Trick or Trot brings donations, holiday spirit

As they approached the finish line, it was unclear whether Superman or the Ninja Turtle would get there first.

Eventually Superman edged to victory over Michelangelo, closely followed by Minnie Mouse, a pumpkin and a 6-foot Viking. This was all part of the Trick or Trot 5K Fun Run, which was held Oct. 24 by Help for the Homeless at the University of South Florida’s Fitness Trail.

“I think a lot of people had fun, and it was great with the music and with the raffle,” Stephanie Radu, president and founder of Hope for the Homeless at USF, said.

Radu, a biomedical sciences major, founded the organization in January of this year, with this being its first event. Each runner paid a $15 fee that was donated to the Ybor Youth Clinic.

“The money is going toward care packages that will all go to the homeless,” Radu said. “We will put a lot of effort into making and distributing them.”

Cameron Purvis of Florida College won the race with a time of 16:27 and was awarded a Halloween-themed trophy in the shape of a skull, despite not wearing a costume for the event.

“I actually kind of forgot about dressing up,” Purvis said. “Once we were on our way we were like ‘wow we forgot our costumes.’”

Purvis said he had not been training for this race in particular but decided to sign up when he saw the money raised was going to a good cause.

“I’ve been putting in a lot of mileage this season and was looking for a good race to sign up for,” Purvis said.

Over 100 people signed up for the race, which raised over $2,500 via donations and raffle ticket purchases. Radu’s goal was $3,000, but she was pleased with the result.

“I’m a little optimistic so I’m happy with $2,500,” Radu said.

Radu believes that not enough was being done for the homeless in Tampa, which is why she set up this organization.

“I feel very passionately about helping the homeless community,” Radu said. “We’re trying to get rid of that bad stigma that’s around them. There’s a lot of homeless youth in Tampa.”

After their first event, Radu is optimistic there will be many more. “We hope to hold another event in the spring and to make this event an annual one,” Radu said.

Some of the sponsors of the event had representatives at the race handing out free treats to participants. Amazon representatives, for example, were at the event giving out water bottles to runners after they had completed the race. They also donated items that were used as prizes in the raffle that took place.

There were many volunteers at the race who ensured everything went as smoothly as possible. The DJ, the referees and the event managers all volunteered to set up and run the event.

The DJ gathered a lot of attention after the raffle took place, playing “Cupid Shuffle” that made around 20 of the runners join in with the dance.

Even some of the adults dressed up. Photo by Connor Vice
Some of the adults even dressed up. Photo by Connor Vice.

Photo: Lunch at Trinity Cafe

Trinity Cafe is a free restaurant that provides hot meals to the homeless, hungry and working poor. However, Trinity Cafe is about more than providing a meal, It is about treating guests with compassion and respect they might not normally receive. Trinity Cafe’s lunch service takes place Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The lunch service includes enthusiastic volunteers who will serve guests drinks, a meal and provide them with conversation. At Trinity Cafe, you will find kindhearted people and delicious food.

Walk to benefit those with Alzheimer’s Disease

Someone’s parent, child or loved one can have Alzheimer’s disease, and while this disease is prevalent in seniors, it can affect anyone of any age.

Alzheimer’s robs an individual of their memory and other cognition functions and to date, there is no cure.

Participates in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s walk to raise funds for awareness of this disease and for caregivers.

University of South Florida Student Pushes to End Human Trafficking

This problem may seem too close to home, but there are thousands of victims of human trafficking here in the state of Florida. It’s a University of South Florida student’s mission to end it.

With the help of the International Justice Mission, Katie French hopes to make an impact in her community.

“I really love International Justice Mission,” Katie said. “And one of the things I love about them is the way they view human trafficking as a solvable problem.”

Katie has been involved with IJM at USF, a student organization chapter of a larger international nonprofit organization that fights human trafficking world wide, for about three years now. At a Christmas concert event recently, Katie and other members of IJM were selling bracelets for Threads of Hope, a nonprofit that works in the Philippines with impoverish families.

“They try to create self sustaining income so people don’t resort to being trafficked or trafficking their children, which happens in the Philippines,” Katie said.

This is just one of the many nonprofit organizations that the IJM at USF supports. They also focus on raising awareness for the issues of human trafficking, raising funds for IJMs work abroad, advocating campaigns with petitioning legislation pushes and hosting prayer events because of their Christian affiliation.

