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For Good: RCMA Wimauma Academy rejoices in top math scores

Mandy Johnson, third-grade teacher at Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) Wimauma Academy, says she got goosebumps when she received the news of her students not just passing, but excelling on the Florida Standards Assessment. The entire grade level, 36 students, achieved a passing score. 

“This is a great achievement,” says Johnson, who teaches math using a marching cadence. “My kids live in poverty and we still beat the rest of the schools in the county. That speaks volumes.’’ 

The students take the exam in the spring. Results released in June show that no other school in Hillsborough County, and only 11 others statewide, achieved a 100 percent passing rate for an entire grade level. The school’s fourth- and fifth-graders surpassed the state average for math and the averages of other elementary schools in the Wimauma area. In addition, students at RCMA Leadership Academy recorded higher math passing rates than the area’s neighboring middle schools. 

“I am elated with not only the third grade math results, but with our results overall,” says Mark Haggett, principal of the RCMA Academies in Wimauma. “In a time where so many negative things in general are being said politically, we have stressed to our scholars that the best way to combat that thinking is to show everyone their ability, which is just what they have done.’’ 
 

One of Johnson’s students, Diego Sanches, received a perfect score on the math portion of the exam. All 64 questions right, Johnson says with an air of pride. For the past four years, Johnson’s classes have achieved a 97, 95s, and now 100 percent proficiency on the math portion of the standardized test. 

“Strong leadership, effective instruction and parent partnerships contributed to our students’ success,” says Juana Brown, RCMA’s director of charter schools. “There was such fierce determination and focus on the part of everyone in our school community.” 

So, how is Johnson managing to help children who are disadvantaged by a language barrier achieve such high scores?
 
“I teach it, review it and drill it until my students get it,’’ she says. “Language is a barrier, but these kids are always ready to learn. They come everyday eager to learn because they know I will teach them something new. They work hard.” 

Johnson implements STANDOUT Math methods and strategies in her lessons. STANDOUT Math is a program that combines oral, visual and kinesthetic aspects to achieve a whole brain math approach. Johnson says that what she learned from the creator of STANDOUT Math was based on the Colorado state standards, so she adjusted it for her own students’ needs, creating chants and songs for the math concepts she teaches. 

So far, Johnson has written 50 chants associated with the math concepts she teaches, which her students memorize.
 
Johnson, who has a military background, says she also uses Fact Fluency, a multiplication and division program, in her classroom. 

For homework, Johnson assigns two pages front and back with a variety of assignments such as five multiplication, five area and five measurement problems. The idea is that they develop different skills, she says. By the end of the academic year, she has brought the homework load to five pages front and back. By then, the students can solve addition, subtraction, fraction and division problems. 

“I’m not mean, but I’m strict,” Johnson says. “My kids know what they do first, second, third and fourth. We sing, and we play review games. I show them I care for them. They know they have a teacher that will be there for them, that will support them.’’
 
In her teaching career, Johnson has taught in both all white and mixed schools, but RCMA is Johnson’s first experience working with all Hispanic children. 

“I love them. I tell them often, your parents brought you to this country because they don’t want you to work on the fields, they want you to do better,” Johnson says. 

Johnson has taught seven years at RCMA. She taught second grade for three years and third grade for four years. Next year, besides teaching two groups of third grade, Johnson will work reviewing math chants with fourth and fifth graders.
 
“We’ve known that with the right environment and good, passionate teachers who constantly strive to improve learning, students can succeed,” Brown said. “And they’re doing just that.” 

Para bien: RCMA Wimauma Academy se regocija por lograr las mejores puntuaciones en matemáticas

Mandy Johnson, maestra de tercer grado en la Academia de Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) en Wimauma, se sorprendió cuando recibió la noticia de que sus clases no solo lograron un puntaje alto, sino que el 100 por ciento de sus alumnos aprobaron el examen estatal de estándares Florida Standard Assessment (FSA). Ambos grupos de tercer grado, los 36 estudiantes, lograron puntaje aprobatorio.

 “Este es un gran logro”, dijo Johnson, quien enseña matemáticas usando cantos al ritmo y cadencia de marchas. “Mis alumnos viven en la pobreza y aún así les ganamos al resto de las escuelas del condado. Eso dice mucho”, agregó.

Los estudiantes tomaron el examen en primavera. Los resultados dados a conocer la semana pasada muestran que no hubo otra escuela en el condado de Hillsborough, y solo 11 otras en todo el Estado, lograron el 100 por ciento de porcentaje aprobatorio en todo el tercer grado. Los alumnos de cuarto y quinto grado de la escuela también sobrepasaron los promedios estatales en matemáticas y los promedios de otras escuelas elementales del área de Wimauma. Además, estudiantes de la academia de liderazgo RCMA Leadership Academy lograron porcentajes aprobatorios más altos que las escuelas medias de áreas vecinas.

