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.

USF students start frozen cookie dough business

Look out cookie dough lovers there’s a frozen treat for you around the Tampa Bay area. Fro-Dough is a new creation for Florida no matter the day or the weather.

Bree Sparks, sophomore, and Cameron Austin, freshman, a couple at The University of South Florida have combined the trend of edible cookie dough and the cold sweetness of ice cream to create Fro-Dough.

“People are super excited anytime they see it, they have to do a double take because it still is a really new concept,” said Sparks, founder of Fro-Dough.

For those worried about uncooked cookie dough making you sick, do not fear. Fro-Dough is completely harmless because it is made with safe flour and a replacement for eggs. Compared to other cookie dough companies it is unique because it is frozen. Many of the flavors are actually vegan or gluten-free.

Sparks is vegan and a huge cookie dough connoisseur herself. “Edible cookie dough has been like one of our many passions, like everyone else we love to eat it straight out of the bowl,” said Sparks.

There are a variety of flavors ranging from chocolate chip, sugar cookie, cake batter, brownie batter, sweet and salty and even a mixed berry cobbler flavor.

Vegan Brownie Batter is just one of the many flavors Fro-Dough has to offer around the Tampa Bay area. Photo by Deanna Salt

“Our flavors if we don’t absolutely love them, we don’t sell them and we freeze it. Not a lot of other people freeze it and in our opinions, it just makes it so much better,” said Austin.

While Fro-Dough does not have a specific location you can try free samples at many different events throughout the Tampa Bay area.

“We do markets around Tampa Bay like right now we’re selling every week on Wednesdays and Thursdays at USF Bull Market and we also do an array of events over the weekend that you can find on our Facebook page,” said Sparks.

Sparks and Austin have come a long way from when they first started making cookie dough for fun at home.

“It was pretty lengthy cause there’s really no instructions on doing it, especially like us, where we’re selling at markets rather than starting an actual brick and mortar place,” said Sparks. “It was a bit confusing to get licensed. We had to go through the Department of Hotels and Businesses and get licensed by them; a business license. We had to get our freezer, we had to get our trailer and perfect all our recipes.”

Fro-Dough uses a commercial kitchen in South Tampa where the whole dream comes together.

“This place helped out a lot because I went in here not knowing anything and I talked to the owner. She gave me a whole list of all the things that I needed to do which was super helpful,” Sparks explained.

After recently starting this business in 2017, Sparks and Austin have a lot of hope for Fro-Dough and want to open a physical location soon. They are partnering with a local non-profit, Keys to Kindness, which they will donate all proceeds from their Kind Blast-Mixed Berry Cobbler flavor.

Keep up with Fro-Dough on their Facebook page at Frodough.co and their Instagram @fro.dough.

67-year-old yoga instructor promotes a healthy lifestyle

Healthy living is a concept many are concerned with. Organic items fill the shelves and gluten-free products seem to come out of nowhere. For 67-year-old June Kittay, a healthy lifestyle involves more than just healthy eating.

“I did 25 minutes on the treadmill, then I lifted weights and I did a few yoga poses,” Kittay said about her morning exercise routine.

Her lifestyle wasn’t always as healthy. In her 20’s, she was an elementary school teacher with very dangerous habits. The effects of these habits became clear after some years.

“I existed during the week on a pack of cigarettes a day and two liters of diet soda. Fast forward 40 years later, I have osteoporosis. That’s what happens when you don’t take care of your body,” Kittay said.

A car accident motivated Kittay to bring awareness to the importance of health and fitness.

“I went into a seated fitness class and I said this is what I want to do when I grow up! So that’s what happened. I became a fitness instructor in 2004 and I’ve been doing it ever since. And I love it. I wish so many other people would do it,” Kittay said.

To keep up her promise to the community, Kittay teaches a “Yoga in the Gardens” class in the Botanical Gardens at the University of South Florida. USF student Jasmine Ehney has been a recurring visitor to the classes.

“I really like how she emphasizes nature, mindfulness and how to appreciate the trees and the earth. Things that we don’t usually notice,”  Ehney said.

The class is held every Friday at 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Students and visitors can come to the class free of cost.

The Lights Fest makes Florida debut

For the first time ever, The Lights Fest and its incredible lantern launch took to the skies in the Sunshine State.

Over the past two weekends, the worldwide festival made its first stop in Florida at the Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City. Originally starting in Utah, The Lights Fest now spans across the United States and Europe. Each location includes food, games and live performances from local artists across the globe. It is a celebration for family and friends as well as a way to find closure and peace. Event Director Tiffany Townsend believes the festival is a way to put troubling matters to bed.

“The Lights Fest is special because it allows people to have closure about certain things,” Townsend said. “What happened in Florida, last week with the school shooting. Some people have bought tickets just to get closure about that, and really that’s what the company is about; giving people closure, giving people hope, giving them a chance to say goodbye to loved ones, and to pray for their loved ones if they’re injured or whatever it may be. So, it’s just a really good chance for people to think about their lives and basically look back at the good things and pray for the not so good things.”

The company has made a conscious effort to be as environmentally friendly as possible. Guests are reminded to properly dispose of their bottles and cans. The lanterns are designed for low flight, making them easier to track down and properly throw away. Even if one is lost, the lanterns are biodegradable, allowing them to break down naturally. The Lights Fest has also adopted a “Leave No Trace” policy, promising to leave venues the way they arrived.

While the festival is an all-day event, its well-known lantern launch is the grand finale. Each guest is given his or her own lantern to decorate and design as they please. Many are encouraged to write wishes, prayers and personal goals on their lanterns. Once they are launched, it is a remarkable sight to see. Samuel Malachowski, who acts as the master of ceremonies during the lantern launch, knows what the spectacle means to its guests.

“The main attraction why people come is for the lantern launch,” Malachowski said. “Just like what people have seen in the movie Tangled, you know it’s something seriously amazing, and it can become quite spiritual and very emotional for people. So, that’s what brings people to the event, and we’re just trying to leave good vibes, a good atmosphere for everyone to hopefully leave as a better person.”

For those interested in the event, The Lights Fest is planning to make Florida a regular stop with four planned events annually. The next two dates this year will be sometime in the fall. Cities such as Jacksonville, Gainesville and Tallahassee have already pre-registered to host future events. With The Lights Fest now touching base in the Tampa Bay area, it is encouraged that people experience the event first-hand.

“It’s just a really good experience. I think everyone should do it at least once in their lifetime, just because it’s a cool thing to experience. Very spiritual. Magical.”

Tampa welcomes Bay Area Renaissance Festival

Hear ye, hear ye. The Renaissance Festival has officially made its way back to the Bay Area. This year, the festival is celebrating 39 years of existence. What started as a small get-together of Renaissance style partying and contests, evolved into what is loved by many today.

