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Reuse/Rebuild : For Good

7 Reuse/Rebuild Articles | Page:

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.


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: 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: 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: 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: 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.
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