Holidays approaching; business increases for small gaming store

 

R.U. Game is a small business that specializes in dated video game systems and accessories. With the Christmas season beginning, dated technology is starting to increase in sales.

Store manager, Christopher Carrol, explains what separates his store from other competitive gaming stores.

“One thing is, we’re not a multi-billion dollar corporation. We’re a bunch of dudes just doing the things we love. We like to make sure we take care of our customers, too; always running specials, all that kind of stuff,” Carrol said. “We give more for trade than, let’s say, our competitor, Game Stop, does. Like we even make sure and verify beforehand that we also give more too. It’s kind of a way of showing that we will go the extra step.”

Regular R.U. Game customer, Joel Hanson, prefers R.U. Game over other gaming stores.

“I like that the guys here really know what they’re talking about, and they have a wide range of video games and systems,” Hanson said. “They’ve got retro stuff in addition to the newest consoles.”

R.U. Game has three branches located in Temple Terrace, Brandon and Gainesville. Their branches are open until 9 p.m. and they accept trade-ins on all old gaming systems and system accessories.

After a very successful Black Friday and with the holidays approaching, R.U. Game hopes to maintain an increase in business throughout the season. 

New housing to put life in campus

TAMPA- The $133 million student housing project at the University of South Florida is well underway.

“The Village” will replace what is now the Andros area on campus. The project includes five new dorms, a dining hall called “The Hub,” and a recreational facility named “The Fit.”

The first installment of the project will include 2 dorms that will open for Fall 2017. The second installment will begin after that and include the rest of the facilities. The entire project is expected to be finished in time for the Fall of 2018.

Assistant Director of Communications, Gregory Bowers, said that there has been a push for more housing on campus for quite some time now. He believes that adding more beds will provide an opportunity for more students to succeed by living on campus.

“The conversation about bringing new halls on (to campus), of course, is always going to be a financial one from the start.” Bowers said. “The way we were able to move forward was by doing what is called a public-private partnership.”

The project is receiving private funding from Capstone-Harrison Street. The agreement is that the company will finance, build and operate The Village for the next fifty-two years. USF will then become the owners of that space.

Residents in the area are noticing some noise throughout the day. Ryan Williams is a freshman living in the Kappa dorm. He’s excited about the project, but does admit the noise can be annoying.

“It’s a little loud sometimes. Sometimes there will be a really loud, low vibration you can hear pretty much anywhere. That’s a little annoying,” Williams said.

Williams said he is excited to see what The Village will bring to the north end of campus.

“It’ll bring a lot of people together to live on campus,” Williams said.

Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market’s Unique Vendors Attracts Throngs Of Curious Crowds Weekly

On Tuesdays, vendors line the sidewalks of Gulfport’s historic Waterfront district. The Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market attracts more than 1,000 people from October through to April.

In 2006, the market got its start in a small courtyard with only three vendors. Today, the market hosts up to 80 vendors on any given Tuesday during the season and contributes to community projects by providing grants with the money generated.

Susan Blankenship, market operations manager, appreciates the community element of the weekly event as well as the opportunity for visitors to find out about the Gulfport community.

“It gets people who live close to come down and walk around,” Blankenship said. “They get to know each other and socialize, and (it) gives new people an opportunity to find out about our great community.”

In an effort to maintain variety, prospective vendors are decided upon by a committee that reviews application submissions.

Variety is something that does not come short at Jerky Man Dan’s, where jerky, ranging from kangaroo, ostrich, duck, elk, alligator and more, can be found.

After being idle for one year, Jerky Man Dan’s is now up and running but with a new purpose and owner, Ted.

After the death of his brother, 58-year-old Ted decided to continue his brother’s entrepreneurial pursuit with the aim of aiding his mother while she struggles with her diminishing mental health.  

Since coming to the market each Tuesday, Ted has seen a light in his mother. Coming to the market is something that his mother, Marie, enjoys doing.

“I’m blessed enough to be able to spend some time with my mother before she passes away, to get her out of the house and let her enjoy life,” he said.