While Katie is not involved in leadership this semester, she continues to provide a helping hand to other members of IJM. Cindy Navarette, friend and advertiser for the club, tells of how she can always depend on Katie.

“Even though she’s not a part of leadership anymore, she’s still right there with us helping us out as much as she can,” Cindy said.

Katie has high hopes for the future where she will one day open up her own church or ministry to help Samaria refugees in Atlanta, Georgia by using her public health degree as a way to build relationships and help the poor and oppressed.

“We really have such an obligation to help the poor,” Katie said. “And you know as a Christian that been a really big driving force for me. My faith has really kept me passionate about this cause.”

USF offers outreach with autism program


 

TAMPA, Fl– The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities has been established at the University of South Florida for 23 years.

“We were the first C.A.R.D. center here in the state developed by families who really saw the need to have these direct supports and services that links with our resources,” said C.A.R.D.’s Program Coordinator Christine Rover.

The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at USF is one out of seven sites across the state providing free services, resources, and training assistance for individuals with an autism spectrum disorder across the area.

C.A.R.D’s very own Program Assistant and Social Media Coordinator Adrian Ruiz has her own very personal connection with the non-profit organization.

“Well I’m a unique situation, I actually work here at C.A.R.D but I’m also a parent of a child with autism,” stated Ruiz, “I’ve seen the impact of C.A.R.D first hand, they’ve been to my home and they’ve been to my child’s school. They work one on one with her teachers and her trainings and just providing those resources and assistance to me directly with her education.”

“We know that our families become more engaged in their community and more successful in school and in employment through our training initiatives,” explained Rover. “The impact has not only educated our community, but with the families with individuals with autism spectrum disorder can be really successful.”

If you want to learn more about C.A.R.D, visit their Facebook page or visit their center located at the University of South Florida.

Tampa veterans get a new beginning

New Beginnings of Tampa strives to be a light in the community. With their ability to feed and house the homeless, they also provide a program for a community that is often overlooked: veterans.

“We have about a total of 200 in the program now, and about 50 of them are vets. Most of the vets come as a referral from Veterans Affairs, or sometimes they just come right off the street,” says founder, Tom Atchison, “The most important thing is, is they have a clean environment, a safe environment to stay, a good three meals a day and snacks, it’s very important for their well being.”

New Beginnings is willing to whatever it takes to keep veterans off the street.

“I came down and they had a bed for me and that was a week ago today,” said veteran Kenney Farley.

New Beginnings doesn’t just provide housing for their veterans, they prepare them to get back into the real world.

“Right now we’re running very close to 100 percent as far as getting jobs. There’s plenty of jobs out there for those that will be responsible, show up on time to work and so sometimes that takes a little life training skills on how to hold a job,” Atchison said.

New Beginnings wants their veterans to feel at home, but also assigns them duties to make sure their quarters are clean and tidy to help create good habits and responsibility.

“I seem to get along with everybody, they’re pretty friendly, you know. I’m happy,” said Farley.

So it seems to be a happy ending for everybody at New Beginnings.

Even veteran, Leif Dereng is ecstatic about earning his new housing voucher. He explained how happy he was and laughed saying, “no more woods.”

Many of the veterans stay at New Beginnings between four to six months, where they work to get back on their feet and out into the workforce again.

 

 

 

The healing power of yoga

The co-founder of a new facility is taking a unique approach in helping veterans in the Tampa Bay area cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Janel Norton has served our country as a combat photojournalist for the U.S. Air Force, now she serves in her community by helping other veterans.

“I experienced what I now know was post-traumatic stress when I returned home” Said Janel.

After being stationed in both Liberia and Bosnia, she decided to come back to the United States, but the transition wasn’t easy.

“I got really angry when I came back,” Norton said. “People don’t even know what’s going on over there. I felt very disconnected with everybody and nobody understood anything I had been living through for the last couple of years”

She then discovered the healing power of yoga and had the idea of opening an establishment where local veterans could meet and experience this healing together. After meeting with a prior green beret, they started the Veterans Alternative.

Member and Afghanistan war veteran David Jones is only one of the many veterans that has benefited from this class.

“She’s done wonders as far as you know helping me sleep with this iRest,” Jones said.

iRest is a form of yoga made accessible to everyone. This stress reducing class helps veterans tap into their inner resource.

