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Architecture : For Good

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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: 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: 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.
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