Shop local this holiday season

Harvest season is right around the corner and the MiraBay Market encourages the community to shop local this Thanksgiving. Vendors and small businesses around the area are encouraged to set up their tents and showcase their products for local shoppers.

“I’m kind of new, I moved here in the summer so seeing a lot of these local vendors kind of helps me get to know them a little better and see what’s actually out in my community,” Suzie Moore said, a local shopper.

Small businesses got a chance to showcase their products. Big Crush Slush Company was amongst these, offering premium frozen slush beverages. Owner Tim Sanders encourages local markets and businesses because it brings attention to the community.

“Right now in this time in age we need to help the small business owners,” Tim Sanders said, “This helps drive that attention into the small business owners as well as the local communities.”

The MiraBay Market features all types of food items, including produce, sweets, and specialty drinks. The market also features other items like clothing, jewelry and accessories.

It was an event fit for all age groups, with one of the youngest vendors being Zoraya Gonzales.

“I just started working with my titi,” said Zoraya Gonzales.

The MiraBay Market takes place outside of the MiraBay Club in Apollo Beach on the third Sunday of every month. The next one is Dec.18th.

 

Tampa Bay’s Best: The Florida Aquarium

Florida Aquarium employee Eric Hovland and guest Angela Moody share a passion for marine life and the environment in which they live.

Hovland has seen The Florida Aquarium blossom into the popular Tampa attraction that it is today.

“I’ve worked here at The Florida Aquarium for going on 22 years in May and I’ve loved every minute of it,” Hovland said. “Seeing the facility grow over the years and being able to work with all of the diverse species of marine life on a daily basis has been a dream come true for me.”

Located in downtown Tampa, right next to Port Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium offers its patrons a unique experience that is unlike any other aquarium in the United States.

“I had no idea until I got here that you could dive with sharks at this aquarium,” Moody said. “I’ve never heard of anything like that at any other aquarium I’ve ever been to.”

The Florida Aquarium was the first aquarium in the nation to offer an uncaged dive with sharks experience.

“We have the sand tiger sharks and all of our diverse fish that you can get to know,” Hovland said. “Learning about sharks can really accelerate when you can see sharks being sharks.”

People from all over the world travel to Tampa, which in turn brings many diverse people and cultures to The Florida Aquarium.

“Whether they’re getting off a cruise ship and stopping in for a visit, we really do get a diversity of the world’s culture,” Hovland said. “It’s nice to see our impact reaches much further than just the Tampa Bay area.”

For more information, please visit flaquarium.org

No Oven, No Problem

 

Roland Strobel is the co-creator of The Cider Press Cafe located in St.Petersburg. They create tasty dishes from natural ingredients without using an oven, stove or microwave.

“It is a vegan restaurant but we are mainly a raw and gluten free restaurant. We don’t cook a lot of our dishes but we prepare them in ways and process them without cooking them,” Strobel said.

Kitchen manager Christina Barbara has been working at the cafe since it opened August of last year. She has maintained a smooth operating kitchen by making sure the preparation is done correctly.

“The prep work is the main art of the food here basically. That is the most important, the most crucial thing cause if you don’t have that recipe down right then it doesn’t even taste right,” Barbara said.

Barbara has expanded her knowledge of cooking and combining of flavors from working at the cafe.

“Working here will definitely give you a different aspect of life. How to make your vegetables a new way of combining them into everyday eating and healthy living,” Barbara said.

The Cider Press Cafe incorporates paintings from local artists in the community to feature in the restaurant. The cafe also features an event night the first Wednesday of every month where guests can drink wine and beer and paint pictures.

Organic Farm Supported by Community

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm is a local farm funded by the community to bring fresh organic produce to the city. They are located at 6942 West Comanche Ave., in the heart of Tampa.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm started a CSA to raise money for the farm so that they can grow fresh vegetables for families that are interested in eating healthy.

“CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. That frankly means that the community is supporting this farm to grow food for them,” Travis Hansen said.

