Local shelter provides safe place for Tampa’s homeless

It’s a homeless shelter run by homeless people. Located on Florida Avenue in Hillsborough County, Homeless Helping Homeless houses dozens of people.

“We are 100 percent donation based, so that limits the amount people we can help,” said marketing and social media coordinator Kristen Ellis. “We’re limited in the things we can do.”

The organization is looking to expand their outreach to at least 36 more beds within the year. Currently, they have room for 18 beds in the main office, and rooms for more people in need at their women’s facility right down the street.

“We don’t take grants because we serve a niche of people that don’t qualify for those grants,” Ellis said.

If they take federal assistance, they would have to drug test their clients and make them meet certain rules. Ellis wants people to know that is not Homeless Helping Homeless’s calling.

“These people have their own journey, though it may be why they’re in this situation. We believe everyone has the right to a safe place to sleep,” Ellis said.

Current client and former heroin addict Celeste Dogmi is a testament to this. Dogmi has been sober for over a year and says it’s because of the homeless shelter.

“I was thrown out of rehab with no place to go,” Dogmi said. “It’s helping me with sober living, food, shelter and stability.”

The organization’s intention is not to change an addict’s lifestyle, but to help in whatever way a client wants them to. But if their help leads to someone getting clean, they consider that a win.

Students work with service organization to give back to community

 

Many students from all over Tampa Bay have joined SALT (Serve and Love Together) and meet every Monday at St. James Church in Tampa to give back to those in need.

Mina Hanna and Maggie Attia are two of the volunteers at the organization, and SALT teaches them about how they can improve the city they live in one week at a time.

“Well this is a wonderful organization as you see it gives back to the community,” Hanna said. “It gives back to the community and we see our fruits produce more fruit.”

Everything is donated from people in the community who are willing to help out.

“We also teamed up with another organization that hands out blankets and toiletries and socks,” Attia said.

SALT partnered with Blanket Tampa Bay and they have access to many necessities to share with those in need throughout the Bay Area.

People like Hanna and Attia truly see the difference that the organization makes on people’s lives every day by talking to people about God and giving them hope. SALT is affiliated with a Coptic youth group in the area.

“There used to be a guy on drugs, and his whole life was messed up, and I cannot tell you how much this organization influenced him. And now this guy is the most spiritual guy you’ll ever meet,” Hanna said.

SALT does a small gesture once a week, but it leaves a lifelong impact on some of these people that they get the pleasure of serving.

To learn more about this organization, please contact Mina Hanna at (727) 333-5318

Feeding Tampa Bay, Home to Those Who Want to Help

Volunteers from all throughout Tampa Bay come out to give back to their community at Feeding America Tampa Bay every week Monday through Saturday.

Volunteers from throughout Tampa Bay come out to give back to their community at Feeding Tampa Bay every week Monday through Saturday.

Feeding Tampa Bay works with smaller organizations such as Metropolitan Ministries and Trinity Café to help distribute food to those in need.

The organization makes it easy for anyone who is willing to help out in the bay area to join.

University of Tampa freshmen, Peter Peirce and Kaelin Willette both volunteer at Feeding Tampa Bay. They learned about the organization through their school and have been coming voluntarily ever since.

“Every time that I’ve come since has been voluntarily just because the first time I did it I enjoyed it so much that I figured I’d keep coming back and it’s always been good to me,” Peirce said.

Feeding Tampa Bay is an enjoyable volunteering environment for all who come.

“I love the energy here, I think everyone that comes here has such a positive energy and vibe and they make it a lot of fun,” Willette remarked.

Megan Carlson the organization’s community engagement manager  has been working for Feeding Tampa Bay for two years now and enjoys her working environment immensely.

“There’s something for everybody and we kind of satisfy every desire that people might have to give back to the community which is really cool,” Carlson said.

To learn more about this organization, visit feedingtampabay.org

 

 

Local Dog Trainers Give Back to Veterans

K-9 Partners for Patriots is not the typical dog training class—veterans are pairing up with pets to help them enter back into civilian life.

Mary Peter, who has over 30 years of experience as a master dog trainer, founded the program a few years ago to help veterans struggling with PTSD and other brain related injuries.

