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.

 

 

 

USF student waits 8 days to hear from father in Puerto Rico

Tampa – Hurricane Maria didn’t hit Tampa Bay but the devastation she wreaked on Puerto Rico hits home for many in the community with family who endured the storm.

Carina Galarza Minondo, a 20-year-old junior at the University of South Florida, spent over a week trying to get in touch with her father in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Minondo spoke with her father the Monday before Hurricane Maria hit and didn’t hear from him for days, wondering if not only her father, but her grandparents and cousins, had survived the storm.

“I was under so much stress,” Minondo said. “I couldn’t sleep, eat or focus on anything. I was having panic attacks at work.”

The days grew longer and longer for Minondo as she worried about her grandmother in Puerto Rico with Alzheimer’s disease.

“I didn’t know whether she had been at home or if she was with my uncle,” Minondo said. “My step grandmother’s house is a wooden house, so I was worried about that too. It was the most horrible week of my life.”

A rush of relief overcame Minondo when she finally received a phone call from her father eight days after the storm had passed. Hearing his voice was all it took for her to break down in tears.

“They were all fine,” Minondo said. “Of course, no power, no water, but at least they’re all healthy and there was no damage to their homes. It was suddenly the best day ever.”

Minondo’s family will not be coming back to the United States while Puerto Rico rebuilds from the storm. She said her family members are stubborn and would rather stay to help the island get back on its feet.

When asked what her family is doing to get by while they recover, Minondo said they’re all going to bed early these days.

“The notion of time has pretty much disappeared for them,” Minondo said. “My dad started work again, but without electricity everything is old school paperwork being done.”

“Banks are only giving $100 per person since the only goods available are food and it can only be paid for with cash,” Minondo said. “My family is scared to even have $100 in their pockets because they could easily be robbed.”

The food, water and cash shortage in Puerto Rico continues to be an issue. Those receiving payments from family members in the states are out of luck while they are still out of power. Even though there are supplies being brought in, it’s not reaching every part of it.

“It’s like only the metropolitan area is receiving help while the rest of the island just suffers,” Minondo said. “It truly hurts to see such a beautiful island, and islands in the Antilles in so much pain and destruction.”

Collecting supplies for Puerto Rico has not been an issue, in fact there are 100 tons in one warehouse, but securing a plane to get the supplies there has been the biggest hurdle.

For those interested in making donations to Puerto Rico, Course of Action PR is still accepting donations at Homeland Intelligence Technologies. Located at 4916 S Lois Ave., Tampa, FL 33611. The drop of location is open Monday thru Saturday, from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

The drop off location also has three shifts open to any volunteers who are at least 18 years old. The facility asks that you show up only at any of these specific times: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. or 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Visit the Course of Action PR page on Facebook for an updated list of donation items.

Epcot celebrates 35 years by highlighting cast members

On Sunday, Oct. 1, Epcot invited guests to celebrate its 35th anniversary with an array of special events and exclusive merchandise, while also recognizing the hard work of the park’s cast members.

Epcot, originally known as EPCOT Center, opened on Oct. 1, 1982, as the second park within Walt Disney World, following Magic Kingdom. The theme park focuses heavily on innovations in technology and various cultures from around the world. Epcot is also known for employing representatives from each country represented in World Showcase, a major section of the park.

“Walt had it right when he said, ‘It takes people to make the dream a reality,'” said Epcot Vice President, Melissa Valiquette. “From the time you arrive at Epcot, until the time you leave, it is our invaluable cast members who deliver a rich and unique experience to each and every one of our guests. Our cast members take great pride in bringing the wonders of Epcot to life each day.”

Employees from any of the various Disney resorts around the world are referred to as cast members. In particular, Epcot’s cast members were mentioned upward of 10 times during the Fountain View stage celebration that was held at 10:01 a.m. on Sunday.

“We know that these last 35 years at Epcot would not have been possible without the amazing help of our cast members,” said Walt Disney World Resort Ambassador, Brandon Peters.

The ceremony included presentations by two Epcot performance groups, Mariachi Cobre and Voices of Liberty, a cast member processional, speeches by Valiquette, Peters and Walt Disney World Resort President, George A. Kalogridis.

