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Close the gap: Local donors rally to replace state funds for the arts

What to do when the state of Florida drastically cuts funding for the arts? Rally locals to fill the gap while providing an easy online tool to enable donations of any amount to eligible arts organizations.

That’s the solution being proposed by the Tampa-based Gobioff Foundation and its founders Gianna and Neil Gobioff, who give generously to local placemaking efforts through their private foundation.

Donations to the newly created Tampa Bay Arts Bridge Fund can be made through the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay by following this link.

The Gobioffs see the Bridge Fund as a short-term fix for an immediate problem that is causing some arts organizations to reduce productions, exhibits and performances while others are struggling to continue to provide basic arts services to people of all ages in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

What prompted creation of the fund? General Program Support Grants funding from the state Division of Cultural Affairs for Florida arts organizations dropped from $24 million in 2014-15 to $2.6 million in 2018-19.

Compare that to requests for grants from arts organizations, which went from $24 million in 2014-15 to almost $42 million in 2018-19. The difference? Funding went in 4 years from 100 percent of the total requested to just 6 percent of that requested.

The gap in Support Grants funding for nonprofit organizations in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties alone is $3.8 million for 2018-19. The Bridge Fund, based on its own eligibility criteria, seeks to raise about $2.5 million to be distributed in equal proportions to 33 eligible arts organizations -- 18 in Hillsborough and 16 in Pinellas -- based on their funding requests.

The goal is to raise the money by September when state grants traditionally would be distributed.

The Gobioff Foundation has already kicked in $100,000. The Vinik Family Foundation agreed to match the same amount. Now it's up to other foundations and individuals to donate to close the gap.

At the same time, community conversations are beginning around getting out the vote to support candidates who support the arts. And lobbying efforts are underway to influence local, state and federal lawmakers to recognize the long-term value and economic impact of the arts on communities and people.

And local arts advocates are planning a regional Arts Advocacy Summit on Friday, Aug. 17, to strategize about more solutions. Follow the Arts Council of Hillsborough CountyCreative Pinellas or Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture and the Arts to learn more about the summit.

USF ranks in top 10 public universities for Pell Grant experience

Minh Duong Dinh, known as Duong around the University of South Florida’s main campus, received one of 7,000+ degrees bestowed by the Tampa university this May. At a time when many take on huge loans for the opportunity, he made it through with very little debt. It is also notable that he is the first in his family to attend college.

Thanks in part to the federal Pell Grant program, the Honors College student graduated with a Bachelor’s in Science degree in Chemical Engineering, with a minor in Biomedical Engineering.

USF has a lot of resources for students, to help students succeed on the first try,” says Dinh, who moved from Cape Coral to Tampa to attend USF in fall 2014.

Bright Futures scholarships are a big boon to those who qualify, like Dinh, yet making it to graduation day is not always easy. Statistically, only 67 percent of non-Pell students make it, according to the Washington, D.C., think tank, Third Way.  And for Pell Grant recipients nationwide, it’s even harder.

Most four-year colleges don’t do a very good job of helping Pell students, Third Way says. But USF is attracting national attention as a place where minorities and students from low- to middle-income families have a greater chance of success.

USF’s main campus ranked ninth in the top 10 “high quality” Pell-serving public universities nationwide, in Third Way’s newly-issued report. That is after seven University of California campuses, for graduating larger percentages of Pell Grant recipients.

USF graduated 68 percent, or 1,242 of its 1,824 recipients, while UCLA graduated 88 percent. That is one percent higher than the national average for non-Pell students and 19 points higher than the Pell national average of 49 percent.

The numbers include first-time, full-time Pell students who graduate with bachelor’s degrees (at the institutions they enrolled in) within six years. Calculations were based on students who entered college in 2010.

High-quality institutions serve a large number of Pell students, in USF’s case 41 percent, and help them graduate at least half of the time. The federal government pumps some $30 billion into the program annually to increase access to higher education -- and the money does not need to be repaid.

In December, Education Trust recognized USF as the top public university in the nation for Latino success -- and the fourth top university overall. The graduation rate for whites was 65.5 percent in 2013, 2014 and 2015, 0.6 percent less than the Latino rate of 66.2 percent. In March 2017, the Education Trust rated USF tops in Florida and sixth in the nation for its graduation completion rate among blacks, with a rate of 63.7 percent for 2012, 2013 and 2014. The national average was 40.9 percent.

Helping students succeed at USF is part of Dr. Paul Dosal’s job description. As Vice President for Student Affairs and Student Success, he oversees the university’s mission to help students when the inevitable obstacles to graduation occur -- whether it’s a personal problem, an academic challenge, or a financial hardship.

“My assignment is to promote the success of all of our undergraduate students,” he says.

At the core of his efforts is the belief that every student admitted to USF can graduate. “We treat them all the same,” he says. “We think they all have what it takes to earn the degree of their choice in a timely way. We approach our effort in a way that’s positive.”

Help comes in different forms. It can be through the Bull 2 Bull Financial Education Program, which helps them regulate finances, or through tutoring, or through coaches that help them with homesickness, stress or a romantic loss. From the freshman year, when they complete an online survey that helps put them on a career path, to the Don’t Stop, Don’t Drop! program that pays an outstanding library fine keeping a student from graduating, the Student Success program steps in to resolve what otherwise might be an unresolvable problem.

“It’s a small investment from our perspective and it has a powerful impact,” Dosal says of the emergency funding program.

While it doesn’t cover more extensive financial problems like a shortage of money to pay the last semester’s tuition, other help is available. “If a student appears to be in financial distress,” he says, “we’re also willing to step in and help out.”

Some of the ways USF assists student achievement are unusual and innovative. It is particularly committed to students that have “high ability” and “high need,” he explains.

Even with a Bright Futures scholarship, there still are other fees and book costs. “We can cover those students so they can get through here tuition-free,” he says.

In general, USF is committed to diversity, as the numbers attest. “We believe that our students will benefit from a diverse campus climate,” he says. “We recognize the educational benefits of diversity first and foremost. In order to prepare our students to compete and succeed ... our campus should look like the world.”

In fall 2017, 48.4 percent of undergraduate students on the main campus were white, compared with 20.8 percent Hispanic and 10.4 percent black. Some 6.3 percent of the 30,883 students were non-residents.

Dinh calls USF’s ranking a “remarkable achievement.”  “I found USF to be really accommodating,” says the European-born Dinh, who is of Vietnamese descent. “I really felt, still feel at home at USF.”

After USF offered him the best financial aid package, academic advisors helped keep him on track. He also received support from professional organizations on campus, including the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers.

So what’s next for the graduate? Job hunting. He’s in Tampa, but he’s willing to relocate for an opportunity in the field of chemical engineering. At some point, he plans to return to school to earn a master’s degree.

As a college graduate, the 22-year-old has taken a big step away from the family’s traditional careers in manual labor. And he offers encouragement to his 14-year-old brother John, who’s already asking what courses can prepare him for college.

“He seems to be inclined to do engineering,” Dinh says. “What I did definitely made an impact.”


West Tampa's Armory Gardens to hold Safety, Security and Fun Festival

Public safety and security is top of mind lately, as we grapple with tragedies like the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida. Such events are especially frightening when they target children, though the frequency of all domestic mass shootings is troubling on a broader level.

To that point, over 30 exhibitors from law enforcement, fire and rescue, and other governmental agencies will convene for a festival of safety, security, and fun, to allow local families and children to meet those who work every day to keep them safe.

Armory Gardens Civic Association, a part of greater West Tampa, will partner with the Tampa Police Department to host this fun and practical event for all ages Saturday, April 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Vila Brothers Park. The park is situated at 700 North Armenia Avenue, across the street from the Bryan Glazer Family JCC, a few blocks north of Kennedy Boulevard. Entry is free.

The goal of the event is twofold: to increase kids’ familiarity with uniformed men and women from the various entities they may encounter, and to increase their confidence in approaching these officials should the need arise.

A key feature of the event will be a free fingerprinting and DNA kit for children, as part of the Florida Masonic Child ID Program. Other activities will include a 9-1-1 simulator booth, Tampa Police Department special operations demonstration, Tampa Fire Rescue fire truck, and several recreational activities for children.

The Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative book mobile will be in attendance as well.

The festival will also function as a fundraiser for Armory Gardens’ proposed improvements to Vila Brothers Park, which include more tree cover and shade, landscaping, and an irrigation system to support the new greenery. The civic association will sell food and beverages to benefit this effort, and will have a 50/50 charitable drawing.

Further down the road, the association hopes to construct a pavilion over the monument honoring the seven Vila Brothers, each of whom were veterans of the U.S. military and Tampa natives, and for whom the park is dedicated.

For more information about the Safety, Security & Fun festival, please visit the Armory Gardens Tampa Civic Association Facebook page.

For Good: USFSP develops financial literacy training

With help from a $500,000 grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg will be rolling out training next fall for students and the general public in a mock Wall Street trading room.

The room is all set up and ready to go,” says Sridhar (Sri) Sundaram, Dean of the university’s Kate Tiedemann College of Business, who points out there will be very little actual trading there. “It’s become an education center. We are focused on wealth management.” 

USFSP students also will be learning to manage a mutual fund, of sorts, with $250,000 in seed funding donated by Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton, which was matched by Lynn Pippenger.

Half of the grant money will help run the center; the other half will fund financial literacy efforts. Instruction will be patterned after Bank of America’s Better Money Habits® curriculum.

These are “exciting times” for the college, Sundaram says. “We really are looking forward to continuing to develop the program.”

The center is in located in a new $30 million, four-story building, which brought the college’s 1,300 students together under one roof on campus in January 2017. It already is equipped with 24 computer terminals.

USFSP has hired Dr. Huijian Dong as director of the Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Center. He will join the staff in August, and will be developing academic programming for certified financial analyst and certified financial planner.

The simulated Wall Street environment includes the Bloomberg Professional Services platform and an LED ticker streaming stock market information streamed from St. Petersburg’s Intrinio.

“We’re going to have real world data. Not everything is going to be live,” he says. “It’s probably going to be delayed.”

The center will be utilized for a finance academy for high school students, programs on budget management for college students, and social security and retirement topics for the general community.

The hands-on training, which helps students prepare to work with real-life clients, has become part of training among top businesses schools.

The university began holding some finance classes at the center this semester. As it rolls out the new coursework next fall, enrollment is limited to 24 per class.

The university is working to meet the needs of retirees who live or spend a good deal of time here, as well as the financial community that services them.

“There is a huge need for financial planning and wealth management experience,” Sundaram says. “That’s exactly what we’re catering to.”


Teacher tackles problem of low self-esteem in new book

Bullying is complex. It can leave lasting scars that affect victims and bullies. Even bystanders may be traumatized.

“You have some bullies who are revered because they appear to have such a level of power or influence among peers,” says Anne Townsend, supervisor of psychological services for Hillsborough County schools. “You have some bullies who might be social isolated and lash out.

Solutions may be punitive for the bully and comforting for the victim. But she believes interventions should include bystanders. “We don’t want to look just at the alleged victim,” she says. “How do we promote a culture and climate in school where everyone is accepted and everyone is involved?”

A gifted teacher at Hillsborough County’s Lamb Elementary is doing her part to build acceptance. Her newly published book is aimed at helping children accept themselves. Inspired by one of her students nearly 10 years ago, The New Me is about a 9-year-old model student Hannah who decided one day she’d rather be someone else.

The precocious Hannah is well behaved, but she regards herself as plain.  “She doesn’t think that what she does, and who she is, is enough,” author Latoya Desamour says.

So Hannah changes her hairstyle and lifestyle so she will be noticed. She sits where she wants to on the bus, then joins a different group in the lunchroom. What she discovers is the others changed their appearance and outlook because they wanted to fit in.

In the end Hannah, who bears the name of Desamour’s 11-year-old daughter, learns she’s fine the way she is. “She decides she’s going to go back to being herself. Being herself is okay,” Desamour says.

Problems may occur when a child admires someone else in class, thinks the other person is perfect, and aspires to be like them. In reality, that other person probably wants to be like someone else also. “It has to stop. Kids have to appreciate their unique qualities,” Desamour says. “It affects their academics.”

It’s a theme Desamour has seen play out again and again in her 13-year teaching career. “Year after year, it was the same problem. It was the same issues: embracing who they are and appreciating their uniqueness,” Desamour explains.

It is her goal to encourage students to believe they are good enough, and can accomplish what they set their mind to. “You don’t have to give up. Everything you need, you have it. You are just as bright as the next person,” she says.

Ultimately, Desamour believes lack of self confidence can lead to bullying, By building self esteem and self confidence, she says she hopes to prevent children from ever becoming bullies.

The 32-page book published in December, 2017, includes conversation questions that parents, teachers, guidance counselors and other caregivers can use to talk about relationships. As a mother of four, she acknowledges sometimes families are so busy they neglect to talk about these relationships.

“A lot of times, we’re just so busy we ask about academics,” she says. “We don’t have conversations about relationships the kids have at school.”

Though the book targets second through sixth graders, and first grade gifted students, even adults can benefit from book illustrated by Carl Bernardo. “I’ve had adults tell me they, too, grasped the message,” she says.

She’s already working on her second book, a fiction title explicitly about bullying. She plans to share what she experienced when she was bullied in the sixth grade, as well as what she’s witnessed through the years.

In the meantime, she’s been keeping busy with book promotions through events like a book launch at menchie’s frozen yogurt at Winthrop Towne Center in Riverview and a book signing from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, at Barnes and Noble in Brandon.

Desamour began her self-publishing journey after a colleague connected her with Bernardo, who worked on the illustrations for more than a year before the book was published.

Along the way her husband Wiclef, a business analyst, has cheered her on. “He’s always my biggest supporter,” she says.

The New Me is available through Amazon as an ebook, paperback and hardcover book, as well as through others retailers by special order. It is her goal to get the book in school and public libraries.

Writing a book has been a surreal experience. “It’s nice to see my name on something other than paperwork I have to do for the district,” says the Jacksonville native with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. “It just shows that hard work. It pays off."


Treasure Tampa offers $30K for local placemaking project

The Tampa-based Gobioff Foundation, a private family philanthropic organization supporting creative placemaking in Tampa, has launched its second round of funding for artistic endeavors that help create a sense of place and spur economic development in a neighborhood.

The Foundation will accept letters of interest through January 15 for its Treasure Tampa (T²) initiative, which will award $30,000 to one or more projects.

The goal of Treasure Tampa is to “increase the visibility of the arts,” says Neil Gobioff, the foundation’s president. “It’s not a tourism-centric thing,” he explains. “I prefer to think of it as highlighting the arts, and what is in Tampa already, to the people that already are here.”

Treasure Tampa is designed to inspire more creative placemaking, or the use of arts- and culture-based projects to help revitalize communities. “It is primarily an arts thing,” he says. “Creative placemaking can encompass much more than just the arts.”

Ideally a proposal would address a community issue through a collaborative effort that involves local residents. “It’s a lot different than just someone wanting to put up a piece of public art in an affluent neighborhood. That’s not what the funds are for,” he says.

Last year’s winner, the University Area Community Development Corporation, won “because of their connection to the community they are serving,” he points out, and because they engaged several partners in a collaborative effort to create participatory activities and events. 83 Degrees served as a media partner, for example.

“The community was heavily involved in the design and creation and installation of the art that was put in the Harvest Hope Park,” he says. “All the community was involved from Day One.”

Each proposal must be for a project within the city of Tampa or within the neighborhood served by the University Area CDC. It needs to involve a nonprofit organization, either as the executor of the project or as a fiscal agent. It also must involve a collaboration between at least two of these sectors -- public, private, or nonprofit.

It is likely one applicant will receive the $30,000, although multiple lower amount awards possibly may be given. “Most of the applications come in seeking the full $30,000,” he says.

The online application process is a little bit different this year. “One of the big changes this year is we shifted the timeline,” Gobioff says. “This way they’re not rushing to get it out right before the holidays, or during the holidays.”

The first round of the application process is less indepth than subsequent ones, he says. Letters of interest will be screened by a panel of artists, curators and business leaders. Then some submitters will be invited to make a full application by March 28. The winner or winners will be notified May 1 and have six months from then to begin the project; the funds should be used within a year.

“Some of these projects can be an ongoing project,” he explains.

This is the second year for the program inspired by a benefit for ArtPlace America, a cooperative endeavor aimed at strengthening communities by integrating arts and culture in community planning and development.

“The funding is only one aspect of it,” he says. “We also hold the educational events.”

The foundation, started by Gobioff’s brother Howard shortly before his death from cancer in 2008, also supports human rights and civil liberties causes globally.