“People would come for obedience training and I started noticing more and more veterans coming back from combat with a dog trying to get into an obedience class,” said Peter.

Before taking the class, veteran Aurthur Moore found it difficult to complete day-to-day activities.

“I would lay in bed all day, said Moore. “I would stay in the house.”

Having gone through the training program, Moore is inspired to help others by studying to become a dog trainer for veterans.

“I want to help other veterans like they’ve helped me,” said Moore. “It makes me feel good helping other people, it helps me feel good inside.”

166 veterans are in or have gone through the program. Similarly, 55 dogs have been rescued and found a new home.

“90 percent of our funding goes directly to our veterans,” Peter said. “We try to save two—a dog and veteran together.”

For Peter, helping veterans is a gift she feels honored to be a part of.

“To see and honor those who have suffered so much in service to our country—it means everything to me,” said Peter. It’s not a job to me, it’s my passion. I love each and every one of these men and women and it’s an honor to serve them and help them.”

Local Café Offers Food For Some, Hope For Others

 

Inside the Box Café and Catering is a social enterprise of the Metropolitan Ministries, providing both vocational training and opportunities for work experience to the less fortunate.

Chef Cliff Barsi founded the culinary school program to help individuals transitioning out of homelessness and poverty learn their trade. The kitchen at Metropolitan Ministries is their classroom, and Inside the Box Café is their training ground.

“The reason we started Inside the Box Café is because I wanted a real life restaurant for them to work in,” Barsi said. “They go out to the cafés, they work on the line with the cooks there so they get that skill of urgency-something that you just don’t learn in a normal culinary school. Then, they go back to the kitchen and they do some practical cooking classes with our chef.”

The 16-week program is funded by JP Morgan Chase Bank. All students that are accepted into the program receive a full scholarship.

Eliu DeLeon is one of those students, preparing to graduate. DeLeon hopes to become a chef at a fine dining restaurant upon leaving Inside the Box.

“A lot of my peers that have already graduated have ended up in a lot of fine dining companies,” DeLeon said.

Chely Figueroa is the catering coordinator at Inside the Box. Before that, though, she had become homeless in 2009.

“I found myself walking 18 miles to this place here, Metropolitan Ministries, to find a safe haven,” Figueroa said.

Barsi called her one day, asking her to run the downtown storefront.

All proceeds from Inside the Box Café and Catering go directly back to Metropolitan Ministries to help others in need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brooksville Group Coming Together to Help Homeless

People from all over Hernando County came together in a room at The Grande, an assisted living community in Brooksville, to help the homeless.

Dianna Seijas, a resident of Brooksville, is the project coordinator for Mats for a Mission, a volunteer group that makes mats for the homeless out of recycled plastic bags.

“Unfortunately it can happen to anyone, it doesn’t take a lot to change your life overnight,” Seijas said. “We do have a lot of people sleeping in the woods.”

Since starting in January, Mats for a Mission is getting a lot of attention. Volunteers ranging from teenagers to the elderly make up the over 200 members involved in the project.

Carly Nichols, who teaches at Fox Chapel Middle School, can see the benefit of getting her students to become a part of a mission like this.

“I teach sixth to eighth grade and they’re at a time where they are very impressionable, so it’s really important that we build a strong character base for them,” Nichols said.

It takes many hands and about 700 plastic bags to make one mat. From flattening bags, to tying yarn together, it takes a community to be successful.

“Come, volunteer, we have a lot of fun,” Seijas said. “Take it back to your community, we’d be happy to teach you.”

The goal of the group is to have 500 mats made by the end of the year.

“We realize that’s a lofty goal,” Seijas said. “But we have all the confidence in the world in this group and our volunteers that we will meet this goal.”

Mats for a Mission meets Saturday each week from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at The Grande.

 

 

Franchise a way to help center

By Ciara Cummings

TAMPA—This Dairy Queen franchise located on State Road 64 in Brandon works as a charity to financially support the Lakeview Center, a behavioral health and child protective services agency.

“We were on the way home from the golf course when we passed by,” said DQ customer Rita. “It looked like a really nice facility so we decided to stop here for dinner.