The festival opened its gates Feb. 10 and will continue to run through March 25. Operating hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekend, including Festival Friday on March 23. It’s located next to the Museum of Science and Industry and directly across USF.

It features 12 stages of various comedic Renaissance-themed shows, arts and crafts, roaming musicians and food that reflects both traditional and modern times.

Kiersten Lyons, a festival employee who has traveled with them for many years, expressed her excitement over the event.

“I absolutely love the fun freedom of all the different walks of life that come through here,” she said. “Anybody from the U.S. to the U.K. comes here. It’s an amazing event.”

Entertaining festival-goers this “statue” stays on his podium for most of the day. Photo taken by Yara Zayas.

Once you enter, you are immediately transported back in time. Everywhere you look you can see people dressed in Renaissance attire, speaking phrases like “huzzah” or “good morrow” and you may even see someone who will address themselves with a title of nobility, such as Lord or Lady.

“You got to get here! It’s awesome, it’s amazing to celebrate your heritage and your history,” said Lyons.

The gates have opened. #timetraveler #bayarearenfest

A post shared by Bay Area Renaissance Festival (@bayarearenfest) on

The event also features several activities that kids and adults will enjoy.

You can practice your ax throwing, try your hand at archery, ride a camel, test out your strength with a hammer game and do some bungee jumping. Also, if you know where to look, you’ll even find a mermaid cove or get a chance to have a photo taken with a unicorn.

“The mud show’s great, the jousting’s great, and they have a human chessboard,” said Lyons. “It’s absolutely wonderful. You get the best of everything around here.”

Lyons also made sure to mention how many of the people who put shows together make their living that way.

“The shows are definitely a great experience,” she said.

Festival-goers can also enjoy the shops that can be found throughout the grounds. You can find items such as swords, magic wands, hand-made mugs and art pieces from local artists all up for purchase. Prices vary with each vendor.

Most vendors and food booths accept credit and debit cards. However, you should always bring some cash. For convenience, there are ATMs available throughout the park.

The event offers seven differently themed weekends such as Pirates & Pets, Time Travelers, Shamrocks & Shenanigans, and Barbarian Brew Fest.

Travel back in time to the 16th century by visiting the Bay Area Renaissance Festival! With 12 stages of live…

Posted by Yara Zayas on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

If you’re interested in attending, tickets vary in price. Adult tickets are about $22, students with a valid ID can get in for about $18, and tickets for kids cost about $14. They also offer a military discount with proper identification.

Parking is always free for attendees, courtesy of MOSI.

Pets are also allowed inside the park after terms and conditions are met.

For more information visit the Bay Area Renaissance Festival site at http://www.bayarearenfest.com/.

New boba store hopes to appeal to USF students

With the rising popularity of boba, it’s no surprise that people can now enjoy a spot for the delicious dessert beverage near the University of South Florida.

Chewy Boba Co. opened its doors Jan. 11. It’s located at 2572 E. Fowler Ave., which is only a mile away from the university.

“We already have five stores in Orlando, Florida, and one in Las Vegas,” said Steven Page, the manager of Chewy Boba Co. “This is a great location. We get a lot of traffic from Chipotle and then the shopping center here is really good too.”

Chewy Boba is a new boba joint in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Yara Zayas.

Boba is a Taiwanese tea-based delicacy made from tapioca. Visitors can choose from an exotic menu that showcases flavors such as jasmine, mango, passion fruit and ginger honey.

“Our most popular are Thai and taro, and original milk tea and honeydew. ” said Page. “Those are the ones we have on tap. We also have other popular flavors like our blended specialties such as California Dreamin’.”

The shop also offers an assortment of macarons to complement the boba.

As customers enter the store, they are brought into a unique atmosphere filled with various pieces of art, books, board games and arcade cabinets. There are several tables and couches for people to sit and relax.

One of the favorite arcade games for customers to play is Dance Dance Revolution.

“The DDR machine, when it’s going, gets people in here all the time trying to play that,” said Page.

Customers can also participate in video game contests during certain weekends. Page described it as a great way to hang out and make some new friends.

“We have tournaments that we run for fighting games every other Friday, and then we have ‘Smash Bros.’ tournaments every other Saturday as well,” he said. “There’s no small spaces, people aren’t cramping together, everyone can walk around, it’s really great.”

Chewy Boba Co. displays a variety of artwork inside its store, which helps create a fun, modern environment.

Some of the art portrays “Star Wars” characters such as Chewbacca and Boba Fett. One of the founders of the company, Quan Vu, explained that the similarity between the name of the store and the movie was merely a coincidence.

“I’m an artist by trade, graphic designer, animator, illustrator and I do video productions,” he said. “I just came up with a few characters that kind of intertwined with the whole Boba thing and it worked out good.”

Vu originally started his business in 2002 as a trademark license under a different company. He was unsatisfied with how that company ran itself, which led him to creating his own business.

“They weren’t providing,” said Vu. “So, we decided that we would just switch over completely and start our own brand.”

Vu hopes Chewy Boba Co. will become a staple of the USF community. The store’s manager believes that it’s well on its way.

“We actually encourage USF students, they get a 10 percent discount,” said Page. “Students come in here all the time looking to study and kind of just hanging out. We got chill music all day.”

For more information about Chewy Boba Co., visit the company’s website: http://chewyboba.com/.

Buying local this holiday season is good for the environment and the community

As the holiday season approaches, Americans will begin to purchase more gifts and perishable goods than any other time of year. Choosing local vendors could have a positive effect on the environment, as well as the local economy.

Luckily, Tampa Bay offers lots of local shopping options that reduce buyer’s carbon footprints and benefits the area.

Sustainable produce and dairy options are offered at places like Sweetwater Organic Farm and Tampa Bay’s Farmer Market.

Buying produce, goods and meat from a high traffic supermarkets may mean that your fresh breakfast is coming from hundreds of miles away, and could of been held in storage for days.

It may also mean that Christmas gifts contributed to the global crisis of industrial pollution.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, industrial pollution is responsible for nearly 50 percent of American pollution.

Local businesses mainly hire Tampa Bay residents. These business owners are mostly locals, who contribute to the Tampa community through their consumer choices and donations.

The profits from large retailers like Walmart, don’t linger in the local economy, but go to the top of the business’s pyramid.

According to the  Andersonville Study of Retail Economics, local businesses generate 70 percent more local economic activity than large retailers.

Not only this, but supermarkets and malls get their products from over long distances. Large scale businesses burn lots of  fossil fuels through the processing, packaging and shipping of goods.