"Estoy muy contento no solo con los resultados de matemáticas del tercer grado, sino con nuestros resultados en general", dijo Mark Haggett, director de las Academias RCMA en Wimauma. "En un tiempo en el que se dicen tantas cosas negativas en términos políticos, hemos subrayado a nuestros estudiantes que la mejor manera de combatir ese pensamiento es mostrando todas su habilidad, que es exactamente lo que han hecho", agregó.

Uno de los estudiantes de Johnson, Diego Sanches, logró una puntuación perfecta en la porción de matemáticas del examen. Contestó las 64 preguntas correctamente, dijo Johnson con un aire de orgullo.

Durante los últimos 4 años, los grupos de Johnson han logrado 97, 95 y 100 por ciento de puntajes aprobatorios en la porción de matemáticas en el examen estatal.

"Un liderazgo fuerte, instrucción eficaz y el apoyo de los padres de familia contribuyeron al éxito de nuestros estudiantes", dijo Juana Brown, directora de escuelas chárter de RCMA. "Había una determinación y enfoque feroz por parte de todos los miembros de nuestra comunidad escolar".

Pero, ¿cómo le hace Johnson para ayudar a niños desfavorecidos por la barrera del lenguaje a alcanzar tales puntuaciones?

"Enseño, repaso y practico”, enfatizó Johnson. “Hasta que mis estudiantes lo comprendan y lo asimilen. Cuando el lenguaje es una barrera, estos niños están siempre dispuestos a aprender. Todos los días vienen con ganas de aprender porque saben que les enseñaré algo nuevo. Trabajan duro”, añadió.

Johnson implementa métodos y estrategias como STANDOUT Math en sus lecciones. STANDOUT Math es un programa que  combina aspectos orales, visuales y de movimientos para lograr un mejor aprovechamiento de matemáticas. Johnson dijo que aprendió el programa de la creadora de STANDOUT Math con base en los estándares del estado de Colorado, por lo que ella hizo sus propios ajustes de acuerdo a las necesidades de sus estudiantes en Wimauma, creando cantos y canciones para los conceptos de matemáticas que ella enseña.

Hasta el momento, Johnson ha escrito 50 cantos asociados con los conceptos de matemáticas que enseña y sus estudiantes los han aprendido, dijo.

Johnson, quien trabajó en la Fuerza Aérea de los Estados Unidos, dijo que también utiliza como estrategia de enseñanza Fact Fluency, un programa de multiplicaciones y divisiones.

De tarea, Johnson asigna dos páginas de frente y reverse con una variedad de problemas de matemáticas, por ejemplo, cinco multiplicaciones, cinco problemas de área y cinco de medidas. La idea es que desarrollen diferentes habilidades, dijo. Para el final del año, la maestro aumenta la carga de tarea a 5 páginas, frente y reverso. Para entonces, los estudiantes pueden resolver problemas varios, por ejemplo sumas, restas, divisiones y fracciones.

"Yo no soy mala pero soy estricta", dijo Johnson. "Mis niños saben lo que tienen que hacer primero, segundo, tercero y cuarto. Cantamos y participamos en juegos de revisión y repaso. Les muestro que me importan. Ellos saben que tienen un profesora que estará allí para ellos cuando lo necesiten, que les apoyará”, dijo.

En su carrera como educadora, Johnson ha enseñado en escuelas de blancos y mixtas, pero RCMA es la primera experiencia en la que Johnson trabaja con la gran mayoría de niños hispanos.

 “Me encantan. Les digo con frecuencia, sus padres los trajeron aquí porque no quieren que ustedes trabajen en los campos de cultivo, ellos quieren algo mejor para ustedes”, comentó Johnson.

Johnson ha enseñado siete años en RCMA. Enseñó Segundo grado por 3 años, y tercer años por cuatro años. El año entrante, además de sus dos grupos de tercer año, Johnson trabajará con alumnos de cuarto y quinto año para ayudarlos a repasar sus cantos de matemáticas con el fin de que mantengan frescos los conceptos aprendidos.

"Sabemos que con el entorno adecuado y profesores buenos, apasionados, que se esfuerzan constantemente por mejorar el aprendizaje, los estudiantes pueden tener éxito", precisó Brown. -- “Y eso es precisamente lo que están haciendo.”


Loan agreement reached to spare Wimauma’s Wholesome Church, expand role in community

A Wimauma church, whose domed sanctuary was in danger of being raised to build custom homes, received approval May 17 for a loan to purchase the property along U.S. Highway 301.

“It’s been a miracle. God has opened doors,” says Lead Pastor Carlos Irizarry, of Wimauma’s Wholesome Church.

Wholesome, which has been renting the property for five years, appealed to the public in March for $235,000 to buy the property and keep it from being torn down to build a subdivision. The owner, River of Life Christian Center in Riverview, had received an offer from a developer for the property valued at $1.5 million. River of Life gave Wholesome the first right of purchase, at a considerable discount, but it asked Wholesome to act or vacate.

After deadline extensions in March and April, Florida Community Loan Fund approved the church's application for the loan, with conditions. A closing is anticipated on or before June 30.

