USF College of Nursing, TPD partner to provide COVID-19 relief for Sulphur Springs families

USF's College of Nursing teamed up with Tampa Police Department RICH House officers and Sulphur Springs Neighborhood of Promise to provide household supplies and non-perishable foods for families and seniors in an April 17 event at the Abundant Life Community Church. 

Approximately 50 families received bags of nonperishable food and household supplies including in-demand resources such as bleach, laundry detergent, and tissue paper -- as well as diapers for families with small children. The TPD also provided one pound of chicken and fresh produce per family. 

Dr. Ann Joyce, Associate Director of Advanced Practice Initiatives at the College of Nursing, says community leaders and members of the Abundant Life Church helped run the event and provided materials to ensure each family received equitable supplies.

"They did a great job organizing their members with the functionality and safety of the event in mind," Dr. Joyce notes. 

In addition to providing immediate aid, the goal was to identify the needs of Sulphur Springs residents -- not just during the pandemic, but beyond. Tables were set up following social distancing guidelines, where attendees could receive bagged items and fill out surveys at separate stations.

"We're putting the pandemic as a priority at the College of Nursing," says Joyce. "The surveys asked residents how the College of Nursing can help during the COVID-19 pandemic, how the residents receive their news, and what areas the residents would like to focus on to improve their neighborhood."

This partnership between USF and TPD dates back to 2018, when College of Nursing Vice Dean Dr. Susan Perry and TPD Chief Brian Dugan sought to bridge the gap between high-risk communities and police by recruiting student nurses, who assist with the well-being of kids in afterschool programs at the TPD RICH (Resources in Community Hope) Houses in Sulphur Springs and Robles Park. 

Perry, Joyce, and other College of Nursing faculty applied for two grants aimed at helping children and senior citizens in the Sulphur Springs and Robles Park neighborhoods.

"We've been sending undergrad student nurses [to RICH House] to teach things to kids like hydration, water safety, and toothbrush hygiene as part of our nursing curriculum. We believe that's how we can improve health at the base level -- by teaching children," says Joyce.

A second grant-funded program, EnRICHed Families, aims to assist grandparents raising children as primary caregivers in multi-generational families, as well as educational offerings like medication management and safety in the home for seniors living alone. Funding from these grants for kids and seniors helped the College of Nursing purchase supplies for the COVID-19 response at Abundant Life Church.  

Tampa Police Department Site Program Coordinator Tonya Gallimore oversees the RICH House programs at their two locations in Sulphur Springs and Robles Park, where an officer is on location at each site full-time.

"These are two areas in the community with a higher crime rate, where we would like to foster a more positive relationship with the police. Our other goal is to expose kids to things outside their neighborhood," Gallimore notes. 

The Sulphur Springs RICH House has been in operation for 19 years, offering free, donation- and grant-funded programs for kids ages 7-17 that range from after-school homework assistance to field trips to places like Lowry Park Zoo and Busch Gardens. In accordance with safety guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, RICH House doors are currently closed for the first time in nearly two decades.  

"What we've been doing since the coronavirus outbreak is trying to maintain relationships with kids and families," says Gallimore. "Because they can't come to us, we're trying to make contact by reaching out to them to see what we can do at this time. How can we assist?

Joyce says the College of Nursing plans to collaborate with TPD for a second event at the RICH House in Robles Park, date to be announced, that will utilize feedback collected in surveys at the Sulphur Springs outreach.

For more information, visit the USF College of Nursing and the Tampa Police Department.
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Jessi Smith (she/they) is a freelance writer who is passionate about sustainability, community building, and the power of the arts and transformative storytelling. A fourth-generation Floridian, Jessi received her B.A. in Art History and English from Florida International University and began reporting for 83 Degrees in 2009. When she isn't writing, Jessi enjoys taking her deaf rescue dog on outdoors adventures, unearthing treasures in backroads antiques and thrift shops, D.I.Y. upcycling projects, and Florida-friendly gardening.