Locally sourced retailers cut out most of the shipping and transporting fuel use because the items are sourced in Tampa.

Consignment shopping is also good for the environment because it eliminates waste.

Local plants, flowers and garden decorations are available at Parkesdale Farms. Photo by Abby Baker.

“If you want to buy gift or even some groceries for yourself, places like Parkesdale here is going to give right back to Plant City,” said Parkesdale Farms consumer Josie Carlson. “You know, they give a lot to charities and all around here.”

Between Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other festivities around wintertime, entertaining in your home requires more than a few trips to the grocery store.

If meat and dairy is on your menu, considering local, organic farms could be healthy for you and the planet.

Buying local meat is Eco-friendly. Photo by Abby Baker at the Hay Exchange in Plant City, FL.

Farms like TrailBale farm, Chuck’s Natural Food Market and Nature’s Harvest Market offer poultry and red meat that has not been treated with unnatural chemicals and is fed a natural diet.

On top of this, large factory farms contribute to pollution and water waste.

According to the EPA, animals on American factory farms produce around 500 million tons of waste annually.

Smaller, sustainable farms offer meat that is raised in a way that doesn’t destroy the land and water it utilizes. Buying from these farms also supports the farmers that use these green tactics.

Supporting these green business owners strengthens the local economy at the most basic level, but with years of participation in local buying, big changes could be made to the U.S. economy.

“I buy most of my fruits and veggies here (Parkesdale),” said Carlson. “Really, it’s a little cheaper and I think the food tastes cleaner.”

If you’re looking for Tampa Bay shops to shop locally, these options will keep your local shopping cart full.

  • Blind Tiger Cafe in Ybor City offers an assortment of coffee and tea.
  • Penelope T is an upscale Tampa boutique that offers classy apparel and jewelry.
  • Paper Street Market in St. Petersburg offers vintage furniture and home decor.
  • Secondhand Savvys in Brandon is bursting with slightly used clothing and home goods.

Plant City businesses and churches continues to grow

In recent years, Plant City has experienced a wealth of community growth in many areas, including businesses and religious buildings.

Plant City — despite its small size — is home to more than 100 religious centers, including churches, worship centers and, since 2007, a center for Scientology.

In 2007, Plant City saw the opening of its first Dianetics and Scientology Life Improvement Center. The center opened in the heart of downtown Plant City in a historic 11,000 square foot building it purchased for over $600,000.

The grand opening included “bounce” houses, a slide, a bake sale and other activities. The grand opening also coincided with the opening of a St. Petersburg location for the Church of Scientology that same weekend. The church plans to use these two centers as examples as it works to expand to at least six more cities in the area in the years following the opening of these two centers.
Plant City has seen the juxtaposition of new churches opening near existing ones, which has redefined the architecture of the town. One new church is New Hope Worship Center, which opened New Hope @ Cornerstone in November 2016. The building was previously home to First Baptist Church of Plant City from 1923 until 1994, when the church moved to a newer, larger building. From 1994, until the opening of New Hope, the structure sat vacant.

Currently, First Baptist Church of Plant City is working on building a new, even larger, location in Plant City off of James L. Redman Parkway. The  building is expected to be completed in either December 2017 or January 2018.

Plant City has also worked hard to promote the growth of local business, and many small businesses have been born in recent years. New establishments have popped up across the street from, and even directly beside, older establishments. In addition Plant City, properties are regularly opening up for lease and rent.

Previously, a thrift shop and gun store, 1916 Irish Pub, opened in August of 2016 and recently celebrated the success of its first year in the community. Home to the winner of the 2017 Best Bartender recipient, the new business has seen a growth in clientele, advertising and partnerships with the Plant City Chamber of Commerce and other local organizations.

Similarly, establishments including Mr. Sebas, Krazy Kup and College Hunks Hauling Junk have taken over properties that previously were home to different businesses.

Mr. Sebas Ice Cream and More is a family-owned ice cream shop that opened in March 2015. The owners are the Ruiz family who also own other businesses in downtown Plant City. The family opened the ice cream shop not only to break into the food trade — but also — they say, to create a safe hangout for local teens.

Krazy Kup is a coffee shop that opened in downtown Plant City in October 2013. The two story building includes a coffee shop with pasties downstairs, a space upstairs where open mic nights are held, a conference room and an outdoor patio space in the alley. The owners of Krazy Kup , Frank Trunzo and his wife, Wenda Trunzo, dreamed of opening a coffeehouse for years and spent that time collecting the eclectic memorabilia on display at the shop.

The Plant City location of College Hunks Hauling Junk is owned by Plant City native and mayor’s son, Trent Lott. Lott grew up in Plant City, graduating from Plant City High School in 2012. He worked for College Hunks Hauling Junk, before deciding to make the jump to franchise owner. He opened his location on March 2016 at the age of 22.

Lott is also, involved in a local organization called RISE. The goal of RISE is to encourage young business men and women to stay in Plant City and promote economic growth locally, instead of commuting to nearby cities like Lakeland and Tampa. They hosts events regularly at new, upcoming businesses in Plant City to encourage not only the business owners, but also to encourage the growth of patronage at each establishment.

RISE has held events at local businesses including 1916 Irish Pub and The Corner Store. The Corner Store opened its doors in December 2007 aiming to create a local store where Plant City residents could not only enjoy some “slow food,” but also purchase ingredients. The owner and cook, Cynthia Diaz, opened The Corner Store after many trips made to other cities in search of just this sort of place. Celebrating its 10th  anniversary in Plant City next month, The Corner Store has become a fixture in downtown Plant City.

Local Tampa architect reveals unofficial Ray’s stadium design

The stadium design by Joe Toph includes a bird’s-eye view.

 

 

 

 

 

A Tampa architect has developed an unofficial visual concept for the proposed Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Ybor City.

Joe Toph released his vision for the new stadium on SkyScraperCity.com under the username Bueller. The designs are unofficial and the Ray’s team was not involved in their creation.

“I created these for fun,” Toph said. “I just wanted to get a creative dialogue started on the potential the location has.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan announced Oct. 24 that he found a site for a new baseball stadium. The 14 acre site is bordered by the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, North 15th Street, East 4th Avenue and Channelside Drive.

Locals and officials brought up one of the main issues with the location, which is parking. The lot is large enough for a baseball stadium, but there is concern that there may not be enough room on the proposed site for additional parking to be built.

However, the proximity to Ybor City and Downtown Tampa makes this site easily accessible through public transit. Toph’s plan includes the use of the trolley line, noting that it could also serve as a light rail line in the future. A possible Uber pickup lot and a water taxi marina are also included in the design.