The Florida Community Loan Fund, according to its website, "was founded in 1994 to provide a statewide source of flexible financing for delivering capital to low-income communities to support community development projects by nonprofit organizations throughout the state. Today it has made over 200 loans for a total of over $195 million to over 100 organizations to improve social and economic conditions in communities all across Florida.''

The Dream goes on to help the Wimauma community,” Irizarry says. “We still need to raise $20,000 for closing cost and other expenses involved.”

The church is accepting donations on its website and at Go Fund Me, where it has raised $1,125 for its “Save the Dome” campaign.

Wholesome also is expected to have a lease agreement to rent a house on the property before the closing date, make the church available for those who want to rent it for meetings, and have the needed appraisal and inspections.

The owners are fully cooperating with us,” Irizarry says. “We agreed on the contract. That’s how we were able to proceed with the application.”

The pastor credits a “Dream Team” God put together for the miracle, which played out after he was referred to the Florida Community Loan Fund by an advisor, Manny Rivero. The team included Olga and Joe Gonzalez, grant writer Leigh Chambliss, his wife, Judy, and other volunteers, such as Bob Buesing of Trenam Law, who provided free legal representation to Wholesome Church.

“Our church members were faithful, praying outside the church,” he adds. “No inch was left not saturated with prayer.”

Irizarry also is grateful to donors.

Now that the loan has been approved, the church will be more available for community uses and is seeking nonprofit groups to partner with in ministry to the largely rural community in south Hillsborough County. Nearly 80 percent of Wimauma residents are Hispanic; most landowners are multi-generational African-Americans or whites.

“We want to expand as soon as possible. Now you’re going to see more involvement with the community,” he asserts. “We’re ready for action.”

Wholesome had developed extensive plans for the property on the east side of U.S. 301 between Big Bend Road and State Road 674, but it could not proceed until it secured ownership. Those plans include health and youth centers, a preschool/ administration building, kitchen hall, multipurpose building and thrift shop.

Once the sale is complete, Wholesome will focus its efforts on a pre-school, New Generation Academy, it plans to open in the fall. “We’re going to prepare room,” he says.

A coalition of people concerned about the community of Wimauma has targeted early learning as a priority for its young children, who may be hindered because their parents don't speak English. With help from the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, the Wimauma CDC and others, the group has been working to expand educational opportunities for children of all ages and their families.

Wholesome also is moving forward with plans for the health center to provide chronic care, behavioral and mental health services. A practicing nurse, Irizarry, plans to work at the center.

“We don’t have a timeline to open,” he says. “We just want to take one step at a time.”


Head Start moving into Lee Davis Center

Head Start will re-open in a refurbished Lee Davis Community Resource Center in Tampa on May 30, becoming the first one-stop shop center for Head Start and Hillsborough County social services for all ages.

The innovative center will house two state-of-the-art Head Start classrooms with smart boards, or large boards used with reading software, and will accommodate 40 children ages 3 to 5, says Mimi Jefferson, Manager of Education Administration.

Its administrative staff also will be on site at 3402 N. 22 St. Kiosks in front will let visitors access social service and Head Start applications.

“It will be open to the public also to come in and do after-hours activities,” says Dr. Jacquelyn Jenkins, Head Start Department Director.

Parents can enroll eligible children for Head Start online. The program runs from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday year round.

Head Start is relocating to Lee Davis from the West Tampa Head Start Center at 1129 W. Main St., where it was inside the Tampa Housing Authority. About six staff members will be moving as well.

Audrey Ziegler, Director of Hillsborough County’s Social Services Department, says Lee Davis hopefully will serve as a model for multi-purpose uses “under one roof.”

“At Lee Davis, we will have Head Start, Aging Services, Social Services and Healthy Living. We will also be having a Public Library Computer Lab,” she says.

Flexible meeting space also is planned.

The new Healthy Living space will serve center clients and Hillsborough County HealthCare plan enrollees with exercise programs, exercise equipment, health education classes, nutrition consultation, mobile health screenings and more, says Gene Early Jr. Department Director for the county’s Health Care Services Department.

“The program will emphasize preventive health, disease management, weight loss, mental health early intervention, health education, nutrition and physical exercise and movement, offering these residents information and options to help them live healthier lives,” he adds.

Healthy Living program facilities, also anticipated for the South Shore and Plant City communities, are scheduled to open later in the summer.

A grand opening of the newly renovated Lee Davis center is anticipated in August, when all tenants were expected to be on site, Ziegler adds.

Renovations at Lee Davis, built in 1986, have been under way since 2016. The facility has remained open during the refurbishing, which cost nearly $2.9 million.

While Lee Davis will be the first facility to house Head Start along with Social Services, Ziegler says, the Town and Country facility does offer multiple services including Head Start, plus aging and library services.  

County officials are trying to customize the one-stop shop concept in other areas of the county to minimize travel for its constituents.

“It wouldn’t be a one size fits all if we really speak to different pockets in our community,” Ziegler says.

At Lee Davis, the county offers homeless prevention services, including assistance with rent and utilities, to eligible individuals. It also connects residents to social services case managers for job placement and adult education.


