Tampa veterans get a new beginning

New Beginnings of Tampa strives to be a light in the community. With their ability to feed and house the homeless, they also provide a program for a community that is often overlooked: veterans.

“We have about a total of 200 in the program now, and about 50 of them are vets. Most of the vets come as a referral from Veterans Affairs, or sometimes they just come right off the street,” says founder, Tom Atchison, “The most important thing is, is they have a clean environment, a safe environment to stay, a good three meals a day and snacks, it’s very important for their well being.”

New Beginnings is willing to whatever it takes to keep veterans off the street.

“I came down and they had a bed for me and that was a week ago today,” said veteran Kenney Farley.

New Beginnings doesn’t just provide housing for their veterans, they prepare them to get back into the real world.

“Right now we’re running very close to 100 percent as far as getting jobs. There’s plenty of jobs out there for those that will be responsible, show up on time to work and so sometimes that takes a little life training skills on how to hold a job,” Atchison said.

New Beginnings wants their veterans to feel at home, but also assigns them duties to make sure their quarters are clean and tidy to help create good habits and responsibility.

“I seem to get along with everybody, they’re pretty friendly, you know. I’m happy,” said Farley.

So it seems to be a happy ending for everybody at New Beginnings.

Even veteran, Leif Dereng is ecstatic about earning his new housing voucher. He explained how happy he was and laughed saying, “no more woods.”

Many of the veterans stay at New Beginnings between four to six months, where they work to get back on their feet and out into the workforce again.




USF School of Music Student is Nominated for GRAMMY Award

Jose Ruiz may seem like your average student at the University of South Florida, but it turns out, there is a little more behind the music major than meets the eye.

“He is actually the first student from USF to be nominated for any sort of GRAMMY,” Dr. McCormick, a USF professor who has worked with Ruiz for over 20 years, said.

At just 28-years-old, Ruiz has been nominated to win a Latin GRAMMY in the category of Best Latin Jazz Album.

“I first met Jose when he was 8. He was in the third grade. He’s always been very diversified in his musical interests,” McCormick said.

“Going in this project, it was never about me. I wanted to be inclusive and invite my students as well and even my dad, my dad who has been there for me this whole time. He’s nominated now because he was one of the producers, you know, of the album,” Ruiz said.

Jose earned his Bachelors in Music Studies at USF. After travelling to the University of Miami for his Master’s Degree, he returned to USF to teach students while also earning his Ph.D. in Music Education.

“Dr. McCormick, that’s her name. She’s responsible for teaching me how to be an expressive player through an instrument,” Ruiz said. “And my father is responsible for cultivating my innate ability to adapt to different musical settings and to improvise and to pick things up by ear.”

The 2015 Latin GRAMMY’S will be held this November in Las Vegas.


Local businesses provides taste of Tampa to soldiers

TAMPA – When people think of Ybor City, they remember a few things; the bars, the food and the quality cigars. Individually owned cigar shops line the streets of 7th Avenue and are known for their  assortment of hand-rolled  cigars.

In 2010, the Ybor City community launched a non-profit group called Cigars for Soldiers to show U.S. Troops  how much they appreciate their service. They reach out to soldiers deployed overseas by shipping them  cigars throughout the year.

“Oh all the companies donate but basically it’s not only the companies, it’s the community, the people. When we have our festivals, the people come by and we holler hey come on donate a cigar for soldiers and as you know they come in they donate,” said Robert Alorda, ambassador for Ybor City. “After they leave, we put them in packs, 3 in pack. We put a little literature of Ybor City, letting them know where they came from. Then I take them to a distribution center.”

Along with the cigar shop owners, Alorda works throughout the year at festivals and other events, encouraging companies and residents to take part in donating.

“We use Dominican Nicaragua blend, we have awe have a deal buy 5 cigars and they can get 1 free for the soldiers,” said Ernesto, a cigar roller from Long Ash Cigars. “A lot of people will go that way to donate to the soldiers and for us it’s a pretty good deal and it works.”

Since its establishment,  Cigars for Soldiers has shipped thousands of  hand-rolled cigars to U.S. troops and the program continues to grow and donate.

“We have asked in the little envelopes, please let us know how the cigars were and they sent us back emails, letters, showing us and pictures of them enjoying our cigars and how they appreciate what we have done for them.” said Alorda.

This November, Cigars for Soldiers hopes to collect cigars just in time for the holidays.