If Toph’s vision does not pan out, and another garage cannot be built on the lot, there are other parking options. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told ABC Action News that the parking garages in Ybor City and in the downtown area are not used every night.

“The key will be to provide the linkages whether it’s a trolley or whatever to connect those garages to the stadium,” Buckhorn said.

The next hurdle for the proposed site will be finding the funding for the project.

“That’s going to be the $800 million question,” Buckhorn said.

The Rays will have to come to the table with a significant financial plan to fund the potential stadium. Mayor Buckhorn doesn’t want another stadium built on taxpayer dollars.

Raymond James Stadium is funded completely by taxpayer dollars and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lease to play in the stadium. According to Buckhorn, another stadium funded the same way would leave future generations of mayors and locals with an unpayable debt.

Tampa Bay real estate agent and Palmetto Beach resident, Laura Meyer, is looking forward to the possible development of the new stadium in such close proximity to the neighborhood she has called home for over a decade.

“A stadium in Ybor would have a huge impact on the residential community here,” Meyer said. “It’s the kind of boost the neighborhood could use to really put it on the map as a new up and coming area for Tampa.”

Palmetto Beach sits south of Ybor, west of 22nd Street and tucked on the east side of Desoto Park. Meyer says the area has a lot of potential to be another residential hot spot like Channelside and Hyde Park have become.

However, other locals are not as convinced that a stadium located in Ybor would be good move.

“I don’t know how they are going to fit a stadium onto the lot they are interested in,” Justin Cales, a student at Hillsborough Community College, said. “The traffic would just be terrible, as if it isn’t bad enough already. A stadium over here would be chaos.”

Cales has been attending HCC in Ybor for over a year. The small brick roads have taken time for him to adjust to and the idea of stadium traffic on those streets isn’t comforting.

“Ybor is great the way it is now, I don’t why we’d want to mess up a good thing,” Cales said.

Father’s death inspires USF student

via Public Domain

‘Ready, aim, fire’ is a phrase that one USF student is very familiar with.

Clay shooting is one of the many activities that she enjoyed with her father before he died.

Sarah Gimbel, 20, and her dad had a very close relationship. As her parents’ only child she was always spending quality time with them. One of her family’s favorite pastimes was driving their motorcycle. Gimbel’s father was a motorcycle patrol officer for the Tampa Police Department for 20 years. On May 7, 2016 Gimbel’s father, Howard, was killed in a motorcycle accident while enjoying an off-duty ride with her mother, Tonya.

“I was in the driveway when my parents were about to leave for their motorcycle ride,” said Gimbel, “I remember telling him, ‘I will stop talking and let you guys go. I will just talk to you later! I love you!’ just a little later was when I got the call from my cousin.”

This is when her life changed forever. Gimbel shared a special relationship with her parents. She always loved having a police officer as a father. Gimbel and her friends always felt safe when her father was around.

“Sarah and her dad were very close,” said longtime friend Sarah Berry, “She always had the best experiences with him. When she was younger she truly felt that her dad was invincible.”

After the accident not only did she have to stay strong, she had to grow up fast for her mother’s sake. When her mother was in the ICU for over a week Gimbel had to make funeral arrangements for her father and sign the paperwork. She had to do all this on her parent’s behalf.

“Since my mom attended his funeral in a stretcher and by ambulance, I stepped up and gave a eulogy in front of close to 500 -700 people,” said Gimbel, “I became a stronger person because I knew that my dad deserved that. I can say today, a year and a half later, that I would have never been the person I am today without that tragic experience.”

After the outpouring support from the Tampa Police Department and the Tampa community Gimbel wanted to find a way to give back. The idea to create a memorial foundation in her father’s honor was only part of her plan.

“Competitive shooting clays is a sport my dad got me into,” said Gimbel, “We enjoyed shooting monthly tournaments together. When my father passed I was trying to think of something to do in memory of him and that’s when hosting a sporting clay shoot came to mind. It is now the most important thing to me.”

The annual shoot is an event hosted, planned and organized by Gimbel. After her first memorial shoot last year, Gimbel donated the money to a competitive youth sporting clays team for their trip to nationals.

For the other part of her plan, she was able to create a scholarship for a high school senior entering college. Her goal for the foundation is to extend the scholarship program and give more opportunities to students that have parents in law enforcement.

“Sarah is so quick to help others and she never complains,” said Berry, “she really embodies all of her dad’s great qualities. I see his humor, positivity and dedication in her.”

Gimbel also participates in other volunteer events with TPD. The annual Tampa Police Memorial 5k is one of her favorite events. Gimbel says that this is when she truly feels her father’s presence.

“It makes me so proud to be her friend,” said Berry, “I know that her father would be so proud of all her accomplishments and of the woman she has become.”

Local doctor creates library to help the community

The Dr. Walter Smith Library is a two-building, former residential home managed by Dr. Walter Smith, where students of all ages can go to study and learn.

“Each day I saw the children playing in the streets after school with no place to go,” said Smith. “I decided I’d like to do something that would make a difference so they could have some place to come in, read and learn some things they didn’t know.”

Dr. Walter Smith in his library. Photo by Tyrah Walker.

The library was once Smith’s parent’s home before they died.  He continues his parent’s legacy by welcoming and educating the community.

Walking into the library for the first time feels more like stepping into a museum.  The library’s building one holds a variety of magazines and books on math, science and history.

There is a computer room with an exhibit of famous African-American astronauts—Robert Henry Lawrence and Dr. Mae Jemison. The exhibit hangs over a collection of dinosaur skulls that Smith has collected over the years.

“If you want to study biology, chemistry and physics [at the library],  then you have what it takes to study it,” said Smith. “There’s the periodic table, too, on the wall.”

The library also has a collection of African-American art and sculptures that Smith obtained during the years he lived in Africa. During his time there, Smith was appointed senior fullbright scholar at the University of Malawi.

Building two of the library holds more books and magazines on Africa and African-American history, such as the national bestseller, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”.

There is a room filled with photos of Smith’s heroes: former President Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

Nearby the dinosaur collection is an exhibit of the human body that hangs over the computers, where students can do their homework.

Smith was born in Tampa in 1935. He grew up in Cairo, Georgia; Tallahassee and Harlem.

Smith received his associate’s degree from Gibb’s Junior College. He then received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in leadership from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

He later became FAMU’s seventh president. After completing his master’s, Smith received his doctoral degree in higher education from Florida State University.

“It’s not all just sitting down at a computer,” said Smith. “You’ve got to read, you’ve got to do research, you’ve got to talk, you’ve got to travel. You put all that together and you grow.”

For Smith, it’s important that young people know their history.  One can expect a short history quiz when they come in the library and meet him for the first time.