Like many customers, she had no clue that this franchise was purchased by Lakeview Associated Enterprises in order to keep their health center in Pensacola afloat.

The center that provides therapy, aid and treatments to abused children and adults who struggle with disabilities, needed some help of their own, more income revenue.

Instead of traditional methods of fundraising, they purchased an ice cream franchise. This Brandon location is just one of the three franchises the Lakeview Associated Enterprises owns. But in the future, they plan to own at least eight Dairy Queens.

All proceeds do in fact go to Lakeview Center, which makes DQ employees more motivated to come to work and perform their best.

Libby, a cashier, says “You come in, it’s not just like a normal job. It’s like you’re working for something and you’re helping out other people.”

Co-worker Hilary Borhas said seeing the customers reactions are even better. “I think the best part about it is when the customers read the plaque and they are motivated to keep coming back because they know their money isn’t just going to some big company.”

The employees receive their paycheck from Lakeview Associated Enterprises. If the store performs well during the quarter, the Enterprise has enough money to support their health center which allows them to take money from elsewhere, like state and federal funding, to support their employees.

 

Annual Christmas tree lighting collects toys for hospitalized children

The Marriott Waterside located in downtown Tampa held its annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony Dec. 1 and invited local vendors to join in the event.

Vendors and guests were asked to bring a toy to donate to the Miracle Children’s Network, a charity that raises funds and awareness for children’s hospitals for providing care for patients and furthering research.

After the event all donated items were gathered and shipped to the different locations for the toys to be dispersed.

“A couple of the local vendors we have out here are the Coppertail Brewing Company and the St. Pete Distillery,” Chris Adkins, the marketing and sales director, said.

The event included music, food and good spirits. There was also a Candy Land themed gingerbread model crafted with over 300 pounds of gingerbread by the pastry chefs from Marriott.

Sinai Vespie, the pastry chef at the event, credited his great team as the key to pulling off such a large event.

Vespie went on to talk about how the whole process started in August, but took until the week of Nov. 21 to start putting it together. The event happens annually on Dec. 1 and each year the theme of the gingerbread model changes.

The Marriott Waterside is located downtown on Old Water Street next to Amalie Arena.

 

 

USF Army Cadet Wins Award for Service in Community

A USF Army ROTC cadet was awarded the Cadet of the Year Award by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce for her service in the community.

Cadet Abby Kingery was selected as the top cadet out of all four service branches of USF ROTC.

“The awards that they give out are more geared towards community service—how military members are contributing to the Tampa Bay area,” said John Sarao, director of the Joint Military Leadership Center at USF.

Kingery contributes in multiple service organizations to help those less fortunate in Tampa Bay. “Faces of Courage” is one of the main programs that she participates in to give back, Kingery said.

“It’s a camp that’s put on for children and adults that suffer from cancer or sickle cell anemia,” Kingery said.

She encouraged others to get involved in selfless service to make a difference.

“It really humbles you,” Kingery said.

 

Veteran Garden Opening

https://youtu.be/tgq3kTbPWhg

The Sustainable Living Project is getting veterans back into society through the construction of their Veteran Garden, set to open Feb. 16.

“We thought if we did something here that would welcome veterans, they may enjoy coming to see where their food is coming from and engaging in fellowship with other veterans here,” Will Carey, the project’s operations manager, said.

Located at 918 W Sligh Ave., The Sustainable Living Project works to grow food and to teach sustainable living techniques.

“I’ve done a couple of little grow boxes at my house and from what I see here, I can change a lot of things to make it a lot better,” Kenneth Jackson, a volunteer, said.

Carey, who’s worked 20 years in the field of hunger related issues, wanted to do something for veterans. All food is being donated to those in need.

“Everything else we’ve been doing here is going to folks that needed healthier alternatives injected into their diet,” Carey said. “We deal with a lot of homelessness, and veterans make up a good portion of that.”

Carey, who sees this as a stepping stone to other gardens, says these types of programs will only get bigger and become more accessible to everyone.

The Sustainable Living Project opened on Earth Day in 2013.

Radio show helps fight hunger

99.5 WQYK partnered up with Feeding Tampa Bay for the fourth year in a row to collect food for those in need in Zephyrhills on Friday.