“We have a small population that we’re serving, but there’s many more,” Norton said.

Local Bakery With Historical Roots Serves Community

The La Segunda Central bakery’s production of fine baked goods has been a staple in Tampa’s Ybor City for over 100 years.

“My great grandfather Juan started the business in 1915, he came from Spain,” fourth-generation owner Copeland Moore, said.  “He fought in the Spanish-American war in Cuba, learned how to make Cuban bread.”

 

He came here in the early 20th century with cigar workers who were flourishing in Ybor City. “He brought the recipe and made the bread for the Cuban workers and the Cuban sandwiches and passed it on to his two sons, who are my grandfather and his brother,” Moore said.

Figure 1 Copeland Moore’s grandfather was the second generation to run the bakery

The rest is history.

La Segunda produces a variety of baked goods, but is most known for its world famous Cuban bread.

Figure 2 La Segunda Bakery is known for its renowned Cuban bread

“We distribute locally and nationally, but locally here most likely if you’ve had a Cuban sandwich it’s on our bread,” Moore said.

The Bakery also has a long-standing tradition of hiring employees that have family ties to the bakery. “I just do whatever they ask me to,” cashier Cathy Rosemurgy said. Moore is Rosemurgy’s son-in-law and technically, Rosemurgy is retired.

“I just to love come and help out because of all of the wonderful people here,” she said.

Figure 3 La Segunda is seen as a crucial part of Ybor City’s history

In addition to employing family and close acquaintances, the bakery also supplies many local restaurants with their Cuban bread. One example is the Columbia restaurant also located in Ybor City. “Providing the local community here in Ybor City with high quality products is important to us,” Moore said.

Moore currently runs the bakery with the aid of his father. When asked what his favorite aspect of the restaurant was, he pointed to new challenges and family.

“Helping with the customers, helping our employees work on their processes, that’s the most enjoyable, that’s what helps me get up and come to work every day and that’s what I like the most about it,” Moore said.

 

Steinbrenner Field hosts Tampa, New York fans

On the corner of Dale Mabry Highway and Martin Luther King Boulevard, Tampa residents can enjoy America’s favorite pastime at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Opened in 1996, Steinbrenner Field is home to the minor league Tampa Yankees and the New York Yankees spring training season. Its original name was Legends Field and was renamed George M. Steinbrenner Field almost a decade later to honor former Yankees owner, George Michael Steinbrenner.

“Mr. Steinbrenner, I know, was a very big part of the Tampa Bay community,” said Matthew Gess, the assistant general manager to the Tampa Yankees. “A lot of things here are built and maybe were passed by him.”

Everywhere you go on the facilities bears a little bit of the city that never sleeps. At the front entrance, visitors can see the numbers of retired jerseys from some of the New York Yankees, shop for some memorabilia at the Legends Room store and even pay their respects to the 9/11 Memorial.

“Being that we’re related to the New York Yankees, we do get our share of it because across the bay is the Rays,” said Gess. “A lot of snowbirds come down from New York, so they’re in the area and that plays a huge part into it. I know they love their Yankees down here. They get to see them a little earlier here than their regular season.”

Those who are not New York Yankee’s fans, but are still loyal to Tampa’s baseball teams, can check out the Tampa Yankees at Steinbrenner Field. Tampa’s minor league team plays at the facilities throughout the summer, attracting fans from all over the city.

“I know they like our affordability, our prices and the fact that we’re an open-air stadium and we’re outside,” said Jessica Lack, the digital/social media and community relations coordinator. “It’s just such a fun atmosphere here with all those kids cheering and everything.”

Kids are some of the Tampa Yankee’s biggest fans. The field hosts Kids Day Wednesdays, where local Hillsborough schools are invited to the stadium and students receive a free ticket and meal from the concession stands.

“The kids are gold,” said Lee Buese, a camera operator for the Tampa Yankees. “It really epitomizes the good times that the rest of the people have.”

Steinbrenner Field also hosts a variety of charity events throughout the year to give back to the Tampa bay community. Some of these events include Autism Awareness, Striking Out Cancer, Everyday Heroes and the Children’s Home of Tampa Bay.

“We do a lot of theme nights that give back to the charities to attract people to come,” Lack said. “Coming up next week we’re doing our Fight for Kids Night for a child who has stage four cancer.”

