Clearwater, FL-On March 19 at the Clearwater Public Library, comic and gaming enthusiasts came together for the third annual Clearwater Comic Con. This was a free event for all who attended. There was a myriad of booths and activities that catered to many interests, such as comics, gaming and anime.
The Global Medical and Dental Brigades has been a student-run organization at The University of South Florida for many years now. Each year, they plan a fundraising event for their annual medical mission trip and this year was no exception.
In 2015, members were able to raise almost $40,000 and travel Nicaragua together. They hope to reach the same goal this year to get them to Honduras in May.
Although the mission trips last only nine days, their fundraising events begin early in the school year. They collect medical and hygienic supplies to bring with them and they participate in health and safety courses. The members also take part in everyday biomedical science courses to prepare them for assisting at clinics with health officials.
Member and medication chair for the organization, Kristin DeMayo, was proud to play a huge part in planning their first, of hopefully many, Bubble Soccer Tournament.
“It will be a comprehensive public health mission trip while we’re there,” she said.
The trip will include service projects like building sidewalks and outhouses.
At the tournament, teams of four suited up in large, plastic Body Zorb bubble suits to play five minute games against each other.
“[I] bruised some knees but it’s for a great cause,” Sara Galvis, a participant, said.
The Global Medical and Dental Brigades is already thinking of ways to make the tournament bigger and better for next year.
The Florida Strawberry Festival is the talk of the town in Plant City, but the talk of festival, is the “Make Your Own” Strawberry Shortcake booth. Whether you want cake or a biscuit, or little or a lot of whipped topping, Saint Clement Catholic Church gives visitors the chance to make their perfect shortcake.
Saint Clement’s booth is one of the three booths that sell shortcake on the festival grounds. The “Make Your Own” style is what makes the church’s booth stand out from the rest. With the help from parishioners and volunteers, the booth has been running for 43 years. The organization has two coordinators that make sure the project continues to be successful.
“I think it’s an astounding event and I love to be a part of it.”, said co-coordinator, Paul Hetrick.
Hetrick has been a coordinator for three years, but has volunteered since 1987. His hard work and dedication to the project would not be complete without his co-coordinator, Kevin McFaul and committee.
“The committee, it just makes this whole thing smooth. I mean there are just so many things going on. That are a part of this operation.”, Hetrick said. “And as coordinators, we are not necessarily checking up on them on a regular basis. They’re taking care of, because the people that are running them are autonomous.”
There are over a 150 volunteers that contribute to the success of the booth. The committee and volunteers spend many hours of their day preparing berries, washing buckets, and working the booth at the festival. Some volunteers, like Joseph Herrmann, have been helping out since the project first began.
“I’ve been here since the start. 43 years.”, Herrmann said. “And the first day we actually cut berries by hand with the prairie knives.”
Now, there are machines that cut and wash the berries, which makes the process easier.
Hetrick hopes that people visiting the festival not only get a delicious shortcake, but a friendly and welcoming experience.
The booth is running all 11 days of the festival. Tickets are four dollars and can be bought at eight different Publix locations beforehand.
Love is in the air, and it’s also in the alley.
Zephyrhills resident Tami Beverlin has started a campaign called Valentines for Veterans. The effort focuses on making valentines for wounded veterans at James A. Haley Veteran’s Hospital in Tampa. Beverlin’s idea culminated in this event at Pin Chasers. Kids of all ages were invited to participate.
“I wanted to do something for the older vets that are at the nursing homes and the ones that are coming back, the ones that are in the hospital,” Beverlin said. “Just to say, you know, ‘we appreciate you.’”
Each participant received a free game of bowling for taking part in the initiative. Beverlin was encouraged to have the event here by her daughter Aubrey Ogilbee, who’s also the bowling center’s general manager.
“There’s no better person to work with than family that you love and care about,” Ogilbee said. “You know each other. There’s, you know, no communication issues because you already know exactly how you each communicate and what your strengths and weaknesses are.”
Beverlin collected over 800 cards throughout the month-long campaign. She hopes the event becomes annual so veterans can continue to feel this love for years to come.
“You don’t feel like you can do anything,” Beverlin said. “You can do something. You can just get involved in your own community. You can start changing the ‘I’ thinking to the ‘we’ thinking.”
The Cinderella Project of Pasco County is offering free prom dresses and accessories to students on a budget.
The organization has over 1,200 dresses to offer to any girl that isn’t able to purchase a dress of their own. The dresses come in both small and larger sizes.
