovation. 

De Soto National Memorial, 5 miles west of Bradenton, Florida, commemorates the 1539 landing of Hernando de Soto and the first extensive organized exploration by Europeans of what is now the southern United States.

During peak season, in the months of November through April, the park receives up to 50,000 visitors, many of whom Stephens says are seasonal residents who return to the park annually. 

“Several visitors said to us, ‘this place needs to clear out the cobwebs,’ and that was a wakeup call to us. While we’ve done so much to change the outward appearance of the park grounds, we’d never looked at the Visitor Center,” Stephens says.

“A national park is not a static entity. These renovations give the sense that this is not an old space: we do listen to visitor feedback, and we do change.”

Visitor Center renovations were completed with $5,000 in fundraising from the nonprofit group, Friends of De Soto National Memorial; $5,000 in matched proceeds from Eastern National, a cooperating partner supplying the park’s bookstore, and with funding from “America the Beautiful,” part of the Federal Lands Pass recreation program, which provided over $6,000 for the project.

For Good: Home ownership program helps low-income families

The American dream of home ownership is becoming a reality for low-income families because a local nonprofit helps people help themselves become homeowners.
 
Florida Home Partnership, a program that has served Hillsborough and Pasco counties for the past 21 years, has assisted over 700 families, veterans and seniors in achieving their goal to become homeowners.
 
“There are a lot of people that are shut out of the chance at home ownership,” says Earl Pfeiffer, Executive Director for Florida Home Partnership. “Our program is not a handout, it is a hand up.”
 
Pfeiffer explains that the program, which has built communities in rural areas throughout Hillsborough and Pasco counties, helps those who otherwise would not have the chance to own a home.
 
“The first criteria an individual or family must meet, is that they be under 80-percent of the area median income,” he says. “In Hillsborough and Pasco counties, for a single person that income cannot exceed $33,050, and for a family of four it cannot exceed $47,200.
 
In addition to the income level, individuals and families must have good or repairable credit, a reliable source of income and be willing to work on their own home.
 
“This is a self-help program,” Pfeiffer says. “Families in the community work on the homes they will be living in, and are required to work a minimum of 600 hours on skilled tasks.”
 
The innovative program is funded by a variety of sources. Program funding comes from the Department of Agriculture, as well as both Hillsborough and Pasco counties. Funding for the homes, comes from Congress in the form of the Section 502 loan, as well as down payment assistance from the State of Florida.
 
“As a real estate agent myself, I see how the rates are going up, it can be very difficult to buy a house,” Pfeiffer says. “We all want to be a part of the American dream, and this program helps people achieve that dream.”

Community kitchen brings new hope to Tampa's University area

Combating adult obesity begins with small steps, like the community garden that the University Area Community Development Corporation (UACDC) first opened in Tampa in November 2013 to provide residents with access to healthy food. Now, the group has opened the Harvest Hope Center Kitchen to further help residents of Tampa’s university area learn about healthy eating and sustainability. 

UACDC first began making moves toward a healthier Tampa by teaching University of South Florida area residents how to maintain beds of leafy greens and cultivate an array of hearty vegetables in the community garden on North 20th Street.

In March 2015, the program’s efforts expanded with the opening of the Harvest Hope Center Kitchen, directly adjacent to the community garden, with the aim of teaching more members of the university area community about healthy habits and nutritious eating. 

The Harvest Hope Center Kitchen, located at 13704 N. 20th St., is designed to serve residents of the University area, a community that has been the focus of economic revitalization efforts in recent months.

“We believe that educating residents about good nutrition can make a positive, long-term impact on those in our neighborhood,” says UACDC’s Executive Director and CEO Sarah Combs in a news release.

The Harvest Hope Center Kitchen is a fully functional kitchen that provides a classroom-like setting for lessons in nutrition and opportunities for cooking demonstrations, using fruits and vegetables from the community garden. Lessons will focus on teaching residents about the nutritious benefits of the items, along with their seasonal attributes.

“The opening of the Harvest Hope Center Kitchen is a key component in building and keeping a strong, healthy community,” Combs said.

The Harvest Hope Center Kitchen is made possible by community partners and sponsors, including: the Florida Medical Clinic Foundation of Caring, Whitwam Organics, the Westchase Rotary Club, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough County Code Enforcement.