A ribbon cutting and art unveiling Friday, December 15, commemorated the improvements at Harvest Hope Park at 13704 N. 20th St., Tampa. The event culminated with a Community Block Party.

With the community garden, playground and artwork installed, University Area CDC is proceeding with the project’s second phase, to include multi-purpose sports field, sidewalks, lighting and parking, says Nestor Ortiz, the organization’s chief programs officer.

Those improvements are scheduled for completion in 2018, he says.

Learn more about Treasure Tampa (T²) by visiting current projects on the Gobioff Foundation website.


ECHO of Brandon claims top prize in social entrepreneurship

ECHO of Brandon, a charity whose mission is to end hunger in southeastern Hillsborough County, took the $25,000 grand prize in Social Venture Partners’ first Shark Tank-styled competition for social entrepreneurship in the Tampa Bay Area.

Social entrepreneurship is the use by nonprofits of the techniques that enable startup companies and other entrepreneurs to develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues.

“The turnout was amazing. The energy was amazing. The teams were incredible,” says Jennifer Finney, a member of the SVP committee planning the Fast Pitch competition. “It surpassed everything that I could have imagined.”

ECHO, which provides emergency food, clothing, household items and career planning, was represented by Eleanor Saunders. Saunders explained how ECHO clients upcycle donations (clothes, curtains, leather items, etc.) into sellable products such as purses, jewelry and tablecloths. The work involved provides jobs for the clients, and sales proceeds go back into the organization's operating budget, making the nonprofit more independent financially and less dependent on government funding or charitable giving. The team was coached by Joan and George Lange.

The event attracted more than 400 to the University of Tampa on Friday, Dec. 1, to hear three-minute pitches from 13 nonprofits chosen to participate in SVP’s free, two-month accelerator and mentoring program. The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and UT partnered in the event.

The $15,000 second place prize was awarded to Wheels of Success, represented by Susan Jacobs and coached by Anne Marie Campbell and Sam Giunta, and the $10,000 third place awarded was given to Girls Empowered Mentally for Success, represented by Crystal Bailes and coached by Sheryl Hunter.

Wheels of Success is dedicated to providing transportation solutions to the needy. GEMS helps at risk elementary, middle and high school girls discover their passion, and more easily transition into productive adults.

Attendees texted into a link to choose the Audience Choice Award, which went to Starting Right, Now, represented by Vicki Sokolik and coached by Lily Jin. It received $5,000. Starting Right, Now is working to end youth homelessness in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Another $5,000 prize was given to Accelerator Award winner Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative, represented by Marissa Davis and Carrie Hepburn and coached by Finney. The collaborative promotes health and wellness in vulnerable populations by addressing barriers to health and services.

“We decided to give an Accelerator Award for the team that showed up to the accelerator every time ready and eager to learn,” Finney explains.

The 13 local nonprofits were chosen from a pool of more than 50 applicants. Judging was done by Phillip E. Casey, Tom Wallace, Joe Hamilton, Rochelle Friedman-Walk and James Tully.

Other nonprofits who participated included:

  • University Area Community Development Corporation, which administers a Prodigy Cultural Arts Program to help at risk first through twelfth graders;
  • Directions for Living, which is dedicated to providing life-saving services to residents through its innovative Peanut Butter and Jelly run;
  • Bright Community Trust, whose mission is to create strong and vibrant neighborhoods;
  • Enactus at University of South Florida, an organization that helps students develop their talents and make a difference in the Tampa Bay community;
  • Just Learn, k-12 learning program that seeks to expose students to the planet’s biggest challenges like urbanization and food production;
  • Keep St. Pete Lit, an organization promoting the greater St. Petersburg literary community;
  • Inspiration Labs, the legal name for Tampa Hackerspace, where members have working space, training and tools to develop their creative projects; and
  • The Well, which runs the WellBuilt retail store that sells and repairs bicycles to fund community rides, safety workshops and sliding scale repairs.

SVP is based in Seattle; a Tampa chapter was formed in 2014.

SVP plans to make the competition an annual event, with initial work beginning in January as part of strategic planning.

“They all got incredible exposure,” Finney says. “It was really great to see everyone’s genuine interest and passion for each one of the teams.”


Artist-made skateboard proceeds go to nonprofit Boards for Bros.

There’s no denying that skateboarding culture has always been mixed up with some form of art, whether it’s deck design or graffiti.

Now comes California Artist Andrew Schoultz to kick off the annual Tampa Amateur Skateboarding Finals while celebrating the Skatepark of Tampa’s 25th Anniversary. Schoultz will be exhibiting 15 hand-painted skate decks alongside 10 other artist’s boards at The Bricks in Ybor on Nov. 10 at 8 p.m.
 
Instead of the profits going into the artists’ pockets, these 25 rideable art pieces will be going to the local nonprofit Boards for Bros.
 
“I’ve been paying attention to what Boards for Bros. has been doing for a while. They go into underprivileged areas where there are skate parks or they’ll set up a mini skate park for a weekend and they give away boards and helmets to those who don’t have them. Right now, skateboarding is the new ‘hoop dreams.’ Some of the most talented kids are coming from underprivileged areas. Skateboarding really can save you, and I think there’s a lot of power and purpose in what they’re doing,” Schoultz says.
 
Though he lives and works in California, Schoultz has ties to the skateboarding community in Tampa through Paul Zitzer, SPoT Events Operations and Public Relations (they grew up in the same city), and SPoT owner Brian Schaefer (they connected after he saw Schoultz’ installation at Art Basel Miami last year).
 
“I was coming to SPoT a lot in the '90s, and in 1999 I skated in one of their amateur contests. I pretty much grew up going there, and 20 years later I’m still participating, just in a different way,” the artist says. “I’ve worked in a nonprofit sector in the past, so I know how hard fundraising is. You can do a lot with very little and still have a big effect, so raising a couple thousand dollars could really help. This is what I love about skateboarding, it’s a really community-oriented sport.”
 
Schoultz, who earned his BFA at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, has international acclaim and mostly shows in galleries and museums with linear/drawing-based work that is loosely based on comic books, graffiti, old clip art and skateboard graphics.
 
“I’ve been a skateboarder all my life, but as an artist I’ve emerged into doing things all over the world. Skateboarding has informed everything I’ve done to this point as an artist and a person,” he says.
 
While Schoultz won’t be around for this opening, he will be back in Tampa in March where he will be there to paint the skatepark and participate in another fundraising event during the Annual Tampa Pro.
 
Any pieces that don’t sell during the show will be available online at SPoTTampa starting Nov. 20, with the proceeds still going toward Boards for Bros.

Caregiver-related businesses make pitch for help

Imagine a hotel along the Pinellas County beachfront equipped for and staffed by the disabled. The hotel would be self supporting and those with handicaps could live there independently, with a little help from Resident Assistants who act kind of like parents.

That’s the vision of Bill and Jane Williams.

Like many parents of special needs adult children, the couple wanted a plan that would secure their daughter’s future. So they formed The Banyan Odyssey, a Largo-based nonprofit organization in late 2015.

“We don’t want our kids to be sent away from home. We want them to be in our community, but to have a safe place to live and work and be as independent as possible,” explains Jane, The Banyan Odyssey’s Vice President.

Named for the banyan tree, a symbol of rest, The Banyan Odyssey already is working with 25 families with special needs individuals 16 through 29. They are providing training for those diagnosed with a variety of disabilities such as Down’s Syndrome, Autism, the genetic disorder Prader–Willi syndrome, and Intellectual Disability, a condition that results in below average academic development through age 18.

While they raise funds and look for that ideal property, a mom-and-pop hotel that can be purchased and renovated, The Banyan Group is getting its potential employees ready through events like the Camp Banyan summer program.

Employment in that group has been a problem. “The disabled community [in Florida] is at 85 percent unemployed or underemployed,” she asserts.

“Our deal is if you are physically capable of working a 30- or 40-hour work week, you should have the opportunity to,” she says.

The Williamses goal is to create a social community loosely modeled after a college dormitory, where Resident Assistants can look in on residents to make sure their laundry is done, their apartment is clean, and they are ready for work. It would be a place where their 24-year-old daughter Mary Elizabeth, who goes by M.E., can live securely and independently.

Jane says the community will be for “handicapable” adults. “Instead of focusing on disability, we focus on what the young people can do,” she explains.

The Banyan Odyssey is one of six companies that will be vying for an assortment of prizes at the Caregiver Accelerator Pitch Competition between 2 and 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, at Bryan Glazer Family JCC, 522 N. Howard Ave., Tampa. Each will have six minutes to make a pitch before four judges: Chris Bennett, of Callyo; Jamie Huysman, of WellMed; Jeffrey Makowka, of the AARP; and Wilma Norton, of Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.

A People’s Choice Award will be determined by online voting.

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, a Florida Caregiver Conference follows from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the same location. The conference, which focuses on the caregivers of veterans and male caregivers, includes educational presentations, information about Caregiver Accelerator companies, and innovative solutions. Speakers include Retired Major General Tony Taguba, on “Caregiving is a Public Health Crisis” and Jean Accius, PhD., of the AARP Public Policy Institute, onBreaking the Stereotypes: Spotlight on Male Family Caregivers.”

Walk-ins are welcome. The pitch competition is free; the conference, which costs $50, includes respite services for attendees.

Monica Stynchula, Program Director of St. Petersburg’s Caregiver Accelerator, says organizers are hoping to attract young entrepreneurs interested in tapping into $72 billion in caregiver’s market opportunities nationally.

In Florida alone, some 2.6 million provided $30 billion in unpaid care last year, she points out.

“What we’re trying to do is build resources into our communities that don’t exist today, [resources] that help caregivers when they need them,” Stynchula explains.

As the oldest baby boomers turn 70, the need will only increase in coming years, she points out. Ninety percent want to stay in their homes, so AARP wants to encourage businesses that can help them stay home safely for as long as possible.

“10,000 boomers are eligible to retire everyday,” she says. “It’s a real challenge to our economy and to our families. Right now we have over 60,000 on a waiting list for senior services in Florida.”

The Caregiver Accelerator acts as a pre-incubator for caregiver-related businesses, providing 18 hours worth of business training and the opportunity to attract the attention of the AARP, a national advocacy group for the elderly.

The other five finalists that will be presenting pitches include:

  • Guillermo Abadia, of Lumitec Consulting in St. Petersburg, a software development company;
  • Robin Albright, of Bradenton, author of 12 Tiny Well-being Tips for Caregivers, a workbook to help caregivers take care of themselves;
  • Bonnie Brown, of A Better Life, a St. Petersburg company offering life coaching and Medicaid planning;
  • Cynetta Hill, of Graceful in Home Aging of Tallahassee, and
  • John Webb, of Medication Call Reminder of Tampa, an automated service operating nationwide.

For Good: Great Explorations opens Longo's Cove

A three-dimensional jungle gym/work of art, Longo’s Cove invites children of all ages to scurry upward from pad to pad. It’s a great way to challenge kids’ coordination, says Great Explorations CEO Angeline Howell. 

During a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 7, St. Petersburg resident Asher Thompson, 6, eyed the 26-foot tall climber with anticipation. He could barely wait.

“I wanted to try it, but I didn’t want to step on the jellyfish,” he said.

Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and his wife, Jaime, donated the funds for the climber; it was their idea, Howell notes, to include paintings of Florida sea life throughout the installation. The Longorias are parents of small children and were deeply involved in planning the Cove.

At the top, Cove Conquerors enjoy a birds-eye view of the entire museum, including an adjacent tree house being reimagined as a boat house to further the sea exploration theme. Small learners will soon have access to binoculars for bird watching and can identify different sea birds depicted throughout the museum. Activities such as a book nook, seabird seek-and-find and mangrove tables are in the works.

“We like to empower our visitors to explore our exhibits in a fun, hands-on way, and experiencing the museum from the top of the climber is certainly a way to do that,” Howell says.

A nationally accredited children’s museum, Great Explorations also offers a preschool for young children and partners with school systems to bridge the gap between classroom instruction and unstructured education. In 2017, the museum donated 750,000 of in-kind service back to the community through educational programming.

They recently introduced a $2 million capital campaign with a goal of funding a project labeled the ‘Great Expansion.’  Ultimately, the expansion will result in further educational programming and more space for children to grow and learn.

Asher managed to sidestep the paintings of jellyfish. He reached the climber’s summit and surveyed the view; he could see everything from this new vantage point. His overall rating of Longo’s Cove was definitive:

“It was awesome!”

Zombies For Good: Saint Pete Dance Center benefit

A horde of kind-hearted zombies overran Saint Pete Dance Center Sunday, Oct. 8. Their mission was threefold: to celebrate the dance studio’s recent opening, learn Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance and raise funds for the Mauro Youth Ballet School in Puerto Rico. 

“It was a ribbon cutting with an undead twist, and we’re thankful to be able to help a studio whose students desperately need assistance,” says Saint Pete Dance Center owner Katie Fader.

Donations were accepted for the Mauro Youth Ballet, whose Puerto Rico studio was badly damaged by Hurricane Maria. Added to structural concerns, Mauro dancers also face a lack of supplies such as leotards and pointe shoes. A GoFundMe campaign explains that these children face a long road as their community recovers.

“We try to teach our young dancers to express themselves, and that expression includes empathy,” Fader says. “This is our attempt to help, and learning an iconic dance is a bonus.”

The Saint Pete Dance Center opened its doors in September and offers classes for children and adults. Fader plans to head her studio zombie squad of adults and children October 29 as part of Thrill St. Pete, the local division of Thrill the World. www.thrilltheworld.com This organization of Thriller devotees performs the dance simultaneously with other groups across the globe. Their goal is to break the world record of the most people performing Thriller at one time.

To teach the dance made famous in Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video, Thrill St. Pete volunteer instructors Jennifer Crawford and Julia Burdick demonstrated the steps in easy-to-learn sequences. An hour later, the zombie squad had achieved tentative mastery. 

Thrill St. Pete offers many opportunities for instruction community-wide, Burdick says, and usually collects donations for the charity The Kind Mouse during their events. Here is a link to an 83 Degrees story about The Kind Mouse.

With the latest storms still fresh in mind, giving to the Mauro Youth Ballet made sense.

“We give back to the community at the same time we dress up and pretend to be characters in Thriller,” she says. “It’s just so much fun.”

Donate to the Mauro Youth Ballet recovery effort.

View available practice dates and discover how to join the world record Thriller attempt by visiting the web page for Thrill St. Pete.

To suggest additional story ideas, email 83 Degrees.

To subscribe to our free weekly e-magazine, follow this link.

Arts and culture equal big business in Hillsborough

Editor's note: Due to the uncertainty of the impact of Hurricane Irma, the Hillsborough Arts Council has canceled this Sept. 14 event at Tampa Theatre.

Many may think supporting the arts is an act of charity or something done just for fun, but a new study outlines the true value in terms of dollars and sense. In fiscal year 2015, the nonprofit arts and culture industry had an economic impact of $433.2 million in Hillsborough County alone.

That’s the message Randy Cohen, VP of Research and Policy for Americans for the Arts, will share between 8-9 a.m. September 14 at Tampa Theatre, 711 North Franklin St., in downtown Tampa.

“So often people just see the arts as being a quality of life issue, and they don’t think about the economic impact,” explains Martine Meredith Collier, Executive Director of the Tampa-based Arts Council of Hillsborough County.

The Arts and Economic Prosperity study by Americans for the Arts, its fifth, documents the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in 341 regions within the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The Arts Council paid $10,250 for the local impact study with funding from the Hillsborough County Economic Development office and the Gobioff Foundation. The council joined the study as a partner to receive a customized analysis.

The numbers show the arts have had a growing role. Since fiscal year 2008, the economic impact of arts in Hillsborough climbed from nearly $298 million.

Collier points out business and government support for the arts is good for business. “It really is not a frill. People want to live in communities that have a vibrant cultural scene,” she says.

Today’s young entrepreneurs can choose to live wherever they want. “They can live anywhere as long as there is an airport and a computer connection,” she explains. “They’re choosing where to live, where to raise a family, by what that communities offer. If you don’t have a vibrant cultural scene, you’re cutting yourself off.”

Of the $433.2 million, arts and culture within the City of Tampa accounted for $349.2 million, according to a separate report.

In the Tampa Bay region, nonprofit arts and culture had the most dramatic economic impact in Hillsborough County, followed by $295 million impact in Sarasota County and nearly a $241 million impact in Pinellas County, according to estimates. The economic impact of the industry in Manatee County was some $47.4 million, compared to nearly $46.6 million in Polk County.

The event, which begins with networking at 7:30 a.m., is free and open to the general public. Interested parties are asked to RSVP.