“Education is very important,” Smith said. “We need to start educating our young people in our homes. Far too many parents don’t take the time to read the books.”

In honor of his mother, Smith has an area within the library that exhibits a dress she handmade for his retirement party. She was always proud of his achievements, he said.

“I told my mother I would never sell this property,” Smith said. “I bought the facility and began to make it like we wanted and care for young people. God works in mysterious ways.”

Smith has been given over 100 awards since his early adulthood.

He received the Soaring Eagle Award in 2003  for his lifetime contributions to American community colleges. Other awards relate to his outstanding professional achievement and work within both the Tampa and Tallahassee communities.

Smith’s library is located on 905 North Albany Ave. and is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

https://youtu.be/5OBgcbDKqI0

Pam Colleton’s 57 years in Progress Village

 

Progress Village is Tampa’s first low income housing area and it has been through a lot over the years, but one resident has always stayed faithful and seen the best in the neighborhood.

Pamela Colleton has lived in Progress Village since the 60s. Colleton loves “The Village” and she knows almost everything there is to know about it.

“Our community was like one big family. You know how you hear that it takes a village to raise a family? Well this is our village. I raised my kids out here. I tried to move one time, but they didn’t want to move, so I couldn’t move and stayed here. I’ve been in my (current) home… it will be 40 years January 28. So, I just love the village,” Colleton said.

Colleton works in the parks and recreation center where she meets all the families that live in the village.

“Well I love the community. I have been here for 57 years, so I grew up in the neighborhood. So, I know a lot of the families here, the older families as well as the newer generations of families. I’ve worked at the parks and recreation for eight years doing the basketball program at the gym. So, a lot of the newer kids I met. So, it’s a feeling of home it really is,” Colleton said.

Colleton moved to “The Village” when she was eight years old. Before that, she lived in Hyde Park. Growing up in “The Village,” Colleton was able to share many stories about the park, where she spent most of her time when she was younger. The park was the place where everyone would hang out, and none of their parents worried about them because they knew their children were safe.

There was always plenty to do at the park like playing on the basketball courts or dancing to James Brown music. Mr. Johnson, who ran a concession stand at the park, would put a quarter in the juke box for the kids to dance to. Colleton was very active as a child and would constantly be engaged in games of basketball, volleyball, kickball and more.

Photo from Jeanette Abrahamsen

“The basketball courts. We had four goals and we had a four-square court and that stayed busy. The four-square court from the beginning to the end, that stayed busy. In front of the concession stand we had a large piece of concrete where the music was playing. You could go and dance if you wanted to,” Colleton said.

Colleton owns a family reunion booklet. The booklet is about Progress Village. “We had people coming back to Progress Village who haven’t been back in Progress Village for years. Pulling this all together we advertised it in the papers. We were just trying to get everybody back and quite a few people came back, every year quite a few people came back,” Colleton said.

The booklet was Progress Village’s yearbook and showed all the history that happened in the village. The book had history ranging from church history to the history of the first city council presidents. The booklet gives people the chance to see and learn about their own history.

Pamela Colleton is passionate about Progress Village and she loves being part of her community. She shared several stories with WUSF and you can listen to the whole interview below.

Little League children taught to succeed off field

Bianco Berry (left) and his daughter, London. Photo by Katie Ebner

The vice president of Progress Village Little League teaches children more about life than baseball in hopes of inspiring a misunderstood community.

Progress Village was created less than 60 years ago—before the height of the civil rights movement—to give black people an affordable community to call home. Only a railroad track separated it from the Klu Klux Klan, who terrorized members of the new community.

Progress Village changed a lot over the years, but it still fights a bad reputation from its drug problems and murders that seem to be the only reasons the community makes the news.

Little League Vice President Bianco Berry, however, sees Progress Village differently than outsiders. Though he did not grow up there, the tight-knit community enjoys a rich storytelling culture, which is how he learned about its history.

“Just to hear the old stories is really, it’s almost like, you growing up, you wasn’t always here, but you always feel like you was always involved in the community,” said Berry.

Berry started volunteering with the Little League when he moved to Tampa in 2006. His passion for giving back to the community and being a positive influence for his children and the children he coaches earned him a spot on the Little League board, and eventually the title as vice president.

During his stint as vice president he coached both of his children, and even coached his daughter’s softball team when it won the district championship two years ago. His daughter, London, 11, cherishes her relationship with her dad for more than what they have accomplished on the field together.

“Many people don’t have a dad that can just tell them that, ‘oh you’re amazing, you’re worth it in life,’ so I just feel like respected that like I have someone that is there for me that can tell me that,” said London.

She credits the Little League for playing a big role in teaching children like her valuable life lessons.

“I think that kids can develop great leadership because Progress Village, we hold a lot of like activities for the children to do, just to get involved more, and also it gives the kids like new opportunities to learn something new, and to experience things off of others,” said London.

His primary focus is not winning games. It’s helping children learn how to achieve great things beyond Little League Baseball.

“We’re trying to teach you the game, trying to teach you the fundamentals, trying to teach you this is how life is,” said Berry.

As one of the league’s leaders, Berry wants players to recognize the importance of working together.

“We try to give you the tools that’s not necessary to succeed in sport but to succeed in life as well,” said Berry. “This has to be like a team organization. You got to have teamwork when you go to your job, you got to have a team, got to be able to rely on others, you try to teach them it’s not always about ‘me me me.'”

He also emphasizes the importance of giving at-risk children a positive atmosphere to learn and grow, instead of falling into bad habits.

“[We] try to teach them to be respectful of everyone, and just try to provide a safe and fun environment for them to come out and do stuff, and not have to be always in the streets, always doing something negative,” said Berry. “Try to turn something negative, and try to make them keep, keep a positive attitude.”

Bianco and London spoke to WUSF as part of its “Telling Tampa Bay Stories” radio series. Photo by Katie Ebner

Berry teaches his own children these same values. On every family vacation, he and his wife take their children to different universities wherever they visit to show their kids what they can achieve if they continue to work hard and be positive influences on others. These trips gave his daughter a new perspective, and inspired her to make a difference in others’ lives.

” … Until like a few years ago I didn’t really realize that most people don’t exactly get like I have,” said London. “[I’m] able to do stuff in life, [and] not always [be] one of those people who’s always down. I can always stay positive.”

According to Berry, both of his children exemplify the values he tries to teach Little League players, and he could not be more proud of them. His daughter talks about how she stands up for kids who get bullied at school, and how she is involved with Sisters Network—an organization that raises awareness for African-American women impacted by breast cancer. One day, she wants to be a doctor or professional athlete.

“I mean, she’s a pleasure,” said Berry about his daughter. “Both my kids are, so I’m just happy trying to do the right thing by them, make sure they can be productive citizens in life.”