Community partners and sponsors provide the renovations, equipment, education and support for the Harvest Hope Center Kitchen.

Combs, along with UACDC’s board Chairman Gene Marshall, board Secretary T.J. Couch, Jr., and board members Jo Easton and Darlene Stanko, led the Harvest Hope Center Kitchen ribbon cutting in late February 2015.

UACDC is a 501c3 public/private partnership based in Tampa’s University Area Community Center Complex at 14013 N. 22nd St. The UACDC is focused on helping to redevelop and sustain the areas around the University of South Florida through children and family development, crime prevention and commerce growth.

To learn more about upcoming classes and events at the Harvest Hope Center, or for details on services and programs available through the University Area Community Development Corporation, contact the UACDC by visiting the organization’s website or calling 813-558-5212. 

Urbanite Theatre prepares to launch first season in new black-box theatre in Sarasota

The buzz around the Urbanite Theatre is unmistakable in downtown Sarasota — the drone of carpentry tools placing finishing construction touches competes daily with the energetic hum of creative anticipation as the new black-box theatre space prepares for its opening night in April.

Urbanite co-Founders and Artistic Directors Brendan Ragan and Summer Wallace met while pursuing Masters’ degrees at Sarasota’s FSU/Asolo Conservatory. Urbanite Theatre emerged from their shared vision to bring provocative contemporary productions to Sarasota in an intimate black-box setting. 

“This is such an arts community. Sarasota is very strong in its visual and performing arts scene, already. But what’s not here, yet, is a small box theater that’s staging edgy, contemporary work,” says Ragan.

Having both lived the nomadic lifestyle of career actors, working in larger cities like New York City with robust contemporary theatre scenes, Ragan and Wallace see great potential in Sarasota.

The Urbanite Theatre was announced late last spring and quickly received 501c3 nonprofit status. A developer who wishes to remain anonymous is responsible for the funding and construction of the new theater, an addition to an office complex on 2nd Street, located between Fruitville Road and the Whole Foods Market. The space, formerly a parking lot, was purchased for $600,000.

“We’ve been generously given the shell of the space to utilize, but we’re responsible for filling it in and making a theater of it,” Wallace says.

Filling in the shell of a theater means providing the lighting, seating, sound equipment and other operational components. Wallace says estimated start-up costs for the theater are approximately $30,000, and that each production will cost between $25,000-$30,000. Active fundraising campaigns have raised more than $50,000 to date, and the theater hopes to raise an additional $100,000 to keep ticket prices at $20 or less and offer student discounts.

The Urbanite Theatre features a cozy black-box setting designed for customizable production space and intimate performances. Theater capacity is limited to 50-70 seats, depending on the configuration for each show.

“When you’re in a bigger space, you can kind of remove yourself from the production. You’re up there, safe in your seats and separate from the stage. Here, where the actor is not just feet, but mere inches away from you — it evokes a different emotional response,” Wallace says.

“Because we have a small venue, I believe we will be able to really push the envelope in terms of the types of plays we produce,” Ragan adds. “I look it at the same way that HBO differs from network television: People week out their work because it’s something different; more provocative.”

Opening night is scheduled for April 10 with the U.S. premiere of British playwright Anna Jordan’s award-winning “Chicken Shop.” For ticket information, visit The Urbanite Theatre website.

'Building a Healthier Sulphur Springs' project aims to create safe, energy-efficient Tampa homes

Slowly but surely, efforts to transform a long-neglected neighborhood north of downtown Tampa are taking shape.

“Building a Healthier Sulphur Springs” is a new collaborative community program that will address the shortage of safe, suitable housing in the neighborhood, a factor that Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay says increases housing instability and transiency in the area.

Sulphur Springs is a blighted section of Tampa known for high crime rates and low income but the neighborhood was, decades ago, a destination that attracted tourists with its sulphur waters, spring-fed swimming pool and lively storefronts.

“Through our neighborhood revitalization initiative known as ‘Building a Healthier Sulphur Springs,’ Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay intends to improve the living conditions of this community for its present and future residents,” says RTTB Executive Director Jose Garcia.