“As a child, I’d been glued to the TV watching Walt Disney, with his message of a fascinating future and a belief in the goodness of people worldwide,” said Kalogridis. “Now, we stand at a park that embodies those ideals. This is a place for family, a place for fun and a place for faith in our vision as a people.”

For the 35th anniversary, guests were able to purchase exclusive “I Was There” merchandise that would only be available until park closure. Retro-inspired merchandise commemorating the anniversary was also sold during the event and will continue to be available.

A 35th anniversary guide map and pin were handed to guests upon entering the park. Specialty cupcakes themed after the Norway pavilion in World Showcase, The Land pavilion and the center attraction, Spaceship Earth, were also sold throughout various locations in Epcot.

Aside from acknowledging the role of cast members, the ceremony’s speakers continuously noted that 35 years was only the beginning for Epcot, referring to upcoming attractions and restaurants.

“It has been a great 35 years, and let me tell you, we have some wonderful additions on the horizon,” said Kalogridis.”I was thrilled that we were able to announce what amounts to nothing less than an ‘Epcot renaissance’ last July at the D23 Expo in Anaheim. As our chairman Bob Chapek said, ‘This work here will be centered around a few guiding principles: We want to keep true to the original vision of Epcot, while making it more Disney, more timeless, more relevant and more family.'”

Kalogridis continued on to mention new attractions based on the movies “Ratatouille” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” that will be added to the France pavilion in World Showcase and to Future World, respectively.

The 35th anniversary of Epcot falls on the same day as the 46th anniversary of Magic Kingdom, another park within the Walt Disney World Resort.

“Epcot has always been and will always be an optimistic celebration of the real world brought to life through the magic of Disney,” said Kalogridis. “I promise you, the exciting plans we have on the horizon, will honor Epcot’s rich legacy of creativity, innovation, while continuing to exceed the expectations of our guests for decades to come.”

Storm Debris Collection Underway for Tampa Residents

Tampa – Two weeks after Hurricane Irma swept through Tampa Bay, residents are still waiting for storm debris to be picked up.

Tampa residents were quick to clean up the aftermath of Irma. Branches and palm fronds were piled up on the curb. Fallen trees were cut into manageable pieces and piled on the side of the road for pickup.

The company contracted by the City of Tampa to assist with storm debris collection, Ceres Environment, had planned to rent about 30 trucks to add to the five they currently have in use in Tampa. However, those trucks are now headed for South Florida instead.

“The subcontractor received a higher-price offer from another entity in South Florida and did not provide the trucks to Ceres for use in Tampa,” Stanley Bloodworth, the company’s project manager for Tampa, said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. “Ceres is actively seeking additional resources from other subcontractors to fulfill the needs of the city of Tampa.”

The demand for trucks is higher than the supply, and the suppliers are going to whoever is paying the most. Tampa is paying $9.77 per cubic yard to get rid of 300,000 cubic yards of storm debris and South Florida is offering more.

Greg Meyer, a resident in the Palmetto Beach community of Tampa, had a large tree fall on his property and spent four hours cutting it up and moving it to the curb. A week and a half later and the debris is still sitting on his front lawn.

“I know they’re trying their hardest, but I’d like to let my kids play out front again soon,” Meyer said. “It’s just too risky letting them play near a four and half foot pile of debris.”

While the city is reviewing contracts to make sure contractors haven’t violated the law, parks and recreation and sanitation workers are now collecting storm debris. Because of this, parks will take longer to clean up.

Ceres is still working to collect storm debris with the trucks they have in use now, and residents can expect the collection process to take continue well into October.

While residential and commercial garbage collection resumed fairly quickly, recycle and yard waste collection will not resume until Monday, Sept. 25. The city’s Solid Waste Enhanced Environmental Program (S.W.E.E.P.) is suspended until further notice.

Even though regular yard waste collection resumes this week, the excess debris which cannot be bagged will be collected under the storm debris removal program. This program asks residents to follow specific guidelines for putting their debris out for collection.

Residents are being asked to separate their debris by material type: white goods, construction material, vegetative debris and electronics. Vegetative storm debris should not be bagged or placed in containers. Storm debris contractors will be using special machinery to collect debris piles. For these to be collected, they must be placed on the curb.

