ST. PETERSBURG — The Enoch Davis Recreation Center, 1111 18th Ave. S., commemorated its 33rd anniversary last Sat., Sept. 13 with its tradition of giving back to the community by celebrating with a “Pamper St. Pete” day.
Opened in 1981, the center has long been a beacon for community outreach, cultural programs, activism and support. It was named in honor of the late Reverend Enoch D. Davis, who pastored Bethel Community Baptist Church for over 50 years. He was a leader in the community and civic activist.
Pamper St. Pete was a birthday celebration that treated the community to massages, personal care goodie bags, haircuts, manicures, games, prizes, face painting and a light lunch. There were also health-screening booths that included testing for diabetes, blood pressure checks and vision screenings.
And of course Pastor Joseph Mitsch and the Beaming Hope Church crew were out in full force handing out freshly grilled hot dogs, drinks and chips, while the public was allowed to pick through their free clothing and shoe selections.
“The center’s primary focus and goal is to serve the citizens,” Lynette Buchanan stated echoing Rev. Davis’ life mission statement, “to make our community a rich and great place to live.” Buchanan has been the center’s supervisor for the last 14 years and is the biggest cheerleader for the facility and the benefits it offers to the community. “Every socio-economic, race and age can accesses services here to help them.”
The 18,000 square foot facility has a staff of five, including Buchanan. Recreation leader India Johnson and maintenance worker Antonio Harris are fulltime while J.E. Baker, custodian, and Annie Neal, youth development workers are part-time workers all contributing to this bustling facility.
Over the years the center has extended their activities and services to better serve the changing needs of the community. Buchanan explained that at the center the services are wide in scope and can range from a person needing assistance to pay their bills to a felon trying to get their rights restored.
“We help people to get answers and maintain some level of decency in their lives,” she stated.
Several other agencies have established outreach satellite locations to provide quicker information access to programs that are vital for the neighborhood, including, Bay Area Legal Services, Congregate Dining & Meals on Wheels programs through the Neighborly Care Network, Elder Advocate, VITA tax assistance, The Storehouse of America that distributes much needed food staples monthly and the City of St. Petersburg’s urban development satellite office.
They also offer exercise classes for all levels and a new fitness center that has been outfitted with modern, sleek exercise machines donated by ShapeMasters.
“This place is so much a blessing,” Buchanan said.
The Enoch Davis Center is operated under City of St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department, and Buchanan wanted to thank current and past administrations for their support and hopes that it will continue.
Amid the smell of delicious hot dogs wafting through the air, children’s laughter, painted faces and grins of appreciative adults, the birthday celebration was a major success.
Partners who collaborated by donating their time, service and/or products included Amerigroup Real Solutions, CASA, Cutting Edge Barber shop, CarePlus Health Plans, Precious Angels Preschool, Caring Community Counseling, Cortiva Institute, Massage with Healing touch, Neighborhood Home Solutions, Beaming Hope Church, Reliant Home Health Care LLC, Chick-fil-A, Academy of Beauty & Business, Federation of Families, and the Senior Advisory Council of Enoch Davis Center.
Who was Enoch Davis?
In November 1925 a shy, gangly young man arrived in St. Petersburg, fresh from a Burke County, Ga. farm. He did what many new arrivals did. He went to work for Georgia Engineering Company and earned $21 a week installing the company’s famous Augusta blocks in Allendale and Rio Vista subdivisions and on 9th Street. On weekends, he found fun on a growing 22nd Street South and he earned a reputation for hitting home runs at a 7th Avenue South baseball field.
But Enoch Douglas Davis soon dedicated his life to the church and to the struggle for African American equality. By the time he died in 1985, Davis had been pastor of Bethel Community Baptist church for 52 years. He championed the civil rights movement in St. Petersburg and has been credited with defusing much of the tension that nearly plunged the city into racial strife during the volatile sanitation strikes of 1968. It would not be an exaggeration to say he became St. Petersburg’s man for all seasons.
“Because of Enoch Davis’ courage and voice of moderation, St. Petersburg was sparred the bloodshed and violence that erupted in other Florida cities and across this nation during the height of the Civil Rights struggle in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s,” wrote A. Leon Lowry, Sr., pastor of Beulah Baptist Institutional Church in Tampa.
Don Jones, who served as St. Petersburg’s mayor during part of the turbulent 1960s, wrote this: “Enoch Davis never raised his voice, he never pounded his fist. He simply reflected to the highest his love of God, his fellow man, black or white, and his total community.”
Davis helped keep the city from coming apart. He served as a bridge between segregated black and white communities, often using his influence to help the younger members of the community.
Davis’ bio came from “St. Petersburg’s Historic African American Neighborhoods” by Rosalie Peck and Jon Wilson.