42nd annual Equal Opportunity Day Gala

Pinellas County Urban League held their 42nd annual Equal Opportunity Day fundraising gala Friday, Oct. 4 at the Tradewinds Island Grand Resort where two county officials were honored.

BY ROGER K. CLENDENING, Staff Writer

ST. PETE BEACH – Two key county government officials were honored last Friday night by the Pinellas County Urban League (PCUL) for helping grow a stronger community and economic development climate throughout Pinellas County during their 42nd annual Equal Opportunity Day fundraising gala at the Tradewinds Island Grand Resort.

Dr. Cynthia Johnson, senior manager for Pinellas County Economic Development and center director for the Florida Small Business Development Center (FSBDC) at the county, was saluted with the President’s Award.

As the FSBDC center director since 2010, Johnson has led her team in assisting thousands of emerging and growing businesses, including sole proprietorships and companies, by providing professional expertise, business tools, and information necessary to make sound business decisions in an ever-changing marketplace.

Pinellas County Commissioner Kenneth T. Welch, in addition to helping oversee the county’s $2.4-billion budget and has served as chair of the county’s Economic Development Council and Tourism Development Council, received the 2019 Chairperson’s Award.

Welch, who represents District 7 in St. Petersburg, is the Technology Manager for Welch Accounting & Tax Services, a family-owned firm, and is a former accounting, information technology and financial systems executive with Florida Power Corporation (now Duke Energy). His commission work has focused on community and economic development, poverty reduction, housing, transportation and public safety.

Mistress of Ceremony Erica Riggins, a Spectrum Bay News 9 news anchor, welcomed the hundreds of participants, noting “we are celebrating 42 years of service and impact to the community and honoring some phenomenal individuals and corporations for their outstanding achievements in community and public investment.”

From its humble beginnings as a four-member, one program operation in a shared office, the PCUL now has a staff of more than 40 dedicated individuals and more than 15 distinct programs serving youth, families and seniors.

They offer job training and placement, weatherization and energy assistance, free medical screenings and health education classes, GED adult education, financial empowerment workshops and much more in Pinellas and six other counties along Florida’s Central West Coast.

Riggins introduced Linda Marcelli, PCUL’s board chair and managing director of Lucky’s Real Tomatoes, who thanked those attending for helping “advance its work for social justice in our community.”

“Our gala also celebrates the rich history of leadership in the African-American community in Pinellas County,” she said, reminding those present that the PCUL serves more than 15,000 people each year and “needs all our assistance in supporting and advancing the many programs that help people improve their lives.”

This year’s Equal Opportunity Day gala launched under the theme “Yet Still We R.I.S.E.” (each, invest, serve and empower). Mhariel Summers, a young advocate of PCUL and its programs and services, took the theme and ran with it.

She brought the crowd to their feet with a poetic reflection on what it is to be a young black person rooted in the history of St. Pete, and paid homage to those great leaders she stands on the shoulders of.

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