Creating stable opportunities for children, improving general wellbeing and developing more positive neighborhood settings are part of the “Building a Healthier Sulphur Springs” program goals.

The program is “uniquely positioned for success because of the collaborations formed with numerous nonprofit organizations that are part of the Sulphur Springs Neighborhood of Promise and the support of the City of Tampa,” Garcia says.

“Building a Healthier Sulphur Springs” services aim to make homes in the Sulphur Springs neighborhood safer, healthier and more energy efficient. This will include implementing the “Healthy Home Kit” in many homes: a combination of learning workshops for residents and on-going community support in the form of home repairs and services.

Efforts to revitalize the low-income community in Sulphur Springs have been underway for several years, with the opening of Springhill Community Center and Layla's House, which offers parenting programs and resources for children to neighborhood families. The Sulphur Springs Neighborhood of Promise, which was founded in the mid-2000’s by the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA in partnership with local organizations like United Way Suncoast and the Children's Board of Hillsborough County, led the efforts to open Layla’s House.

Backed by federal funding, the City of Tampa also initiated the Nehemiah Project, an effort to tear down dozens of dilapidated abandoned Sulphur Springs houses, in 2014.

“We have strong support from various corporations and foundations that want to see the neighborhood stabilize and thrive in their new environment,” says Garcia. “We look forward to sharing the outcomes with everyone in the Tampa Bay area.”

The “Building a Healthier Sulphur Springs” project launches at 10:30am on Thursday, March 19, at the Abundant Life Worship Center, 8117 N. 13th St. “Healthy Home Kits” will be installed in the homes of several Sulphur Springs residents following the program kickoff.

RTTB, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rehabilitating neighborhood homes and providing home repair services to low-income families as well as elderly residents, wounded veterans or those with disabilities, has already renovated or repaired more than 350 neighborhood homes through sponsorship support, labor and hundreds of volunteers. Services include anything from emergency repairs to weatherproofing or improvements to make homes more energy efficient.

More information is available at the Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay website.

SPCA Tampa Bay to open St. Pete vet hospital

SPCA Tampa Bay will open a full-service veterinary hospital and spay and neuter clinic in St. Petersburg by mid-2016.

St. Pete's new vet hospital and clinic will be located at 3250 5th Ave. N, in a 12,500-square-foot former medical office building purchased by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in early 2015.

"What a way to kick off our 75th anniversary year!” says SPCA Tampa Bay president Martha Boden. 

Providing pet owners with accessible veterinary care for their pets, promoting humane care, and reducing pet overpopulation are the SPCA Tampa Bay's main goals in opening the new veterinary clinic in St. Petersburg.

According to Boden, access to care is a challenge for some pet owners, leading some animals to end up in shelters. A new location, she explains, could help to alleviate the problem of overpopulation or homeless shelter animals.

“Purchasing this property in St. Petersburg allows us to expand beyond our Largo campus to bring services to more pet owners in Pinellas County,” Boden says. “We're dedicated to caring for animals and supporting a community that cares about its pets.”

Renovations will begin in coming months. The St. Pete veterinary hospital and clinic is expected to open  mid-2016.

"We expect to add 20 – 25 jobs when we’re fully up and running," Boden says. "Up to seven of those jobs will be for veterinarians, so advanced degrees will be required. Other jobs include veterinary nurses, assistants and receptionists."

Hiring should begin in early to mid-2016. Educational requirements vary depending on the position.  

SPCA Tampa Bay board chair Marilyn Hulsey and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced the purchase in a news conference at the future facility.

The St. Petersburg veterinary hospital will provide medical, surgery and general care services for dogs and cats. The spay and neuter clinic will “help prevent unplanned litters, reducing the number of homeless and unwanted dogs and cats in the community,” Boden says.

Veterinary hospital visits and spay and neuter services will be available to any pet owners during extended weekday hours and weekend appointments. 

SPCA Tampa Bay will be hosting a networking social March 18th. RSVP here.

Contact SPCA Tampa Bay by visiting the website or calling 727-586-3591. To donate to the SPCA Tampa Bay online, follow this link.
     