Cohen has published one of the largest national public opinion studies on the arts, Americans Speak Out About the Arts. He also publishes Arts and Economic Prosperity and Creative Industries, two premier economic studies of the art industries. His blog, 10 Reasons to Support the Arts, earned the Gold Award given by the Association of Media and Publishing.

The council, in its 50th year, will be using findings from the study through its three-year strategic plan. “We’re going to be continuing to promote the value of arts and culture through our strategic plan,” she says.

The study found nonprofit arts and cultural events drew visitors who spent an average of  $67.51 per person, in addition to admission.

It shows 78.7 percent of those who visit Hillsborough County for a cultural event come primarily for that event. “The [non-resident] survey also asked local resident attendees about what they would have done if the arts event that they were attending was not taking place: 51.3 percent of resident attendees said they would have ‘traveled to a different community to attend a similar cultural event,' " the report notes.

Forty-two percent, or more than 2 million people, who attended local arts events included in the study were non-residents. They spent nearly $155 million in addition to admission fees.

The arts industry supports 14,962 full-time jobs with a household income of some $329.1 million in Hillsborough County.

Nearly 65 percent of the nonprofit arts and cultural organizations took part in the study countywide. “We were very successful in getting all of the larger budget organizations,” Collier adds.

Art lovers can learn more about the area art scene through the Art Council's new publication, A Guide to Arts and Culture, available in print and digital formats.


Do you love to work with kids? Encore Tampa Bay is recruiting volunteers

Tampa Bay is one of 16 communities nationwide that is piloting a grassroots program aimed at improving the lives of vulnerable children. Called Generation to Generation, the program mobilizes older adults, who share their talents and experience.

“The goal of the national campaign is to mobilize over 1 million adults in the next five years to serve in any kind of role helping kids,” says Bevan Rogel, Executive Director of Encore Tampa Bay, a nonprofit initiative working under the umbrella of Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.

The adults may read to children, or be a mentor or friend. “We think it’s a match made in heaven,” she says. “We think it’s going to be a good thing for the community.”

Encore Tampa Bay is part of a larger movement of Baby Boomers, who are realizing in their 50s and 60s or beyond that they want to do something more with their life: they want an encore. They want to use their skills and talents. That may mean starting a new business, volunteering, using a skill in new ways, or starting another career.

“Older people realize they can live the life that they’ve always wanted to live, instead of doing what was expected of them,” she says.

When they retire or become empty nesters, seniors aren’t always sure what they want to do. “Older adults say they want to do something to help kids, but they don’t always know where to go,” she says.

Generation to Generation, an Encore initiative, gives adults a chance to discover what they’d like to do, while sharing the depths of their experiences with young people. “It’s a learning lab. We’re trying different things,” she says. “It’s not just a call for social action. It’s really looking at going deep within different communities.”

Generation to Generation will be working with community centers, neighborhood associations, libraries, retired teachers, alumni, corporate groups and clubs to identify ways to help children through partnerships.

Encore Tampa Bay is recruiting both partners who work with older adults -- and older adults to work with children starting in January. It is partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, Metropolitan Ministries, R’Club Child Care, Inc., and United Way Suncoast in the two-year program.

“We can’t do this alone. We need organizations,” she says. “People who are in front of older adults all the time.”

Initially the program is targeting three areas: Wimauma, Tampa Heights and South St. Petersburg.

Volunteer leadership roles are available in multiple areas including marketing, storytelling, evaluation, community outreach and ambassadorship.

Ultimately, the goal of Generation to Generation is to expand beyond the older and younger sets. So, there won’t be any “carding” if younger adults want to lend a helping hand, Rogel says.

“Our bigger effort is to involve all generations in helping kids,” she says.


For Good: Fast Pitch seeks entries from Tampa Bay Area nonprofits

It’s like Shark Tank, nonprofit style. And it’s coming to Tampa November 9. Ten nonprofit organizations will be competing for some $40,000 in an event inspired by the popular TV show for businesses seeking funding.

Tampa will be the first Fast Pitch event with an accelerator program through the Seattle-based Social Venture Partners. It also is the first Fast Pitch event for the Tampa chapter started in 2014; nonprofits will be vying for funding from SVP partners.

We really want to give them an opportunity in Tampa to amplify their impact,” says Jennifer Finney, a partner for SVP and member of the team spearheading the effort. “It’s zero cost to the nonprofit and to the attendees.”

The program seeks to better equip nonprofits to “execute their mission and their vision, as well as have access to all the tools and the resources that we can provide,” Finney explains. “We want a build a space for them to really collaborate.”

Nonprofits must apply by August 14; finalists will be announced August 21. The pitch competition is slated for November 9, although the location has not been finalized.

Participating nonprofits will be able to prepare for the competition with five different workshop nights and an assigned mentor, she says. Those who complete the two-month program will have a business plan.

SVP, a group of philanthropists looking to give back to their community, has been partnering with Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and the University of Tampa, where Finney is the first female to graduate from the Sykes College of Business with a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship.

“They [Community Foundation members] have a lot of experience in the nonprofit space. They have been very helpful to us,” Finney says. “They’ve been very generous with their time and their resources.”

Finney, 23, transferred to UT when her family relocated from Chicago to Tampa about three years ago. “I fell in love with it, especially their entrepreneurship program. I liked it so much I went for my master’s degree,” she says.

She competed on UT’s HULT Prize competition two years in a row.

Now Finney plans to take a job as an employee benefits advisor with Tampa’s Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners in the fall. “We all live in Tampa. We all want to see great success here in Tampa,” she says. “It’s not Chicago or New York by size, but there’s a lot of really passionate and talented people here making Tampa one of the greatest places to live. You really can’t beat the weather.”


City of Tampa digitizes old photo collections, now available to public

For years, the Burgert Brothers photography collection has provided Tampa historians and history buffs an incomparable look back at the community’s history. The 15,000 photographs taken by the local photography firm between the late 1800s and early 1960s, available for online viewing on the Hillsborough County Public Library website, is now being joined by two more extensive collections of photographs chronicling life in the Tampa Bay Area from the 1940s through the 1990s. 

The announcement comes in commemoration of Tampa’s 130th birthday and also coincides with the city’s Archives Awareness Week, an annual event that was founded by the City of Tampa Archives Advisory Committee in 1992. These photographs, ranging from 1950 until 1990, feature local landmarks, events, local elected officials and dignitaries, street scenes and other topics of interest to Tampa Bay Area historians and history buffs. 

The newly released archival images include 30,000 photographs from the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Collection, which was donated by the Tampa Historical Society to the City of Tampa in 1994. The Tampa Photo Supply Collection was donated to the city in 2016 and includes 50,000 images taken by local photographers Rose Rutigliano Weekley and Joseph Scolaro between 1940 and 1990; they focus mainly on subjects from West Tampa, Ybor City, and South Tampa and include images of graduations, weddings and scenes from daily life. 

All told, these 80,000 newly available historic Tampa photographs represent quintuple the number of images in the existing archive of 15,000 Burgert Brothers images presently available to the public. 

“Digitization of the Tampa Photo Supply Collection should be done within a year,” says City of Tampa Archives and Records Manager Jennifer Dietz. Presently, about 50 percent of that collection has been digitized. “The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Collection may take a bit longer to complete.” 

Dietz says negatives of the images from the Greater Chamber of Commerce Collection have been available to the public for years. 

“This is how it was accessed for many years prior to our digitization efforts and collaboration with the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library.” She explains that handling the negatives has become a challenging task due to natural deterioration. “Due to vinegar syndrome [a type of acetate film breakdown common with aging negatives], the negatives from the Tampa Photo Supply Collection are frail and in quarantine at our offsite archives vault.”

The 35-millimeter negatives from the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Collection are being scanned in at 1,200 dots per inch (dpi). Meanwhile, negatives from the Tampa Photo Supply Collection measure four inches by five inches and are being scanned at 600 dpi. 

In other words, photographs from both collections will be available in a high-resolution format that is perfect for both viewing and publication. Dietz says these images will be available for use in nonprofit and commercial books, scholarly materials and other media works, provided that credit is given to the City of Tampa Archives and Records Division. 

“We are hoping to get everything from these two collections uploaded within the next five years,” she remarks. “We are very excited about releasing these two historic photo collections and feel they will be valuable resources for researchers and the citizens of Tampa.” 

To search Tampa’s photographic archives online and for more information, please visit the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative Digital Collections website.

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."

For Good: Beth-El Farmworker Ministry celebrates 40 years in Wimauma

To read this story in Spanish, please follow this link.

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Beth-El Farmworker Ministry Inc. is hosting a symposium on Nov. 5 that is designed to address daily struggles for farmworkers, including topics such as human trafficking, fair salaries, health and well-being.
 
The event will take place at the Beth-El Farmworker Ministry facilities at 18240 U.S. Highway 301 South in Wimauma.
 
Kathleen Dain, Executive Director of Beth-El Farmworker Ministry, says the celebration will honor the Tampa Bay area’s farmworkers whose labor is physically intensive and financially challenging.
 
“The majority of crops in Florida are picked by hand and require the individual labor of the farmworker, but farmworkers receive wages based on the quantity of crops picked,” Dain explains. 

A farmworker who picks tomatoes, for example, receives an average wage of one or two cents per pound picked, and is expected to pick 4,000 pounds daily, which is the equivalent of boxes stacked eight floors in height. For that labor, the farmworker is paid between $40-$80 a day.
 
“Most farmworkers work seven months each year, following the crops in their seasons (across the nation.) The work is very demanding with long hours and frequently under harsh conditions,” according to the letter of invitation to join Beth-El’s 40th anniversary celebration. 

The celebration will conclude with a dinner in which Beth-El’s history will be recounted and its future plans revealed.
 
During four decades, Beth-El Farmworker Ministry has provided food and clothing for needy farmworker families in Wimauma. It also provides legal aid and health services and serves, on average, 600 families weekly. 

“Every day we have fruits and vegetables on our table that have come from the farmworker’s hard labor -- even though those same fruits and vegetables may not easily make it onto their own tables,” Dain says.

For sponsorship opportunities, click here.

Para bien: Beth-El Farmworker Ministry celebra 40 años de servicio en Wimauma

To read this story in English, please follow this link.

A través del tiempo la misión Beth-El Farmworker Ministry se ha convertido en una fuente de apoyo para los trabajadores del campo en Wimauma y la misión se dispone a celebrar sus logros desde su establecimiento en 1976.

Para la celebración de sus 40 años, la misión ha organizado un simposio para el 5 de noviembre acerca de la vida y los retos que a diario enfrentan a los trabajadores del campo con temas desde tráfico humano, salarios justos, salud y bienestar. El evento se llevará a cabo en las instalaciones de la misión ubicada en el 18240 Highway 301 South en Wimauma.

Para Kathleen Dain, directora ejecutiva de Beth-El, la oportunidad de celebrar 40 años de misión es la oportunidad de honrar a los trabajadores agrícolas cuya labor es intensa y económicamente retadora.
“La mayoría de los cultivos en Florida son cosechados a mano y requieren el trabajo individual del agricultor, pero los trabajadores reciben su pago en base a la cantidad que puedan pizcar”, comenta Dain.

Un trabajador que pizca tomates recibe entre uno o dos centavos por libra y se espera que pizque 4,000 libras diarias, el equivalente a ocho pisos de altura y en dinero a entre $40 dólares a $80 por todo el día de intensa labor.

“La mayoría de los agricultores trabajan siete meses del año, siguiendo los cultivos de la estación. El trabajo es altamente demandante, trabajando largas horas y con frecuencia en condiciones inclementes”, indica la invitación especial de los 40 años de Beth-El.

La celebración cerrará con una cena en la que se hablará sobre la historia de la misión y se abordarán planes para el futuro.
Durante cuatro décadas, el ministerio ha proveído comida para los trabajadores agrícolas, ropa para quienes la necesitan, asistencia legal y de salud. La misión atiende a 600 familias por semana.

“Todos los días tenemos frutas y verduras en nuestra mesa producto del trabajo de agricultores, pero difícilmente esas mismas frutas y verduras llegan a sus propias mesas”, comenta Dain.

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For Good: Art Extravaganza features artwork to benefit Haiti

This weekend, South Tampa Artist Donna Morrison is hosting The 2016 Art Extravaganza, an annual art show aimed at holiday shopping, and for the first time including a raffle to benefit Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Morrison has long been involved with Village Partners International (VPI), a Tampa-based nonprofit, which provides medical and other services to Haiti and other impoverished “world villages.” All proceeds will go to VPI. 

Tickets are five dollars apiece for a chance to win an original 15” x 22” watercolor painting by Morrison, entitled Purple Passion #1, valued at $1,500. The show takes place October 27-29, 2016 and includes works from well-known ceramic, woodworking, photography and jewelry artists.

“I like things that have multiple good outcomes,” says Morrison. “I love having a raffle because it involves a lot of people, spreads the word, somebody gets a great painting, and Village Partners gets money to be sent to Haiti.”

In addition to the over $72,000 VPI already spends annually supporting a hospital and Mobile Clinic in Haiti, the devastation caused by the recent hurricane has meant new and urgent challenges. The all-volunteer organization is currently trying to raise funds to build wells for clean water and for nutrition support in the northwest sector, which has had significant increase in cholera outbreak as well as malnutrition and lack of clean water, according to Tampa surgeon Dr. Sylvia Campbell who runs the nonprofit and has been doing mission work in Haiti and Uganda since 1996.

“Haiti is a country that has been steeped in so much tragedy,” says Campbell. “Every dollar that is given to VPI goes to help those in need. We are all volunteers, and do this mission out of our hearts. Fundraisers like this help support the cause, both in dollars and awareness. … Each dollar can change a life.”

Campbell says Village Partners International has a vision “what we call the 3 ‘C’s” – connect, commit and continue. VPI has been operational since 2007, though the founders had been involved in similar work largely through the Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church for years. In addition to its work in Haiti, the organization is active in rural Uganda and has partnered with Beth-El Farmworker Mission, supporting migrant workers in Wimauma, Florida.   

For more information on the Art Extravaganza and chance to win a painting, you can email Donna Morrison,  or you can make a direct donation to VPI through its website.

For Good: St. Pete free clinic to help 200 needy senior citizens with grant funding

The St. Petersburg Free Clinic has received a grant, which will provide food to senior citizens in south and mid-Pinellas County.

The Hearty Homes program is just one of the many programs the free clinic offers needy citizens. Armed with a $20,000 grant from Clearwater-based Senior Citizens Services, Inc., the clinic can now provide food assistance to more than 200 elderly residents.

While most seniors in need are able to access meals through community centers on weekdays, there is a need for services on the weekend. The Hearty Homes programs provides food for the elderly to take home with them once they leave the center.

“We bring the food to the community centers where the seniors are already beina transported for lunches,” says Beth Houghton, Executive Director for the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. “Their driver takes them back to where they live, gives them their food and even helps them get the food up to their apartment.”

To qualify for the program, seniors must be considered food insecure, meaning they lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. Also, they must have few or no options for transportation. Houghton reiterates the importance of providing nutritious food for the seniors.

“As we get into the holidays, there are a lot of food drives, which is a great,” she says. “However it's important to remember that some of the people receiving the food have restrictions. For our food bank, we are looking for donations that are low-sugar, low-sodium and low-fat. Things you might buy for a loved one who is diabetic or has cardiac health issues.”

In addition to donating food to the free clinic's food bank, you can also help by donating money to help with the cost of delivering the food to the elderly. For more information about the clinic, and how you can help, click here.

For Good: Hungry Howies pizza hosts local events to raise money for breast cancer foundation

Pizza franchise and the National Breast Cancer Foundation team up to raise money and make services available to women battling cancer.

Hungry Howie's Pizza is hosting two local events designed to benefit the fight against breast cancer in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month. “Hands of Hope” is an art mural, and will be showcased at 3073 18th Ave. S. in St. Petersburg. The public art project will feature hands representing both survivors and those who lost their battle to breast cancer. The mural will get a personal touch from the community during its dedication.

“On October 1st from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. the public is welcome to come see the mural, and dedicate a handprint to a survivor or a loved one,” says Misann Ellmaker, a spokesperson for the Love, Hope & Pizza project.

The second event is the “Love & Hope Quilt,” which is being sewn by Debbie Devine, a former Hungry Howie's store owner. The finished quilt will be up for auction, and all proceeds will be donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF).

In addition to these local events, the pizza chain will serve all of pizzas nationwide in pink Love, Hope & Pizza boxes with the NBCF logo during the month of October. A portion of sales will be donated to NBCF.

The local events, along with the funds raised nationally for NBCF will impact local women because the foundation has a partnership with Moffitt Cancer Center, which helps thousands of women each year battle breast cancer.