The country music station is in the middle of their event known as Food Fund November. Every Friday of the month, the morning show broadcasts live from a city in the Tampa Bay area. Their tent is set up right next to Feeding Tampa Bay’s tent, where you can drop off food for donation.

“We started Food Fund Friday’s as a way to both help families and to get out to the community to say thanks for everything that you do,” Veronica Alfaro, co-host of the morning show said.

Roughly 100 people showed up to donate food. Among those was state Rep. Danny Burgess, who donated food and participated in the radio show.

“The community always turns out for these type of events,” Burgess said. “We’re always looking for ways to help our neighbors and to help others.”

Unfortunately, those in need are suffering throughout the year, not just during the fall. For this reason, Feeding Tampa Bay wants people to know that their services are available year-round.

“Fall is when people tend to focus on people being hungry,” Maxine Rice, a Feeding Tampa Bay employee said. “But really we need to make sure people are aware throughout the year.”

Feeding Tampa Bay is part of the national Feeding America network. Over the last three years, the nonprofit organization has nearly doubled the amount of food that is provided to the public. They went from 20 million meals to 37 million meals a year.

If you want to reach out and help your community, you can go online to Feeding Tampa Bay’s website at feedingtampabay.org to learn more.

Crafters unite for good cause

TAMPA—The Humane Society of Tampa and Keep me In Stitches are hosting a sew-a-thon to make beds, blankets and bandanas for animals in the shelter in preparation of the cold winter months. The event will take place on Thursday and Friday at all three locations of Keep Me In Stitches.

“It helps so much in not only keeping the animals comfortable,” said Karen Ryals of the Humane Society. “But also making them look even cuter at the holidays so we can get them all in homes by Christmas,” she added with excitement.

As an animal lover, the owner of the sewing supply store, Melissa Helms, donated supplies and the space for the event.

“We really admire the work that they do in our community trying to help animals that are less fortunate,“ said Helms.

The store’s loyal customers also came out to support the cause, even with limited sewing skills.

The Humane Society will also bring out cats and dogs that are ready for adoption in hopes that anyone who visits the shop will take them home. The tactic proved to be successful last year when Carmen DePalma came to sew and left with a new pet.

This is the third annual sew-a-thon. Last year volunteers made over 500 beds and blankets and 300 bandanas. Ryals remembers the great success of the event.

“When volunteers brought all of the blankets and bandanas and crate covers back it looked like we had just robbed a store,” she recalls.

The humane society is also urging people to make donations to the shelter. Anyone bringing supplies into the shop during the event will receive up to forty percent off their fabric supply purchase. The Humane Society is looking for toys, treats, food, cat litter, leashes, collars and cleaning supplies.

 

 

Tampa Bay Lightning Host Hockey Fights Cancer Game

The Tampa Bay Lightning and members of the Tampa Bay community came together Nov. 3 to join the fight against cancer at the Lightning’s Hockey Fights Cancer game.

“It’s really important that we lead by example and we inspire others and in the fight against cancer I think we all know someone fighting that fight,” said Lightning Foundation Executive Director Elizabeth Frazier.

Players rallied together; wearing purple jerseys with purple taped hockey sticks to show their support for the cause.

“It means so much to see the entire community give it their all to support people like myself,” said Kerry Roopchand, Moffitt Cancer Center patient.

The event will benefit research efforts at Moffitt, the Lightning’s charitable partner, to help find a cure for cancer. Moffitt team members were taken back by the support.

“It’s so amazing to see such a turnout from our community to help with the prevention and cure of cancer,” said Dr. Damon Reed, Moffitt sarcoma department medical director.

To learn more about the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative, visit https://www.nhl.com/community/hockey-fights-cancer.

Bulls Get Fit For A Good Cause

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and students at the University of South Florida are making sure they are actively staying involved.

The USF Campus Recreation center hosts an event called Bulls Fitsgiving. It allows students to team up and compete in obstacle courses not only for fun but also to give back to others in need.

Brandon Miller, a fitness coordinator at USF, wants students to realize how important events like this are to the community.

“We want to make sure that they know this is more than just about them,” said Miller. “We want to make sure they are making an impact globally, making a really holistic student out of what they are doing here.”

