The Festival of Trees offered an early holiday experience for visitors this past weekend. An entry fee of $5 allowed visitors the chance to venture through a gymnasium where hundreds of decorated trees were displayed.
In its 32 years of existence, the Festival of Trees has raised over $1 million toward its mission to foster community awareness, involvement and financial support for The Arc Tampa Bay, a non-profit organization providing services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Tampa Bay community.
Private citizens, craft clubs and even other nonprofit organizations donate their holiday themed decorated trees so that they can be sold in an effort to benefit the Arc Tampa Bay.
Kiersten Finchum, Festival of Trees Co-chair and Arc Tampa Bay volunteer, Driven by her passion to give back to the Arc decorated her own tree for the festival this year.
“The Arc Tampa Bay is a great cause,” said Finchum. “I happen to be the parent of a special needs child and it’s nice to be working in a community with people who share a common thread.”
Although not everyone who walks through the Festival of Trees’ doors know the cause behind the annual event, they are certainly left enlightened by the end, much like Denise Fougere who came in support of a friend who had a tree on display.
“This is my first time visiting the Festival of Trees and I love it. It’s like a magical winter wonderland walking in the doors,”said Fougere. “the fact that all of this money and all of this is going toward that foundation is such a blessing.”
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.