This hits close to home to one of Hungry Howie's associates, Andrea Adair, who also is a two-time breast cancer survivor.

“It's not just about offering mammograms,” she says. “What NBCF offers through Moffitt provides women with whatever they need whether it's radiation, chemo, or psychological support. They want to make sure they are really helping people”

While she praises Moffitt and the NBCF for offering more than just mammograms, Adair goes on to emphasize the importance of early detection. She says it was early detection that saved her life. Ellmaker echoes her sentiments.

“There are so many times we get so busy taking care of everyone else, that we forget to take care of ourselves,” Ellmaker says. “However the breast cancer foundation has lots of information and links on their website that can educate on early detection because it's so important.”

For information on where you can bid on the “Love & Hope Quilt,” click here. Also, for information on the National Breast Cancer Foundation for links about early detection, click here.

For Good: USF partners with custom T-shirt company to raise funds for Moffitt

A local custom T-shirt company is partnering with USF to raise funds for cancer research.

Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More, a garment decorating franchise based out of Dunedin, has announced its exclusive sponsorship with the USF’s Athletics Department. The custom T-shirt company will provide USF’s ‘Bulls Against Cancer’ campaign shirts. These shirts support Moffitt Cancer Center, raising cancer awareness and funds for research.

The president of Big Frog, Dr. Tina Bacon-DeFrence, an alumna of USF, wants to help those battling cancer.

“All of us here at Big Frog, from the Dunedin headquarters to our individual franchises, and store employees across the country, have been affected by cancer in some form,” she says. “We might have battled through it ourselves, fought through it with a close friend or family member, or have shed tears over the loss of folks close to us.”

As part of the partnership, there will be several game-day promotions and giveaways during both USF’s football and basketball season. Big Frog will be introducing a T-shirt launcher, which will propel 3,000 shirts out to USF fans during men and women’s basketball home games.

In addition, the official kick off of the partnership between Big Frog and USF will take place at the USF’s home football game against UCONN on October 15th. During tailgating gatherings, flyers will be passed out with information on the partnership, and where people can order their T-shirts.

For those who are interested in getting one of the ‘Bulls Against Cancer’ shirts, Bacon-DeFrence says you can order them through Big Frog’s website.

For Good: Free Welcoming Tampa event celebrates cultural diversity of refugees, immigrants

No need to bring your passport to travel on a virtual tour around the world during a free event coming soon to USF.

Among the offerings at the second Welcoming Tampa celebration: Get a henna tattoo, take a Latin dance lesson, watch a culture fashion show, listen to live international music, visit cultural educational tables and test your patriotic knowledge by taking a mock citizenship test.

Along the way, it’s an opportunity to meet new neighbors -- resettled refugees and immigrants who now call this area home.

It takes place on Saturday, Sept. 17,  from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center at the University of South Florida. The collaborative effort is sponsored by the Tampa Bay Refugee Task Force, the USF’s Honors College and the Department of Global Health, and the local refugee and immigrant community. Campus organizations, volunteer outreach programs and social-service agencies take part as well.

This is just one event like this celebrated all over the country in September. The initiative is coordinated nationwide by Welcoming America, a Georgia-based nonprofit. The mission is to recognize and celebrate the contributions made by refugees and immigrants in local communities.

“It helps all who participate with a localized understanding of the refugee experience and encourage true connections across cultures,” says Natalie Harrell, spokesperson for the Suncoast Region of the Florida Department of Children and Families. “Every year we hear of new friendships formed and gatherings held after the event, so we know there is an ongoing impact.”

And for the refugee families, she says, it’s a day of fun where they get to see their culture celebrated and “feel fully included in their new community.” 

Service providers will also be on hand, as well as information on volunteer opportunities to encouragement more engagement.

This year’s theme is “Small Shoes, Big Journey,” and will focus on the experiences of refugee children and youth as they begin a new chapter of their lives here in the Tampa Bay area. Ten-year-old Rachel Ackey, whose father was once a refugee, is coordinating a shoe drive for these youngsters. To donate a new pair of shoes or a gift card for a refugee youth, email Florence and Rachel Ackey or call (813) 732-4190 or contact Elizabeth Dunn at (361) 510-7935.

Dena Gross Leavengood, a member of the Tampa Bay Refugee Advisory Group, an independent advocacy volunteer effort, says giving refugees a support system is the first step toward establishing normalcy in their new lives.

An event like this can be a first step in building new relationships, she says. It also can set in motion more dialogue so there is less duplication of services.

“The more coordination we have between agencies and volunteer groups, the better,” she says. “There are so many issues refugees face when the first arrive -- cultural divides, the language, transportation, housing, jobs. As a community, we need to collectively understand these challenges and how to address them.

“In the end, we all will benefit as they work toward becoming contributing citizens.”

For Good: Free eBook guides nonprofits in private-sector partnerships

Consonant Custom Media (CCM), a communications and publishing company headquartered in Sarasota, has released its latest eBook, “Making Private-Sector Partnerships Work for Your Nonprofit,’’ following a successful preview at the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Planet Philanthropy' conference in June. 

The digital publication is available at no cost to communications, fundraising and development executives.

"Private sector partnerships are so vital, particularly to small- and medium-sized nonprofits, because they enable those nonprofits to magnify their reach and advance their mission,’’ says Steve Smith, CCM Creative Director and Publisher. “They help make the [nonprofit's] mission more understandable to more people and help them reach out to additional private-sector partners, donors and patrons.”

Smith notes that modern corporate culture emphasizes the value of social responsibility, and that companies engaged in cross-sector partnerships gain a competitive advantage with consumers, employees and investors. 

"Companies have made a transition from thinking 'We'll write a big check once a year' to really having social responsibility in their DNA. Now they want more of an intimate relationship with the nonprofit,’’ Smith says. “We're seeing corporations say, 'Let's look for ways our employees can participate’.” 

CCM's eBook cites Nielsen's 2014 Corporate Social Responsibility survey, stating that 55 percent of global respondents said they would be willing to pay more for goods and services from companies committed to social and environmental giving -- up from 45 percent in 2011. The eBook also cites a 2011 Deloitte Volunteer Impact study that found that 61 percent of Millennials consider a company's commitment to the community when making a job decision.

"There's a tremendous amount of value to the nonprofit because then if the relationship is being managed well, every one of those employees becomes an ambassador for that nonprofit," Smith says.

Chapters in Making Private-Sector Partnerships Work for Your Nonprofit include: Corporate Social Responsibility Today, Benefits of the Cross-Sector Partnership, Is Your Organization Ready for Sponsorships?, What Makes a Good Relationship? and How to Pitch to Private-Sector Partners.

Smith created the eBook with assistance from the CCM team, as well as editorial contributions from several nonprofit professionals. Contributors include Veronica Brady, Senior VP for Philanthropy at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Tom Waters, President and CEO of Easter Seals Southwest Florida and Martha Wells, Director of Community Engagement at the South Florida Museum.

“Making Private-Sector Partnerships Work for Your Nonprofit'' can be ordered by visiting the Consonant Custom Media's website.

For Good: Clearwater store donates shoes to those in need

Clearwater shoe retailer helps homeless women in need of shoes.

Peltz Shoes located in Clearwater, recently teamed up with the nonprofit Homeless Empowerment Program (HEP), and donated 200 pairs of shoes to be distributed to women's shelters and homeless shelters around the country.

“We chose to partner with the Homeless Empowerment Program because they have a diverse group of homeless individuals they serve,” says Dionna Thigpen, of Petlz Shoes.

HEP, which is also located in Clearwater, has been around since 1986. Their mission is to provide homeless and low-income individuals and families, with housing, food, clothing and other support services necessary to obtain self-sufficiency and an improved quality of life.

Peltz donated Naot shoes known for their fashion and comfort. The shoes have a unique anatomical footbed, which aligns with the contours of the foot.

Thigpen says this is the first year of the partnership between Peltz and HEP, however, they plan to do the event again.

“We honor our company's core value of caring for the community,” she says. “I think it's important to give those less fortunate an opportunity to be offered a quality shoe such as Naot. We also have a core value of caring for our vendors and this is a good way of showing partnership with Naot.”

While the donation event has ended, there is still time to help. If you would like to get involved, and donate to HEP, visit their website for more information.  

For Good: Grant pays for dentures for Pinellas needy

St. Petersburg residents have something to smile about after a sizeable grant was given to the St. Petersburg Free Clinic.
 
Florida Blue Foundation, which is part of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, has agreed to finance the ‘Smile, St. Pete,’ program, which will provide dentures, partial dentures and dental flippers to 300 people.
 
With an estimated cost of $200,000, the grant will provide dentures to low-income, uninsured and underserved adults in Pinellas County. The St. Petersburg Free Clinic provided oral health screenings and treatment to over 620 adults last year.
 
“We've seen a need in the community since we started the dental program in 2011, to expand and offer more services including dentures and flippers,” says Beth Houghton, Executive Director of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic.  “Due to the number of extractions that are done with some of the people we serve, in order to chew well, eat and smile again dentures and partials are the only way to go.”
 
The grant offers funding over a three-year period. Houghton and her team say that the dental work can be life changing.
 
“Some of the people in our dental program have never been to a dentist before, so there were a lot of extractions that needed to be done,” says Susan Easter, Director of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic Health Center. “We had a patient who worked in the catering industry and lost his insurance and most of his income during the recession, he had 14 extractions. Working in the catering business, he needed the self-esteem that the dentures and smile gave him, rather than being embarrassed about his teeth.”
 
Houghton and Easter say there are many more people in need of help, and will continue to need help after the three year grant is over. In addition, while the grant is very helpful, it does not cover all of the other dental costs including x-rays, dental cleanings and fillings. If you would like make a donation to the clinic, click here.

For Good: Public-private partnership provides housing for former foster care youth

Teens who reach 18 and “age out” of the foster care system often have to confront reality quickly when they find themselves homeless.

Now thanks to a new partnership with Pinellas County, the Pinellas County Housing Authority and Ready for Life, the young men can find a safe, stable and affordable place to call home while they find employment and gain greater independence.

A three-bedroom, two-bath home in unincorporated Pinellas County, dubbed RFL (Ready for Life) Hope Home, can house five former foster youth at a time, along with one adult team leader.

“The home was donated to us by Pinellas County,” says Debbie Johnson, executive director of the Pinellas County Housing Authority. “It had been used as an office at one time, but had been vacant for a while. We had been in the process of determining the best use for it and decided to partner with Ready for Life.”

Although this home has been set aside for young men, the hope is that additional homes for young women and young single mothers will be found in the future.

Ready for Life, a nonprofit organization providing support to former foster youth, will be renting the home from the housing authority. Grants and independent donations, along with a portion contributed by the youth once they find employment, will go toward the rent, says Kathy Mize Plummer, CEO of Ready for Life.

The Pinellas County Housing Authority rehabbed the house, installing new flooring, duct work and air conditioning, a sprinkler system and lawn. Team Hope, a group of volunteers who support Ready for Life programs, provided all the home’s furnishings, including rugs, curtains, comforters for the bed, kitchen utensils and artwork on the walls. Other volunteers who serve as mentors to the youth stocked the refrigerator and pantry.  

“So many of these young men have lived in 25 to 30 foster homes,” says Johnson.  “They have no sense of belonging. Now at least Hope Home gives them a place to come home to and one less thing to worry about while they work on becoming self-sufficient.”

For Good: Family-friendly event brings awareness to needs of Third World countries

A child-centric event in Tampa focuses on helping less fortunate children around the world.

The second-annual Kids Helping Kids event has plenty of activities for children and families, but with a larger purpose. Sponsored by Village Partners International, a nonprofit group that completes medical mission trips to Haiti and Africa, as well as local outreach to Beth-El Farmwork Ministry in Wimauma, the focus is on giving back.

“Our mission is to help people help themselves,” says Surgeon and Philanthropist Sylvia Campbell, Founder of Village Partners International. “At the same time, we want to educate children of the community on people in Third World countries. We feel it is important that the younger generation understand the needs of children in other places.”

To execute their mission, Campbell explains that this year's event will feature fun activity stations that represent different countries around the world.

“We will have a station where children can learn to roll necklaces, balance water jugs, put medical bags together, in addition to face painting, hula hoops, rock painting and many more fun activities,” she says.

The event will take place on July 16th from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Water Works Park, 1710 N Highland Ave., on the Tampa Riverwalk near downtown Tampa. Admission is free, however, donations are encouraged.

“We are in need of children's vitamins, not the gummy candy variety, as younger children tend to eat these in excess,” Campbell says. “We are also in need of closed-toed shoes for children who work in the fields, all sizes welcome.”

For more information and details on the Kids Helping Kids event on July 16, click here.  

Major grant to help Tarpon Springs program create solutions to adverse childhood experiences

Robin Saegner wants the world to be a better and safer place. Because she’s just one person, she’s concentrating on bringing this dream to reality in her own backyard in Tarpon Springs.

In 2010, she founded the Peace4Tarpon Informed Community Initiative with the ambitious mission of creating a more peaceful and thriving Tarpon Springs. Saegner envisions a community where all residents are safe healthy, educated, respected and valued.

What makes this initiative unique is that it uses a whole community, holistic approach to solving challenging issues by seeking to understand and address root causes, instead of symptoms. Saegner’s vision just got a big endorsement – and financial boost.

Peace4Tarpon was selected as one of 14 programs in the United States – and the only one in Florida – to get a grant to support and expand its innovative work to address childhood adversity. It will receive nearly $300,000 over a two-year period from the Health Federation of Philadelphia with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The California Endowment.

With this grant, Peace4Tarpon joins the other 13 programs in a collaborative project called Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC). They will share best practices, try new approaches and become models for other communities in implementing effective solutions for combatting adverse childhood experiences, known as ACEs.

“The MARC project will give us a fantastic opportunity to take our work of building a peaceful, healthy and resilient community to the next level,” says Saegner, former Vice Mayor of Tarpon Springs. “Our goal is to reduce the number of ACEs and build resiliency, which will greatly increase their chances of leading happier, healthier and more successful lives.”

Some of the areas she and other project directors will target are child neglect, abuse and abandonment, and how to come up with solutions to prevent them. Studies have shown that these traumatic events can have lifelong impacts on children’s health and behavior, and affect the communities they live in.

Saegner says she sees this as the “public health issue of our time.”

“We see how unaddressed trauma plays out every day from the most personal level to national news. It is at the root of both physical and emotional challenges,” she says. “The current epidemic of trauma can be slowed and eventually reversed if we address it through a unified purpose and response. This is what fuels my commitment to this cause.”

Tarpon4Peace and the other programs selected to be part of the MARC initiative got a strong endorsement for the work they are doing by a spokesperson for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

Martha B. Davis called them “living laboratories that can teach all of us” what it takes to transform cycles of trauma into a culture of health.

“Anyone who is interested in strengthening the resilience of their community should pay attention to what these communities are doing,” Davis says.

Other recipients include: Alaska Resilience Initiative; The HEARTS Initiative for ACE Response in Albany, N.Y.; Vital Village Community Engagement Network in Boston; Buncombe County (North Carolina) ACEs Collaborative; Creating Sanctuary in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon; Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative; Trauma Matters in Kansas City, Mo.; Elevate Montana; Philadelphia ACE Task Force; San Diego Trauma Informed Guide Team & Building Health Communities Central Region; Sonoma County (California) Connection; ACEs/Resilience Team & Children’s Resilience Initiative in Washington; and Wisconsin Collective Impact Coalition. 

For Good: Investment comes at right time to help foster youth transition to independent living

A Pinellas County-based nonprofit that helps foster youth transition to adulthood by connecting them to social services, mentors and public programs is the second recipient of funding from Social Ventures Partners Tampa Bay.

Ready for Life, a grassroots organization now in its seventh year, got $15,000 in unrestricted funding to invest in its efforts in addressing homelessness – an issue given high priority by SVP Tampa Bay partners in 2015.

Of the 44 applicants, three programs made the final cut. The other two were Alpha House of Tampa and Positive Spin.

“We had many excellent candidates,” says Rebekah Heppner, Founder and Executive Director. “And all three of the finalists have missions that meet our focal point. But Ready for Life was at the right time in its growth where we felt we could make the biggest impact.”

SVP Tampa Bay, launched in January 2014, is the first Florida affiliate of the global Social Venture Partners network, a philanthropic model based on venture capitalism with social returns as the goal. 

Nearly 40 cities in eight countries are part of the network.

The funding is just one component of being selected as a SVP investee.

The recipients also get free professional consulting from the SVP partners, who donate at least $5,000 and a diverse array of pro-bono expertise in helping the organizations grow and prosper. Tampa Bay now has 27 partners backing the initiative.  