Citywide storm debris collection service will be taking place seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Oct. 27.

Those who would like to get rid of debris sooner can take it to one of Hillsborough County’s three yard waste collection sites. These sites are open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Falkenburg Road – 346 N. Falkenburg Road, Tampa 33619
  • Northwest County – 8001 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa 33625
  • South County – 13000 U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton 33534

To discard nonvegetative waste or debris, residents may drop off at any of the following Community Collection Centers listed below.

  • Alderman’s Ford Solid Waste Facility – 9402 County Road 39, Plant City, FL 33567
  • Hillsborough Heights Solid Waste Facility – 6209 County Road 579, Seffner, FL 33584
  • Northwest County Solid Waste Facility – 8001 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa 33625
  • South County Solid Waste Facility – 13000 U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton, FL 33534

McKay Bay Disposal Facility is also accepting storm debris, located at 112 South 34th St., Tampa 33605.

The facilities listed above require a photo ID to dispose of waste, and McKay Bay requires proof of a city utility customer account as well.

Plant City’s Best Bartender 2017

This year, for the first time, FOCUS Magazine’s Plant City Edition included a Reader’s Choice Award for “Best Bartender” in Plant City. 

While Reader’s Choice Awards have existed for “Best Server,” “Best Soup” and “Best BBQ,” as well as many others, this year there was a new addition to the competition and Chris Stovall, 37, became the first recipient of the “Best Bartender” award. 

Stovall was born in California, but has lived in Plant City, Florida since he was seven months old, graduating from Plant City High School in 1999. He began serving at Ruby Tuesdays at the age of 18 and soon after was promoted to bartender. 

“We had a horrible bartender and I kept making jokes that I could do it better than him,” Stovall said. “One day I came to work and he said ‘Remember how you said [you could do a better job]? Well you’re bartending.’ So, I was kind of thrown to wolves. I didn’t go to school for it.” 

Stovall always wanted to work for the people, initially planning a career in radio. As a bartender, however, he found that he was able to connect with people “face-to-face” on a regular basis and thrived on the feelings that came with making other people smile. 

“I can pretty much connect with anybody,” Stovall said. “When people go out to any kind of bar they go for the atmosphere. They go for someone to talk to. Sometimes it’s a good talk. Sometimes it’s a bad talk. Sometimes it’s very hitting people on a personal level and helping them out with something you didn’t know you were going to and sometimes it’s football and taking a knee.” 

Stovall has worked in many bars across the state of Florida and he currently works as a bartender and manager at 1916 Irish Pub in Plant City and at Duke’s Brewhouse in Lakeland. His coworkers describe him as hardworking and funny. 

“I think he was chosen [best bartender] because he is not only well-known, but also well liked,” said Stovall’s longtime friend and current coworker, Chelsea Noriega. “He’s good at what he does, whatever he does.” 

Stovall’s coworkers also say that it’s easy to get into a good rhythm when working with him. 

“Normally we have a good flow,” coworker Devon Blackburn said. “Once customers start coming in we get in a good rhythm working together. He is attentive to your needs and always remembers, even if it takes a minute.” 

Noriega discussed how she can see that Stovall cares for people and how she hoped people realize how much Stovall cares about his customers as individuals. 

“He has the biggest heart,” Noriega said. “He’s definitely nosy, but he is really caring. He is kind of an open book.” 

On top of his work, Stovall is also a father of two. He says that his kids are one of his biggest hobbies. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his children, Jaxon, 5, and Sophia, 5. 

“As much as work is work, work is also my hobby,” Stovall said. “I work so that I can do cool things with my kids. It used to be so I could have a cool pair of shoes. Now I want my kids to have the cool pair of shoes, so it’s a little different.” 

Stovall’s coworkers see the dedication he gives his children as well. 

“I think people should know how good of a dad he is,” Blackburn said. “Dad’s don’t tend to get a lot of credit, and especially in his crazy situation, I think he gets written off a lot. From everything I see and hear, he is a great father and people should know that.” 

Stovall’s caring and desire to make people happy are major factors that led to him becoming the reader’s choice for “Best Bartender” in Plant City. Stovall says that his favorite thing about his job is the people. 