Hansen has been the farm manager now for two seasons and wants to continue his work at Sweetwater Organic Community Farm. He is very passionate about what he does.

“If you’re not present with love then you’re not going to fully connect with these plants. You’re not going to fully connect with your food that you are bringing to your table,” Hansen said.

That is what Sweetwater Organic Community Farm is all about. They want to educate the community to live a better life style by eating healthy food.

“We are really reaching out to the food desert community that we have around us. So in a 1.5-mile radius it’s considered a food desert, where people do not have access to clean healthy organic food. So we offer a much healthier alternative with organic produce,” Christine Wallace said.

Sunday local vendors set-up booths at the farm to sell their products and farm grown vegetables. Sweetwater Organic Community Farm also offers farm tours every third Sunday of the month as well as educational workshops for adults and children. You can check out their upcoming events on their website at http://sweetwater-organic.org

The Environment: Where Some See Progress, Others Are Disillusioned

Laurie Walker bustles about the southwestern corner of the USF campus, where lies a 16-acre space of greenery frequented by human visitors, bees, butterflies and two resident cats.

It was 1969 when the university established its Botanical Gardens, which serves as a breath of fresh air for the community as well as a home and research center for plants and animals.  Walker has been the director of the Botanical Gardens for 15 years.

Despite the soothing quietness of the gardens, worries about environmental degradation and health bubble underneath.  Having to protect plants from damaging weather is always a challenge, suggests Walker.  But newer challenges keep rising to the surface.

On site is an apiary used in the gardens’ yearlong beekeeping course.  The effects on bees were deeply felt this year.

“We were not able to collect honey this year,” said Walker. “There was just not enough honey to take. And we don’t do it for commercial purposes. We just do it as an educational component of the course.  But our honeybees have not been stockpiling honey.”

Step outside of the gardens and back into the day-to-day of Tampa Bay, and you’ll find that concern about the environment comes second.

“Everyone cares about the economy, which I can understand because people are concerned about ‘I need to feed my family, I need to feed myself,’” said Samantha Szatyari, a junior environmental science and policy major.

Dr. Susan MacManus, a distinguished professor of political science at USF, confirmed this sentiment.  MacManus notes that just because jobs and economy are at the top of the list does not mean Floridians don’t see its importance.  Many move to Florida because of its environment, so its health is already near the forefront of their minds.

MacManus directs the USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey, which concluded last month that the environment was the second most pressing issue for Floridians.

“The environment will absolutely intensify as an issue because of its high priority for younger people,” said MacManus.

Walker holds on to this as hope.

“Easier said than done, but I think young people now, college students, get this, and with social networks, that information can get out to others,” said Walker.

But some college students are not so sure. At the very least, they don’t think their peers care enough.

“Back home, one of the major problems that we have is people throwing garbage,” said Awa Ndiaye, a sophomore engineering student. “You walk down the streets and you see a bunch of plastic bags or you see a bunch of trash that shouldn’t be there and it’s something that directly impacts your life.”

Home for Ndiaye is Senegal, where she says the difference in approach to the environment is an awareness issue—lack of knowledge generates inaction.  But in the U.S., she says, it’s apathy.

“Here, a lot of the people I’ve been around—they’re kind of conscious of climate change and environmental issues, but they don’t care because at the end of the day it doesn’t affect them,” said Ndiaye. “If they waste water or if they’re wasting food, it doesn’t matter to them because at the end of the day, they still get food.”

Inaction is also exacerbated by the feeling that it’s too big of a problem for a single person to tackle, both Ndiaye and Szatyari say.

But it’s also a matter of wanting instant gratification.

“To take care of the environment is to make an investment in the future,” said Szatyari.  “A lot of people don’t want to make that investment.  People want to see results now.”

Szatyari, who is also the director of networking for the Student Environmental Association at USF, felt her view was fairly pessimistic, but nonetheless true.  Still, she continues to be active.

“There’s that disillusionment, but then there’s that ‘well what if I can be that voice of change?’” said Szatyari.