“The money is huge and the partnership is even bigger,” says Scott Clendening, board member of Ready for Life. “Our organization is growing and the number of people we serve is growing. The assistance and leadership they will be able to provide us will be invaluable.”

Ready for Life depends solely on private funding. This year’s budget is about $250,000 -- up from $75,000 when it first began.

Clendening, who works in commercial real estate, has been with the group since the beginning. He wanted to do something worthwhile in the community, and Ready for Life’s mission fit that bill.

Some 25 percent of youth aging out of foster care experience homelessness during the first year of being on their own. Less than half of them have a high-school diploma, and 42 percent of the young women that age are pregnant or already parenting a child. Through Ready for Life, they can receive parenting support and assistance in earning a GED.

Hundreds of volunteers and a small staff step in with assistance in several areas, from providing bus passes, help in finding an apartment, tutoring and advice on how to dress for a job interview. Clendening says the group is helping nearly 500 clients “in some form or fashion.”

“We’ve become their extended family,” he says. “So many of these young adults fall through the cracks and are lost in the system. We’re there as their connectors, as their advocates. The success stories will really touch your heart. And our community is better off when they become self-sufficient.”

His greatest joy?

“As a father of three girls, I live on a chick farm,” Clendening says. “Now I’m mentoring four young men. 
They’re so cool and wonderful. It’s a new experience for me and I love it.”

Community Tampa Bay, whose mission is to promote dialogue and respect among all cultures, religion and races by cultivating leaders to change communities, got the first SVP investment of $25,000 last year. The partners gave the group another $20,000 this time around.

For Good: Seafood processing plant wins Gulf Coast Community Foundation incentive grant

A proposal to create a state-of-the-art seafood processing and distribution plant in Manatee County claimed the top prize on Monday in the inaugural Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge. The winning project “Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast: Sustainable Seafood System” was chosen from a pool of more than 30 proposals in the Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s first ever incentive-grant competition intended to stimulate Florida’s Blue Economy.

The Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast team is comprised of nonprofit and private partners, including the Sarasota-based natural and sustainable foods business Healthy Earth, scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory, the Cortez fishing community and the Chiles Group, a Sarasota-Manatee restaurant group that champions seafood sustainability. 

“What we have is a commodity-based model, but what we need is an asset value based model. We’re currently selling great, wild, organic healthy seafood as a commodity -- and we undervalue our heritage resource,” Chiles Group CEO Ed Chiles explained in a September interview with 83 Degrees.

Chiles says that Manatee County’s “heritage resource” -- gray-striped mullet -- currently leaves the region at approximately $10 per pound and is typically processed overseas before returning to the United States as a salted and cured delicacy known as bottarga, which retails at up to $200 per pound. 

“All the value-added steps are being captured elsewhere on our product,” Chiles says. “We need a state-of-the-art facility so that we can capture the hierarchy of value with that mullet here in Manatee County.”

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation awarded Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast a $25,000 grant to develop its business prototype when the team advanced to the Challenge finalist stage in July. Healthy-Earth Gulf Coast will now receive an additional $375,000 in grant funding to pursue its plans for a value-added processing plant in Manatee County, which the team proposes will create new economic opportunities and revitalize the region’s heritage fishing community.

In addition to the construction of a multifaceted processing facility, Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast seeks to achieve Marine Stewardship Council certification to strengthen a sustainable local Blue Economy centered on mullet, and eventually other locally sourced seafood.

“The problem with aquaculture in the U.S. is that we are grossly behind the rest of the world. The total world aquaculture market in 2014 was $147 billion, and the U.S. accounted for only 1.4 percent of that. We have an $11 billion trade deficit in seafood,” says Healthy Earth CEO Chris Cogan.

“The only aquaculture that exists in the U.S. are ‘Mom and Pop’ farms. They can grow it just fine, but the problem is they can’t do anything with it. Without the proper facilities, they can’t process it and prepare it in such a way that places like Publix or Whole Foods are willing to buy it wholesale. … Everything we do, we want to do sustainably -- whether that’s farm-raising fish, or making a more sustainable market for wild-caught fish, as is the case with grey striped mullet,” Cogan says.

The winning team was chosen by a panel of local business, investment and technology experts who reviewed the five finalists’ proposals and advised the Gulf Coast Community Foundation Board of Directors in the final decision.

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation launched the $500,000 incentive-grant challenge in February. Of the more than 30 teams that applied to the competition, five were awarded $25,000 apiece in July to create their prototypes. All of the original challengers’ submissions, including short videos of their proposals, remain available online at the GCCF website.

For Good: Humana seeks nonprofits for wellness grant

Tampa Bay nonprofits that promote wellness may be eligible for a grant being awarded by the Humana Foundation, which is currently seeking applications from organizations for their yearly grant.
 
“We are looking for organizations that promote healthy behaviors, health education and access to health services in the community,” says Dr. Theo Sai, Humana regional medical director for central Florida. “It is part of Humana’s larger commitment to improve health in the community by 20 percent by the year 2020.”
 
Beginning December 1st, local nonprofits can submit a letter of intent outlining their organization’s proposed initiative. Upon evaluation, those selected will be invited to submit an online application, with a winner being announced March 2016.  
 
Last year, Tampa Palms-based charity, Starting Right Now, was the recipient of the Humana Communities Benefit Grant, receiving $350,000. Starting Right Now (SRN) helps homeless teenagers with resources including housing, mentoring, employment and education. The money was used to expand the nonprofit’s Hillsborough housing, making rooms for 24 more youth, and is restoring a school in Pinellas County that will be used to house an additional 50 teens.
 
Giving back to the community is a priority for the large health insurance company.
 
“Humana encourages all people, including our own employees, to volunteer and contribute to their communities,” Sai says. “When people give and volunteer, it leads to a better community overall.”
 
For additional information on the Humana Foundation or how to apply for the grant, visit the Humana Foundation's website.

For Good: Scavenger hunt to benefit St. Pete animal shelter on Nov. 14

A local nonprofit animal shelter is hoping to raise some funds through a scavenger hunt that will take place in downtown St. Petersburg on November 14.

The Quest for the Emerald Paw will start at 11 a.m. at the Friends of Strays Animal Shelter, 2911 47th Ave. N. Teams will wind through downtown St. Pete toward Grand Central, stopping at stores, murals, statues and other destinations to collect clues along the way. The quest will end in DTSP, with an awards ceremony at 4 p.m. and a victory party to follow.

Mo Eppley, president of the Board of Directors for Friends of Strays, anticipates around 50 teams participating in the event. The cost to enter: $100 per teams of four.

Team names will be selected from the names of animals currently available for adoption at the shelter. Each team member will receive a T-shirt to wear during the quest, and a drink ticket for the celebration party.

The "emerald paw" prize is actually a 3D printed Emerald Paw trophy from FreeFab 3D, LLC, one of the event's sponsors, says Eppley, owner of St. Pete-based MityMo Design and co-founder of FreeFab

Local Tampa Bay social media personality and reporter Meredyth Censullo will be the MC for the victory party after the scavenger hunt, Eppley says. The location is TBA. 
 
The Quest for the Emerald Paw "is really for anyone," Eppley says. "This is a great way for someone who supports animals causes, but doesn’t want to go to the shelter."

By making the event something distinctive from a "typical fundraiser," Epply says, "we really hope this brings awareness to our organization. This makes it fun and helps the animals!"  

Interested in participating in the Quest for the Emerald Paw scavenger hunt? The deadline to sign up is November 11; register online here.

Volunteers are wanted; to sign up, email the organizing team here.

Friends of Strays performs vaccinations and checkups, and cares for cats and dogs until they are adopted. The nonprofit organization, located in St. Pete, works to care for and adopt out homeless pets from the animal shelter, which can house up to 100 cats and dogs at a given time.

For Good: Going to the mat for 1Voice Foundation

More than 20 million Americans do it.

And it’s a number that is on the upswing. According to the Yoga Journal, this Eastern practice that bends the muscles, soothes the soul and reduces stress gains more participants every year.

So when Mary Ann Massolio, executive director of the Tampa-based 1Voice Foundation, decided to add another event to raise funds for pediatric cancer research, she turned to yoga.

“It’s the perfect fit,” says Massolio. “We’re a family-centered nonprofit, and yoga is for all ages. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.”

On Sunday, Oct. 19, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the first-ever It’s Just Yoga Health and Fitness Festival comes to Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, 601 Old Water St., on the Tampa Riverwalk near the Tampa Bay History Center. It’s yogi heaven, with classes for beginners to experts, and an interactive wellness marketplace to sample and explore new fitness trends, eco-friendly products and healthy food.

Six local yoga studios will be donating their expertise for free, offering sessions on the mat geared toward weight loss, stress reduction, children, roga (yoga for runners) and restorative yoga. And for a creative spin, there are demonstrations of Acro Yoga, Paddleboard Yoga and Aerial Yoga.

There’s no cost for the festival. Instead, all classes are donation-based, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to 1Voice Foundation. Donations can be made in advance at www.ItsJustYogaFest.com or on the day of the festival. A $20 donation (limited to the first 100 people) will include a chocolate, cheese and wine tasting after the festival at Whole Foods,1548 N. Dale Mabry, Tampa.

Massolio founded the nonprofit after her son, Jay, died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma at age 9. Its mission is to support children with cancer and their families by connecting them with financial, emotional and educational care while funding research for a cure.

Currently, the group is helping fund research conducted by Dr. Cameron Tebbi at University of South Florida to create a vaccine that would prevent childhood leukemia – a project he’s been working on for nearly 40 years.

And in January, 1Voice Foundation, in collaboration with Hillsborough County Schools, will open the country’s first satellite school dedicated to children with cancer.

“It was Jay’s dream to be able to attend school. But when kids are going through treatment, their immune systems are compromised,” says Massolio. “The academy will be in a sterile environment, giving them a safe place to learn.”

1Voice hosts several fundraisers through the year, such as a fishing contest, lunch on a cruise ship, a wine-tasting event and a golf tournament with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Massolio got enthused about adding the yoga festival after meeting with event coordinator Colette Ferrell, who organized a similar yogafest in Orlando that drew about 2,000 people.

Given the practice’s popularity, Ferrell is confident Sunday’s festival will draw a big crowd. 

“Whether you’re new to the mat or you’re an experienced yogi, we’ve got something for everyone,” she says. “You got to feel good about this event. It’s all about healthy living, and it’s for a good local cause. It’s a win-win for all.”

For Good: Play Day in the Park teaches Tampa Bay Area kids about philanthropy

Sylvia Campbell believes it’s never too early to begin teaching children about their role in the local and global community.

“Allow them in their own way to help others,” say the Tampa surgeon, “and you develop a culture of love and compassion for others in need, as well as an awareness of a world outside the one you inhabit.”

That’s the premise behind Play Day in the Park, set for 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Kate Jackson Park, 821 S. Rome Ave., Tampa. Think of it as crash course in philanthropy for pint-sized participants.

The interactive event is sponsored by Village Partners International,  the nonprofit Campbell founded and serves as President of the board. The mission organization partners with villages in Haiti and Uganda to create independent, self-sustaining projects, and locally works with Beth-El Farmworker Ministry in Wimauma. Its focus: Health, education, housing and entrepreneurship.

For Campbell, working with VPI has allowed her to be part of a “community of giving in the most amazing way.”

“It’s restored my faith not only in myself, but in humanity,” she says. “People truly do want to help, if only they knew the way.”

This first-ever interactive Play in the Park is designed to show children that they don’t have to wait until they grow up to get involved, and to celebrate the cultures of Haiti and Uganda.

The event will include activities, crafts, games, snacks, music and face-painting. Though admission is free, donations will be accepted at some of the displays to go toward VPI’s work. Also, children are encouraged to bring their favorite Band-Aids or vitamins to give to one of the medical clinics run by the nonprofit.

Campbell acknowledges that it’s not an easy task to teach kids from comfortable homes about poverty – especially the kind of poverty that VPI volunteers experience on their mission trips. Parents can play a big role in teaching their children how their seemingly small, insignificant actions, such as bringing vitamins, collecting pennies or sending cards, can be significant when added together and “truly change the world.”

“Children in this community have been given so much,” she says. “It’s part of our responsibility about adults to instill in them the desire to help others, and to understand that with privilege, comes responsibility to others.”

To learn more about the event, go to Facebook and search: “Kids Helping Kids! Presented by Village Partners International.”

For Good: Growing Jesuit High School in Tampa gets $35M in donations to renovate, expand

Generous graduates and community donors open their wallets for Jesuit High School, giving more than $35 million dollars, which will go toward the school’s fundraising campaign and campus remodel.
 
The historic school on Himes Avenue has been a fixture in the community since it was built in 1956. Since then, while there have been improvements and upgrades over the years, the school set out on a fundraising campaign to update the 40-acre campus, adding four new buildings and renovating others.
 
“The refurbishment of the campus will begin with a full renovation of the chapel, which is the heart of the school,” says Pete Young of Jesuit High School. “The students gather every morning for Convocation, and we are maxed out on the number of students we can fit in the sanctuary, there is just no room for growth, so we need a larger chapel so we can accommodate more students.”
 
Young goes on to say that St. Anthony’s Chapel, where Convocation and Mass is held, does not have any kneelers so students have to kneel on the floor. In the renovation, kneelers will be put into the chapel.
 
The fundraising campaign and campus remodel plans were made public at an event held at the Renaissance Hotel in Tampa, where Jesuit High School president and Father Richard C. Hermes announced that $27.5 million had been raised. At the same event, it was also announced that a $2.5 million gift was given by Marty and Ted Couch. Ted Couch, an alumni and commercial real estate developer, was president of the former Northside Bank of Tampa. He was also one of the founders and a former board chairman of Moffitt Cancer Center and former chair of Florida Hospital in Tampa. Couch’s gift is the largest single gift ever received by the school.
 
While there are many plans for physical transformation of the campus, funds from the campaign will go to other worthy causes within the school.
 
“It’s not all about the physical campus,” Young says. “We have a longstanding commitment to provide financial aid to students in need of assistance, so a good portion of the money will go toward our financial aid endowment program. We never want to hold a student back from getting an education with us due to financial reasons.”
 
Young goes on to say that funds will also go toward staff retention and extracurricular activities.
 
“We are committed to educating as many boys as possible, and forming young men in the Tampa Bay area,” Young says. “In our tagline is the Latin word 'magis,' which roughly translated means more, or striving for more. It is something we instill in our students to always be striving for more, to be better. So for the leaders of the school to be doing what they can and strive to make the school the best it can be in every way really shows students we practice what we preach.”

For Good: Saint Leo University president gives up inauguration celebration for student scholarships

When Saint Leo University president Dr. William J. Lennox Jr. took over the reins of the school earlier this year, he was asked what kind of celebration he wanted as part of his inauguration. With several options from which to choose, including galas, private dinners or weeklong affairs, the president chose an unanticipated option. He chose not to celebrate at all.

“When I had the conversation with him about his inauguration celebration, he had a lot of questions,” says Denny Moller, VP for university advancement at Saint Leo University. “One of his biggest concerns was the cost of the celebration. He finally just said he would rather see that money go back to the students.”

Instead of a presidential inauguration, university leaders decided to award $2,500 scholarships to 20 deserving students. The scholarships will be divided among students at the university campus, those who take courses online exclusively and graduate students.

“These are one-time scholarships funded by a donor to the university,” Moller says. “We are expecting to get hundreds of submissions.”

Moller says that students have to submit applications by October 30th to be eligible, and will receive funding for the spring semester. He also says funds will be given to those who are expected to graduate next year.

“These scholarships are to help those who are close to graduating,” he says. “We will only be looking at applicants who are scheduled to graduate in the spring.”

The application process includes submitting an application online and writing an essay that illustrates the student’s financial need.

“It is our hope that the president’s gesture sends a positive message, not only to our students,  but to the rest of the education community and leadership, that it should always be about the students.”  

For Good: Beverage association offers grant money to nonprofits

In an effort to promote health and wellness in the community, the Florida Beverage Association (FBA) is launching a grant program that will help fund nonprofits that encourage nutrition, physical activity, health and wellness, as well as environmental sustainability programs.
 
The FBA is made up of several beverage companies including Dr. Pepper, Snapple, Coca-Cola, Pepsi Co. and Nestle Water. 
 
“We want people to know that we care about the communities we serve, and where our employees live, work and play and ensure they are healthy and environmentally sustainable,” says Liz Castro-DeWitt, executive director of the Florida Beverage Association.
 
To be considered for the grant, nonprofits must be a 501(c)(3) charitable organization or a state or local governmental entity and meet the requirements the FBA has listed on their website.
 
Castro-DeWitt says FBA grants may also be eligible for consideration for matching grants from the American Foundation for a Healthy America.
 