As an incentive to give back, students are asked to bring canned food, clothing or hygiene items that will be donated to local charity. If they do so then five seconds will be taken off their team’s total run time.

Dominique Richardson is a fitness coordinator at USF and she is the one who has planned and coordinated the event for the last three years.

“I think people are definitely excited,” said Richardson “It’s a good way to take a break from finals that are coming up. It’s a good time to get fit and have fun.”

The event was completely sold out and fourteen teams participated in Bulls Fitsgiving.

Non-profit organization helps children succeed

According to the website, Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay uses hands-on experiences to help young people understand the economics of life. In partnership with business and educators, Junior Achievement brings the real world to students, opening their minds to their potential.

Fifth grade student Sonja Assidy is the CEO of Bright House. She works hard to make sure her business runs smoothly.

“I take checks to Kane’s Furniture, I go get the checks from Kane’s Furniture, bring it here, make sure my CFO signs it and then put it where it needs to go,” Assidy said.

Sally Eidge is the Director of Junior Achievement and sees over a hundred students daily. She wants every student to learn a valuable lesson.

“They need to understand that money doesn’t grow on trees, that you actually have to earn it and then spend it wisely,” Eidge said.

Before visiting JA BizTown, students complete a pre-visit curriculum program where they learn basic economic principles such as how to manage their personal bank account.

Kelly Thorne is a fifth grade language arts teacher at Deer Park Elementary and prepared her students for 12 weeks prior to coming to JA Biztown.

“We spend a lot of time on how to write checks, how to deposit checks, that whole process and how to budget their money,” Thorne said. “How when they get a paycheck, they have to make sure they save some money for their lunch, and then they have some spending money.”

OneBlood seeks donations after Hurricane Matthew

Blood donation centers on Florida’s East Coast resumed operations after the threat of Hurricane Matthew forced them to close their doors and halt donations.

As residents in the region prepared for the impact of the storm, hospitals and blood banks also prepared by ensuring that blood provisions were available.

“On a daily basis, blood is used in so many different ways to save lives,” said Dan Ebert, donor and community director at OneBlood.

While blood banks on the East Coast were closed, residents of the West Coast of Florida were encouraged to go out and donate in order to boost the blood supply. However, that would not be enough.

For the four days that donation centers were closed, thousands of possible blood donations from the East Coast were lost. Additionally, not enough people in the unaffected areas stepped up to give.

After the storm passed, the supply of blood, plasma, and platelets was critically low. Organizations like OneBlood have again asked people to go out and donate.

Frequent donors like Angeline Diamond understand the importance of donating blood.

“I’ve had plenty of family that been in car accidents and need blood. So I donate whenever I can just to help the community,” says Diamond.

For others, donating is a matter of their own health.

“When you donate you receive a wellness checkup,” explains Ebert.

The free wellness checkup includes a blood pressure test and cholesterol screening, which are valuable in accessing a donor’s health.

OneBlood and the Red Cross will be conducting blood drives all week long in order to replenish the blood supply.

For more information regarding donations, visit OneBlood online.

Local Shoe Drive Helps Refugees in Need

National Welcoming Week is an event that encourages members of the community to promote unity by celebrating contributions from immigrants and refugees from all over the world with dance and performances. The University of South Florida hosted the event this year.

This year’s theme was centered on shoes for refugees with the theme being, “Small shoes, Big Journey.” Rachel Ackey, a 10-year-old volunteer, came up with the idea of a shoe drive to donate shoes to refugee children.

“I wanted to do something for them ’cause they have to run away from their homes ’cause of a war,” said Ackey.  “They probably just have the pair of shoes on their feet. So I wanna give them different shoes so they could feel welcomed and they could have new shoes for the school year.”

Volunteers hope to relay the message of unity to encourage the community to be welcoming to those transitioning from places where war, persecution or natural disasters are abundant.

In an effort to celebrate refugees and their backgrounds, event organizers hosted a fashion show where refugees got to participate in showcasing garments from around the world.

Over 100 pairs of shoes for kids were collected during the Week of Welcome, thanks to contributions and efforts from the community.