To Walker, young people can be that voice.

“Few people understand that one person can make a difference,” said Walker. “We have to be vocal, we have to get the word out. We have to educate people.”

Brandon Ice Rink Helps Students Learn to Skate

The Tampa Bay Lightning made a terrific run to the Stanley Cup semifinals last hockey season, which has recently prompted an increased interest in ice skating and hockey in the Tampa Bay area.

One of the few ice skating rinks in Tampa is located in Brandon, where the Lightning practice and visit quite often. The Brandon Ice Sports Forum houses a highly qualified staff and hosts many students who have attended the rink for years.

“My favorite thing about skating is how beautiful of a sport it is and how free it makes you feel,” current student Isabella Ramirez said. “It teaches you a lot of life lessons like to always get up when you fall down.”

Courtney O’Connor, a former student turned coach, is one of the main coaches at the rink. O’Connor works six days a week making sure her students receive the best training.

“I get to share the love that I have for ice skating with my students,” O’Connor said. “It’s really nice to be able to see them out there on the ice, skating, having a smile on their face and having that enjoyment.”

O’Connor has been coaching for four years and has plans to keep coaching for as long as she can. She has also been skating since she was three.

The Brandon Ice Sports Forum works closely with each student through private lessons and other skating classes. One of the most popular skating classes the ice rink offers is “Learn to Skate.” This class gives children and even adults the opportunity to learn skills that ice skaters and hockey players acquire through years of training.

To sign up for “Learn to Skate” or any other classes with the Brandon Ice Sports Forum, please visit http://www.theicesportsforum.com/.

A Unique Haunted House in the Tampa Bay Area

Chamber of Terror is a haunted house located near Channelside in the port of Tampa Bay. What makes it so unique is that it’s aboard the S.S. Victory World War II Ship. The creator, Courtney McIntyre, has made a nautical haunted ship, where there are only five in the United States.

The Chamber of Terror is a walk-through, 30 minute haunted house with four levels and 50 actors, which guarantees you to get scared. Unlike the usual theme park haunted houses, Chamber of Terror is more intimate, letting in up to six people at a time.

“You’re not looking down the hallway and seeing 100 people in front of you end up getting scared and then you end up not getting scared,” McIntyre said.

McIntyre first gained attention from the ship’s director at his haunted house last year in South Tampa. The director loved what he created and asked if he would like to create a haunted attraction aboard the S.S. Victory.

“Basically since November of last year we’ve been planning on doing it here,” McIntyre said, “Everybody seems excited it’s really unique, nothing you can get like this in Florida.”

Guests lined up to walk through the scary ship. Pamala Jones was very impressed by the theme and how it was different from the typical haunted houses.

“I’m from up north and we’ve got really good haunted houses,” Jones said, “This is great; it was very scary.”

Chamber of Terror is open every weekend night for the month of October. On Thursday Oct. 20th they will give five dollars off admission with a valid student ID.

Skateboarders Excited For Bro Bowl 2.0 Opening

 

After years of hard work and dedication, Bro Bowl 2.0 in downtown Tampa opened on April 16.

The skatepark is a recreation of the 1979 Bro Bowl in Tampa. City officials had plans to demolish the skatepark and rebuild Perry Harvey Sr. Park.

Shannon Bruffett, the director of The Skateboarding Heritage Foundation, was involved in the effort to save the skatepark.

“I grew up skating here for almost thirty years. (I’m a) Tampa native, so it means a lot to me and the history of Tampa and skateboarding in Tampa,” Bruffett said. “I wanted this to be acknowledged just as much as the rest of Central Avenue’s history, since it played a role in it.”

The skatepark was developed for beginning and advanced skateboarders alike to have a safe place to skate.

Organizations like Boards for Bros support skateboarding in the community and help people who are not able to purchase a board.

“We target unserviced youth and we make sure they can have whatever they need to have to skateboard,” Michelle Box, the executive director for Boards for Bros, said. “So, we supply them with skateboards, experiences at the skatepark of Tampa, lessons, peer mentoring and things like that.”

