Clearwater police officer brings bicycles to kids

A Clearwater police officer is making sure every kid at Sandy Lane Elementary has a ride to school through local donations.

Officer James Frederick Jr. is what the Clearwater Police Department likes to call a “community champion.” He brings bicycles to students in need or simply to reward their good behavior.

“It provides hope to these kids, so, by being able to give them a bike and when they’re smiling,” said Officer Frederick. “It just says for that moment in time that they won something. Someone cares about them enough to say you special, you’re being brought out in the middle of school to be given a bike.”

He receives the bikes from a local Walmart. The partnership started around Christmas time when Walmart reached out to the Clearwater Police Department to inform them that they had a few extra bikes. The Police Department took the bikes off their hands and started the program at Sandy Lane Elementary.

Some of the bikes that Walmart gave to Officer Frederick were in need of repairs. He brought them to a local bike shop to get them back into working condition.

“It’s a good partnership that I have with the school,” said Officer Frederick. “The administrators there, also Ms. Rivera, we talk often and she’s able to say, ‘Hey I have two kids that are coming in or such and such.’ Then I’m able to kind of link them up with the bikes we have.”

Not all of the bikes came from Walmart. Many have been donated by people from the Clearwater community.

As rewarding as the bike may be to a student, it seems like Officer Frederick enjoys the gift of giving just as much.

“It makes me feel great,” said Officer Frederick. “It brings me back to when I was a kid, and I remember all the little tricks I did when I got my bike, and jumping over ramps and different things like that.”

Officer Frederick thinks it would be beneficial for the youth if it could be more of an event.

“It will also be good too to have the community with us when we give out the bike,” said Officer Frederick. “The more the merrier. These kids, they are kids, and they are impressionable and sometimes being able to have the community centered around us, as police officers, as we give this bike away to the kid would be pretty cool.”

Besides attending the bike presentation, there are other ways of showing support for the program. The Clearwater Police Department says they could always use more bikes and people with the skills to repair them. Donors are welcome to bring their bikes to the station and they will be passed along to Officer Frederick.

People ditch homes to live in school buses

Dozens of people rolled into Sertoma Youth Ranch in Brooksville on Feb. 17 to show off their tiny homes on wheels at the inaugural Florida Skoolie Swarm.

The trend of abandoning traditional homes for remodeled school buses called “skoolies” is gaining popularity. Some want to reduce their cost of living, while others crave a nomadic lifestyle rooted in simplicity.

“It’s people who really wanted to just maybe change things up in their lives,” said Sandy Blankenship, a Skoolie Swarm coordinator. “For me, I wanted to move into a bus to simplify things.”

The idea of living with less is appealing to some people who are working, but struggle to stay financially afloat. Many of the buses are rigged with solar panels and accumulate their water from hoses and other outside sources, meaning no electricity or water bill.

“It feels good, you get rid of stuff,” said Roger Scruggs, a teacher at Florida Virtual School who lives in a bus of his own. “I still have a job, I still have an income. I just live in a bus.”

A group of “skoolies” are in Brooksville with their remodeled school buses. Photo by Zach Wilcox.

School buses are commonly purchased online or at an auction for a few thousand dollars and then renovated to support day-to-day life. Renovations include installing a bed, toilet, sink and storage space. The cost of creating a skoolie may be expensive, but for people like Scruggs, it’s worth it.

“I bought the bus for $4,000,” said Scruggs. “I’ve put in roughly $7,000 into it, which isn’t bad for an RV.”

Some roadblocks on the path to mobile living include understanding where it’s legal to park skoolies and dealing with code violations.

“Homeowners associations and zone and code enforcement, when they see a school bus in a driveway or parked at somebody’s house, they consider it a commercial vehicle a lot, and they’ll tell them that they have to move it or get fined,” said Travis Mattson, one of the skoolie owners at the Skoolie Swarm. “Some homeowners associations don’t want you to have that kind of vehicle in your driveway, and you have to get it titled as a motor home in order to legally park it there. So there is a little bit of struggle while you’re building it when you’re getting ready to go full time.”

Despite some of these struggles, many skoolie owners have found the transition to be very efficient and rewarding because they get the chance to see places some traditional homeowners never will.

“My regret is not doing it earlier because there’s so much out there to see that you just want to be able to get out and explore the country,” said Scruggs. “And this is the best way to do it.”

For people interested in downsizing to a tiny home, local tiny homes festivals are a good place to start. The next upcoming one in the Tampa Bay area is the St. Pete Tiny Home Festival.

Time Lord Fest comes to Tampa

By: Zach Wilcox

TAMPA, Fla. — Fans of Britain’s favorite doctor had the chance to celebrate his legacy in Tampa.

Time Lord Fest, an annual event that brings “Doctor Who” fans from around the Bay Area together, parked its TARDIS here. The event featured cosplay, vendors, guest speakers, panels and pretty much anything “Doctor Who.”

“Standard conventions focus a lot more on the celebrities that are coming in,” said Julia Langston, a vendor at the festival. “But Time Lord Fest has so much fun stuff going on. I mean there are games, and there are crafts, and there are radio plays.”

“Doctor Who” is a British science fiction television series that has been airing intermittently on BBC since 1963. The show features an extraterrestrial doctor who crosses space and time while solving mysteries and demanding justice. There have been 12 doctors, and the first female doctor was just announced.

giphy.gifCourtesy: Giphy

Time Lord Fest was held at the event factory on Hillsborough Avenue. The location has a collection of themed rooms that add to the aesthetic of the festival.

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A forest-themed room at this year’s Time Lord Fest. Courtesy: theeventfactory.com

“What we hope for is when they walk in, it feels like they’re walking into a ‘Doctor Who’ episode,” said Ken Spivey, the organizer of the event. “Then there are vendors and there are other people dressed as the Doctor, and they feel at home immediately.”

The tickets for Time Lord Fest were $25 with discounts for both military personnel and students. Partial proceeds from the event went to the Livestrong Foundation at the YMCA.