Tickets are on sale for Tampa Yankee’s games. For more about Steinbrenner Field, the Tampa Yankees and the New York Yankees spring training, visit steinbrennerfield.com.

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Pinellas County Makes Strides To End Breast Cancer

 

Pinellas County is saving lives and raising money one stride at a time. The American Cancer Society event, “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” took place this past Saturday.

Participants and sponsor groups gathered at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg to show their support for the cure for breast cancer.

“I’ve been a survivor for twelve years,” Martine Saber, a walk participant said. “I’ve done the walk for twelve years. It feels great to come out and see all the recognition for men and women with breast cancer.”

A combination of 194 sponsor teams and supporters raised over $143,000 for this year’s walk. The proceeds from the walk go to the American Cancer Society or ACS, to contribute to the process of finding the cure for breast cancer and special services.

Services include transporting patients without vehicles to their cancer treatment facilities. To ensure that all patients feel and look their best during treatment, ACS gives a bag filled with $250 worth of Sephora, Clinique and SmashBox makeup products and hair products.

“I believe in what this event is all about,” Jane Saml, ACS board member and five year survivor said. “This is for efficacy, this is for education, and this is for research. It’s important.”

The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks happen in various counties throughout Florida and the United States all during the month of October. According to the ACS website, Florida counties averaged $50,000 to $100,000.

“We’ve got to end breast cancer,” Saml said. “We’ve got to find a cure for breast cancer and all cancers. I’ve been a cheerleader for patients these past two years and I’d love to know that I made a difference. ”

For more information on upcoming fundraising projects for the American Cancer Association visit AmericanCancerSociety.org

 

USF student with diabetes undeterred by medical condition

 

diabetes Elizabeth Sullivan
Students With Diabetes member Elizabeth Sullivan

 

TAMPA, Fl– Confusion. Dizziness. Shakes. Hunger. Headaches and irritability. All of these are symptoms of low blood sugar. They can affect a college student’s concentration and lead to poor grades, as well as being a serious health risk.

Students managing their diabetes find it can be a journey of ups and downs, with high blood sugar being just as dangerous as low blood sugar. Every day can be a challenge depending on how they handle their meals, take their insulin and exercise. Always having to worry about if they’ve done everything right affects their lives on a larger scale.

Diabetes plays a role in the workplace as well. Bosses and co-workers might wonder if you’re healthy enough to do your job, what you’re doing with the syringes and why you have to have snacks during the day.

Elizabeth Sullivan is a graduate student at USF with Type I diabetes and she has dealt with the ups and downs of diabetes every day, but she has not let it define her life.

Sullivan joined the USF chapter of Students With Diabetes about two years ago because she wanted to get involved with the group. After graduating from Stetson, she came back to the Tampa Bay area and the founder of the organization, Nicole Johnson, asked her to run the Tampa Bay Students With Diabetes chapter. She acts as a coordinator for the chapter, planning events and reaching out to students with diabetes.

Sullivan knows what it’s like to live with diabetes and manage a school and work schedule. “Every day is a new challenge,” she said. “You never know what your blood sugar is gonna be like, you never know if it’s going to affect your ability to perform well in class or in tests. If you have low or high blood sugar right before a test, you memory goes right out the window.”

Even though diabetes research is ongoing, there is no prospect for a cure any time soon. New medications, therapies and strategies for dealing with diabetes show up regularly in the news every day however, leading to hope that a cure will be found soon.

Sullivan gets excited when she hears about new developments in diabetes research.

“One of the ones I’m most looking forward to is the artificial pancreas,” Sullivan said. “We brought in Dr. Ed Damiano, who is the one developing the bionic pancreas and he’s already gone through at least ten years of research for this and they’ve done clinical trials and gotten really amazing results.”

Diabetes affects millions of people in the U.S., and it seems the numbers are increasing. A report by the Centers For Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia states more than 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, which is more than the previous estimate of 26 million in 2010. As bad as that sounds, the report also says that one in four people may not realize they have it.

The National Diabetes Statistics Report 2014 also has statistics on people aged 20 years or older, prime college student age, with 1.7 million new diabetes cases as of 2012. Attending college, working and maintaining a social life is tough enough as it is, but students with diabetes face even more challenges in managing these activities.

According to Francesca Sgambato, administrative specialist at the USF Student Health Clinic, there is not currently a special program for diabetic students but the clinic is willing and able to help students who have or think they might have diabetes.

