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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
The Fourth Annual Everyday Blessings Benefit Car Show provided more than fancy cars and luxury. It invited people to see the bigger picture and show the importance of donating to the community organization, Everyday Blessings. Marketing director of Everyday Blessings Pam Bell said the goal of the program is to reunite children in their homes.
Clark Construction partnered up with Everyday Blessings to help give back to the community instead of offering monetary prizes to contestants. The entrants’ involvement in spite of there not being a cash prize to win inspired not only the children who benefit from this event but also the people who come to get a closer look at the cars. The Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel hosted the car show this year and will offer space for next year’s event at well.