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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.
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