“We can offer to do any type of labwork or testing they might need,” Sgambato said. “The providers can provide them with medication, if they feel that they might benefit from seeing a nutritionist, we do have one in-house that we would be able to refer them to.”

Sgambato recommends that students who have diabetes or think they have symptoms should go to the USF Student Health Clinic and get their blood sugar levels checked. The staff can then suggest treatment.

Sullivan says the easiest thing to do for people unfamiliar with diabetes is simply talk to a student with diabetes about what it’s like.

“The one thing I would like people to know is I want them to ask,” Sullivan said. “I want them to ask me questions, ask why I do certain things, ask why I can’t do certain things. I think a lot of my friends who I’ve been talking to also agree that just by people asking it gives us a chance to talk with them and connect with other people in a way we might not been able to before.”

Name brands at prices you’ll love

If you’re looking for upscale fashion at a fraction of the price, Encore Boutique and Consignment is a store you want to stop at.

Encore Boutique is the only upscale consignment store in Land O’ Lakes. Owned by Julie Taylor since 2008, the boutique offers shoppers the ability to buy name brand items without paying name brand prices. The merchandise is constantly changing since people bring in items for Taylor to consign. This keeps customers returning to see what new things are for sale.

“We have some shoppers and consignors who have been with us for seven years,” Taylor said.

Inside the small boutique you’ll find a variety of items from dresses, pants, bags, jewelry, shoes, belts, and other accessories. The store follows the latest trends and does not accept clothing that is deemed outdated. Taylor says she doesn’t accept everything. Items needs to be cleaned, pressed and hung on hangers before she’ll even look at them.

“I’m very particular and consigning with me isn’t for everyone because of that,” she said. “My feeling is that if I wouldn’t want to buy it, why would someone else?”

Consignors have the option of having unsellable items returned to them or donated to local charities. The main charities Taylor donates to are Hospice Life, Dress for Success, and Shriners. If the items do sell, consignors are paid by check once or month or a given store credit.

“We have a diverse group of consignors,” Taylor said. “Some like to make money on their clothes and others are shoppers who simply like to recycle their clothes because they’re tired of wearing the same things.”

If you’re in the Land O’ Lakes area, be sure to make a visit to Encore Boutique and Consignment.

Student merges motivational message with apparel business

“Progressively Getting Better.”

The term coined by University of South Florida student, Imani Lee, is a social movement that encourages positivity and productivity.

“When I came to USF I decided I wanted to take the term to the next level,” Lee said. “I wanted to start my own company to actually use this message and incorporate it with a medium that everyone could use.

Lee believed apparel would be the perfect way to promote his motivational message. He specifically designed athletic apparel to allow athletes to define themselves, rather than being defined by the brand they’re wearing.

“It’s something unique in terms of not only providing an apparel line for athletes,” Shaquille Kent, a USF student said. “It’s a constant motivation. Whether its sports, whether its school, it’s always something that you’re progressively getting better at.”

Lee said he has plans to partner with businesses such as the YMCA and Alpha House of Tampa in order to host campaigns to spread awareness of the movement.

“We’re going to have basketball tournaments and we’re going to be doing food drives,” Lee said. “A portion of those proceeds that we collect will go to whichever company we’re partnered with.”

Lee said he also has goals of creating motivational workshops, a production crew and a record label.

“When I say progressively getting better I’m talking about now and in the future,” he said. “Me and you — all of us as a whole — we are connected. We do have a global conscious and we should make that consciousness more productive. This is the future.”

Operation Coexist: Making a Difference Through Music

St. Petersburg– Operation Coexist is a nonprofit organization that provides music education to at risk youth and kids in the foster care system. The 5013c began in 2012 in St. Petersburg and over the last few years it has grown into something that is reaching further than founder Katie Talbert ever imagined.

“I cannot describe the feeling I get when I think about the program and the impact I am seeing from it. Everyone seems to want to help me, to volunteer their time. Even famous musicians are reaching out,” Talbert said.

Children ages 4-18 years get the opportunity to take free music lessons and perform in groups or solo acts to showcase what they learn at Noisemakers, better known as “The School of Rock.”

Music is healing and organizations such as Operation Coexist use the power of music to better the lives of children in need, and make a positive impact and difference in the community.

Kids horse around to support nonprofit

Armando Gort had one dream when he was a boy: to have his own farm. Today, that dream is a reality.