“I mean it’s the only reason that it’s fun,” Stovall said. “Sometimes it’s making fun, sometimes it’s having fun. There’s always something to talk about. I like making conversation. I have a magnetic personality and I can make people who don’t normally talk talk and feel comfortable.” 

Stovall said when he found out he won he felt surprised and that it threw him off. He said it made him feel like the time he spent in his town meant something. 

“Everything I’ve done was not lost,” Stovall said. “I haven’t sat here and sewed my roots and got to know everybody in this town and, you know how some people feel like they did something for nothing? I feel like there was a cause. There was a purpose. Nothing like recognition to make you want to do something better.”

Despite His Autism, Tampa Athlete Exceeds In Cycling During Special Olympics

Mark Zac, a Tampa native who was diagnosed with a form of autism, has participated in special Olympic sports over the past few years ranging from a local level to the world level in the World Special Olympic Games.

Allen Zac, Mark’s father, trained with him for six months before the World Special Olympic Games. They lifted weights and cycled almost 10 miles a day to prepare Mark for the event.

“That year he went to San Diego on his own, on the plane with the team, did training for five days, and then went to Athens and was with the team for three weeks on his own. We never thought he could survive without us, somehow he did and he did awesome,” Allen Zak said. “He won a gold and a silver in cycling.”

Mark took home a gold and a silver medal and proudly wears them to this day. Although he plays many sports, cycling has always been his favorite choice.

Out of the wide range of awards he’s won, his gold medal is his favorite.

Mark Zac has proven to many people in his community and around the world that even with a disability, you can live out your dreams.

ISES Emphasizes The Impact Of Solar Panels During Solar Fair At USF

The International Solar Energy Society (ISES) hosted their third annual solar fair at the University of South Florida on March 21 in hopes to educate the community on solar energy. 

The event included free food, informational seminars about solar panels and tours of the on campus Flex house and solar panel field for the community.

Rick Garrity, an environmental scientist, estimates the payback on the amount of money owed by individuals for solar panels lies around eight years.

“Between 0 years and 8 years the payments are paying off the system but you are getting the electricity, so your energy bills from the Tampa electric company have gone down by a significant amount,” Garrity said.

USF student and vice president of ISES, Kahveh Saramout, plans on including more activities in the future for the solar fair.

“We think the solar fair went very well but we definitely have higher ambitions for next year,” Saramout said. “We want to have a tour that encompasses a larger part of Tampa, hopefully with busses that shuttle us around to different TECO power plants.”

ISES member Nicholas Hall felt that one of the most memorable moments of the solar fair included guest speaker and USF professor Dr. Goswami.

“He introduced the solar energy fair by himself he was one of the most revered speakers. Many of the vendors that showed up actually knew him and are very proud of the work that he has done in the community,” Hall said.

Keep an eye out for next year’s solar fair with even more activities and fun for the entire family.

Taste of Spain captivates Tampa

TAMPA – On N. Tampa St., Toma Spain offers savory Mediterranean dishes and is host to live Flamenco shows, a culture which Fred Castro and his family helped bring to the community 37 years ago.

“We are one of the older Spanish restaurants here in Downtown Tampa,” Castro said. “We like to push the independence because if you spend your money in an independent restaurant, it stays within the community.”

Among the members of Flamenco shows are dancer and choreographer Carolina Esparza, who has known the Castro family for many years.

“They have similar experiences where they’ve always traveled to Spain because of their family,” Esparza said. “The food here is amazing, the entertainment that they get is amazing and yet it’s still a night out so to speak.”

The motivation for the workers of Toma Spain is simple: provide an atmosphere reminiscent of southern traditional Spanish culture.

The Flamenco show on March 25th was met with a grandiose round of applause due in large part to the performance of Flamenco guitarist Javier Hinojosa.

“Our musician [Hinojosa] is in my opinion one of the best Flamenco guitarists around,” Castro said. “We kind of traveled Spain ourselves and seen a lot of Flamenco shows and he compares with the best.”

The customers left the restaurant following the show with smiles and cheerful conversation amongst one another.

 

Students work with service organization to give back to community

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeding Tampa Bay, Home to Those Who Want to Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about this organization, visit feedingtampabay.org