Help for new mothers expands in Tampa Bay

Located in Pinellas Park, Fla., the Pregnancy Center of Pinellas County serves women in need of assistance. Whether it’s helping financially or giving counseling advice, the Pregnancy Center is willing to help.

Natalia Sierra, a Pregnancy Center client since the beginning of her pregnancy, is extremely grateful for the help she has received.

“I receive a lot of help still from the Pregnancy Center,” Sierra said. “Whenever I need diapers or extra wipes they’re always there to help me. When I have any questions about parenting they’re always there to help me as well.”

The Pregnancy Center has helped thousands of moms over the course of its existence. However, the number of struggling moms in need of assistance continues to rise. That’s why director Nancy Lathrop and her staff have helped the Pregnancy Center expand over the entire Tampa Bay area.

“We have three in Pinellas County and two now in Hillsborough County,” Lathrop said. “Roughly 2,000 moms a year come through our doors in one of those five centers.”

Stop by a Pregnancy Center location in Pinellas Park, Tarpon Springs or Largo to get proper assistance and guidance.


Tampa adults take to the kick ball field

The Kick Ball Society of Tampa Bay is an organization that provides a fun, social and athletic outlet for any adults interested.

Operations Manager Steven Israel has been with the organization from the very beginning and is pleased to witness its growth in such little time.

“There are so many teams that make up this organization; it’s amazing,” said Israel.  “It’s just $69 for the entire season, and for that you will take away lasting memories and relationships.”

Susie Mattos, league player for the team “Where My Pitches At,” is a first time member and has nothing but good things to say about the organization and her teammates.

“Since I began, my social life has expanded tremendously,” Mattos said. “I have met so many people throughout my time here and it has served as such a huge stress reliever.”

Humane Society supports animals of Tampa Bay

Do you feel like your family is missing something? Well look no further than the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. They are sure to have that special companion you and your family are looking for.

The Humane Society has been rescuing animals and changing lives all over the Tampa Bay area since 1912. Adoption Services Manager, Carie Peterson, has been working for the Humane Society for 8 years and every day is still amazed at all the good they do for people and for animals.

“It’s three lives changing. We save so many animals from other shelters that can’t keep them so the minute someone leaves from here, we can now go and save another one. So they’ve really saved two lives. It’s amazing that we can do that,” Peterson said.

The Humane Society also has unique programs for students, a lot of volunteers and a food assistance program.

“The food assistance program helps people in need if they have animals at home and the people are on hard times. We don’t want the animal to starve so we do have a food pantry where they can come and they can get a bag of food once a month,” Peterson said.

Keeping animals and their owners together is very important to the Humane Society so they help out those in need whenever they can. Changing the community one animal at a time.

Full Gospel Church on West Comanche Avenue: Tampa’s Unlikely International Community

There isn’t much to see when you drive through West Comanche Avenue.

On the corner where the road meets Hillsborough Avenue, you’ll find a Shell gas station. Next door, a rundown auto shop with faded signs and old abandoned cars lies unattended.  Heading further down, West Comanche is an uneven gravel road dotted with poorly filled potholes and weeds. Tall grass lines the sidewalks. Prehistoric looking trees cast shadows over the unkempt lawns along the street. The neighborhood of brightly colored houses remains quiet most of the time, except for the occasional car or bike-riding child passing through.

It’s not where you would expect to come across a Korean church.

Positioned between an empty plot of land and the predominantly Hispanic residential area behind it, the yellow church building with its stark white steeple and stained glass windows, stands out against the surrounding wire fencing and overgrown shrubbery. An American flag flies high on a flagpole in the front of the parking lot, right next to the church’s bright blue sign. Plastered on a thick marble pillar, the sign, written in white Korean and English lettering, reads: Assembly Full Gospel Church of Tampa.

This building and the off-white building adjacent to it is where the congregation, a diverse and eclectic mix of Korean and local culture, has gathered for the past 36 years.

The church sprouted up in this curious spot thanks to a Korean elder from the overseeing Assemblies of God denomination. Rev. Byong Chin Lee, senior pastor of Full Gospel,  cannot recall his name. He and his family arrived and took over leadership of the church just 11 years ago.

“Well, it’s not a typical spot for a Korean church, but it was God’s plan for us,” Lee said in Korean.

Originally, the church leaders intended to reach just the Korean community in Tampa. There were no plans to become a multi-ethnic church. Not that they had any objections, Lee said, it just wasn’t on the radar.

Over the years, people of all different walks of life have found their way through the doors of the church. The church’s nationalities include Vietnamese, Caucasian, Filipino, Black, Puerto Rican, Chinese and Korean.  Lee said the influx of ethnically and culturally diverse church members is exciting.

“It makes the church feel more alive,” Lee said.

