Teamwork off the field boosts East Tampa neighborhood, kidsTech giant Jabil, Tampa Bay Bucs work for good

The youngsters who regularly visit Oak Park Recreation Center showed up with sounds of enthusiasm and smiles of gratitude after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization and Jabil, a St. Petersburg-based tech company, came in and gave the whole place a makeover.

They painted the inside, including the addition of a Bucs mural, landscaped, added new furnishings and televisions, computers, Wi-Fi, and more. This is the third Tampa recreation center the Bucs have taken on as their Day of Service. The center is located at 1500 E. 15th Ave.

“It’s incredible for the kids that go inside for the first time,” says City Recreation Manager John Allen. “Their eyes just light up. We could not do it without these partners. It’s like that show Extreme Makeovers, only this time, instead of a day, it took a week, due to COVID concerns.”

The joint project includes a renovated technology lab designed with student success in mind. They also added a state-of-the-art zoned paging and audio system and freshened up the playground and picnic area.

"The Day of Service is another testament to the power of teamwork," Buccaneers Co-Owner Darcie Glazer Kassewitz says in a news release. "Our organization is committed to supporting students in East Tampa through Buccaneers Social Justice Initiative programs, after-school events, and neighborhood enrichment projects such as this. I'm grateful for our staff's efforts to strengthen this community center -- a great place for youth to develop strong habits, have fun, and achieve their goals.”

Atul Khosla, a spokesperson for the team adds, “This is the Buccaneers’ third consecutive year coordinating this event with Jabil, and at the end of the day, we want to continue providing safer spaces for our community. We have seen that when these facilities are renovated and transformed, the youth want to spend more time there. It allows them to have that safe environment that they’re proud of, so we’re hoping that this does the same for Oak Park.”

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor attended the reveal, along with the kids in the community.

"This Oak Park Community Center is a haven for the kids in East Tampa," Castor says in a prepared statement. "They can come here and have a constructive outlet for all of that energy, but also it is a learning facility. It really is not just for the children; this Oak Park Community Center is a resource for everyone in East Tampa. We're very, very proud of it and it looks so much better today than it did a week ago."

Allen says the Tampa Bay Rays and some local news organizations have also done work for the city’s recreation department. “They pay for all of it, from the paint to the computers.”

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Read more articles by Yvette C. Hammett.

Yvette C. Hammett, a native Floridian and a graduate of the University of Florida, has spent much of her career as a professional journalist covering business, the environment, and local features throughout the Tampa Bay Area. She is an avid camper and outdoors person who has also been involved in local events for foster children and the elderly.