Multicultural Family Day shares wealth of varied cultures

The world is a diverse place, but it also is vast. Hindered by limited experiences, people may be lulled into stereotypical beliefs that cause division. Richedean Hills-Ackbar is working to change that.

An African-American from a very culturally diverse family, which includes a variety of Hispanic cultures and Japanese, Hills-Ackbar has decided to share the richness of cultural diversity with the public June 25 at Tampa’s Water Works Park.

The occasion? Multicultural Family Day.

“It’s really to break down these barriers that people have gotten from just watching TV,” Hills-Ackbar explains.

Organized by the Taste of East Tampa, founded by Caregiver’s Helping Hand and Central Florida Community Planning and Development, Multicultural Family Day is a free event catering to the entire family. Activities are slated from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; visitors can come by car or ride a water taxi.

The event features a Kid Zone, sponsored by Sunshine Health, where there will be face painting, henna tattoos and a splash pad, plus an art contest with $200, $100 and $50 prizes sponsored by Molina Healthcare. The winners will be announced at 3 p.m. Mexican girls aged 5 to 12 will share their cultural dances as well.

A special section is being set up to accommodate wheelchairs.

Even pets are welcome. “Water Works Park has a dog park there,” says Hills-Ackbar, Founder of Caregiver’s Helping Hand.

Music includes reggae and a Spanish band that will play a variety of different styles. “If you like to dance, that’ll be great,” she says.

She also is planning a Chinese dragon dance and seeking people who want to learn it.

Vendors will sell different types of cuisine including Thai, Mediterranean, Japanese fusion and the typical American foods like hamburgers and hot dogs.

Although this is the first Multicultural Family Day, there was a multicultural evening event last August at Pepin’s Hospitality Centre. The initial idea came about two years ago.

“We share everything, the experiences the food and everything like that,” she says of her family. I thought other people could enjoy that same experience.”

In the end, she hopes others will learn to appreciate other cultures without trying to change them. “What I’m trying to build on is like a mini world,” she explains, “so that people can mix together and see.”


For Good: Ex-offenders to build tiny homes with Big Idea Grant funds

An established, ex-offender re-entry organization, looking to build tiny homes in South St. Petersburg, has won a $50,000 Big Idea Grant awarded by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.

The Pinellas Ex-Offender Re-entry Coalition won the award for its Second Chance Tiny House Manufacturing Company, which will train people coming out of jails and prisons for construction jobs, says Wilma Norton, the Foundation’s VP of Marketing and Communications.

There were 31 applications for the award that promotes self sufficiency. It is the second time the Community Foundation has offered the grant.

They’ve got partnerships with a host of people and a revenue stream to pay for the continuing cost of operation, but they need startup costs,” Norton says of PERC, which plans to build and sell tiny houses to private citizens and local government.

Michael Jalazo, PERC’s CEO/Executive Director, says the organization was “grateful and humble” to receive the award. He expects to have the first tiny house up by June.

“We’d like to see the tiny house movement take off,” he adds.

With the grant, Jalazo is looking to build at least eight tiny homes on land cleared by abandoned and condemned homes, most of them in South St. Petersburg. It is prepared to “ramp up” efforts and build even more as funds are available, he says.

In the process, he hopes to keep the ex-offenders out of jail and prison, while providing homes for the homeless.

PERC already has been given housing plans. It also has scoped out a possible location for construction: the old Lealman Fire Station.

Big Idea Grant finalists were Arriba Transportation, proposed by Enterprising Latinas of Wimauma, and Evergreen Life Services, which proposed to teach basic skills to the disabled through virtual-reality technology.

The foundation will continue to work with the finalists and other applicants to gain funding, Norton says.

In 2015, two donors came up with an extra $50,000 apiece so three non-profits could proceed with their projects.

Arriba Transportation is seeking to provide six bus routes, seven days a week, to the Wimauma/Ruskin area using 15-seat vans. Its goal is to take riders to work and school, as well as connecting them to a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) bus route.

“We know instances where people have paid $200 to go to the Mexican Counselate in Orlando. ...” says Liz Gutierrez, the organization’s Founder and CEO. “People in this community pay $65 to get to Tampa General. We can change that.”

Evergreen Life Services offers a variety of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Its social enterprise, HEAVENDROPt, is located in St. Petersburg, where it creates new products with parachutes used by U.S. veterans.


For Good: Summer program grants available for east, south Hillsborough

The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County has $66,000 to beef up summer programs for children 6 to 14 in eastern and southern Hillsborough County. And it’s looking for community partners.

“We need to make sure children are engaged and exposed to high quality, interesting and educational services that not only build their literacy skills, but build the psychosocial component ... imperative to their quality of life,” says Executive Director Kelley Parris.

The programs are intended to help children, who ordinarily may not enroll in a summer program, avoid a summer learning slump. The grants will fund services that otherwise may not be provided, such as field trips.

