Helping people, changing lives

People Helping People, featured

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

CLEARWATER – Pinellas Opportunity Council (POC) is in its 49th year of service to the community, and Wednesday, Nov. 1 they held their fourth annual Community Awareness Breakfast at Banquet Masters in Clearwater.

The purpose of this yearly event is to not only showcase their successes but to also raise funds to keep important programs in operations throughout the year such as Family Development, Youth Services, Emergency Food & Shelter, Chore Services, Retired & Senior Volunteer Program and the Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program.

POC mobilizes federal, state, local and private resources to develop programs that deliver services to help individuals and families alleviate conditions of poverty, empower people to move towards economic self-sufficiency, provide opportunities for people to reach their full potential and revitalize communities.

Mayor Rick Kriseman brought greetings from the city and remarked that POC has been a tremendous partner in helping the city’s vision of being a place where the sun shines on all.

“To me, it’s really about creating that opportunity for everyone in our community no matter who they are, no matter where they live, the color of their skin, their gender, who they love…”

Tarpon Springs Mayor Chris Alahouzos, Asst. Chief Michael Kovacsev from the St. Petersburg Police Department and Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard all brought greetings while showing their support for the organizations.

POC makes a significant impact by bringing millions of dollars into the local economy, helping thousands of residents to improve their social and economic well-being and creating or maintaining jobs for hundreds of citizens.

Seventeen-year-old Everett Crumity benefited from POC’s Youth Development Program that afforded him an opportunity to gain free employment skills training and work experience over the summer at St. Petersburg College (SPC).

The program also took him on several college tours over the summer, which helped make up his mind and accept Bethune-Cookman University’s offer.

POC’s efforts are intended to help change people’s lives, embody the spirit of hope, improve communities and make the area a better place to live. The organization is dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other, which is certainly the case with Tia Pittman who was enrolled in the Family Development Program.

A single mother of one, Pittman found herself needing more money than financial aid could provide while attending nursing school. With assistance from the program, she was able to finish school and become a licensed practical nurse. She’s now gainfully employed and is looking to further her education and advance in her medical career.

Christopher Trinler

Christopher Trinler

Christopher Trinler was also on hand to give a testimonial. He, too, was enrolled in the Family Development Program after finding himself in need of a new career.

He lost his leg in a motorbike accident while living in Costa Rica. His career as a canyoning guide was over. He moved back to the States, enrolled in SPC, graduated and became a certified prosthetics technician all while taking care of his family.

Not only is he gainfully employed, he started a non-profit organization called StumpLife Adventures, where he takes active amputees to Costa Rica to participate in adventure activities.

“Thanks to Pinellas Opportunity Council for making it all happen. Without them I don’t know if I’d be here right now,” said Trinler.

This year, the 2017 Community Action Partnership Award was given to Bon Secours St. Petersburg Health System.

This award is given out to organizations that have been instrumental in helping POC accomplish their program goals.

Bon Secours St. Petersburg Health System along with the City of St. Petersburg provides funding for POC’s wrap-around service program, where 25 participates receive training and other supportive services that help them begin the journey of staying out of poverty.

“We are very honored by this award because we have found in POC a partner that will help us bring our vision and mission to life,” said Director of Mission Kip Corriveau.

For the inaugural President’s Award for Community Leadership, the POC board or directors recognized an individual who demonstrated outstanding leadership in the community, someone who has made a significant impact and whose accomplishments exemplifies the values and principals in caring out the vision and mission of the organization.

“I’m so grateful and humbled by this award,” said Dr. Tonjua Williams, president of St. Petersburg College (SPC).

As Dr. Williams accepted her award, she took time to encourage the three program participants who shared their stories.

“I’m humbled by the work that you guys have done, the decisions you have made, the determination, the grit that it took to do it,” she said.

Dr. Williams is well aware of the determination it takes to achieve goals. She said growing up on the south side of St. Petersburg to a single mother, the odds were stacked against her.

“It was not easy,” she averred.

There were moments when she thought she wouldn’t make it, “but there were people in my community who stood in the gap on my behalf who let me climb on their shoulders, carried me, dropped me off and someone else would pick me up and carry me.”

Dr. Williams said what POC offers is life changing and helps generations to come. “It’s not just helping you; it’s helping your children.”

POC strives to bring about positive change and instill in people hope so that they can rise above the challenges that they face.

POC Executive Director Carolyn W. King said many people are just one or two paychecks away from needing POC services.

“We are here to help and encourage those that need the encouragement in order to move on and achieve,” finished King.

To learn more about POC’s services or to donate, please visit www.poc-inc.org.

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