Lee said there is a downside–the loss of communication and a potential for misunderstanding between the older Korean generation of immigrants and the younger, non-Korean generation. In fact, the church is split into two parts, services for the Korean-speaking older parishioners, and English services for the younger members. Not every older Korean member speaks or understand English, and not every youth speaks or understand Korean. Both sides get lost in translation.

That’s where Pastor Joshua Kim came in. A Korean immigrant, originally from Baltimore and then Miami, he moved to Tampa with his family to be the English-speaking pastor at Assembly Full Gospel in 2013. He received recommendations from members within the church to take the position here.

“Every church has its own distinct identity,” Kim said. “For us, we cannot be closed off to other cultures. It’s not what God called us to do.”

So what is the vision for Assembly Full Gospel?

“To reach the lost souls of the world, starting with our own neighborhood,” Lee said. “We might be in a Hispanic neighborhood, but we can connect with them and impact them too.”

He believes it starts with prayer. The church holds hold a prayer meeting every morning at 6 a.m., and on Friday nights as well. The meetings are not just to pray for the church members and attendees, but for the entire neighborhood. The entire city. The world.

The Sunday morning sun beats down on the church’s 36th anniversary. Lunch is special today. People cram into the small air- conditioned lunch room. It’s lined with long folding tables and packed with plastic chairs. Korean and English chatter fills the air as people get in line for food. Korean, Chinese, African-American, Filipino, and Vietnamese, all different faces, but one family.

A Saturday Morning in Downtown St. Petersburg


Musician Chris Brudy serenaded people who made the trek out to North Straub Park on Saturday morning for the annual Outdoor Living and Home Expo. Brudy encouraged those passing by to get out and vote in between songs. “I don’t care who, just do it. Voting is awesome,” Brudy said.


The annual two-day event featured renovation professionals, horticulturists, glass blowers and organic food stands.


Supporters of Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Adrian Wyllie picketed outside the event. Patricia Moore (center) said she felt the picketers were more of a nuisance than informative.

Continue reading “A Saturday Morning in Downtown St. Petersburg”

Hundreds of Scientists Warn of Food Shortages, Mass Extinction in Climate Report; Opposing Arguments ‘Do Not Hold Water’

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report warning worldwide governments about the wreaking effects of climate change on Friday.

The New York Times reported on the potential risks:

Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year.

The Washington Post also summarized the IPCC’s report:

The report said some impacts of climate change will “continue for centuries,” even if all emissions from fossil-fuel burning were to stop. The question facing governments is whether they can act to slow warming to a pace at which humans and natural ecosystems can adapt, or risk “abrupt and irreversible changes” as the atmosphere and oceans absorb ever-greater amounts of thermal energy within a blanket of heat-trapping gases, according to scientists who contributed to the report.

“The window of opportunity for acting in a cost-effective way — or in an effective way — is closing fast,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University geosciences professor and contributing author to the report.

The IPCC report comes in the wake of movie star Leonardo DiCaprio’s speech at the 2014 UN Climate Summit in September.

Posts were made last month on President Barack Obama’s Twitter account in support of action against climate change.

Even with evidence piling in favor of climate change, the president’s tweet  received backlash.

Adam Bryant, New York Times environment editor,  stated last week that the opinions of climate skeptics “do not hold water,” and therefore the paper was “not going to take that point of view seriously.”

But not all skeptics are out to label climate change a hoax and call it a day. Some point out numbers and data that might misinform the public, such as the popular statement that 97 percent of scientists think global warming is a serious issue caused by man.

Others, such as Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, believe in climate change, but don’t agree with the data used to assert it as a man-made issue.

But the most surprising of all climate skeptics might be John Coleman, a former meteorologist and co-founder of the Weather Channel.

Coleman made his stance publicly known via Twitter.

In the end, it’s all weather to him.

Florida Focus: 11-05-2014

In today’s episode of Florida Focus:  A drilling rig accident causes the Kennedy Blvd. Bridge to close; Pinellas Park Police have a bizarre encounter with a suspect; a terror suspect is sentenced in Pinellas County; USF honors Veteran’s Day with a chili cook off; The Blue Ocean Film Festival kicks off in St. Petersburg.


Disney confuses its guests more often than it makes them smile

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Walt Disney World is often associated with images of smiles, but most guests do not smile that much during their visits. Many adults are too busy figuring out maps and programs instead.

Canines and Coffee: The Dogs of Starbucks

"But really, how many people come up and ask you about your dog?""Honestly, Rosco gets me free drinks and girls."
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Orlando survivors and supporters walk against breast cancer

Over 9,000 survivors and supporters took to the streets of Orlando during the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (MSABC) benefit walk, Saturday at 9 a.m.

The American Cancer Society sponsored the 3.1 mile walk from Lake Eola Park to the downtown metro area.

The event raised over $730,000 on behalf of ACS to fund breast cancer research, mammograms and information services.