There are many animals on Gort’s farm, even though his original thought was that he would only have a few horses. He began riding horses as a young child.

“I started when I was five or six years old. My dad used to have animals, so he got me involved with animals,” he said.

He is now the founder of a nonprofit called HorsePower for Kids. Children and adults come to learn and interact with the animals.

All ages are welcome. There is a petting zoo for younger kids, and older kids can ride the horses.

It takes many volunteers to run the nonprofit. Saskia Ravelli, farm manager, says volunteers provide 95 percent of the help.

“On a regular basis during the week, we probably have about 80, but with special events, it goes up to about 300,” Ravelli said.

HorsePower for Kids is hosting a fall fundraiser with hay rides, live music, pony rides, games and activities. The event runs Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Oct. 3 through Nov. 1. Admission is $10 per person.

Money raised pays for the care of animals. Ravelli said it costs $25,000 to operate the farm.

 

Feed-A-Bull food pantry makes a big hit among students

 

Tampa, Fla.—The Feed-A-Bull food pantry gives emergency aid to students who are struggling to afford food.

Feed-A-Bull is a food pantry started by the Office of Student Outreach and Support (SOS), Wellness Education, and Feeding America USF. It is open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“We really want our students to use the pantry more than once if they need to,” the senior case manager for SOS, Callie Nettles, said.  “It is on an emergency need basis, and we hope that’s honored, but we don’t want any reason for the students not to come back if they need to.”

Students who need to use the food pantry must have their USF ID or a valid U-number.  They must also be enrolled in classes.

Students who use the food pantry receive prepared bags of food that are made by volunteers. Students with dietary restrictions or allergies may have food items substituted in their bags.

Feeding America USF Vice President Neesha Hira said that a lot of students have already used the food pantry.

“A lot of people come – boys and girls of different ethnicities,” Hira said.  “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Nettles said that Feed-A-Bull has received a positive response from students; some have even wanted to give back to the food pantry by volunteering.

“I’m really impacted by USF and how supportive it has been,” Nettles said. “It really seems to be a community that has got each other’s backs. Between the students that have been utilizing it and have wanted to give back, the students who want to donate or do food drives, and the faculty and staff who want to support the initiative, it has just been overwhelming.”

Local boutique dresses women for success, teaches them to succeed

On North Howard Avenue hides a closet haven for Tampa women. Dress for Success of Tampa Bay is a non-profit organization that provides women with the attire for a professional career and the confidence as well.

The women of Dress for Success give women confidence, support and the little push needed to get women into the workforce.

“Most people know us for giving out suits, but we do more than that. We give out the suits, but we also give women hope,” said Katie McGill, executive director.

Dress for Success offers a 9-week career program called the “Going Places Network” which is for unemployed women seeking employment. During those nine weeks the participants have three mock interviews, a job coach and resume building classes. Along with building career skills, the program also increases the women’s confidence.

“It’s amazing! We are at over 83% placement. And what I see, they come in and it’s the confidence. They had no confidence and the self-esteem is low. And by the end of that nine weeks, when they have the graduation, they are totally different women,” said McGill.

After receiving her diploma Liliana–a recent graduate from the Going Places Network, expressed her appreciation and gratitude for Dress for Success during a speech she gave.

“The Going Places program has been exceptional. I did not know that programs like this existed before. I liked it so much I would like to repeat,” Liliana said.

Now  in its 17th year, Dress for Success Tampa Bay is looking forward to many more years of helping, empowering and giving back to the women of Tampa Bay.

“I love Dress for Success because I see how it really makes women feel and change. The whole thing is to empower them so they can empower someone else,” said McGill.

 

 

 

 

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Hillsborough County residents are keeping our waterways clean one garbage bag at a time. Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful hosted their 28th annual cleanup of the Hillsborough River and coastal lines.

Thousands of volunteers came out to more than 80 Hillsborough County cleanup locations.

“We always have tremendous support,” said Tom Damico, environmental program coordinator at Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful. “We have so many school groups, church groups, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, and Eagle scouts interested in community service projects.”

When volunteers arrived at the Ben T. Davis Beach location they were given a free garbage bag, a pair of gloves, and a checklist. The volunteers were asked to check off any item they found and write in others that weren’t on the list. The top littered items were cigarette butts, bottle caps, plastic bags and beverage containers.