SPCA Tampa Bay’s 10-acre animal sanctuary and Wellness Clinic is located at 9099 130th Avenue N in Largo. Hours are Tuesday - Friday, 1pm to 7pm; Saturday, 10am - 6pm; and Sunday, 1pm - 5pm. SPCA Tampa Bay’s Wellness Clinic is open Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, from 8am-noon.

Will work for food? Try Harbor Dish Community Cafe in Safety Harbor

Harbor Dish Community Cafe is a restaurant where people can eat healthy foods for whatever price they can afford to pay. And they may leave with something more enriching than a good meal.

They'll feel themselves as part of a caring community.

"There is something for everyone at the cafe, not just food," says Christina Sauger, founder and director of the nonprofit Harbor Dish, Inc., and the community cafe at 123 4th Ave. South in Safety Harbor.

The cafe is awaiting approval from the city of Safety Harbor for its permit.  Sauger anticipates opening in late March or early April.

Harbor Dish will rely on volunteers, grants, donations and a handful of paid staff members including a chef, volunteer coordinator and cafe administrator. Patrons will dine buffet-style and pay the suggested discount price or whatever amount they can afford.

People also can "pay it forward" for another person. Or volunteer for one hour and get a meal voucher.

Not all of the volunteer work must be cafe-related. Educational programs and mentoring also are part of Sauger's broader goal of helping the working poor, seniors, people with disabilities, veterans and at-risk youth.

"Whatever skills people have they can share," says Sauger.

Harbor Dish already is holding "pop-up" events and working with other nonprofits and social agencies in the community.

A job training program, culinary training for disabled veterans, Bright Future scholarship hours, life skills for children aging out of foster care and gardening classes are among future enterprises that could be supported by Harbor Dish. An event stage and a community garden also will bring the community together for family-oriented activities.

The model for Harbor Dish is the national nonprofit, One World Everybody Eats community cafe movement. About 40 cafes are operating across the country with about 20 additional restaurants preparing to open, Sauger says.

The most well-known of the cafes is Soul Kitchen in New Jersey supported by the Jon Bon Jovi Foundation.

One World Everybody eats recently held its 2015 summit at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa.

Sauger visited five community cafes in New Jersey, Tennessee and North Carolina before organizing in Safety Harbor. The cafe's location is the former home of her great-grandmother.

Renovations at the house began in October 2013. A new roof, paving stones, a stage and a fence are among donated items. Sauger is covering basic costs of mortgage and utilities but once the cafe is up and running, it is expected to become self-sustaining.

The cafe is in need of commercial kitchen appliances and capital funding. Sauger estimates about $10,000 to $15,000 is needed to open.

Sauger has two engineering degrees and worked as a real estate broker for 25 years. But her care giving began at age 15 when she brought homeless people home for her mother to feed. 

She carried that over into her adult life.

"I was feeding people out of my house because I saw there was a need," she says. She was particularly touched by the struggles grandparents have caring for their grandchildren.

"We wanted to take this to the next level," Sauger says. "We want to see what we can do in a bigger way."

Waypoint Homes aids restoration at Tampa Heights youth development and community center

For more than four years volunteers have shown up weekend after weekend to put in sweat equity to salvage the historical Faith Temple Missionary Baptist Church for a new mission. By March the church is expected to be ready for its debut as the Tampa Heights Youth Development and Community Center.

The final push to complete the makeover is coming from Waypoint Homes and its WIN (Waypoint Invests in Neighborhoods) Program. On successive Thursdays in January a dozen or so WIN team employees work room by room to hang doors, install drywall, put up light fixtures, and finish up trim work. 

The single family rental company owns property throughout Tampa Bay including in the Tampa Heights neighborhood. As part of its WIN program, Waypoint Home sponsors a number of projects to give back to those communities. 

"We search out projects," says John Rapisarda, regional property manager. "We love to do something where we impact the neighborhood where we rent and own  homes."

Company officials are offering materials and company volunteers to finish renovations at the community center for its March opening. Some of it vendors also are contributing materials and labor including Sherwin Williams which is providing flooring.

Waypoint Homes employees will install the flooring.

"It was perfect for us because in addition to contributing financially we want our team to contribute their time," says David Diaz, Waypoint Home's regional director.

The Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association, which is spearheading the renovation project,  provides free youth programs year-round, including after-school and summer activities. The renovated church will include a computer lab, art classroom, recording studio, dining/kitchen area, 300-seat auditorium and performance stage.

"We like everything about this program," says Diaz. "They follow the kids from kindergarten to make sure they graduate from high school."

Over the years national chains, such as Sears, and local businesses, such as CGM Services: Air Conditioning and Heating, have contributed labor and materials to the project. Nonprofit Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay and Richard Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant Group also are contributors. 

The total in donations and volunteer labor  likely is close to $1 million, says Lena Young-Green, president of the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association. Once Waypoint Homes completes its work, the last step is finding a vendor and materials to replace the roof, Young-Green says. 

The Beck Group is helping with this search.

Local architect John Tennison, with Atelier Architecture Engineering Construction, has supervised the volunteer work and guided restoration efforts. 

"It's been enlightening working with people who come by to help," he says. "It's surprising how many people want to give their time and effort. It's a great program and people see that."

Big Brothers Big Sisters moves national headquarters to Tampa

The welcome mat is out for former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. But Iorio is the one bearing a welcome home gift for the Tampa Bay region -- the national corporate headquarters for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

In April 2014 Iorio took on the top job at the 110-year-old nonprofit headquartered in Irving, TX. She was Tampa's mayor from 2003 to 2011. As chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters, she spent her weeks in Texas and weekends at home in Tampa.

Effective March 31, the commuting ends and Big Brothers Big Sisters moves into 6,900-square-feet of office space at Corporate Center One at International Plaza in the Westshore Business District. The rent is free for five years courtesy of Parkway Properties.

The Beck Group is donating the carpets, paint and other materials to make the offices move-in ready. Bill Adams of ROF is providing furniture and design services. And an anonymous Tampa donor is paying moving expenses.

"From a civic stand point, I couldn't be more proud that Big Brothers Big Sisters is calling Tampa home," says Iorio. "I couldn't be more optimistic about the future of the organization in Tampa."

A corporate headquarters in Tampa comes as a plum prize in a city, and a region, that is awash in on-going and soon-to-happen construction for residential towers, shops and restaurants in the urban cores of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

"Wow. This is a really a big deal," says Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman. "We are getting ready to explode in this community. I'm glad, Pam, you and your organization have decided to spark the fire. They are going to bring their company here. There is such a spillover for that."

Iorio and Murman spoke at a gathering at the Tampa Convention Center to announce the relocation. About 150 people attended, including Joseph Lopano, chief executive officer of Tampa International Airport and Kanika Tomalin, deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. 

The move from Texas is expected to bring 20 jobs to the community. While a few employees from Texas might opt to re-locate, Iorio says most jobs will be filled locally.

As national headquarters, Tampa will host board members and staff from 331 affiliate organizations across the country for meetings and conferences. That translates, city leaders say, to more hotel beds filled and more money flowing into the local economy from dollars spent at area restaurants, shops and entertainment venues.

"This is how you become known as a headquarters community," says Rick Homans, CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation (THEDC).

Iorio says she had committed to two years as chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters. A request that she consider a longer commitment led to the decision to relocate.

The THEDC served as facilitator, pulling together a business plan in about two months to sell Tampa and the Bay area as a good move. Iorio says she told her organization, "Even if you take me out of the equation, Tampa Bay is a great place."

Dallas had been corporate headquarters for the organization for only about a year following a move from Philadelphia.

Pinellas and Hillsborough counties have merged their Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations into one of the largest affiliates in the country. Iorio says 3,500 children are served in the Bay area and about 1,000 are on a waiting list to have a Big Brother or Big Sister as a mentor.

IBM retiree Alan Cohen is a Big Brother to 13-year-old Sir.Giogio (last name unavailable) who is the middle child of a single mother. For the past six years, Cohen has taken Sir.Giorgio to sports venues, Busch Gardens and tutors him once a week.

"I know I am able to make a difference in one person's life," says Cohen. "I have a friend in Sir. Giorgio."

YMCA plans 3-pool aquatics center in South Tampa

South Tampa swimmers of all ages can get ready for a new aquatic experience with a choice of three swimming pools for fun and wellness.