The board earmarked $275,000 for the children’s programs – and funding for six programs elsewhere in the county already have been approved. But during the initial grant offering, there were no applicants to provide services in eastern and southern Hillsborough.

It is looking to award between $5,000 and $35,000 each to one provider in the east -- in Bealsville, Dover, Durant, Plant City or Turkey Creek; and one provider in the south -- in Balm, Ruskin or Wimauma. The contract period runs between May 1 and August 4.

In areas like Wimauma, where some may be facing language, transportation and cultural barriers, the summer programs can be especially useful. “In South County, I believe it is valuable particularly to those children to maintain a level of engagement in their educational activities that will prepare them to enter school the upcoming year,” Parris says.

A funding workshop is slated at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 23, at the Children’s Board, 1002 E. Palm Ave., Tampa. Potential providers have until 4 p.m. Friday, March 24, to ask written questions about the opportunity. Questions should be submitted to Buddy Davis. The deadline to apply for funding is 4 p.m. April 4.

Funds will be awarded on a one-time basis to enhance summer programs or provide additional access to summer opportunities. The programs must focus on six key areas: safety, literacy, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), character development, sports and arts.

The summer program may charges fees, but when they do scholarships are available. All children living in Hillsborough can participate.

Applications are rated by a volunteer community review team. The rates are reviewed by board senior staff members, then recommendations are brought before the Children’s Board for approval.

More information is available at the board’s website.

The Children’s Board was created in 1989 as a special taxing district, with the goal of enhancing services to children and families. Some $250,000 of the grant money is being supplied by the Children’s Board, with the remaining $25,000 coming from the county.

Private providers and Hillsborough County School Board-supported programs are not eligible to apply for the grants.


Got $5? $10? $25? Save it for Give Day Tampa Bay online fund drive May 2nd

Members of Tampa Bay Area nonprofits and local business leaders are planning the fourth annual Give Day Tampa Bay online fundraising effort for May 2.

The one-day event is designed to cultivate new donors and encourage local Tampa Bay Area residents to make small donations to local charities and other nonprofit missions they choose to support. 

The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay hosted the announcement of Give Day Tampa Bay at WEDU Studios on Feb. 15. 

The CFTB helps “donors grow, manage and direct their charitable giving,” while also working with nonprofits to understand their needs, making them something akin to being a matchmaker between donors and nonprofit organizations. 

Wilma Norton, VP of Marketing and Communications for the CFTB, who jokingly dubbed herself the Give Day Czar, spoke to the crowd of nonprofit leaders about the importance of communications between not only nonprofits and the community, but also between the nonprofits themselves.

“This is a truly good marketing opportunity for all of you. It’s about raising money, but a big part of it is about raising awareness of all the great work that you do. …It’s upon all of us to be creative and talk to each other and talk about what we do.” 

For 24 hours on May 2, people can log on to Give Day Tampa Bay’s website to make donations, and for eight hours that day WEDU will live stream programming in which nonprofit spokespersons can tell the stories and missions of their organizations.  

“It’s those stories that touch people’s hearts that have them open their wallets and their own hearts to help your cause,” says Norton. 

While more than 200 nonprofits have already signed up to participate in Give Day, organizers expect many more to continue to register. Last year 595 nonprofits earned nearly $2.1million collectively. 

One change this year will be the minimum donation allowed. In the past, the least a person could donate was $25, but in an effort to include more people, the new minimum to donate will be $5. 

“It’s a chance for everyone to be engaged, and that’s really a big part of what this is all about,” says Norton.  

Got a big idea for a social enterprise? Community Foundation of Tampa Bay might fund it

Because it’s virtually impossible for local donors alone to meet the financial needs of nonprofits serving people in need, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay is holding its second Big Idea Grant competition, offering up to $50,000 to nonprofits who pitch the best ideas for either a new social enterprise for their organization or by expanding something they’re already doing. 

The goal of nonprofit social enterprise is to help these organizations become sustainable by relying less on charity and more on self-sufficiency to earn the money necessary to continue to do the good works that they do. 

The caveat, though, is that in order to win, nonprofits must find organizations that are similar to their own in mission, and work together to create a business plan with a clear road to sustained profitability. 

In 2015 the Big Idea Grant participants came up with so many innovative and creative ideas for collaborations that two more donors came forward with $50,000 each so that three different collaborating nonprofit groups were able to move forward with their initiatives. 

One of 2015’s winners, My Mobile Market was a partnership between Feeding Tampa Bay, Suncoast Goodwill and Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally to supply low-income neighborhoods with a pop-up grocery story, supplying affordable, healthy fresh food items like fruits and veggies, and non-perishable staples like beans and rice and peanut butter. 

Matt Spence, CFTB’s VP of Community Impact, says that one of the key ingredients that comprises nonprofit success is allowing a nonprofit to concentrate on what they are already doing well. In partnering with other groups that are doing a similar service but may have more experience with a different aspect of the same mission, these collaborations mean bigger and better results for all involved. 

My Mobile Market is an example of why that works. 

