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Sears Home Services To Renovate Tampa Heights Community Center

The wrecking ball nearly took a fatal swing at the historical Faith Temple Missionary Baptist Church. But instead a grass-roots movement that began more than three years ago is salvaging the 90-year-old, Gothic revival style church for a better purpose.
 
By summer 2014 the red-brick building should be transformed into a community center and the new home of the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association, which provides neighborhood children with after-school and mentoring programs and summer activities.
 
"I want this to be a place where teenagers will be standing in line to join because its cool," says architect John Tennison, who is co-owner of Atelier Architecture Engineering Construction. He has guided restoration efforts from the beginning, working with hundreds of volunteers every Saturday who put sweat-equity into this community project.
 
Today those efforts will get a major push toward completion from Sears Home Services and Ty Pennington, a DIY (Do It Yourself) expert and former host of the ABC show, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." More than 80 Sears employees, in town for a company convention, will pitch in as Sears and Pennington bring the nationwide "Building Community Together" Initiative to Tampa.
 
Sears also has named February as National Hiring Month and plans to fill 1,000 jobs nationwide.
 
Locally, nonprofit Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay will be a partner with Sears on this day of service, which gets underway at 1 p.m. at the church, located at 602 E. Palm Ave. Rebuilding Together provides repairs, handicapped accessibility and energy efficient upgrades to low-income households free of charge. In addition to work on the community center, three local homes will get needed repairs.
 
"This is a major step," says Lena Young-Green, president of the Junior Civic Association which is an outgrowth of the Tampa Heights Civic Association. She got the church project started in 2010.
 
A completion date is possible by summer, she says. Only four unfunded items remain on the to-do list: a new roof, termite tenting, fencing and some additional electrical work.
 
Sears and Rebuilding Together are the latest in a long list of donors.
 
Among the contributions are a full commercial kitchen from Richard Gonzmart of The Columbia Restaurant Group, door hardware from Assa Abloy, labor from True Blue, computers from MIT Computers and funds from Hillsborough County, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, the University of South Florida's Entrepeneurship Alumni Society, Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union, PNC Bank and its charitable foundation, and national playground builder, KaBoom!
 
The volunteer effort was in full force Saturday as more than 50 employees from CGM Services: Air Conditioning and Heating worked to install the church's first air conditioning system. The in-kind work and equipment is valued at about $100,000. 
 
"Helping the kids has always mattered to me," says CGM owner Mike Charles, who serves on the Junior Civic Association's board. "This is another historical renovation, one of my favorites."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Lena Young-Green, Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association; Mike Charles, CGM Services

Read more articles by Kathy Steele.

Kathy Steele is a feature writer and editor at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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