The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA will begin construction in November on the Carol Kennedy Aquatic Center at the South Tampa Family YMCA at 4411 S. Himes Ave. The center is named in memory of the daughter of David and Liz Kennedy who died in 1984. The Kennedys are long-time supporters of the YMCA and its mission.

The center's current pool, which is old and out-dated, will stay open during construction. Pending a capital fund-raising campaign, plans are to fill in the existing pool and expand the YMCA building.

The Carol Kennedy Aquatic Center will have a therapy pool, an activity pool with a focus on children, and a lap pool for families and training purposes. Construction costs are about $3.5 million. The center is expected to open in May 2015.

The YMCA offers a variety of aquatic fitness programs as well as swimming classes for adults and infants as young as six months. A 6-week IRS Self-Rescue course on survival swimming skills also is available for children age six months to four years.

One of the agency's priorities is drowning prevention. Florida annually has the highest number of drownings of children under the age of five.

The therapy pool will feature aquatic fitness classes and swim opportunities for seniors or people with disabilities, says Lalita Llerena, YMCA spokeswoman.

"(Aquatic exercise) is one of the softer opportunities for fitness," she says. "We're hoping to reach more active seniors with that."

For the YMCA 2014 has been an expansion year. Earlier this year a new, 11,500 square-foot gymnastics center opened on Ragg Road in Carrollwood as part of the Bob Sierra YMCA Youth & Family Center. Construction is under way on the first of three phases for the South Shore YMCA at Interstate 75 and Big Bend Road. The second phase is expected to include an aquatics center.

St. Petersburg Emergency Shelter Seeks Art Donations

The staff at CASA wants their future emergency shelter to bring sunshine and hope to the hundreds of families and individuals who need to escape domestic violence.

They also want to create a safe haven that is warm and comforting. And to do that, CASA is asking local artists to fill the shelter's rooms and walls with their donated artwork. Paintings, sculptures, multi-media are all welcome.

"We'd like the art to give the shelter a homey, friendly atmosphere," says Susan Nichols, CASA's grants and compliance coordinator.. "We hope it will be a peaceful environment, bright and cheerful. We have a lot of blank wall space."

Construction on the 40,000-square-foot building is under way, just north of downtown St. Petersburg. The expected opening of the shelter will be in late July 2015. A public showing of the donated art also is planned.

CASA is being aided with its "call to artists" by the nonprofit St. Petersburg Arts Alliance.

Funding for the approximately $10 million project is from multiple sources including state and federal grants and tax credits. 

CASA, which was founded nearly four decades ago, currently operates a shelter with 30 beds and aids about 300 families and individuals a year. But Nichols says they have 1,400 requests for help annually that must be referred to other shelters in Pinellas or Hillsborough counties. "Unfortunately many times they are full there also," Nichols says.

The new shelter will nearly triple capacity with 100 beds in 50 bedrooms. There also will be a children's area, teen room, meeting room, a large conference room, offices, playground, outdoor areas and gardens.

Nichols expects about 800 individuals will be given shelter each year. The additional space and the building's design mean more families and men can be accommodated, she says.

Art donations are being accepted through April 10, 2015, at CASA's administrative office, at 1011 First Ave., N.  They are tax deductible as in-kind contributions.

Paintings and photographs should be framed. Murals preferably should be mobile art whether on canvas, wood or other hard surfaces. Textile pieces likely will be displayed in office areas rather than in bedrooms.

Arrangements can be made for the art to be picked up by sending an email to CASA, or calling 727-895-4912, Ext. 100.

CASA reserves the right to reject art that displays violence.

Each art work at the new shelter will be labeled with the artist's name and the work's title. The donations also will be recognized on CASA's website and its Facebook page.

None of the art will be resold but it will be exhibited at a public showing in late April 2015, Nichols says.

"We think it will be a great gift to show the community," she says..

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Susan Nichols, CASA

Restoration Of Old Hyde Park Art Center Under Way

From the outside, the Old Hyde Park Art Center on Swann Avenue looks as if it were a typical older South Tampa home. But the approximately 115-year-old wood structure is possibly the oldest building still in use in Tampa.
 