“At first I didn’t realize that all of these things would be on the list but as I looked around I was like ok, this is pretty common,” said Phillip Scott, a local volunteer. “I guess it was like an eye opener for me.”

Last year approximately 4000 volunteers helped collect more than 60,000 pounds of litter from more than 75 cleaning locations and waterways in Hillsborough County.

Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful hosts two annual clean ups to benefit Hillsborough County. The Great American Clean Up in the spring and the River and Coastal cleanup in the fall. Even with those measures, there is still a tremendous amount of litter left.

“We have studies from the EPA that show that 80 percent of the litter that ends up in our neighborhoods, streets and roadways end up being washed into our waterways,” Damico said. “We’ve got to stop that cycle.”

For more information on upcoming clean ups and how to help keep Hillsborough County clean visit Keeptampabaybeautiful.org.

 

Chiari supporters walk for cure

 

 

Bay area residents flocked to Al Lopez Park Saturday to raise awareness for Chiari, a disease largely unrecognized by the medical community.

Conquer Chiari Walk Across America took place at over 85 locations across the country and raised a combined total of $750,000. 80 percent of the funds raised at the walk will be used to fund research.

“Every year I get the calls from people who have never had the chance to meet someone else with Chiari,” said Serenity Harper, the organizer of this year’s walk. “It’s a parent struggling with making a decision to have surgery for their child and this is a great outlet and time for them to talk to other parents or talk to another person with Chiari and feel like they are not alone.”

Harper said Chiari malformation has become a much bigger part of her life than she ever anticipated.

“I was diagnosed in 2002 and unfortunately both of my biological children also have Chiari,” said Harper.

Local walker, Kimmy Smith, was diagnosed last year. Smith said while Chiari may not be well known, it is estimated the disease affects 300,000 people in the U.S.

“It is a disorder, a defect neurologically where your brain is,” said Smith. “Unfortunately, (your brain) a little too big for your skull and it herniates out and presses on the spinal cord. It can block your CSF fluid and just causes pain, headaches, imbalance and it can have a big negative effect on your life.”

Smith and her family members participated in their first walk to raise money for Chiari research, but for the individuals affected by the disease, the sense of community is the biggest reward.

“Unless you’ve gone through something like this, it’s kind of hard to comprehend something like chronic pain,” said Smith. “So to just be surrounded by everybody just makes me really happy to know that there is just so much love and support for the community.”

Though perhaps no one knows the depths of the Chiari community like veteran walker Brittney Clark, whose team of 60 people raised over $3,000 this year. Clark has undergone four surgeries for Chiari, suffering a stroke in the last one. She is the epitome of the nickname “Chiari Warriors” given to survivors of the disease.

“I am out here at the walk every year trying to raise awareness,” said Clark. “To be able to come out and meet others with the disease, it was just amazing to not feel alone after all the years and to see others who have experienced the same things as me…it’s just priceless.”

 

 

 

 

Muslim community organizations work to honor memory of shooting victims near UNC Chapel Hill

Since the Feb. 10 shooting deaths of three Muslim students near the University of North Carolina, students at USF have been doing their part to honor the memory of the victims.

The Muslim Students Association at USF has worked with the Council on American-Islamic Relations to help victims of harassment after Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha were killed.

“We’re giving free legal representation to all victims of discrimination and harassment, regardless of their faith,” said Hassan Shibly, CAIR Florida chief executive director.

MSA at USF has been doing its part to keep Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha’s legacy alive.

Malak Fakhoury, interfaith outreach coordinator for USF’s Muslim Students Association, talked about a new initiative.

“Feed Their Legacy is a campaign that was started in their memory and because Deah, Yusor and Razan were so devoted to feeding the homeless in North Carolina,” Fakhoury said.

The tragedy has led to students learning about more about Muslims and becoming more involved with the Islamic community.

“There’s been a shift of atmosphere in misunderstanding Muslims, and students are making greater efforts to hold interfaith dialogues, to reach out and to have a better understanding of what Muslim is,” Fakhoury said.

Currently, the FBI is investigating the case for violation of hate crime laws. Suspect Craig Stephen Hicks could face the death penalty.

“The most important thing in relation to the tragedy is not letting their lives be lost in vain to this,” Shibly said. “We’ve personally said we’ll spend our careers and all of our of organization’s resources fighting the intolerance, the bigotry and the hate that ultimately led to their killings.”