As far as who should apply, Castro-DeWitt says accredited nonprofits that meet the requirements are welcome.
 
“We are looking for people with innovative ideas from how an individual or group introduced recycling to their community, to fitness camps in community parks to something we have never even thought of or heard of before,” she says. “This is the first year we are doing the grant program, so we are very excited about it, and excited to see what people come up with.”
 
Grant applications need to be submitted by October 15, 2015. All applications will be reviewed by the FBA grant subcommittee. Grant recipients will be selected and notified by the FBA Board of Directors by December 31, 2015. To learn more about how to apply, or to get an application visit the FBA website.

For Good: Temple Terrrace nonprofit offers innovative after-school mentoring program

While many parents are investing in school supplies and preparing to send their children back to school for another year, remember the students who are underserved and often overlooked, says Tia Dixon, President and CEO of Posimoto, a nonprofit organization that helps at-risk youth through an after-school mentoring program.

Dixon, was one of the lucky ones at first, being able to attend after-school programs that enriched her life. Then in high school, family difficulties left Dixon feeling uncertain about her own future. Around that time, a complete stranger came into Dixon’s life and helped her turn it around by taking her under her wing and showing Dixon that she had a bright future.

“I wanted to give back, and that is how Posimoto got started in 2012,” says Dixon. “I really wanted to show kids that they can succeed no matter what is going on in their life at the time, and to not let what is going on in their life get in the way of that success.”

So where does the name Posimoto come from? Dixon says it is a pronoun she came up with to name someone who gives positive motivation to help others be successful in life.

Dixon goes on to explain that Posimoto is not your typical after-school program in which children play all afternoon.

“We have a curriculum that we follow, and every week we have a core value that we focus on,” she says. “We also have trade and career mentors that come throughout the week and work with the kids, a reading program and a sports mentoring program every Saturday.”

The program’s location in Temple Terrace was strategically chosen given the population and surrounding schools.

“Sulpher Springs, which is nearby, the park and surrounding areas we are in are disadvantaged areas,” Dixon says. “The schools in this area are average ‘C’s, and if you look closer into the ratings you will find that the students here are really struggling with reading scores, which is why we offer the reading program.”

Since opening its doors in 2012, Dixon and her team have served 250 children. She expects nearly 60 students to be involved in the program this school year, which is nearly double the number she had last year.

While the after-school program is not free, it is quite reasonable compared to most after-school programs, and some families can get assistance through government funding. Dixon says the Saturday sports program is free, and all children between the ages of five and 12 years old are welcome regardless of whether they attend the after-school program.

With Dixon’s program expanding, donations from the community are needed. Last year it cost $50,000 to run the nonprofit and chances are those costs will increase.

“Our biggest need right now is another van,” Dixon says. “We only have one van right now, however with more students coming in, we need another van to pick them up from school or home and bring them here. We don’t want kids being left out because they didn’t have transportation.”

For those interested in donating to Posimoto, there is a wish list on their website.

For Good: Social Venture Partners selects finalists for charitable investment

Social Venture Partners (SVP) Tampa Chapter, which helps individuals and nonprofits looking to give back to the community, is in the process of selecting which charity they will fund.

After a speaker series earlier this year and discussions among its members, the SVP decided to focus on one specific issue.

“The five finalists we have chosen fit into the focus areas that we had set, which is homelessness and foster care,” says Rebekah Heppner, Executive Director and Founding Partner of SVP. “In particular, these groups were doing things that were more preventative so that less people are in the foster care system or end up homeless.”

The five finalists selected are Adoption Related Services of Pinellas, Alpha House of Tampa, Bright Community Trust, Positive Spin and Ready for Life.

Heppner says the final application and selection process requires that finalists submit additional information, SVP members conduct site visits in September. On November 12th, remaining finalists and ultimately funding recipients will be announced.

She goes on to say that there has been a heavy interest from those wanting to invest and become a part of SVP. The deadline to become a member and become part of this year's effort is October 31st.

What is SVP’s goal in all this? To help these charities by combining financial and human capital to strengthen their infrastructure in order to fulfill their missions.

“Ultimately we are looking for groups that are at the right point in the development where our partners can really make a difference,” Heppner says. “This means they already have a good business foundation that works, and have ideas that they have shared in their application where we can help them even more.”

For more information, visit the Social Venture Partners website.

For Good: Safety Harbor merchants offer loyalty card discounts, donate to local nonprofits

The businesses of Safety Harbor have found an innovative way to give back to the community through a fundraising challenge. The Safety Harbor Downtown Business Alliance, Inc. (SHDBA) has launched a campaign to raise money for charities using a loyalty card.
 
“The campaign was designed to encourage excitement in the philanthropic community about supporting charities while saving money for their families at small businesses in Safety Harbor for a year,” says Karena Morrison, SHDBA charity challenge manager. “We began with 18 merchants and have added 9 more since the launch of the promotion of the challenge on May 1st. We are inviting more merchants in Safety Harbor to join our efforts.”  

The loyalty card can be purchased online via the SHDBA website, and buyers can then use the card to save at participating merchants.
 
Merchants include Live Fit Academy, Paradise Restaurant, Boutique 238, Practically Pikasso, Brady’s BBQ, Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club, Safety Harbor Chevron and Cold Stone Creamery.
 
In addition to the savings loyalty card members receive, they will also be doing some good.
 
“The merchants who were participating in the loyalty card program as of May 1st are also competing for votes, and the top three merchants will be offered the opportunity to select and donate a bonus to one of the approved charities in the challenge,” Morrison says. “100-percent of the proceeds from the loyalty card sales will be donated to approved charities and the SHDBA, Inc.”
 
Approved charities include My Hope Chest, Stop Bullying Now Foundation, Florida Autism Center of Excellence, RCS Food Bank, Suncoast Animal League, Paul B. Stephens Exceptional Student Education Center and the Safety Harbor Museum & Cultural Center.
 
For more information, or to purchase a loyalty card, visit the SHDBA website.

For Good: Clearwater art events help local causes

Art lovers in Clearwater can enjoy their craft, buy pieces and give back to the community, as the city of Clearwater hosts its new Arts in the Park event. The event takes place July 18th from 10 a.m. To 3 p.m.

“Arts in the Park is a new event. When I arrived seven years ago, I started working with the city on putting events downtown,” says Shelley Jaffe, president of the Clearwater Center for the Arts “My husband and I started to produce a poetry walk, which we had about 100 people coming to, and we did a book and wine festival, but the one thing we noticed is that we put on these great art events, but people didn't have anything to come back to until we put on another event.”

That is when Jaffe decided to open the Clearwater Center for the Arts.

“Although we do have gallery space and put on events, we also offer classes and seminars for the public.”

Jaffe says coming in the fall, the center will host monthly events for local charities to raise awareness to causes from human trafficking to breast cancer, poverty and hunger.

“What we do is ask artists to submit work that is relevant to the subject. So if it's about homelessness, then the artwork should have something to do with the subject of being homeless. Or if its about human rights, then it should communicate something about human rights. Then we put on a show and the artwork is displayed, we have a speaker from the organization speak on the topic. The art will be sold either by silent auction or by price tag.”

With any artwork sold, Jaffe says 50-percent goes to the artist and 50-percent goes to the center, a nonprofit itself. All of the proceeds from the silent auction go to the charity being spotlighted that particular month.

Soon after the opening of the center, the city suggested to Jaffe that she host a monthly outdoor event in the park across the street, soon Arts in the Park was born. The event runs year-round, and is the third Saturday of each month.

The Arts in the Park event is planning to take place July 18th outside at Station Square park located at 612 Cleveland Street in Clearwater. Should there be inclement weather, the event will still go across the street inside the Clearwater Center for the Arts.

For information on charity event nights coming this fall, visit the center's website.

For Good: Electrical contractor takes on distracted driving with national campaign

Each time you text while driving, your eyes stray from the road for around five seconds – enough time for an accident to occur. According to the National Safety Council, one in four car crashes involves cell phone use. 

At any given moment, more than 660,000 people across the United States are using cell phones or other electronic devices. Texting and driving can be especially dangerous for teens on the road.

One local company is taking a proactive approach to reducing distracted driving through a new safe driving campaign. St. Petersburg-based electrical contractor Power Design, Inc, launched “Decide to Drive” to encourage employees and fellow community members to practice safe driving.

“Join me in making the one decision not to text while driving, the one decision not to email while driving, and the one decision not to drink and drive,” Power Design CEO Mitch Permuy explains in a news release.

The “Decide to Drive” campaign is centered on the Power of One pledge, or the notion that one safe driver can save lives.

“Power of One is about how the decisions we make every day impact us as individuals, impact our families, our friends and the communities we belong to,” Permuy says.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman praises the local business for “doing their part to create a safer St. Petersburg.”

"As mayor, my first and most important job is public safety,” Kriseman says. “Too many people across our nation have lost their lives in the brief moment they or another driver used a cell phone or electronic device.

Kriseman called for drivers in St. Pete and across the country to “work together and help save lives.”

Power Design has partnered with EndDD, a website dedicated to safer driving, to promote the “Decide to Drive” campaign.

“We are always grateful to spread the message at workplaces, and we anticipate that employees will bring the safe driving message to their families and to those they care about,” website creator Joel Feldman explains in a news release. 

Other efforts to promote the “Decide to Drive” campaign will include establishing a Power Design corporate transportation program, supporting People Against Distracted Driving, providing information on safe driving apps to employees, and informing the community about the campaign through social media.

To view the Power of One pledge and learn more, visit the “Decide to Drive” campaign website

For Good: Walmart Foundation gives $100K to Pinellas charity

The Walmart Foundation gave $100,000 in June to Religious Community Services in Pinellas County as part of its $1 million Statewide Giving Tour. The grant was the only one given in the Tampa Bay area by the foundation, and the single largest one among 21 state recipients for 2015.

“We’re so appreciative of this,” says Caitlin Higgins Joy, RCS president and CEO. “It comes at a crucial time. We focus on the hungry, and summer can be an additional burden especially on families.”

Joy says the grant money will fund two “gently used” refrigerated food trucks that are needed for the nonprofit’s food distribution efforts through Pinellas County. They will replace aging vehicles in the current fleet.

“This is a vital part of our operation,” she says. “But it’s a costly investment. The grant gives us peace of mind that we will be able to upgrade our ability to deliver food.”

The RCS, founded in 1967 by 15 congregations, runs four programs that serve people struggling with hunger, homelessness and domestic violence. 

To meet its mission to help the hungry, the nonprofit delivers donated and federally subsidized food to more than 60 sites from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs five days a week. It also serves upwards of 5,500 people a month at its food bank in a Clearwater warehouse. Most clients are elderly people on a fixed income, struggling families or the underemployed.

RCS provides emergency shelter for families on the brink of homelessness for up to eight weeks at its Grace House apartments, and gives shelter and outreach services to victims of domestic violence at The Haven. 

In addition, it also operates a thrift store in Largo. Every sale benefits RSC programs, and all donated items, from clothing to furniture, are tax-deductible.

The charity now has 160 member affiliates, representing all different faiths. It depends on a wide variety of funding, from federal, state and local grants, private foundations and individual donors.

In the last fiscal year, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have given more than $82 million in cash and in-kind contributions to charitable organizations throughout Florida.

Its State Giving Program aims to support organizations that create opportunities so people can live better. RCS met those requirements with its programs.

This is the first time the retailer has gone on a statewide tour to roll out the grants to recipients.

Other winners so far include:
  • The Boys & Girls Clubs of Lake & Sumter Counties, Inc., Leesburg ($50,000);
  • Catholic Charities of Central Florida Inc., Orlando ($75,000);
  • Coalition for the Homes of Central Florida, Orlando ($50,000);
  • Community Food Bank of Citrus County, Crystal River ($50,000);
  • Promise Inc., West Melbourne ($25,000);
  • The Society of Saint Andrew, Inc., Orlando ($30,000); and
  • We Care Food Pantry, Inc., Homosassa ($85,000). 
Charities can apply for a grant by filling out an online application through the foundation’s website. Applicants must have a current  501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in order to meet the program’s minimum funding criteria.

For Good: Private school for underprivileged to open in Tampa in 2016

Lower income, inner city youth in the Tampa Bay region will have another option for private education as Cristo Rey High School gets ready to open in 2016. The private school, whose model exists in several other cities around the country, will open its doors to students grades 9 through 12, in an effort to give them the best education possible.

“The Cristo Rey model offers a rigorous academic program,” says Jim Madden, feasibility study coordinator for Cristo Rey. “We also see a high graduation rate among our students, but more importantly seniors who graduate from the program have over a 97-percent college acceptance rate.”

In order to qualify for the program, Madden explains that students and their families must be at or below the federal poverty definition, and the student must be at least two years behind in school.

In addition to the scrupulous academic program, Cristo Rey also offers students an opportunity to get a taste of the job world.

“Five days a month the students will go out and work in a white-collar job at a number of companies in the area,” Madden says. “The money that gets earned by the student gets put towards their tuition.”

As for tuition, Cristo Rey is funded through fundraising campaigns and private donors. Richard Gonzmart, president and CEO of Columbia Restaurant Corporation, donated $10,000 back in April to help get the program started, and has pledged a total of $100,000 to the program.

“Cristo Rey requires that you fundraise or have pledges in the amount of $2.5 million dollars, plus whatever it costs to renovate the facility in order to get approval,” Madden says.

Just this past week, Cristo Rey Tampa received that approval.

A total of 27 corporate work partners have pledged jobs, including Columbia Restaurant Corporation. Madden says families are also expected to pay $500 a month in tuition in order to help fund their child’s education.

“I spent 36 years in the Pinellas County school system, and one of the things that is so important is to increase the graduation rate,” Madden says. “If you look at the graduation rate of certain demographics compared to those in Cristo Rey, you will see that the model works.”

Cristo Rey Tampa will open its doors August 2016, and will be located at the campus of Mary Help of Christians Center situated at 6400 East Chelsea Street in Tampa.

For more information, or to donate to the cause, visit the Cristo Rey website

For Good: Nonprofit teaches art to adults with disabilities

Imagine a place where adults with developmental disabilities can express themselves through the arts with no judgment while making money doing it. This innovative concept is a reality at Pyramid Inc., a Florida nonprofit organization that engages its students in a unique art program.

Pyramid Inc., which has five locations around the state including the one in Tampa, serves adults with severe disabilities including cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome and spina bifida.

“Pyramid in Tampa serves 150 students a day,” says Andrea Ames, Director of Pyramid Inc. “We don’t focus on their disabilities, we focus on their abilities.''

From singing and dancing to pottery and painting, the organization teaches the adult students a number of crafts that allow them to express themselves, and even make money.

“We do a lot of fundraising to support our program, including two major shows a year, which are performances where our students sing and dance, as well as an art show,” Ames says.  Students get paid for their performances, and any artwork that is sold, the student gets half of the proceeds.”

The next Pyramid show is July 26th at the University Community Area Center situated at 14013 N. 22nd St. in Tampa. The art show starts at 2 p.m. and curtain call is at 3 p.m. Admission is free, however, donations are welcome.

Another fundraiser for the organization is a monthly art walk.

“Every month we are a part of the Seminole Heights First Friday Gallery Walk, which runs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.,” Ames says. “It gives people an opportunity to see what our students are working on, and again whatever artwork sells, the student who made it gets half the proceeds.”

Pyramid serves adults with developmental disabilities who are at least 22-years-old, and Ames says most students get funding through the Medicaid waiver program, which is specific to people with developmental disabilities.

For those interested in helping this cause, Ames says there is plenty the community can do to help.

“We are always looking for volunteers, right now people who know about animation and digital art, as that is an area where we would like to expand the program. Also, donations of art and office supplies are needed. Donations are always welcome too. We have students who would just love to have a friend, so a volunteer who is willing to just help and be there would be great.”

For Good: Family Promise opens services center for homeless in Pinellas County

Homeless Pinellas County families with children now have another resource to help them achieve financial independence.

Family Promise of Pinellas County (FPPC) opened its Day Center in April, enrolling select families who seek employment, housing and social services.

“This Day Center is an example of what can happen when a community comes together for the greater good,” says Debbie Nash, FPPC director. 

Widespread collaboration has been invaluable in establishing the Family Promise branch in Pinellas, Nash says. With partners like Habitat for Humanity, which pledged to renovate the space, and private individuals , who are supplementing project supply costs, the common goal is to eradicate homelessness.

Twenty local faith-based congregations have committed to participate. By housing program families at various places of worship, Family Promise is able to allocate 85 percent of raised funds toward assisting children and their parents. The organization employs few individuals and relies heavily on volunteers.