With an $18,000 makeover, the art gallery building soon will more closely resemble the historical structure it is. Restoration work by Timeline Contracting will reconfigure the front stoop and add columns and a canopy to the entry way. The exterior will be painted in three colors similar to the light, mid-tone and dark colors of the original structure, giving the building more eye-catching appeal.
 
"It's pretty unique," says Kathy Durdin, president of Tampa Realistic Artists, Inc., which owns and operates the art center. "Before the turn of the century, there were these generic (wood frame) buildings all over the place, but they were lost because there was no purpose for them."
 
The saving grace for this building is that the city and school district kept finding public uses for it, and even different locations.
 
In 1899 the two-room wood building served as a temporary school until a red-brick replacement for the Hyde Park Grammar School was built at 502 South Boulevard. The original grammar school was at Platt Street and Magnolia Avenue.
 
Tampa was still a pioneer town emerging alongside the Hillsborough River, dotted with orange groves and dairy cattle. In 1914 the temporary school became the grammar school's lunch room, where parents served the first hot lunches to Tampa students. A year later the school was renamed the John B. Gorrie Elementary School.
 
Nearly eight years later the school lunch room had a new purpose as the Hyde Park Branch Library, again a first for a public school. In 1936 the building was moved to its current location, 705 Swann Ave. For the next three decades it was the Tampa Public Library, Hyde Park Branch.
 
When the library closed in 1969, the Tampa Realistic Artists, Inc., began leasing the property as an art gallery eventually buying it 10 years later. The nonprofit group promotes art awareness through exhibits, workshops and seminars.
 
The funds to renovate the art center come from the Hillsborough County Historic Preservation Grant Program which promotes historic preservation, heritage tourism and job creation.
 
Work on the entry way will be completed in March. Additional restoration is planned for the front doors, which still have city seals embedded in the lockplates.
 
"We've got to believe at the turn of the century these lockplates were all over Tampa," says Durdin. "The doors are pretty special."

The art center is open to the public and is free of charge. The next exhibit, "Landscapes and Seascapes,'' will run from today until March 21. For more information, call Durdin at 813-220-5800 or email her at this link.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Kathy Durdin, Old Hyde Park Art Center

New Hindu Temple To Be Built In Tampa Heights

For 25 years the dream has been to build a new Temple to serve Tampa Bay's growing Hindu community. It is a pledge that Physician Pawan Rattan, made to his father many years ago.
 
Last weekend a prayer service and groundbreaking ceremony brought the dream to reality. Within the next 12 to 18 months, a 10,600-square-foot Temple will be built at 311 E. Palm Ave., within one-mile of downtown Tampa.
 
"It's a very significant event for us," says Rattan, who is chairman of the Board of Trustees of Sanatan Mandir. "It celebrates our culture, our heritage. It brings us together. At the same time it promotes mutual respect for others."
 
Unlike many Hindu temples that are ornate and built in marble, this Temple building will reflect the historical character of Tampa Heights as well as traditional Hindu temple architecture. The facade is of red brick. The roof will be topped with five sikharas, or rising towers.
 
Wisdom Structural, Inc., Roosevelt Stephens Drafting Service and Ferlita Engineering are working on the approximately $1.5 million project. Several hundred construction-related jobs will be created. 
 
"My hope is that this also triggers an uplifting of the area," says Physician and Philantropist Kiran Patel.
 
For more than two decades, a 4,000-square-foot building at the Palm Avenue site has served as the Hindu Temple, Sanatan Mandir. It was once the educational building for the Jewish congregaton of Rodeph Sholom, which relocated to South Tampa. According to Hillsborough County records, the Jewish congregation sold the Palm Avenue property to Rattan in 1988. It later was transferred by deed to Hindu Samaj, Inc.
 
Once the new Hindu temple opens, the building will become a community hall.
 
The Rodeph Sholom temple building, at 309 Palm Ave., was torn down years ago. Plans are to install a marble art piece at the new Hindu Temple to honor the Jewish heritage at the site.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Physicians Pawan Rattan and Kiran Patel, Sanatan Mandir

Major Donations Fund Arts And Sciences At Berkeley Prep

Berkeley Preparatory School is the benefactor of major donations that will fund the construction of a 75,000-square-foot arts and science building on its Town 'N Country campus.
 