“It just takes one. That one special girl to walk in and they don’t want to take the dress off,” said organizer Julie Rockwell. “It just takes one to come up and give you a hug at the end and tell you ‘thank you’.”
Along with dresses, there are also donated shoes, purses and jewelry for girls to browse through and match to their dress.
“I like giving back to the community,” said volunteer Laura Luter. “Seeing them have joy over finding the right dress for them, they know it immediately, and that’s the reward.”
The non-profit organization has been holding Cinderella boutiques around Pasco for the past 13 years.
Each boutique’s location is donated to the project for free.
“It’s important that they experience prom because it’s a chance at one night maybe out of the year that they get to really dress up and feel beautiful,” Rockwell said. “I would hate to see any girl be able to go because she couldn’t afford a dress or a pair of shoes or some jewelry.”
The last boutique is taking place this Saturday, March 12 in at 38022 River Road in Dade City from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Along West Platt Street, people were profiting for different causes by offering parking spots in private properties.
Sherryl Cook, employment specialist at the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind, was one of them. She started at the parking lot around 9:30 a.m.
The Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind is a non-profit organization that offers rehabilitation programs for persons who are blind or visually impaired.
“It usually picks up around one when the parade is going on,” Cook said.
The idea started 16 years ago when one of her coworkers discovered a group of homeless charging people for using their office parking lot during Gasparilla. They decided it would be a good idea create a fundraiser to collect donations to support the organization.
They agreed to a price match with other nearby parking lots to make it fair. This year they charged 20 dollars for each spot.
There were 50 spots, and Cook said she planned to be there until 2 p.m.
Cooks’ plans for the rest of the day were going home and resting after a long morning at the parking lot.
Henry Sutter, 57, was another Tampa resident who decided to make some profit out of Gasparilla.
Holding a “Best Parking” sign, Sutter started at 9 a.m. working at the parking lot with his wife Patty Sutter, who works as a legal attorney at the Business Law Group, P.A., a community association law firm.
They have done this before for collecting money and donating it to the Boys Scouts or churches. This year they did it if for their own profit.
“This is year is going to my daughter’s college car fund,” Henry Sutter said.
They had 35 spots. They charged 30 dollars per car.
“Once every two or three years, I’m here,” Henry Sutter said. “We rotate turns with other people from the law firm.”
On Nov. 28th I went to feed the homeless and met some amazing people. We started at Sacred Heart Catholic Church where we prepared the food. Then drove it over to St. Peter Claver Catholic School where we served it to hungry people. While preparing the food I met an amazing woman named Kim, who has been coming every Saturday since she got married and even after her stroke, she still lends a hand. Many people were so hungry they came through the line two or three times. They also received a doggie bag that helps them throughout the rest of the day. I went there to give back but in the end I was the one that received the most.
The Special Olympics is defined as “A non-profit organization that provides year-round sports training to children and adults, with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
Hillsborough County programs offer 17 sports to over 800 athletes, with the assistance of 75 coaches and over 1,000 volunteers throughout the year. These programs are free to athletes.
The Special Olympics also offers various programs such as Unified Sports, which joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team, and Healthy Athletes, which has become the largest global public health organization dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities.
However, for Special Olympics athletes and their families, the importance of the organization goes far beyond athletic training and offered programs.
“My favorite part about Special Olympics is playing different sports, make new friends, demonstrate courage, show friendship, and most importantly, to have fun,” athlete Thomas Shervington said.
Thomas plays basketball, soccer, golf, and softball, and just became a part of the Athletes Leadership Program, where he will help spread awareness on how to get involved with the Special Olympics.
“Him being in the Special Olympics has affected our lives so greatly,” Thomas’s mother, Buffie Shervington said. “He’s not only playing sports, but able to make new friends. My son got to thrive, grow, become confident and do all the things kids do.”
“He’s just a completely different person than he was before the Special Olympics. He’s my inspiration.”
Sigma Pi participated once again in Delta Gamma’s annual philanthropic Anchor Splash on Sunday, October 26, 2015. Sigma Pi did not place this year, but they seem to be optimistic toward future performances. Sigma Pi brother, Robert Steeg, said, “As long as we get more brothers to participate next year and we keep up the hard work, I believe we will improve and maybe even place.”
Hope for the Homeless at USF organized their first Trick or Trot 5k Costume Fun Run on Oct. 24. The goals for the 5k were to have people have fun while running the trail and to raise as much money as possible. The money collected supports local homeless people with care packages for the holidays. The organization had a raffle drawing with prizes and a costume contest. Winners received prizes from local supporters.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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