The Day Center serves as “home base” for program families and is a place of intensive case management, a permanent address for participants and a bus stop for children. Participants in the program typically gain sustainable independence within 63 days. The Pinellas location at 6201 22nd Ave. N. in St. Petersburg is the 190th affiliate of Family Promise, a national organization with a 75 percent success rate in keeping families from returning to the streets. 

Children are a focal point of the program. While some shelters separate families based on age, Family Promise keeps the families together. Children are also encouraged to volunteer within the organization.

“Thanks to the collective generosity of professionals and members of the community of all ages, we will be able to give a ‘hand up’ instead of a ‘hand out’ here in Pinellas County,’” says Nash.

To learn more about Family Promise of Pinellas County, register for upcoming events or volunteer, visit the organization’s website

For Good: Paddleboard event brings awareness to pediatric cancer

The fifth annual local "Paddle Against Cancer'' event takes place on May 23rd, with a new focus this year on pediatric cancer awareness. Proceeds of the event will go to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa.

Deanna Turner got involved with the event in response to her son's disease. Their family's experience with cancer started with warts and legions around her son Dominic’s face and ears, which she initially tried to treat with over-the-counter remedies. Soon her son’s peers took notice and he was bullied for his appearance. The seemingly innocent warts and legions that popped up in 2010 would lead to a devastating prognosis in 2015: a rare blood-related form of advanced melanoma.  

"Over the years I was looking on the Internet trying to find something to help my son, but now I’m at the end of the road with no options,'' Turner says. "The more money we make with events like this, the more chances we have to get funding to give my son a normal life.''

While Turner says Moffitt has done everything they can do for her son, only 4 percent of funds for cancer research go toward pediatric funding, which is why this year's event will focus on pediatric cancer awareness.

Cancer Survivor Gene Evans, who founded the Paddle Against Cancer event, says he started the event because he wanted to give back to Moffitt Cancer Center after all they had done for him.

"We are so fortunate to have Moffitt Cancer Center in our own backyard,'' Evans says. "It's one of the top cancer centers in the country. It's such a benefit to have them so close, for those to be treated in the morning, and come back in the afternoon to recover on their own couch or bed, we cannot take it for granted.''

Evans says it is time to shed light on pediatric cancer. He personally knows several children battling cancer and wants to raise funds to help them.

"So far this event has raised over a $100,000,'' he says. "I look forward to seeing how much we can raise this year.''

The event on May 23rd will include a 3- and 7- mile paddleboard along Treasure Island followed by a party with bands from noon to 4 p.m. For more information visit the event website.  

For Good: Grassroots charity helps children in school

After years of watching children go to school in clothes that did not fit, shoes with holes in the soles and no sweaters on cold mornings, a group of women in Tampa decided they could help. A grassroots effort was started, and soon the Oasis Network was born, a charity that has been helping children since 2001.

Earlier this year, Oasis opened its fourth location, this one serving the rural Seffner community.

‘We partnered with the Hillsborough County school district, so all of our locations are at school district sites,’ says Ginger Bean, Executive Director for the Oasis Network. ‘We specifically partner with the school social workers who identify students in need. ‘

Once a child is identified, the social worker meets with the family, finds out what the needs are, writes down the sizes of the child, and then goes to "shop'' at one of the Oasis locations.

"We have everything laid out so that the social workers can quickly 'shop', even though everything is free,'' she says.

According to Bean, the nonprofit is privately funded and runs on a budget of approximately $100,000 a year.

"The school district provides a site for us at no charge,'' she says. "The biggest ticket item in our budget is uniform clothing, because half of the elementary schools require the students to wear uniforms.''

For those interested in helping the cause, Bean says there is plenty to do to contribute.

"The best way the community can help is to donate their gently used youth-sized clothing at one of our two collection bins,'' she says. "We have partnered with the South Tampa YMCA on Himes Avenue and the New Tampa YMCA on Compton Drive in Tampa Palms. We are always in need of youth sizes 4-16 for boys and girls, the items we are looking for are T-shirts that are appropriate for school, as well as shorts. 

Another way that people can help is to host a collection drive in their neighborhood, church or school. Bean says even students have hosted clothing drives.

Monetary donations, as well as volunteer inquiries, can be made through the nonprofit's website

For Good: Recycled bike shop wins $1,000 Awesome Tampa Bay grant

$1,000 to the most innovative idea? Four times a year, Tampa Bay residents have the chance to apply for just that.

Awesome Tampa Bay grants are something like mini-angel investors in innovative local ideas. The self-funded community of members who make up Awesome Tampa Bay offer quarterly microgrants in the sum of $1,000 to various projects or proposed ventures with no strings attached.

The group, a chapter of The Awesome Foundation, “funds projects that help make our community an awesome place to live,” says Awesome Tampa Bay’s “Dean of Awesomeness” Rafaela A. Amador. “We’re in our fourth year of grant-making, and it’s been fantastic to see them come to life.”

Previous Awesome Tampa Bay grants have funded Pong in the ParkArt Vending Machine, The Birdhouse Buying Club, and other ideas or efforts to improve the “awesome” factor of the Tampa Bay area.

The latest recipient of a $1,000 grant from the group is the ReCycle Bin, a free bike shop built from entirely recycled parts and filled with entirely donated ones.

ReCycle Bin “touched on three qualities that the Awesome Foundation trustees thought most important: niceness, bigness and 'wow-ness,' ” says Amador, who is the senior director of corporate communications for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The ReCycle Bin operates out of two revamped shipping containers built by volunteers and is “full of donated frames, parts, and tools that are used to build and fix bicycles for our poor neighbors,” explains founder Jessica Renner.

But the ReCycle Bin doesn’t give bikes or parts away freely with no questions asked, Renner explains. Rather, self-reliance and involvement in rebuilding or repairing bicycles is a part of the process.

“Those who are in need of a bike or help with their existing bike are being taught how to build and maintain their bikes themselves,” Renner says.

The ReCycle Bin stations are located at The Well in Ybor City, a center for social services including weekly meals, counseling, a free market, and faith. Work is split among a variety of volunteers: some of whom perform as a labor of love, some who enjoy tinkering with the bikes, and some who “originally came in to build themselves a bike, and now come back to help others,” Renner explains.

That those who have been helped come back to help others is one sign that the ReCycle Bin is a success. The group’s main objective is “to develop relationships across economic divides and build a stronger community, based on sharing skills and resources,” Renner says. 

The passion to help the community through the donation of time and talent by Jessica and all the volunteers with ReCycle Bin was what stood out the most,” Amador explains. “It was a unanimous decision by the trustees to award them the Awesome grant.”

With the $1,000 Awesome Tampa Bay grant money, the ReCycle Bin will “purchase a tent or a carport for our shop, so we will have our own shaded work space,” Renner says. 

Currently, “we are working to gain more volunteers, potentially hold some workshops, and put together a regular bike ride calendar for our bike club, The Well's Angels,” Brenner says.

The Well’s Angels. Now that’s awesome. 
 
Do you have a great idea or project that would help make Tampa Bay more “awesome”? Apply for the next quarterly grant by May 31. 

For Good: Donate online during Give Day Tampa Bay

Can Give Day Tampa Bay top $1 million in donations in 2015?

The inaugural Give Day Tampa Bay brought in just over $1 million for local nonprofits in 2014, and sponsors of the upcoming Give Day Tampa Bay on May 5, 2015, hope to see even more generosity spread throughout the local community during the second annual “24 hours of giving.”

Led by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and the Florida Next Foundation, Give Day Tampa Bay challenges locals to participate in a 24-hour online giving event. In 2014, more than 5,000 individuals donated to the inaugural Give Day Tampa Bay campaign to bring awareness to more than 350 nonprofits who do work in the local community. This year, more than 500 nonprofits are participating.

Debra Campbell, an educator and serial entrepreneur with a background in economic development, founded Tampa-based Forward Thinking Initiatives in 2004 with the aim of bridging education and workforce development. The nonprofit’s entrepreneurship programs for middle- and high-school teens aim to create a more competitive emerging workforce through a focus on creative thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship. 

One of the reasons Campbell chose to get involved with Give Day Tampa Bay is to help raise community awareness about local nonprofits. ““It’s a wonderful concept to promote all the good work that's going on in Tampa Bay,” she says. “I think the community is not aware of the vast number of services and programs available.”

There are dozens of nonprofits available to choose for a donation, including Big Cat Rescue, Tampa Bay Conservancy, Carrollwood Players Theatre, Lights On Tampa, Stageworks Theatre, the Straz Center, and All Children’s Hospital, to name a few. Find the complete list of 543 participating nonprofits at the Give Day Tampa Bay online donation site

Goals of the annual event include enlisting new donors and helping nonprofits learn new online giving and outreach skills. Funds raised can help nonprofits access resources and training that they can then use year-round to promote their work and engage their supporters.

“It’s always difficult for nonprofits to raise dollars, especially unrestricted dollars,” Campbell says. “This is an opportunity for each organization to benefit from a joint marketing program that is so well organized by Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and the Florida Next Foundation.”

Give Day Tampa Bay starts at midnight on May 4 and runs for 24 hours. Donations can be completed from any smartphone, tablet or computer using a credit or debit card, with a minimum donation is $25. 

For Good: St. Pete Clinic nears construction of new home for homeless

Homeless women will have a new place to stay next year in downtown St. Petersburg thanks to the generosity of Tampa Bay residents.
 
The new building will be a two-story 20,000-square-feet haven for women who are either homeless or deemed “working poor,’’ meaning they make too much money to qualify for government assistance but not enough money to afford housing, food and the average cost of living.

“The style of the building called new-urban, is similar to the neighborhood of St. Pete,’’ says Beth Houghton, executive director of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic.  “The core of the building will house 50 women, 20 of those women will be in semi-private rooms and the other 30 women will be in smaller, but private rooms. We had been a 20-bed facility in the old building. So it's a very big increase.’’

There will be a training room and facility for training including computer skills, resume writing and budgeting. The kitchen is set up so that the women can cook together, and other people can come in and teach about better nutrition.

Houghton says the total project cost is about $4 million, and to date they have either gifts in hand or pledges for $3.6 million.

“We are thrilled and excited, but we need a little more,’’ she says. “The project will be named for David and Virginia Baldwin, and it will be called the Baldwin Women’s Residence. David gave a substantial lead gift in honor of his late wife and “helped us move forward in making this happen.’’

The clinic also has a loan with Cornerstone Bank should they need any additional funding. The contractor on the project is Hennessy Construction out of St. Pete. 

The Baldwin Women’s Residence is set to be completed in January 2016.

For Good: Pie a Tampa Bay tech leader's face for a good cause

How much would you pay to throw a pie at a Tampa Bay tech leader?

If your answer is around $10 a pie, you’re in luck! On an upcoming Friday the 13th, you’ll get the chance.

Nitro Mobile Solutions is hosting the “Pi a Tech Leader in the Face Fundraiser” from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, March 13, at Love’s Artifacts Bar and Grill, located at 4918 S MacDill Ave. in Tampa. 

Local Tampa Bay tech leaders who are putting their faces on the line include:

Ryan Dorrell, CIO of AgileThought; Ken Evans from Startup Monkey; Kyle Matthews, with Laicos; Doug Pace, COO and Executive VP of Bayshore Solutions; Daniel James Scott, Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum; and Nitro Mobile Solutions CEO Pete Slade.

Lauren Webber, a social marketing specialist at Nitro Mobile Solutions, anticipates more than 150 fundraiser attendees.
Pies will be sold for $10 each or 3 pies for $25 -- cash only. The event is free to attend, but registration is required. The event will also feature a silent auction.

Details and registration can be found here.

The “Pi a Tech Leader in the Face Fundraiser” will benefit Computer Mentors Group, a local nonprofit that provides at-risk youth with certifications in various tech-based programs. The group teaches skills like mobile app development, website design, Microsoft Office certification and videography.

Nitro Mobile Solutions chose the Computer Mentors Group as the beneficiary of the community fundraising event after working with the nonprofit previously, Webber says.

The nonprofit’s mission is to provide opportunities for educational and employment success by bridging the technology divide for populations without sufficient economic resources. In 2014, Computer Mentors Group founder Ralph Smith contacted Nitro Mobile Solutions to arrange a mentorship relationship between the company and CMG participants.

“When we learned the cause and mission behind CMG, we immediately knew this was a nonprofit that we should support,” Webber says.

In November 2014, the Tampa Bay Lightning selected CMG’s David Harris as the ninth Lightning Community Hero of the Year. CMG, which has been in the Tampa Bay area since 1997, is expanding programs thanks to the $50,000 Harris was awarded, which he donated to CMG.

Nitro Mobile Solutions is a growing mobile software development company in Tampa, Florida. The company’s culture is a critical part of its success, Webber says.

Current open positions with Nitro Mobile Solutions include an iOS Developer, Android Developer, C# .NET Developer, and Support Specialist.

For Good: Social Venture Partners foster creative philanthropy in Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay chapter of Social Venture Partners is on a mission to create connections to the nonprofit community and take a new approach to philanthropy. 

The 23-member group is the first Bay area affiliate of the national, Seattle-based organization, which has a global network of more than 3,500 partners in 39 cities. SVP brings together individuals and organizations that want to find innovative solutions to often chronic social and environmental problems in society.

Money matters but SVP's national Executive Connector Paul Shoemaker says, "They'll do this not just with money but with professional expertise. We go beyond your checkbook. The end game is we connect so we can create positive change in the community and create a deeper sense of purpose in your life."

Shoemaker was guest speaker at the launch of the local SVP at a breakfast at Le Meridien Hotel.

Debra Koehler, President of Sage Partners LLC, and Rebekah Heppner are founders of  SVP Tampa Bay. Koehler is chairwoman of the group's advisory committee; Heppner is its executive director.

Partners include bankers, real estate agents, public relations directors, technology professionals, and one local organization, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. Each partner donates a minimum of $5,000 but also commits to giving in-kind resources of time and expertise to aid an adopted nonprofit.

"You get a lot of personal satisfaction from this," Heppner says.

The focus is on finding small and mid-level nonprofits that need help moving to the next level and would benefit from "human capital not just financial capital," says Shoemaker.

Community Tampa Bay is the first nonprofit identified as a recipient of a $25,000 grant. The next step is a needs assessment to identify areas where partners can provide support over the next three years. This may be advice on marketing, accounting, fund raising, social media or computer technology.

"It's time for us to grow again," says Jennifer Russell, executive director of Community Tampa Bay. "Doing the assessment will show what we are doing well and where there are gaps."

Community Tampa Bay traces its history to the late 1920s and the formation of the National Conference of Christians and Jews which advocated for religious tolerance. The agency later broadened its mission to fight all forms of discrimination and became the National Conference for Community and Justice. However,  the national agency closed in 2005. The Tampa agency then re-branded and became Community Tampa Bay.

Based in St. Petersburg, Community Tampa Bay continues to promote social justice through education and activities that promote inclusive relationships. 

Koehler says the group hopes to add more partners in future and hopefully establish a relationship next year with a second nonprofit.

"It's all a matter of growth and how many partners we have," she says. "We don't want to commit to a nonprofit unless we can help."

For information, visit the website for Social Venture Partners.

For Good: Palm Harbor practice provides free dental work for veterans

Brian Carlsen is proud of the work done by Dentistry from the Heart, a nonprofit where he served as director for several years.

The Tampa Bay area charity provides free dental care by donor dental professionals to the needy and working poor. Since its inception in 2001, it has helped more than 300,000 people in 350 events worldwide.

Now Carlsen has branched off on his own with the Omni Foundation, a nonprofit he recently set up to facilitate charitable events. The first event he’s helping organize? A day of free dental care on Friday, Jan. 9, for military veterans at the Hollywood Smile Center in Palm Harbor. 

“It’s definitely an area I’m familiar with,” he says. “But as the foundation grows, I won’t be limited to just free dentistry.”

There’s another reason why he’s involved with the event. For his day job – the one that actually pays him a salary – Carlsen is the director of marketing for the Hollywood Smile Center owned by Dr. William Jarmolych.

The dentist is known for his community outreach programs. His practice sponsored Free Care Sundays this past October and November. A staff member suggested this time they focus on veterans.

“They tend to be an underserved sector of our population,” Carlsen says. “Even if they do get benefits, they may have to wait a long time to get an appointment.”

Doors to the dental practice will open at 7:30 a.m. Care will be provided to a guaranteed 75 veterans on a first-come, first-served basis. They may select one of the three treatment options – a free filling, a free extraction or a free cleaning.

Refreshments will be served to keep everyone comfortable during the wait, Carlsen says.

Because the Omni is a registered charity, any events it operates can be considered tax-deductible for the donors. Carlsen will help companies who want to “build their business by giving back” with promotional services and legal protection.