More than $4 million of the total undisclosed amount is a gift from Bob Gries Jr., president of Gries Investment Funds and the former owner of the Tampa Bay Storm arena football team. Other significant donations are from Dan Doyle, Jr, president of  DEX Imaging, and members of Doyle's family.
 
"It's about our children. Our children are our future," says Gries, whose daughter is a student at Berkeley Prep. "I believe this is a very strong statement that Berkeley is a wonderful and outstanding institution. This is an opportunity to take an exceptional school to the next level to become one of the finest educational institutions in the country."
 
School officials say they hope to open the Gries Center for the Arts and Sciences by the start of the 2015-16 school year.  Berkeley Prep is a private school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, and is located at 4811 Kelly Road.
 
Funding for the center is nearly 75 percent complete, says school spokesman Jeremy Canody. The recent donations will provide the center with an endowment fund as well as help with construction, he says.
 
The center will offer state-of-the-art technology and opportunities for students to work independently and in groups. There will be college-level laboratory space, performance studios, an art gallery, recital hall, study areas and meeting areas.
 
"This building will have math, science and arts under the same roof," says Nicole Ackerson, chairwoman of the science department. "I can interact with those departments in a way that I haven't been able to before, and find out where we can collaborate to teach children in new, interdisciplinary ways."
 
The arts and science center is part of a master plan to address future needs of faculty and its 1,300 students. The plan is supported with a $50 million capital campaign, which already has funded the Straz Family Field House and the Berkeley Cafe, a state-of-the-art dining facility. In addition, the funds have paid for campus infrastructure improvements to the Touchton Family Clock Tower and the surrounding Quad.
 
Above and Beyond: The Campaign for Berkeley Preparatory School is the largest fund raising effort in the school's history.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Jeremy Canody, Berkeley Prep; Bob Gries, Jr., Gries Investment Funds

Lowry Park Zoo To Build New Veterinary Hospital

Construction on a new veterinary hospital and animal commissary at Lowry Park Zoo will begin soon following approval of a $6.5 million "pass-through" loan by Tampa City Council.
 
The 12,000-square-foot hospital is designed by Elements Architects for both aesthetics and functionality. An additional 2,000-square-foot animal commissary for food preparation for some 1,000 animals also is planned for the initial construction phase. When complete, there will be four buildings: the hospital, commissary, a quarantine and animal holding center and a 4,000-square-foot conservation center for research and study.
 
The hospital and commissary will be the first to open later this year.
 
"It really is meeting a very specific need that the Zoo has with its expanding collection (of animals)," says Bret Azzarelli, VP of Elements Architects. "The aesthetics need to fit into the surroundings. Some aspects are seen from the zoo. These were made to match the Florida boardwalk area. The remainder of the building is very utilitarian and functional."
 
A fund-raising campaign called "New Horizons" was launched in 2010. Approximately $7 million is already pledged; another $3 million is needed to fully fund the hospital.
 
The city, which owns the Zoo, is using its bonding authority to secure the tax-free loan, which is backed by the pledges from donors. The Zoo is operated as a nonprofit by the Lowry Park Zoological Society.
 
“Over the last 26 years, the Zoo has more than doubled in size, but our animal care facilities have not,” says Dick Stohler, co-chair of the New Horizons Campaign and a director of the Lowry Park Zoo Endowment Foundation. “The new animal care complex will provide the medical facilities necessary to meet our expanding needs and support future growth.”
 
The loan from SunTrust Bank will provide interim financing while Zoo officials continue to raise funds.
 
The hospital will be built just off the boardwalk by the Mason M. and Charles P. Lykes Florida Wildlife Center, and next to the existing animal clinic, which is about 27 years old. The new facility will have state-of-the-art medical equipment with areas for surgery, pharmacy, radiology and veterinarian offices.
 
In addition, zoo officials say they plan to use about $2 million for upgrades to the Manatee and Aquatic Center which houses the only nonprofit manatee hospital in the world. Since 1991 the center has treated about 330 wild manatees, or about 6 percent of the state's wildlife count of manatees.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Bret Azzarelli, Elements Architects; Dick Stohler, Lowry Park Zoo Endowment Foundation
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