The skatepark not only attracts people interested in the hobby, but it also gives them the opportunity to express their love for skateboarding.

“Skateboarding has always been a part of this city as long as it’s been around, and hopefully it will (continue for) generations to come,” Bruffett said.

Honoring Veterans in Zephyrhills

Zephyrhills’ annual Veteran’s Day parade took place this Saturday. Roughly two hundred people showed up to support the veterans and show their appreciation.

After the National Anthem was sung and the Pledge of Allegiance was said, the parade participants began making their way down Fifth Avenue.

Various groups of veterans headed down the street one car or trailer at a time. They were followed by Zephyrhills High School ROTC and JROTC members, Helen’s Baton and Dance Studio dancers, several leagues of Boy Scouts and a few other veteran-supporting groups.

Also in the mix of veterans were the animals who served the country. These included dogs and horses.

Main Street Zephyrhills hosts this event every year. A member of the board of Main Street Zephyrhills, Jody Wilkeson, commented on the history of the parade.

“The Veteran’s Day parade has been going on for over ten years here in downtown,” Wilkeson said. “On and off, probably for twenty years since Main Street was first formed.”

The announcer of the parade, Greg First, was honored to recognize veterans again this year, as he has been announcing the parade for years. He too is a veteran.

“I was in during Vietnam, 1968 to 1972,” First said. “The war that no one really liked back then but I was happy to serve. I’d do it again.”

The parade reminds us to show gratitude to our veterans and remember all those who served.

 

WMNF Bridges the Gap

 

The WMNF radio station hosted its third Bridging the Gap series. The series was a fundraiser that included five poets and five rappers from the Tampa Bay area.

Xavier “Cool Kid” Grullon, a 22-year-old slam poet, was excited to perform at the show.

 “I think we’re creative in two different outlets, but I think we should be able to come together and share the same stage,” Grunion said when asked what “bridging the gap” meant to him.

Mike Mass, a rapper in the Tampa Bay hip hop community was also excited about the series.

 “There’s a shared interest between those two crowds and the consumers of those two crowds,” Mass said, 

Bridging the Gap is a semi-annual event designed to raise money for WMNF, a radio station run almost entirely on donations and volunteers. The radio event was aired on Saturday evening, and is available for download on the station’s website.

The event itself was not a competitive one. It was used primarily to bring the audiences of the Saturday night shows together. The ten performers were given roughly ten minutes each, or the equivalent of a set on a local stage. The show aired from 11 P.M. Saturday night to early Sunday morning around 1 A.M..

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.”

Explore Tampa’s waterways with Riverwalk Boating Company

 

Jason Olewinski has lived in Tampa for nearly thirty years. A few years ago, he wanted to explore Tampa’s waterways, and what originated as a personal motorized kayak quickly became Jason’s reality and an affordable opportunity for both tourists and locals to enjoy Tampa’s canals.

“For the past few years our entertainment options have been limited,” Olewinski said. “So I went ahead and just bought a few and threw them down here and so far people have been loving it.”

Along the Tampa Riverwalk, next to the Convention Center, you will spot 6 green mini- powerboats floating in the water. Established in 2014, the Riverwalk Boating Company provides a thrill and unique water experience for all. Whether you have prior boating experience or not, you can be the captain of your own two- person mini- powerboat, minus the hassle of maintenance and repairs of owning a boat.

The mini boat can take you through the Tampa waterways. The winding Hillsborough River will take you north around the city and south along Bayshore to Davis Island.

Chris and Chantal are vacationing for the week and just happened to walk by the boats while exploring the city. The two decided to take out a boat for the afternoon and travel along Bayshore Boulevard.

“I loved it! It was so much fun. They go decently fast,” Chantal said. “The waves… that was fun, feeling it go all crazy for a second.”

Riverwalk Boating Company is open 7 days a week from 10 a.m. until sundown. It is an enjoyable option for anyone 18 years or older with a driver’s license and a credit card, and dogs are also welcome onboard. The prices start at $35 for 30 minutes or $50 for one hour, and there are special rates if you rent out more than one boat.

