Florida Focus News Brief: Feb. 22, 2017

In this news brief: A suspect is in custody for a series of gas station robberies; an  abortion lawsuit bill narrowly passes a Florida house panel;the first Sprouts Farmers Market in Florida is now open; Bradenton public transportation could be taking to the water; kids will now eat free at Steak N Shake any time any day.

Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 21, 2017

In this news brief: A pregnant woman is the victim of a largo home invasion, neither victims have life threatening injuries and the suspect is in custody; two people accused of killing their landlord over two weeks ago appear in court today; Hillsborough Deputies are investigating a string of early morning robberies; Tampa Police are looking for a Walgreens cigarette thief; UPS announces that they are developing a new way to deliver packages right to your front door.

Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 20, 2017

In this news brief: Deputies shot and killed a Hernando County man who broke into a home; a man is dead after a hit-and-run in Tampa; Pinellas County deputies have arrested a corrections officer for DUI; Body cam footage show a dramatic car rescue in Pasco County; the largest-ever traffic study ranks congestion in cities worldwide; the University of South Florida earns the 2016 Tree Campus USA.

Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 16, 2017

In this news brief: 11 year-old Jenna Irmler has Asperger’s Syndrome and was found 30 miles from her Brandon home today after reports that she was missing yesterday; a woman warned a burglar that she was armed, and shot him when he ignored her; Winn-Dixie is revamping their private label brands; Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office hosts “coffee with a cop” at a local McDonalds stay involved with the community.

Florida Focus News Brief Feb 15, 2017

In this news brief: a man is in custody today after fatally shooting a bar cook; a 15-year-old is accused of killing his mother’s boyfriend; forty two people are arrested in a Polk County undercover sex offender investigation; the Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department is closing their door due to violations; today is the second annual Florida Craft Beer Day.

Florida Focus New Brief Feb. 13, 2017

In this news brief: the search continues for a missing plane and its three passengers; an elderly woman escapes an early morning fire; one dog is shot and another is in animal control custody after a pit bull attacked a Lakeland Electric employee; Pasco County is exploring a new way to help their homeless population.

Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 8, 2017

In this news brief: A highwire accident injures Sarasota circus performers; Tampa’s fire department rescued a man from inside a garbage truck; A standing room-only crowd gathered to discuss new medical marijuana rules for Floridians; An apartment fire claims the lives of two dogs; Tampa police and fire rescue are making their television debut on a new reality show.

Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 6, 2017

In this news brief: President Donald Trump visits MacDill Air Force Base; a Bradenton man is in custody following a police standoff; Pasco County launches a recycling survey designed to better understand residents habits; a police dog and his partner are back to work.


Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 24, 2017

In this environment brief: the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission finds a Florida Panther outside its known breeding range; the Rising Tide Exhibit at Busch Gardens is developing sustainable aquaculture; the number of manatees killed in Florida reaches an all-time high; the Florida Aquarium and Cuba are working together to preserve coral reefs.

Veteran Garden Opening


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sustainable Living Project opened on Earth Day in 2013.

Safety Buttons Installed On Campus As Security Precaution

Kendall Davis

The Digital Bullpen


Safety Buttons Installed On Campus As Security Precaution


Over winter break, University of South Florida took action in hopes of making its Tampa campus safer by installing red emergency buttons across campus in 11 populated rooms such as lecture halls.

The campus facilities team, along with the information technology team and emergency management, designed the buttons to work specifically for the campus and its access control systems.

“They work with our building control access system,” Assistant Director of Communications Aaron Nichols said. “It’s the same system that on a schedule will lock and unlock the doors in buildings at night and then they unlock in the morning. When you hit a button, it activates that system and it locks the perimeter access doors for an area.”

Campus shootings have become fairly common over the last couple of years. According to the Washington Times, 142 school shootings occurred nationwide since the Sandy Hook shooting in October 2015.

“I feel like it makes sense,” USF student Qua’on Thomas said. “It’s kind of good to be proactive versus reactive. So I could see why they would do it.”

Once one of these buttons is pushed, only campus police or a facilities manager can unlock the doors. Pushing the button doesn’t automatically alert police, so students still have to dial 911 after pushing the button.

I think that it’s important that people feel safe,” Thomas said. “It’s not about having it to actually prevent something, but just having people know that they are thinking about their safety.”

Ministry Faces Problems From City Council


Story By Ciara Cummings

Sundays mean bible study and dinner for a group that meets at Munn Park, but the group’s lease may soon be up.

Sanctuary Ministries, formerly known as Mad Hatter, has what they like to call a spiritual potluck dinner.

This weekly routine has been interrupted by the Lakeland City Council and the police. The ministry received a letter from the city council saying they needed a permit for their gatherings.

“We’ve run into a little bit of trouble with the city requiring us to come up with some huge funds for permitting,” Michelle Maynard, the ministry leader, said.

The city fined them after concerns from the neighboring businesses and complaints of trash.

But the ministry said they have been cleaning up after themselves, so they have no idea where the complaints are coming from.

The fine can go up to $1,000 per week, but Sanctuary Ministry said they do not have the money. Even if they got the funds, it is unlikely the money would go to purchasing a permit.

“If we have more money, we are going to put it into the ministry,” Maynard said.

The ministry’s money is spent on their food services, or as homeless vet Sarg calls it, soul food.

“I had to go dumpster diving and its really rough,” Sarg said.

Sarg may not remember the sermon the pastor delivered, but he will not forget the meal Maynard believes.

“They may not remember the words that were spoken in twenty years.” Maynard said.  “They’re going to remember the kinship from the people that fed them that meal, and that’s going to stick with them for the rest of their lives.”

Sanctuary Ministries has no plans to abide by the city’s orders at this time or in the near future.



USF club spreads kindness across campus

USF students are spreading random acts of kindness, just for the sake of it. Their mission? To make you smile, and then share that smile with someone else. Whether it’s free food, coffee, or even hugs, students like Megan Dias, through the club Eudaimonia, are spreading positivity throughout the campus community during USF’s Random Acts of Kindness Week.

The general reaction to the free items was positive, although there were some skeptics when the free food was being handed out, as a tasty donut and cup of coffee aren’t just given away every day.

“People always think there’s a catch but there is none,” Dais said. “Eudaimonia is doing good for the sake of good.”

The club was founded after a friend of the founder passed away, and it all began with free hugs right outside the Marshall Student Center. It is all about turning something tragic into something positive.

The club goes deeper than just sending people off with a smile; it’s also about getting people out of their comfort zones. The group believes that people don’t always interact with others as much as they should, so they engage total strangers in conversation and do their best to spread positivity to their fellow students.

What started as a small group of friends has blossomed into a club that’s tripled in size in recent years, now having over 100 members. 100 people helping others have a brighter day.

Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 14, 2017

In this news brief: the coast guard says they have recovered the body of missing passenger; a man is charged with aggravated battery for hitting a deputy with his car mirror; Tampa Police Department is teaming up with a national non-profit to help at-risk youth; a prime location on Bayshore Boulevard is set to be a 24 story condominium; Publix is selling heart shaped steaks to help celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Holiday Fun For A Good Cause


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.”


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.