“Feeding Tampa Bay understands food and nutrition and distribution and they do those things extremely well,” says Spence. “What they don’t have experience with, and what Goodwill brought to the table, was in the job training aspect of it, so Goodwill was working with their adult clients to help build job skills and those are the people who man the trucks, who drive it, who sell the food. Those are all Goodwill employees. It’s a way to to connect to different areas of expertise while still allowing the nonprofits do what they do well.”

The deadline for submissions to win the Big Idea Grant is March 3. 

Collaborative arts project in University area neighborhood wins 1st placemaking grant

University Area Community Development Corporation (CDC) has been awarded a grant of $30,000 as part of the Tampa-based Gobioff Foundation’s Treasure Tampa (T²) initiative. The grant will facilitate community-led public art installations, called Art in the Park, to be integrated into the Harvest Hope Park. The groundbreaking for the park will launch March 8, 2017 and more specific plans for the public art will be announced at that time.   

“Public art is key, allowing residents not just creative placemaking but building a community while doing so,” says Sarah Combs, CEO and Executive Director of University Area CDC

The art installations will be a joint effort with residents and artists at the park working together on the concept and rollout. The local artists involved -- Junior Polo, Vivian Fisk, Marisol Vazquez -- also residents of the University Area, will work with the community to determine the final plan and design.  

The University Area is “a very transient community, but very culturally diverse,” says Combs. She says it is important that “the art chosen is a representation of the diversity” and hopes the public art will contribute to transforming the neighborhood from a “place they stay, to a place they call home.”

The Harvest Hope Park will be a 7-acre park in the heart of the University Area with a multipurpose sports area, a tilapia pond for fishing, community garden, teaching kitchen, playground, and the public art made possible by the Gobioff grant. 

“The vision we have for this park is not only for residents to enjoy, but to meet each other, know their neighbors, build those relationships,” says Combs “Art is just so essential to this. Studies show it is tied to social economic status in terms of improvement,” she continues, noting that there is no public art in the area nor playgrounds. The CDC’s mission and vision is to improve the area through a number of improvements -- infrastructure, education, after-school programming, etc. -- creating a collaborative network of support, advanced by and led by residents. 

The Gobioff Foundation's Tampa Treasure (T²) facilitates creative placemaking in Tampa through education, collaboration and funding. T² is an initiative of the Gobioff Foundation, a private family foundation which supports the Tampa arts community as well as human rights organizations nationally and globally. This was the first competitive grant awarded by the Tampa Treasure initiative.

As part of the grant award, the University Area CDC will partner with WMNF-FM to produce resident engagement events as part of its Urban Cafe´ segment and 83 Degrees Media will produce feature stories about the project. 

For Good: AT&T employee donates winnings to local hospital’s new distracted driving class

When you hear the acronym DD, you probably think of a designated driver, or maybe you think of drunk driving, but those two letters have another meaning in today’s fast paced and uber-communicative culture.

Distracted Driving is an ongoing problem, the cause of 45,740 car crashes in 2015 in Florida alone, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and it’s about more than just texting: Chiming in on social media, taking car selfies, video chatting or finding that perfect song somewhere in your itunes playlist all mean you’re distracted, and that’s when accidents happen. 

In an effort to reinforce the importance of paying attention to the road and your surroundings while driving, a group of like-minded organizations and one driven AT&T employee recently came together to try to make a change. 

Thanks to two challenges AT&T gives to its employees every year, the Director of AT&T Wireline Regional Infrastructure, Regina Ennis, dedicated herself to raising awareness and educating her community about distracted driving for the “Do One Thing” Challenge. 

She continued her mission during the follow up challenge called “It Can Wait, 16 in 16” challenge in which employees were encouraged to get friends and family to sign the “AT&T It Can Wait” pledge, which reminds people that “distracted driving is never okay.” 

AT&T Spokesperson Karen McAllister says that they have had over 14 million people take the “It Can Wait” Pledge since they started in in 2010.

“We find that there is power in a pledge. Once people take that pledge they are committed to not driving distracted,” she says. 

Ennis got almost 400 people to take the pledge in 2016, and for her efforts she won $2,500 to give to an organization that already had a distracted driving program in place.  

Ennis lived in Orlando for many years before moving to her current home in White Plains, NY, so she was aware of the Bradenton-based Mark Wandall Foundation an organization founded in by Wandall’s widow, Melissa, after he was killed by a red light runner only a couple of weeks before their child was born. The Foundation works to help grieving children who have lost family members or guardians. 

While the Mark Wandall Foundation doesn’t offer a distracted driving class, Founder Melissa Wandall knew who did. 

In mid-January, Ennis, along with Wandall, and Ed Narain, regional director at AT&T, presented the $2,500 winnings to Johns Hopkins All Childrens Hospital in St. Petersburg, where they lead the Florida Suncoast SAFE KIDS Coalition.The money will go toward funding a class for teens and new parents about the dangers of distracted driving, and ways to avoid becoming another statistic because of it. 