To reserve your boat, visit riverwalkboating.com.

girl-dog

Freedom High School student commits to Tennessee Tech

A student at Freedom High School in New Tampa is living out a dream that started four years ago.

“Before coming to Freedom I wasn’t even sure I was going to make the team,” Megan Clark said.

Clark, who graduates in May, recently verbally committed to play basketball starting next Fall at Tennessee Technical University. She will sign her National Letter of Intent next month.

“Her talent is not what got her to where she is but rather her dedication, intelligence and desire,” said Joeyn Dearsmen, Clark’s assistant coach.

“Megan is the type of kid that goes above and beyond, and when something is asked of her she gets it done, no questions asked,” said Dearsmen. “She’s not your typical high school kid, works out most days before the sun is up.”

The Freedom High girls’ basketball team has a history of sending girls to play at the collegiate level, something Clark is so proud to now be a part of.

“It means the world to me to be able to follow in the footsteps of players like Taylor Emery (Tulane University) and Faith Woodard (Georgetown),” Clark said.

Sad that she has one season left, but excited for what the future holds, Clark is ready for this season to start and get her team to the FHSAA State tournament in March before heading to Cookeville, Tennessee to continue her student athlete career.

The Freedom High Patriots kick off their season Wednesday November 16 against the Alonso Falcons. For the rest of the Patriots’ season, you can head to http://www.maxpreps.com/high-schools/freedom-patriots-(tampa,fl)/girls-basketball/home.htm.

 

Is There a New Way to Test Batteries?

According to a recent Buzzfeed article, there is a new method to test the strength of batteries. By observing the bounce of batteries, you may be able to tell how much life is left in them.

“If you want to test that theory, you need to, you know one try will not do it,” physics professor University of South Florida’s Dr. Sarath Witanachchi said. “You’ve got to try maybe twenty times and see is there a pattern.”

USF engineering student Alex Tremper believes that such an experiment has already taken place and conclusions have already drawn.

“Princeton researchers have demonstrated that this can only tell you whether batteries are fresh, not whether they are charged enough to allow a device to function,” said Tremper.

Knowing whether or not batteries are fresh, can be useful in preparation for storms with potential, to cause power outages, like Hurricane Hermine. Battery-powered appliances can alleviate some of the inconveniences power outages bring.

“We had lots of flashlights, we actually had a battery-powered TV, radios, hand-held video games, things like that,” Tampa Bay Area resident Spencer Adkinson said.

Tremper and Dr. Witanachchi claim that a more reliable way to test a battery is with a voltmeter, which measures the voltage across the terminals of the battery. If the voltage drops below the amount the device requires, then the device will not function.

“This decrease typically happens slowly throughout the life of the battery with a dramatic decrease towards the end of the battery’s life,” Tremper stated.

 

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.

Wimauma Woman Offers Affordable, Comfortable Way to Get in Shape

 

After losing nearly fifty pounds, Rosie Velasquez is giving back to the community of Wimauma by hosting Rosie’s Boot Camp. The women-only boot camp helps females of all ages come together in a judgement-free environment for a common goal: to get in shape.

“Most of these women, they don’t go to the gym,” Rosie Velasquez said.  “They rather do a workout here in my boot camp because they’re, you know, shy to go to the gym.”

The women in her boot camp echo Rosie’s sentiment about favoring group fitness rather than the typical gym experience. Janet Huerta says that in addition to the group fitness environment she also likes the support she receives at the boot camp.

“I like the whole group fitness camp,” Huerta said. “I used to go to the gym but the whole group and the motivation that I get here is better than the gym for me.”

Velasquez also offers additional services for women who prefer one-on-one sessions.

“Well, I have some people…that are more shy,” said Rosie. “They don’t like to work out in front of people so they like to do…personal training.”

Rosie’s Boot Camp is offered Monday and Wednesday for five dollars.

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.