Walt Disney World Resort’s NBA Experience’s latest update

Preview poster for The NBA Experience. Photo by: Tea Piro

As of Oct. 19, the Walt Disney World Resort has given guests an updated first look into a sports themed experience coming to their main shopping and dining destination, Disney Springs.

In June of 2015, the editorial content director for Disney Parks, Thomas Smith published an article on the Disney Parks Blog, announcing The Walt Disney Co.’s collaboration with the National Basketball Association to create The NBA Experience. The announcement came just before the 2015 NBA Finals, which brought in an American audience average of roughly 20 million.

“We’re excited to join The NBA in offering this unique form of family entertainment,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “It will be a terrific addition to the world-class lineup of shops and restaurants coming to Disney Springs.”

The Oct. 19 announcement featured concept art for what will be the facade of The NBA Experience. The statement referenced the architectural design of modern basketball arenas across the U.S. as contributing factors to the design choice.

While detailed design ideas have yet to be released for the interior of the space, the venue is set to include shopping experiences, games with competitive features, a connected dining location and other interactive aspects.

“This one-of-a-kind experience is sure to be enjoyed by basketball and Disney fans of all ages who visit Disney Springs from around the world, ” said Sal LaRocca, NBA President of Global Partnerships.

On March 14, 2013, Tom Staggs, Chief Operation Officer for The Walt Disney Company, announced the transition of the resort’s shopping center, Downtown Disney, into what is now Disney Springs. The three year expansion resulted in the shopping center almost doubling in size.

The NBA Experience will be replacing DisneyQuest, an indoor interactive theme park that opened at The Walt Disney World Resort in 1998. DisneyQuest featured an array of video games that highlighted attractions found in the Disney parks as a way for guests to enjoy key elements without directly visiting one of the four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks.

In June of 2015, it was announced that DisneyQuest would close its doors the following year to make way for The NBA Experience. However, DisneyQuest did not officially close until July of 2017.

DisneyQuest demolition site as of November 3, 2017. Photo by: Tea Piro
DisneyQuest demolition space as of November 3, 2017. Photo by: Tea Piro

DisneyQuest was known for its old-school atmosphere, featuring pinball machines and other arcade-style games. While this aspect brought feelings of nostalgia to some guests, others viewed the indoor theme park as outdated. However, Walt Disney World Resort cast members noticed an influx of guests returning to DisneyQuest prior to its closure.

“People know that it’s coming to a close,” said Steve Ruffman, the General Manager of Disney Springs’ West Side and The Landing, to the Orlando Sentinel in June of 2017. “There are Disney gamers, there are Disneyphiles and there are people who are just excited that this has been part of their annual visit to Disney World. It’s now ‘a must-do’ when it was ‘a may-have-been’ a year ago.”

The NBA Experience is coming to The Walt Disney World Resort following the closure of NBA City at Orlando’s Universal CityWalk. NBA City, the themed restaurant that included NBA memorabilia, closed in August of 2015.

“Earlier this year, we decided not to renew the lease for NBA City so we could create an exciting, new concept for that space,” said Universal spokesman Tom Schroder to the Orlando Sentinel.

The NBA Experience’s new location to Disney Springs will add a significant space increase to the basketball themed restaurant. The location of CityWalk’s former NBA City restaurant, now The Toothsome Chocolate Factory & Savory Feast Emporium, offered 17,500 square feet; however, the new location at the DisneyQuest space offers 100,000 square feet.

Although the opening date for summer 2019 has officially been announced, Walt Disney World Resort guests have been voicing differing opinions in the comment sections of the Disney Parks Blog regarding a NBA themed experience at Disney Springs.

Local elementary school opens food pantry to help support students

Clair-Mel Elementary School in Tampa has opened a new food pantry to combat child hunger among students.

Because 98 percent of their students qualify for free and reduced lunch, school principal Rick Grayes and school social worker, Delora Campbell, saw a need for the pantry.

“I had a lot of kids coming to me saying they didn’t have food in the refrigerator,” Campbell said. “A lot of parents coming to me saying ‘I have to make a decision on whether I can afford to pay my rent or feed my children.’”

One of those children was third-grader Heaven-Leigh Gillisford.

“When I didn’t have food in my refrigerator, it was butterflies in my stomach,” Heaven-Leigh said.

Clair-Mel partnered with the Just Full Service Center, a Tampa food distributor for the needy, and received a $2,000 grant to open the pantry.

The pantry is available for all students and families. Grayes and Campbell want the parents to know that they are there for support.

“We are very excited,” Grayes said. “This is the way that we are trying to provide a layer of support, and ultimately this is going to help students be successful in life.”

Clair-Mel has partnered with Feeding Tampa Bay and has applied for grants from Walmart. Their hope is to continue to receive donations in order to make sure the pantry stays open to help feed the students.

Legendary journalist visits students at USF

Ralph Lowenstein during his two-part lecture at USF. Photo by Tyrah Walker.

It was 1976 when journalist Ralph Lowenstein became the third dean of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. It was during his time there that he foretold the future of print.

“Print on paper is dead,” said Lowenstein. He predicted that classified advertising would evaporate completely from the printed pages. Not only did he correctly predict classified advertising, but he also predicted that electronic communication would become the new wave.

This prediction earned him the nickname “Prophet Professor.

Now, 41 years later, Lowenstein is sharing his wisdom with future journalists and editors at the University of South Florida (USF).

In an intimate setting inside the Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications, Lowenstein stood in front of students and faculty, and spoke on his past experiences in journalism. Lowenstein spoke numerous times on the history of newspapers during his lecture.

Several issues were discussed during his two-part lecture. Part one focused on Lowenstein’s early adult years, education and co-writing the book, “Viva Journalism: The Triumph of Print in the Media Revolution.” He also shared valuable lessons he learned as a young journalist in an era when newspapers dominated how people obtained their news.

Even though he predicted the future of electronic newspapers, Lowenstein also spoke on how they can become better.

“One problem with the electronic newspaper is it’s not really readable,” Lowenstein said. “When you go into it, you want to know what the latest news is. You don’t want to know what happened 12 hours ago or 15 hours ago and that’s what you’re getting.”

Lowenstein explained to guests how classifieds were the “bread and butter” of the newspaper. Advertisements brought in most of the newspapers daily income. Once news became more popular electronically, advertisements began to slowly decline. Lowenstein believes electronic newspapers have failed to include ads successfully.

“Advertising is news in certain circumstances,” he said. “I think people really do want advertising.”

Another problem with most electronic newspapers, according to Lowenstein, is the death of the gatekeeper.