For more information about the class, call the Florida Suncoast SAFE KIDS c/o Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital at 727-767-8581 or 800-756-7233.

For Good: Tampa Bay Builders make 1,000 PB&Js for homeless

Members of The Tampa Bay Builders Association will be rolling up their sleeves and donning gloves and hairnets this Wednesday to make 1,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless. 

The TBBA is contributing to the mission of GRAB Tomorrow, a nonprofit for young professionals who set a goal of providing 25,000 PB&Js this year to the homeless in the Tampa Bay area.  

Jennifer Doerfel, Executive VP of the TBBA, says that while the construction industry is already a very philanthropic industry, the majority of their works naturally involve building homes for the needy, or donating materials and labor. 

Still, they are always open to opportunities to help the community in more immediate ways. When their sales and marketing team found this simple and important cause to contribute to, members of the TBBA were all in.   

“When we heard about this opportunity -- it was easy, and it would serve many purposes,” says Doerfel. “It serves as a team building experience and it’s very social in nature. You’re doing something good for someone and you never know when it might be you.” 

About 60 volunteers will work in shifts for six hours in the TBBA’s small 1,000-square- foot office assembling the sandwiches, which will then be distributed to the homeless by GRAB Tomorrow members. 

“It goes back to the underlying philosophy of the construction industry regardless of where you fall into the construction industry, whether you’re a home builder yourself or an engineer, a roofer, a carpenter or a plumber, this industry is really a wide cross section of professionals that are hands-on in the community building the American dream of home ownership, so we are acutely aware of the needs in the community and whenever possible we take a proactive role in solving the problems that we face,” says Doerfel.  

The National Association of Home Builders has recognized the Tampa Bay Builders Association four times with the Silver Award for their exemplary efforts in philanthropy, education and professional development but this last year they received the Gold Award, the highest recognition from the NAHB for giving back to the community.

For Good: Children’s Board of Hillsborough County seeks applicants for $10.8M in grant funds

The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County is offering $10.8 million in grant money to organizations that meet the criteria the board has set in place to ensure that children are healthy and safe, developmentally on track, ready to learn, and are in supported and supportive families. 

The CBHC releases this grant money every five years, so while some organizations may reapply and continue receiving funding, new entities also have an opportunity to secure grants as a new source of revenue.  

“We like to take another look at what the community needs, what new providers may have come into the area, and our goal of course is to fund the very best programs and services for the citizens of Hillsborough County,” says Paula Scott, Director of PR at the Children's Board

A special Leading Grant of up to $250,000 will be awarded to organizations that provide high quality summer programs for children, including making sure the program includes things like art and literature, and STEM and safety education. 

Another Uniting Grant of up to $250,000 will go to fund programs that provide training to early childhood educators on social-emotional learning. The CBHC specifically is looking to fund organizations who have both the administration and the programs in place that can train teachers to instill Conscious Discipline in the children, meaning that when they start Kindergarten children are prepared.

“It’s important that they enter Kindergarten ready to go, that they’re able to handle their emotions, that they’re able to regroup if something upsets them,” says Scott. “That’s all that Conscious Discipline and trying to give the providers the tools to handle those children, and also putting into those children the tools that they need to be successful once they enter the Kindergarten environment.” 

The grant money is open to non-profits and for-profits, but groups must meet very specific guidelines, which are outlined on the CBHC website. Scott says it’s crucial to read the Request for Proposal or RFP capacity checklist page to learn if organizations have the internal capacity to handle a grant from the Children’s Board.

Applicants can apply from now through March 2017. 

Once grants are awarded, the CBHC continues to closely monitor how the funds are used in order to ensure that the children are gaining the maximum benefits. 

“Our grants are wonderful in that we make sure if we’re investing county taxpayer dollars that there is a definite positive outcome on those folks that they’re working with and the children and families,” Scott says.

For Good: Pedal through downtown Tampa, along Bayshore Boulevard in Winter Wonder Ride

Downtown Tampa may be one of the warmest places to be during the wintertime, but Bay area bicyclists are prepared to "get frosty" when they hit the streets for a cool cause at the sixth annual Winter Wonder Ride taking place this weekend (Dec. 10).  

The Winter Wonder Ride is the largest event hosted by onbikes, a nonprofit organization that partners with corporate sponsors and local governments to throw bicycling events that support the organization's mission of providing bikes for at-risk youth and foster kids.

Onbikes Executive Director and co-Founder Julius Tobin says that what started as an idea among his friends to simply take a bike ride on a sunny Saturday in 2011 quickly grew in ways the group never expected.

"It occurred to us that none of us had been on bikes in a really long time, so we took a sort of random adventure -- and we realized how cool it was. It unleashed the kid in us, and from there we thought, 'let's try to do something good with this.' We realized there was probably a big audience who would love to participate in it. We just didn't realize how big it would become."

On Saturday, (December 10), onbikes invites riders to join them at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park as they embark on the Winter Wonder Ride along The Tampa Riverwalk and Bayshore Boulevard before returning to the park for a post-ride celebration. (Motorized traffic will be temporarily rerouted along South Tampa streets from approximately 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.) Last year's Winter Wonder Ride had approximately 2,500 participants. Tobin says onbikes expects at least 3,000 people for this year's ride. 

