ST. PETERSBURG — Numerous programs and initiatives have been developed throughout the years to have a positive impact on the Childs Park Community. Some have sputtered while others flourish.
The Adopt-a-Block program, through the Florida Dream Center, hopes to offer a unique approach to the area by bringing resources and assistance directly to the residents.
The Florida Dream Center was established in 2012 to address the needs of impoverished and at-risk neighborhoods. Citing the 2013 Economic Impact of Poverty Report for the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners, 25 percent of the Lealman and south St. Pete communities live at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level.
Michael Robinson, the South St. Pete coordinator for Adopt- a-Block, said they go directly to the residents and ask, “What can we do for you?”
On Saturday mornings, Robinson and his team of volunteers assemble and break into three groups: “Laborers” who provide minor home repairs, debris cleanup and lawn service; “table leaders,” are the ones in charge of the distribution of donated clothes, hygiene products and boxed lunches for the children and “walkers” who go door-to-door asking residents if they have any specific needs. Walkers also spread the word about the program and the valuable resources available.
Robinson said a lot of people just don’t know about community resources, and the ones that do are often met with roadblocks.
“Transportation can be a problem and for others they are not tech savvy with a computer. And sometimes pride stops them.”
With the Adopt-a-Block program, the resources come to the residents. If there is a service that they cannot do such as extensive roof repair, the volunteers will refer the homeowner to a city program that can help them.
The Adopt-a-Block program has received support and assistance from the Juvenile Welfare Board, which donates approximately 66 boxed lunches for children, the City of St. Petersburg’s Director of Urban Affairs, Nikki Gaskin-Capehart and Lendel Bright from the Committee to Advocate for Persons with Impairment.
Robinson decided to do some type of volunteer work one day while attending a Men’s Ministry meeting at Southside Tabernacle Baptist Church. Remembering how his late mother had taught him to always share and help others, he knew it was time to start giving back.
“I would not have made it where I am without God putting people in place to help me,” said Robinson.
His father-in-law Henry Payne, co-pastor at Southside Tabernacle, referred him to the Adopt-a Block program that had been started in the Lealman neighborhood. After volunteering in there, he decided to expand the program to Childs Park.
“Neither south St. Pete nor Childs Park is a ‘hood’ or a ‘ghetto,’” said Robinson, who feels those words carry too many negative connotations.
He said Childs Park is a community that has its own set of circumstances, its own style, its own culture and needs.
“By going to the homes of residents and learning about them and their needs, those definitions and words with negative connotations are no longer appropriate. Take pride in your community,” advised Robinson. “It does not have to be that way. There are things out there to help you and then learn to help each other.”
Monday through Friday, Robinson works for the Florida Department of Education as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, but on Saturday morning he’s a lawn man, trash collector, a house painter, just to name a few of his jobs.
The ultimate goal is to knock on every door in the Childs Park neighborhood, which could take years. For now, they thoroughly cover small segments of a street one week at a time.
Robinson and his team have been working a few blocks in Childs Park for eight weeks now. Within that time, they have filled a two-ton dumpster, provided by the city, five times.
“The effort takes volunteers. The more volunteers you have, the more things you can do,” expressed Robinson, who said if it’s just him he will be out there by himself cleaning up the neighborhood.
The program is in need of more volunteers, lawn equipment, storage space and a supplier of boxed lunches for adults. If you would like to volunteer, please call 727-240-0734 ext. 235 or email Michael Robinson at Michael@floridadreamcenter.org.