Girls on the Run Empowering, Educating Life Skills

In its criss-cross through the nation, the Flavor Run 5K has left its mark through Girls on the Run in Tampa Bay.

Founded on a drive to create an affordable, fun and family-friendly event, The Flavor Run has transformed into a means of supporting local charities and businesses across the country.

“We have about 1,800 participants, and I’d say there are approximately 30 percent of first time runners,” said John McMahan, the event director and founder of the Flavor Run. “We focus on family, quality, and we also focus on partnering with local charities.”

Girls on the Run is a personal enrichment program for young girls that help to teach young girls life skills through a physical activity-based curriculum.  The program was established in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and has since grown to over 200 councils in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Laura Moore serves as the director of Girls on the Run Greater Tampa Bay.  She said for the volunteers and runners of the 5K that designates Girls on the Run as their group during registration, a donation will be made to the program.

“For every volunteer that we bring, they can raise money for charity,” Moore said. “And for every runner that is in our team, they can donate a certain amount. There was about $2,000 that was donated last year, and all of those funds goes directly to our scholarship program, so that every young girl can be part of Girls on the Run.”

Over the course of a few years, the Flavor Run has become a vital piece in allowing Girls on the Run the opportunity to offer scholarships to members.

“We were a small part three years ago and then last year we were the exclusive charity partner, and we’re back again as the exclusive charity partner.  Moore said.  “We love the Flavor Run.”

The goal for Girls on the Run is to empower young girls in developing a strong sense of character, and feel confident in who they are and make connections with their peers.

McMahan said what motivates him in his role at the Flavor Run is being involved in a family-friendly atmosphere.

“It has to be the people that I surround myself with,” McMahan said. “The organizations that we work with, Laura, including Girls on the Run in Tampa Bay, it has been unbelievable.”

Trinity Cafe helps people in need in more ways than one

Trinity Cafe is a nonprofit restaurant in Tampa that serves meals to the hungry and food insecure — people who are not sure where their next meal is coming from.

“I can tell you what it’s not,” Don Gould, a volunteer manager, said. “It’s not a soup kitchen.”

Trinity is open every day of the year. The cafe is able to run smoothly with the help of 32 volunteers per day, as well as grants and donations from the community. The staff prides themselves on being able to set Trinity apart from other restaurants of its kind by the way they treat their guests.

“Their motto is to serve with dignity, kindness and respect,” Ellen Wolfe, a three year volunteer, said. “Why this place is different is because we want to pat them on the back, we want to hear their story, we want to love them.”

Guests at Trinity Cafe receive a three-course meal and a volunteer host at their table. The host’s job is to sit with the guests and have a conversation with them. Last year, 10,690 volunteers helped serve 99,222 meals. Trinity served their one millionth meal last year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to a retired policeman and military veteran named John.

“For the people that we serve, it’s priceless,”said Gould. “There’s a huge hunger need across the country, especially in Hillsborough County.”

Trinity Cafe has been serving meals for 15 years. A second location, Trinity 2, will open on Busch Boulevard this year.

Peace Corps Offers Different Direction For Graduates

The Oval Theater in the Marshall Student Center is no stranger to different educational events, but on Wednesday it hosted something different for students to enjoy.

Success in Service: Life after the Peace Corps is a TEDTalk-style event that allows former Peace Corps volunteers to speak candidly about their experiences overseas and various challenges that they faced while abroad.

The event was held Apr. 20 and attracted about 70 students and faculty to learn more about this organization that is so familiar to many of us. The event was comprised of six guest speakers and a brief social.

“I really wanted to bring this event specifically to USF because we are such a diverse school and we could really benefit from this information,” Vanessa Okor, Peace Corps intern and event coordinator, said.

Okor also believes that as a school that students can truly make a difference not just on campus, but off campus and this is a perfect way to give back.

Mark Holbert who served in Romania during 2003-2005 and is a linguistics graduate student at USF believes the Peace Corps is a life-changing experience one that he would do again.

“Not only do you get to give back, but you also gain and learn so much about yourself from the process,” Holbert said. “You definitely build confidence in yourself, a skill necessary to do well in whatever field you want to be in.”

For more information about the Peace Corp please visit its office located in USF Patel College of Global Sustainability.