There may not be snow on the ground, but this year's Winter Wonder Ride theme is "Get Frosty" -- giving Floridians an excuse to don their best snowman gear, including but not limited to: scarves, top hats and snowflake-themed attire. onbikes highly encourages participants in the Winter Wonder Ride to dress in costume to spread holiday cheer as they pedal the streets of downtown Tampa -- or risk being "the only one dressed like a normal person" among a pack of bicycling snowmen.

"It's a pretty unique opportunity to be on the road with such a big group of people in general -- but 3,000 people dressed up like snowmen, gingerbread people, Santa Claus and elves is incredible. It really lets you lose your facade and just enjoy being in the moment. Everyone gets to be a kid again," says Tobin.

Rapper Big Boi (best known for his role as half of the Grammy-winning hip hop duo Outkast) headlines this year's Winter Wonder Ride celebration, promising a jubilant post-ride dance party at the park, with food and beverages available for purchase from local vendors. This year's Winter Wonder Ride will include an overnight bike valet, ensuring that bicyclists can enjoy the post-ride celebration and libations without having to worry about their bikes -- as long as they are retrieved by 11 a.m. the following day (Sunday). 

Tickets to the Winter Wonder Ride start at $50, with all proceeds geared toward the purchase of new bikes for at-risk youth and foster kids in the Tampa Bay area this holiday season. 

The organization's other big holiday extravaganza, the 'Santa's Bike Shop' Bike Build took place on Dec. 4th at Amalie Arena, in partnership with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Flying Fish Bikes. At Santa's Bike Shop, professional bike technicians from Flying Fish and approximately 600 volunteer helpers -- the bike workshop 'elves' -- teamed up to assemble 800 bikes in nine hours. 

Tobin says that 400 of the bikes will go to Eckerd College to distribute to foster kids in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Tampa Police Department's bike division will also receive 300 bikes to distribute to local kids. Metropolitan Ministries will receive the remaining 100 bikes to distribute for Heroes Day and to establish a fleet for a free bike share program on campus. 

To date, Tobin estimates that onbikes has provided bikes for approximately 3,000 kids in the Tampa Bay area with the help of the organization's sponsors, partners and volunteers from the local community who join the annual rides and bike builds. 

"We know that giving a bike to a kid isn't a unique or new idea. We just put a fun spin on it," says Tobin. 

Take a spin through downtown Tampa with onbikes for the most festive bicycle parade of the season. Visit the Onbikes website to purchase tickets to the Winter Wonder Ride.

For Good: American Cancer Society, Tervis team up to create Hands of Hope

Cancer affects the lives of millions of Americans each year --but it is with courageous hands that so many cancer patients and their loved ones and caregivers reach out from the darkness to touch lives, work toward a cure and inspire hope in others who are also battling the disease. 

The American Cancer Society recently announced a collaboration with Sarasota County-based insulated drinkware company, Tervis, to create an exclusive series of tumblers and water bottles with designs that feature the handprints of cancer patients and their families.

Tervis will donate 10 percent of sale proceeds to support the American Cancer Society's efforts to eliminate cancer as a major health problem through research, prevention and support for patients and their loved ones. 

The handprint design was created at the Winn Dixie Hope Lodge in Atlanta, and is intended to illustrate the lives of those who are touched by cancer: to tell the human stories behind the disease. The cup artwork depicts the handprints of cancer patients and their families arranged to form butterflies -- a symbol of hope and renewal, as well as bereavement -- that honor the lives lost to cancer and illustrate the powerful bravery and hope of those who battle the disease.

"When we met with the American Cancer Society about this project, every team member was incredibly moved by the Hands of Hope story. Tervis customers have always gotten behind our activism designs but we had been hearing lately that they wished that we had other cancer support designs beyond just the Pink Ribbon Collection for breast cancer awareness. We loved how inclusive this project was of all cancer survivors, caregivers and supporters," says Tervis president Rogan Donelly. 

Donelly notes that many in the Venice, Fla. based Tervis family have been personally affected by cancer or have supported a loved one battling the disease. He adds that over the years, Tervis has donated more than $100,000 to cancer research and local organizations, but that the partnership with the American Cancer Society is the first of its kind. 

"It was the perfect opportunity to work together to champion cancer education and research. We see this as the beginning of a long-term partnership," Donelly says. 

The 'Hands of Hope' tumblers and water bottles, as well as the Tervis 'Pink Ribbon Collection', can be purchased online and in 47 Tervis stores nationwide. 

"The American Cancer Society is grateful for the support of corporate partners such as Tervis, who have developed distinctive and creative products to encourage their customers to become involved in raising awareness and funds to end cancer," says Sharon Byers, chief development and marketing officer for the American Cancer Society. "We're excited to collaborate to increase awareness of all cancers to help end the pain and suffering caused by this disease."
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