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The Florida Dream Center cleaning up neighborhoods
Volunteers sprucing up the Childs Park area back in August
BY HOLLY KESTENIS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG –Florida Dream Center has been giving back to the community for years by providing an array of human services. From working with sex trafficking survivors, feeding the hungry and helping the homeless, the center is dedicated to assisting others.
Since 2014, the nonprofit organization based out of Clearwater, has incorporated their Adopt-A-Block program to revitalize worn looking neighborhoods one block at a time.
Their efforts have helped residents with electrical and minor house repairs, as well as landscaping and clearing out debris to cut down on crime. And on the MLK Day of Service, they will continue their tradition of giving back to the Pinellas County community.
“There are two parts to our MLK days of service,” said Executive Administrative Assistant Zelda O’ Connell.
One of the services being offered on a day when the nation is finding ways to give back is to help families in need with items that are not normally covered by food stamps, but take a toll on the pocketbook.
In both the Lealman and Childs Park neighborhoods where the Florida Dream Center has adopted as their help zones based on a Pinellas County Commission Report that lists the top five pockets of poverty in Pinellas County, residents who applied will receive free toiletries on the Day of Service.
“We do this every Saturday as part of our Adopt-a-Block service,” said O’Connell.
The organization wanted to include their every week community service project of providing hygiene products on the day of service to bring attention on a broader scale to the need that is prevalent in the areas that they service.
On January 14, multiple residents will receive toiletries and lawn care services in both Lealman and in Childs Park. Volunteers will mow lawns, haul trash, bag leaves and even perform minor repairs for residents in need.
Both Lealman and Childs Park are areas that are serviced each week and additionally aided with food, clothing and minor home repairs to avoid violations through code enforcement and upkeep the maintenance of their residences.
But the attention the organization will get on the MLK Day of Service is something that the Florida Dream Center hopes will bring more volunteers to their organization and bring in more funds from businesses and other sources so more can be done throughout the community.
Those receiving assistance on MLK Day submitted vouchers detailing their specific needs, whether personal hygiene items, clothes, etc. and the Florida Dream Center worked to fill their need.
But their main project will be the beautification of a home on Union Street that has fallen into disrepair. Approached by a Boy Scout group that operates in that area, the Florida Dream Center heard about one of the Scout members living in a home that could be dangerous.
“The son of the lady who owns [it] was living in an at-risk scenario with a house that was in disarray,” said O’Connell.
According to the organization, the roof and ceiling leaked and various plumbing problems existed before the city and faith-based organizations stepped in to ensure repairs were done. The Florida Dream Center worked with the City of St. Petersburg and the homeowner was able to receive a grant through the city to fix her house.
Florida Dream Center partnered with various other organizations in order to make improvements on the home as part of the MLK Day of Service project. St. Petersburg College, Pasadena Community, New Path and Grace Connection Churches all stepped in to shoulder some of the responsibility.
The Adopt-a-Block volunteers then took over the landscaping, providing the homeowner much needed relief and the young Boy Scout a safe place to live. Some of the funding for both projects was provided by the MLK Day of Service funding award, while the remaining balance will be covered by donations received.
Both Lealman Adopt-a-Block Program Director Steve Cleveland Director and President of Florida Dream Center Pastor Bill Losasso are driving forces behind the project’s success and encourage those wanting to make a difference to give it a try.
If interested in joining, or donating to the MLK Day of Service project, contact O’Connell at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 727-240-0734 to preregister.