| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Tourism : For Good

7 Tourism Articles | Page:

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.

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.

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.


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: 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: 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: 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. 
7 Tourism Articles | Page:
Signup for Email Alerts

Underwriting Partners