Lowenstein explained that gatekeepers determine what does or does not go into the newspaper. In his youth, gatekeepers made the newspapers readable and factual. There were fewer reporting errors back when newspapers used them. Today there are too many errors that could be avoided if media outlets had the much needed gatekeeper.

In Lowenstein’s opinion, there is a lack of professionalism in the world of journalism. How do we become more professional with journalism as a whole? According to Lowenstein, it goes back to having a gatekeeper.

“Many newspapers have locked off a lot of the editors [out] of the way so the information goes from the reporter into the newspaper,” said Lowenstein. “It’s a horrible thing to see.”

Part two of Lowenstein’s lecture opened up with the latest trending topic in the media: Richard Spencer.

Recently the University of Florida allowed Spencer to hold a speech despite the belief to many of him being a white supremacist. UF students and Gainesville citizens showed up to his speech and protested against him and his followers.

This part of Lowenstein’s lecture allowed students to be more engaged. He opened up the discussion by informing students about the First Amendment and its exceptions. He then asked students whether it should protect everyone – including white supremacists and “hardcore racists.”

Lowenstein even shared his opinion about the event and how UF could have handled the situation differently.

“The university really acted improperly,” he said. “My feelings are pretty strong about that.”

The Richard Spencer topic left many in the room wondering how they would have reported the story if they were in attendance of the event. Journalist have a job to do, but how much coverage should media outlets give a figure like Spencer?

Both students and professors gave their opinions on the subject matter. There seemed to be a mutual agreement that it’s important to cover all angles of the story no matter the position of the reporter.

“It was never really in the paper properly,” said Lowenstein. “I think there were who defended his right to speak…those were the people who were quoted. There were no people like me who would not defend his right to speak.”

The lecture wrapped up by lunch with Lowenstein taking photos and sharing advice with students.

Tampa Police Museum educates its community

TAMPA- There’s no doubt that police officers have a risky job. Saving the lives of others and making sure citizens are safe on a daily basis is an officer’s duty and mission. You can imagine the constant fear that their loved ones may have while they’re out patrolling our streets.

Mother and volunteer, Kathy Belmonte, knows about feeling anxiety as her identical twin sons work for the Tampa Police Department (TPD).  In order to keep her mind off the potential safety concerns Belmonte volunteers at the Tampa Police Museum.

“First of all they’re shocked that it’s free,” said Belmonte, who has been volunteering at the museum on Saturdays for a year. “That’s always a big shock.”

Organized in 1995, the museum holds the history of TPD from as early as the late 1800s. The museum is located on Franklin Street next to the police station in downtown Tampa.

The museum was originally an old courtroom on Tampa Street that contained memorabilia. Lieutenants Robert Pennington and Roberto Batista decided to turn the room into what it is today. There’s much to discover as one walks through the museum for the first time. Visitors can expect to see both an artificial helicopter and a police car. According to Belmonte, kids love taking pictures with both artifacts.

Artifacts are not the only main attraction one can experience. Visitors will be able to “time-capsule” their way and gain insight of TPD, which was formed in 1886.

“What they should expect is to see how police work has evolved throughout the years,” said Paul Mumford, a volunteer and retired TPD officer. “From communications with a telephone, to communications with walkie-talkies and cell phones, and how the generation has gone from the old way of doing police work.”

One of Belmonte’s favorite parts of the museum is the “Andy Wade Memorial.” During his adult years, Wade traveled all over the Midwest to collect original police records of the world’s most notorious criminals. Some of the criminal records you will see include George “Machine Gun” Kelly and his wife Kathryn, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, Harry Pierpont and George “Baby Face” Nelson.

According to the biography attached to his memorial, Wade died in a car crash. His family donated the records he collected to the museum. Some may not know that back in the early 1940s and 1950s, Tampa itself was known to be filled with local gangsters and members of different mafias.

“I love looking at all these old mug shots of famous people,” said Belmonte. “I’m impressed. I feel like every time I’m here, I find something new that I didn’t really notice before.”

Mumford has been volunteering at the museum for two years. The majority of the museum’s volunteers are retired TPD officers. There are parts within the museum where officers donated items to be showcased. Although Mumford has not donated items, you can still see him donating his time every Monday.

“There’s a lot of displays that are from officers,”said Mumford. “There’s a display of badges and patches – those were all police officers that had collections that donated them to the museum so they could be displayed to the people.”

Even though the tour includes many fun facts, the museum is also filled with somber memories of officers who lost their lives on duty. One can sense the love and purpose to serve the community that the fallen officers had for their city. Even though the museum has been open for over 20 years, the goal is to inform and educate more people about the wonderful history of the great men and women who protect us every day.

The Tampa Police Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Wake and Bacon food truck to open

 

 

Gettin Klucky photo via Facebook

A local restaurant lifer is finally ready to break off on his own path and try his hand in the food truck game as early as January 2018.

Chris Daneker has spent half of his life working in the restaurent industry and always dreamed of running the show himself. That dream may be coming true after nearly a year of planning and team building. With the help of friends and business partners, Jason Harp and Chelsey Macko, Wake and Bacon is ready to roll.

“We chose to do a food truck because it’s cheaper,” Daneker said. “We’re broke with no capital to use as collateral for a larger loan.”

Daneker needed a plan to make his food truck and future restaurant a reality.

“Food trucks are mobile marketing for our eventual brick-and-mortar restaurant,” Daneker said.

Daneker and his partners have been planning for 10 months. Those plans and the subsequent business model came from his sister, an accounting major, in a project that earned her one of the highest grades in her class.

The planning includes extensive research in Bay Area counties. Wake and Bacon used this information to determine where they would plan on setting up shop on a given day.

“We plan to operate throughout the Tampa Bay area with daily stops in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties,” Daneker said. “Both counties are on the upswing as far as growth in population and economy.”

A lot of that population growth can be attributed to a younger crowd. Daneker said their target demographic is ages 21-45, so this area may be perfect.

Wake and Bacon’s business model is tied to the versatility of its ingredients. Candied bacon, Cuban bread and chicken breast are used in a multitude of ways. This maximizes profit while still allowing each entrée to be completely different.

How does Candied Heaven sound? It is a breakfast sandwich with candied bacon, Havarti cheese and two runny over-easy eggs between butter-toasted Cuban bread.

The Tummy Stix are waffle sticks served infused with candied bacon with fried chicken tenders and homemade syrup.

The menu also features the Gettin’ Klucky sandwich with fried chicken with shredded lettuce and homemade ranch pressed between Cuban bread.

Daneker may be excited to finally get started but he still understands it is an ongoing process even once you are open for business.  He wants to reach higher.

Daneker said that his long-term plan is to convert the food truck into a stationary restaurant and use the truck for catering and deliveries.