The Last Orson Welles Film sparks competition between production companies

The last film of Orson Welles has left movie lovers with a gaping hole in their hearts for over 40 years but according to The New York Times, the wait may be over.

A Los Angeles production company, Royal Road Entertainment, said on Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with the sometimes-warring parties to buy the rights. The producers say they aim to have it ready for a screening in time for May 6, the 100th anniversary of Welles’s birth, and to promote its distribution at the American Film Market in Santa Monica, Calif., next month.

Welles spent the last 15 years of his life working on the film titled “The Other Side of the Wind”, but was never able to complete it. The conflict surrounding the idealized film is nothing new to the world of cinema. For years there have been battles between his family and the film industry. Production companies around the world vie for the rights to complete and produce the film, but have never been granted permission or access to it. Including industry giant, Showtime.

Mail Online reports that in a phone interview with Welles’ well known companion and collaborator Oja Kodar, who expressed her vision for the film.

She said “The catalyst is the hundred-year anniversary and everybody is moving in a kind of wave. When I finally see it on the screen, then I will tell you that the film is done.”

It is believed that Kodar possesses the 45-minute print of the film. So its fate lies in her hands.

East Lake children’s librarian writes her own chapters

The job of a children’s librarian is one that some believe is boring and only involves stocking shelves with books. Despite the fact that the media or even books we read can portray this idea, the position entails more than what some describe.

“I purchase all the materials for the children. That includes the books, videos and toys that they play with,” children’s librarian of East Lake Community Library Susan Schuler said. “I also develop my own programs.”

This month Schuler has already put together a Halloween Costume Swap and Frozen sing-along program.

While Schuler enjoys putting events together there is one thing she loves most.

“What I love most about my job is what librarians call reader’s advisory,” Schuler said.

Reader’s advisory is assistance from a librarian in finding a book suited for an individual.

Schuler’s hard work is not only appreciated from children and parents, but also from her coworkers and volunteers.

“Susan and I work really well together,” assistant children’s librarian Daniele Forrester said. “We are of the same mind about a lot of things and we end up finishing up each other’s sentences a lot.”

The librarian has evolved over the years, and Schuler believes that if someone is unable to have fun in a position such as hers then they must be doing something wrong.


Finding Right College with Online Dating


Doing things the old-fashioned way is coming to an end thanks to continuing advancements in technology.  Meeting people is now done online, and finding the right college no longer requires paying a visit to the guidance counselor.

According to the Associated Press, there is now a website that has the audacity to turn finding a college into an experience similar to online dating:

There’s even a dating service-like site for higher education: pairs students with colleges based on such as factors as body piercings and whether applicants go to church.

The website’s homepage boasts, “Your dream school is closer than you think.”  Admittedly’s slogan is one small step away from trying to sell high schoolers their very own Prince Charming.

On the bright side, Tech Crunch shows us that Admittedly is aiming to sell happily ever afters instead of one-night stands – a feat that actual dating sites don’t usually accomplish. The problem is Admittedly sometimes pairs students with schools that are unattainable:

But the hardest part of figuring out the college situation isn’t always getting in, but finding one that you love to begin with. Admittedly uses OKCupid-like quizzes to find the right college matches for students. Once that happens, the system identifies whether or not that school is within reach and things that you can do to increase your odds.

Moral of the story? Sometimes Prince Charming isn’t completely right for us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try. There is more than one Prince Charming in the world. And who knows, maybe one day college searching will become as simple as swiping right or left on a phone screen.


CrossFit STS trainer keeps members on their feet

Hugh Thomas, owner and head coach of CrossFit Strength to Strength (STS), is changing lives, one workout a day.

Each day consists of a warm-up, skill or strength training, and a workout of the day. Thomas is constantly creating new workouts to keep gym members on their feet.

“The community is number one to me, and in the community, you build that accountability and with the accountability you build that friendship,” Thomas said. “You come here to get better, work on our weaknesses and have fun doing it.”

Workouts consist of constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity.

Before opening the CrossFit gym in January, Thomas was a professional MMA fighter for four years, as well as a semi pro baseball and basketball player.

“You’ve got a person who is certified like myself who loves what he does, who can’t wait to wake up in the morning to come and teach people how to get better,” Thomas said.

Thomas is very passionate about helping people push past their comfort zone. He has not only coached and trained professional athletes, but also children and the elderly.

USF International Student Enjoys Homecoming Carnival

International student Faisal Alshahrani doubles over in laughter at the USF Homecoming Carnival as he and his friends joke around while trying funnel cake for the first time. Alshahrani and his friends are a part of INTO USF, a program for international students that provides English language, academic preparation and community. The students, originally from Saudi Arabia, experienced their first homecoming in the United States this year. Although the new environment and culture was daunting, Alshahrani said that he liked the relationship between international students in INTO USF. (Photo by Paige Butterfield)