“A paycheck pays the bills. But the foundation is the most meaningful work in my life,” he says. “Because when the day ends, I can say I did something right that will make a difference.”

The Hollywood Smile Center is at 2702 Tampa Road, just east of U.S. 19. For more information about the free dental day for veterans, call (727) 781-2424.

For Good: Habitat's Hammers & Heels builds home in St. Pete for woman in need

One Pinellas County woman desperately needed her own home. So nearly 150 women made it possible.

Altamease Mack, a local Hospice care team assistant, is cherishing the keys to a brand-new Habitat for Humanity house at 7265 34th Ave. N., St. Petersburg.
 
It even comes with its own name: Girl PowerHouse. That’s because it was built in eight weeks by a team of all female volunteers, and funded by Habitat Pinellas’ women’s philanthropy group, Hammers & Heels, led by honorary chair Judy Mitchell, former president and owner of Peter R. Brown Construction. This is the group’s first dedicated project.

Even Mack got involved, putting in Habitat’s required 20 courses and 250 “sweat equity” hours.

“We were overwhelmed by the response,” says Linzy Wilson, volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County. “There was such energy and excitement to be part of this.” She says Hammer & Heels members, now at 56, hope to make this an annual project.

The project drew a diverse group, from women in their 20s up to 70s. Some even decorated their hardhats in the spirit of Girl PowerHouse. One group decided the on-site Porta-Potty needed a little sprucing up, adding pink towels, a mirror and hand soap to the unit.

Mack had to be approved for a special interest-free loan provided for qualifying Habitat recipients, making home ownership possible for those living on a modest income. Construction on Habitat homes doesn’t begin until the chosen homeowner is approved and has begun required volunteer hours.

Previously, Mack and her 2-year-old daughter lived in a cramped single room in her mother’s three-bedroom house, along with six other people. It was so crowded, their clothing and other belongings were kept in an exterior storage closet on the back patio.

Wilson says the mortgage rates for these affordable homes will run about $650 to $700 a month – lower than most rental properties. 

The property for Mack’s home was donated to Habitat Pinellas by Bank of America as part of a national partnership with Habitat for Humanity International through which the bank donates vacant properties for renovation or reconstruction.

“It’s safe to say Altamease is going to have a very happy Christmas,” Wilson says.

For Good: Grant helps OperationPar use cutting-edge technology in meeting mission

Keeping families together has been a 45-year mission of OperationPar, a local nonprofit that provides addiction and mental health treatment in seven Tampa Bay area counties.

And now technology is playing a major role in helping that mission succeed.

Thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration  – to be distributed over the next three years – the nonprofit will have the funds to invest in more electronic tablets, eServices training and online support programs to help women in recovery.
  
“What we’re doing here is cutting edge,” says OperationPar COO Dianne Clarke. “The rest of the country is paying attention.”

The money will be earmarked for FAIR (Family Achievement in Recovery), which provides care for women who have experienced trauma, substance abuse and mental health issues, and aids them and their children in recovery and returning to productive lives. Participants live in PAR Village, a community setting of 15 homes and a development center in Largo, and are aided by “wellness navigators” who provide one-on-one assistance.

Clarke says part of the funding will go to renovate some of the older houses in the village. The rest will allow staff to “experiment, learn and share results of enhanced treatment” using electronic services, such as the tablets and Web applications.

“We’re stepping outside the box in providing treatment this way,” she says. “There are possibilities we know about, and so many more we want to explore.”

Among the uses with a tablet: Clients can set up a treatment plan and communicate quickly with their counselors, Skype with children who are staying with relatives or in foster care, have access to 12-step meetings online and stay on top of an evolving schedule.

OperationPar, with administrative offices in Pinellas Park, provides women in recovery an opportunity to keep their families intact while going through a substance-abuse program. Clarke says there are just four programs in Florida that offer the family option; OperationPar is the only one in the Tampa Bay area. 

“We look to solve two issues at the same time – substance abuse and child welfare,” Clarke says. “Ultimately, we want families to be healthy and to stay together. That is a substantial grant that will make a big difference in achieving those goals.”

OperationPar was founded in 1970 by Shirley Coletti, a Pinellas County mother who discovered her daughter was experimenting with drugs. Funded through grants and donations, it now serves more than 15,000 men, women and children a year – with about 4,000 in treatment every day in its seven-county region.

For Good: Local chef challenges Tampa Bay area residents to help the hungry

Hunger is a subject that Cliff Barsi knows well.

He’s the director of food services at Metropolitan Ministries, and affectionately called “Chef Cliff.” Under his direction, the nonprofit has opened two “Inside the Box” cafes in downtown Tampa and the Westshore area that benefit the ministry, and graduated 32 students from its culinary program.

Another 10 students are now earning their chops under his tutelage in Metropolitan Ministries’ state-of-the-art kitchen, made possible by Outback Steakhouse restaurant chain co-founder Bob Basham and a grant from the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County.

He typically prefers to be behind the scenes, helping people break the cycle of poverty by learning how to cook, serve or run a food business. But now he’s stepping up publicly and asking the community to join him in the Empty Plate Challenge.

“Sometimes you have to put yourself is someone else’s shoes to truly understand what they’re going through,” Barsi says.

Here’s how it works: Give up one meal and donate the money you would have spent on that breakfast, dinner or lunch to Metropolitan Ministries. And to take it one step further, make a video of your participation to encourage your friends to do the same, and post it on a social media site. 

He compares the effort to the successful “Ice Bucket Challenge” led by the ALS Association last summer, which raised over $100 million for research toward finding a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a fatal disorder.

His goal is a more modest $25,000. 

“In the five years I’ve been with this organization, I’ve been amazed just how supportive this community is of all our efforts,” Barsi says. “This challenge doesn’t take a lot of effort, but it really drives the point home.”

Metropolitan Ministries compiled a list of average costs for multiple meals. Six meals, for example, would come to $10.56, 12 meals would cost $21.12 and 20 meals would run  $35.20.

He and his wife chose to fast for an entire day, going to bed hungry that night. Even though he deals with hunger issues on a daily basis, he says that experience made it all the more real to them.

Currently, Metropolitan Ministries feeds 2,300 hungry people every day in the Tampa Bay area. In Barsi’s video, he piled up 2,300 empty plates to illustrate how many meals are made possible due to the generosity of local donors.

With the holidays around the corner, Metropolitan Ministries will be asking for more public support to fill the toy shelves and maintain an amply food supply for the increased demand for assistance. Barsi thinks there’s no better time for the Empty Plate Challenge. 

“A campaign like this has two goals – to raise awareness and to raise funds,” he says. “It’s hard to understand just what hunger feels like until you’ve experienced it yourself. Unfortunately, we have a lot of neighbors in need in our community, and this is one way to have compassion and make a difference in changing that.”

For Good: Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation to build new ball park in Sulphur Springs

The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation is making a big play in Sulphur Springs. With City of Tampa support, the nonprofit will build a world-class ball park at Springhill Park Community Center.

The existing field will be transformed into a Youth Development Center with synthetic turf, new dugouts, a scoreboard backstop, a portable pitching mound and bleachers. The new facility will be open to children citywide who play baseball, softball, lacrosse and soccer.

"We are out to build the nicest park these kids will ever see," says Steve Salem, president of the foundation named for the father of Hall of Fame baseball player Cal Ripken Jr. "Hopefully by summer this park will be filled with kids."

In addition to sports, health and physical education will be featured along with programs on culture, history and character development. Badges for Baseball will pair children with local law enforcement officers as coaches and mentors to at-risk youth.

The city of Tampa will fund $500,000 of the $1 million cost. Foundation representatives will launch a local fund-raising campaign to make up the difference. Fields Inc., which has built facilities for professional sports teams such as the Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Twins, is expected to break ground on the park in March 2015.

The foundation plans to build 50 parks around the country within five years. To date 34 parks have been completed including the first in Baltimore at Memorial Field. At the time Greg Bayor, Tampa's parks and recreation director, was working in the same capacity for the city of Baltimore.

Since moving to Tampa three years ago, Bayor has been "haranguing" him for the city to partner with the foundation, but until now the city didn't have the funds, says Mayor Bob Buckhorn. 

Last year Cal Ripken Jr. got a look at the Springhill Park ball field when he hosted a baseball clinic for the Boys & Girls Club. Bayor says the foundation thought the site was a good candidate for a new park.

Sulphur Springs has been a neighborhood struggling with blight, drugs and criminal behavior and "was teetering on the precipice," says Buckhorn. "But for an intervention this is a neighborhood that would have died. It would have been overrun with bad influences, with drugs, with gangs and guns and violence. A lot of people stepped up to the plate to try and do something about it."

The Neighborhood of Promise initiative is a coalition of nonprofits, agencies and area residents brought together by the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA. Collectively, they provide social services, educational programs and mentoring for the children in Sulphur Springs.

The new park and the ongoing association with Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation will be one more positive influence for the neighborhood, Buckhorn says.

"They can come here and be little kids and learn the value of athletics," he says.

For Good: MOSI helps at-risk youth with STEAM partnership

A new program at MOSI will help at-risk youth develop skills needed for STEAM careers.

The program, which will begin this fall, is referred to as STEAM E4, with the STEAM referring to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. The four E’s are: exposure, exploration, education and employment. Middle and high school students, as well as some adults, will come to MOSI for a variety of hands-on educational experiences designed to help them develop and hone skills and become workforce-ready.

Workshops on astronomy and space exploration will be provided in MOSI’s existing Mission Moonbase, a simulated lunar base where participants learn through immersion. The Ideazone will serve as an area for hands-on education in digital and video game design and robotics.

The pilot program is a major component of MOSI Technical Institute (MTI), which aims to identify and fulfill gaps within the local workforce to ultimately connect people with jobs.

"We’re focusing on project-based activities that increase their skills set and focus on the jobs of the future," says Molly Demeulenaere, interim-president and CEO of MOSI. "People think museums are these quiet spaces where you don’t touch anything, but science centers and MOSI in particular are a hub of education and activity."

The program also includes a research component, where MOSI will continually monitor progress to determine how to eventually replicate it across the nation.

The project is a collaboration between MOSI and Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa (CDC), a nonprofit that focuses on alleviating poverty in east Tampa through programs such as job training, housing and rehabilitation. Rather than starting from scratch to identify the students who are most in need, MOSI decided to partner with the CDC who already had the students and help them fill a gap. "It’s about going to where the people are," says Demeulenaere.

The program is funded by a $149,600 grant recently received from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS). The prestigious and highly competitive grant program helps museums and libraries further innovation and lifelong learning.

For Good: Starting Right Now expands programs for homeless youth

Thanks to a nonprofit organization and shelter, homeless youth in Tampa Bay have a place to call home and motivation to succeed.

Starting Right, Now (SRN) takes in youth who are unaccompanied (living without a parent or guardian) who may be couch hopping or staying with friends, but have no permanent place to call home. The youth are in this position through no fault of their own and are forced to leave their family due to violence, drugs, death or other circumstances.

The program basically does everything a parent would do for the child -- studies with them, pays for things like yearbooks or sports, and even makes them clean their room and learn other responsibilities. Only those who truly want to get back on their feet can participate. Kids are often referred by a school social worker, and then must complete an interview. SRN looks for resiliency, determination and a true desire to succeed, making sure participants will truly take advantage of the support.

"It’s completely life changing," says Vicki Sokolik, founder and executive director for SRN. "But, it’s not easy. You have to be a kid who wants to completely change your life. We’re asking you to step up in every manner."

For the past four years, 100 percent of participants have succeeded in the program and moved on to their next goal, which can be a military career, vocational training or higher education, which accounts for 95 percent of participants. One student graduated from the University of Central Florida and is now enrolled at American University in the second year of law school. Another is attending the University of Florida and plans to go to medical school.

SNR recently received a $350,000 Humana Communities Benefit charitable grant. The funds will allow them to double their current occupancy, allowing them to serve up to 300 children. The upper level of their building will be renovated to accommodate more bedrooms and bathrooms. They also plan to open a new facility in Pinellas County. Humana also provides mentors, which are a large component of the program’s success.

The program is 100% privately funded, and is fortunate to have tremendous support from the community, including in-kind services from dentists and doctors. The current building being was donated by Hillsborough County.

Eventually, SRN plans to expand to the entire State of Florida.

For Good: Tampa company steps up with hefty donation for private education for low-income families

Just two weeks after the school year wrapped up, Sommer Henderson had a dilemma she had not expected.

Her kids were already begging "When can we go back to school?''

"That's not something I would have heard when they were in public school,'' Henderson says. "Now we've got them in a place where they're happy, they get attention from their teachers and they feel secure.''

Four of her five children are at Incarnation Catholic School in Town 'N Country, thanks to the Step Up For Students Scholarship Program for low-income families. They are among the 69,000 students receiving funding for private education of their parents' choice for the 2014-15 school year.

The program is made possible by corporate partners that get a tax credit for their contributions. Some 150 donor companies are currently providing support to Step Up For Students.

The program recently got a big boost from Johnson Brothers of Florida, a Tampa-based beverage distributing company, which gave a $5 million contribution. More than 900 students will benefit from that donation alone.

"Thanks to our donors like Johnson Brothers, Florida students now have the opportunity to attend a school that fits the way they learn, regardless of their parents' income or where they live,'' says Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill. "The donations can change the course of a student's life. The positive impact that this program has on our state's kids is truly remarkable.''

Henderson will vouch for that. Three years ago, three of her children were attending a public elementary school. Two of them complained about being bullied, and none was excelling in classes. When she learned that their family's size and their household income qualified them to receive funding, she decided to take a chance and fill out the paperwork.

"It was the best thing we did for our children,'' she says. "Everything has changed in a positive direction since we put them in Incarnation. Their grades, their attitude, the family atmosphere, the attention they get from their teachers. I'm not knocking the public schools, but they tend to teach at one level. It's more personalized in a smaller, private school.''

Henderson works full time as a data analyst for Citigroup; her husband is currently a student in culinary arts at the Arts Institute of Tampa. Next year, they will have all five of their children at Incarnation, when their youngest child goes into pre-K. Step Up For Students is currently paying $5,200 per child toward tuition, with the Hendersons picking up the remaining $23 a month.

Without this financial assistance, they wouldn't be able to even consider a private school.

"I am so grateful for this program,'' she says. "For our kids, it's like night and day. They're getting a good education and a moral foundation, and that means everything to us.''

For Good: Run with the herd at Tampa event for Children's Cancer Center

If you swing by Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on Sept. 27, you might end up doing a double take.

Yes, those are cows -- standing up or jogging -- all over the park.

To be fair, they are the iconic Chick-fil-A spotted "cows'' taking part in the annual Fall Stampede for the Children's Cancer Center in Tampa.

For the third year, Chick-fil-A is a partner with the nonprofit in one of the group's major yearly fundraisers. Also stepping up is MicroLumen, the Oldsmar-based manufacturer of high-performance medical tubing, with a $10,000 donation toward the event.

"We depend on support from our corporate partners so we can accomplish our mission – to provide emotional, financial and educational support to families of children with cancer,'' says Steve Manuel, director of development of the Children's Cancer Center. "The doctors and nurses have their job on the medical side of it, and other organizations are chasing the cure. We're here to give that daily support to kids and families when they need it the most.''

Now in its 40th year, CCC provides 24 support programs to 900 families. Its $1.1 million budget comes from individual and corporation donations and grants. 

Chick-fil-A is one of the nonprofit's most steady supporters, with both the Fall Stampede and monthly dinners it provides for families at the Thursday "Oncology Night'' at the center's headquarters on Cypress Street. Another big contributor is Panera Bread, which has funded renovations to the nonprofit's building, along with annual donations for other programming.

The stampede at Tampa's waterfront park includes a 5K chip-timed run and a 1-mile Family Fun Walk, kids' events, activities sponsored by the area's professional sports teams and snacks provided by the chicken fast-food company. And of course, there will be plenty of cows for photo opportunities. 

"It's really like a free carnival the whole family can enjoy in a beautiful location,'' Manuel says. "And for those going through the illness, it's a happy break where kids can just be kids, having fun.''

This year's Stampede Child Ambassador is Ava, a 5-year-old diagnosed with kidney cancer who underwent surgery and months of chemotherapy. She, her parents and 8-year-old brother utilized several of the programs offered at the center. Ava is now cancer free.

The event has an important mission: To help fund the multitude of programs provided to families going through the cancer journey with their children.

In its inaugural year, the stampede netted $42,000; last year, it brought in $60,000. Early registrations indicate this year will draw about 1,500 runners -- the largest number to date.

The cost is $25 for pre-race registrations, and $30 on the day of the race. 
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