Tampa Fire Museum gives back

On March 1, 1908, Tampa experienced the largest fire in its history. Cottages, factories and stores were burned down to ashes and two thousand people were left homeless.

The fire was discovered inside a boarding house in Ybor City. Before the volunteer firefighters came, many homes and businesses were already destroyed. The flames were extremely difficult to control.

“Everything was built out of wood,” said Joy Bunch, employee for the Tampa Fire Museum. “Back then trying to get it contained, they just couldn’t get ahead of it. When it was all said and done, it burned 55 acres and 17 city blocks.”

According to Bunch, city officials decided to rebuild everything destroyed by importing brick. This decision was also the reason why the Tampa Fire Museum is made out of brick.

Built in 1911, the museum was originally the headquarters for the Tampa Fire Department (TFD) until 1974.  Now the museum holds all the history of TFD and the Tampa Fire Rescue (TFR). Everyday visitors come in not only to learn about the history of both departments, but also to learn more about safety education and fire prevention. The museum is free of charge but donations are accepted and appreciated.

“We have an area for kids to play in,” said Scott Mays, a local firefighter. “We also have a couple of trucks and things like that for people to see. We also have a store where we sell memorabilia and other firefighter stuff and museum items as well.”

One part of the museum contains fire truck exhibits. One truck, nicknamed the “Little Mack” can still be used in a fire today if need be, but it’s mostly used for personal events such as parades and funerals. The truck was sold to TFD in 1949 for $13,884. It was last served in Firehouse Station Three.

Close by the fire trucks, one will see how the firefighters’ uniforms have changed over the years. During the 1920s and 1960s, firefighters wore less gear than the one’s today. You will see that in earlier decades, they wore a helmet, bunker pants, boots, quick-close fasteners and held a pick-headed axe. Now they’ve replaced the axe with a hose and added reflective strips, gloves, goggles, a face piece and more. According to the museum, the total amount of gear a firefighter wears adds another 75 pounds to their weight.

TFD originally consisted of volunteer firemen. The first volunteer company was created in 1885 and 10 years later the department became a paid company.

“The city budget was $18,000,” said Bunch. Bunch has been working for the museum ever since her son, Matt Bunch, passed away due to a rare cancer. He was a firefighter that was stationed across the street from the museum. He served the community for nearly 6 years.

“Tampa Fire Rescue supported him and our family,” she said. “While it was a very short battle, they were just tremendous to our family and still are. I started volunteering here and then they offered me a position.”

There is a room where visitors can pay their respects to the local firefighters that have passed away. Near the memorial room there is also an exhibit in honor of the firefighters that passed away saving lives on 9/11.

The museum also welcomes guests to host special events such as birthday parties, retirement functions and weddings.

“We do all types of events here at the museum,” said Mays. Before becoming a firefighter, Mays worked for the museum and stopped by occasionally to help out when needed. “We also do community things when we just have folks come in from the street for tours.”

Educating the community on fire safety is one of the goals of the museum. They wish to educate as many people as they can, especially children. This is one of the reasons why there is no charge to enter.

“We try to give fire prevention, what to do in a fire, things like that…where we don’t want to charge people for that information,” said Mays. “We want people to be able to get that information without having to pay for it because we feel that it is necessary and extremely important that people understand what to do during a fire.”

The museum has been designated a “local historical landmark” by the City of Tampa Architectural Review Historic Designation Division. You can visit on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

“Besides the stop, drop and roll…get out and stay out,” said Mays. He says that is the best tip he can give to people who may not know what else to do in case of a fire. “If there is something left in there, let the firefighters know.”

For more information visit www.tampafirefightersmuseum.org

Help from local hurricane relief group extends to Puerto Rico

TAMPA— Members of the community have united to form Decentralized Response, a grassroots response coalition, in the wake of the environmental and economic devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Decentralized Response previously operated under the title Irma Decentralized Response. The name was changed when the group’s relief effort extended beyond hurricane Irma.

Volunteers have supplies sent to a three-bedroom house in Tampa that they call the hub.  They store goods there and distribute them statewide.  The group is even planning a relief trip to Puerto Rico.

Pictured left is one of the rooms in the response hub. The whole house holds a variety of relief supplies that volunteers distribute in the hurricane relief packs. Photo credit: Decentralized Response Facebook Page

Dezeray Lyn, a woman who assisted in the formation of the response group, discussed the group’s main mission, where they’ve been and where they’re going.

“We are here to feed and supply anyone in the community who needs it,” Lyn said. “We also traveled to Apopka, Immokalee and the Keys to give the community there assistance.”

Lyn is also a co-founder of Mutual Aid Disaster Relief.  According to the Facebook page, MADR is a grassroots network with a mission to provide disaster relief based on the principles of solidarity, mutual aid and autonomous direct action.

Members of MADR and other activists began mobilizing, as the threat of Irma loomed, to help those in need before, during and after the storm. They formed distribution teams to take hurricane packs containing food, water and hygiene products to refugee families days before Irma hit. The group was a saving grace for those trapped in the rain and high winds.

“We received a call to our relief line from someone trapped in the storm,” Lyn said.  “They were stuck on the side of the interstate, and the police said the winds were too high to send anyone to help them, so we sent our people to pick them up.”

Mostly, the poorer communities were without water and power for extended amounts of time after Irma passed. Decentralized Response provided those neighborhoods in need with water, food and even generators, in some cases.

Dezeray Lyn is featured to the left helping with the delivery of goods to citizens in the Florida Keys. Photo credit: Justin Garcia

Lyn and activists also traveled to Apopka and Immokalee to provide relief. Apopka residents found themselves without power for many days in their small, farming community. It was loosely estimated that 70 percent of the citrus crop was lost during the storm.

Immokalee was hit harder by Irma than many other parts of Florida. More help was needed, so the Coalition of Immokalee Workers worked hard to receive and distribute goods. The town of migrant farmers didn’t have power for weeks and lost a major portion of their crops. Some even lost their homes.

Relief efforts continue.  However, the aid priority of Puerto Rico and other islands has made itself apparent.  The Decentralized Response crew is gearing up to make a trip to the devastated island.

“We are leaving on a weeklong trip to Puerto Rico on October 12,” Lyn said.

Their goal is to help people in need after hurricane Maria. They will distribute relief goods that are being collected in a shipping container before the trip. It should be there when they arrive.

This is a donation flier from Decentralized Response that lists the products needed to be collected and distributed to the victims of the hurricanes. Photo credit: Decentralized Response Facebook Page

Members of Decentralized Response feel that state efforts are not enough considering the destruction in Puerto Rico.

“We must demand that they do more, but also help as a community however we can,” Lyn said.