Left, Rebecca Duverlus, Mckenzie Bresett, ALPHA House of Pinellas, and Nathanael Duverlus
BY MARK PARKER, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Rebecca Duverlus, 10, is like many kids her age – she enjoys math at St. Jude Elementary, running (she wants to be a professional track athlete when she grows up), and practicing ballet.
What separates her from many kids her age is her passion for giving. When asked what she would do if someone handed her $500 to spend on whatever she liked, she did not hesitate to answer.
“Well, I would donate $250 to a local charity, and the rest I would give to my parents for all they do for me,” Rebecca said.
Rebecca was inspired by her mother, Nkechi M. Duverlus, and father, local pastor Diems Duverlus, who have instilled the value of helping others in her and her brother Nathanael. When her school began collecting donations for those who had been hit hard by the pandemic, Rebecca was an active participant but wanted to do more.
She and her friends originally wanted to start a lemonade stand but realized that might not be the best idea during a pandemic. That night, Rebecca’s dad told her about the ALPHA House of Pinellas, which provides housing and support services to homeless pregnant women and teens, new mothers with infants, and families experiencing crisis pregnancies.
Diems Duverlus had been to the ALPHA House for his job, bringing the unfortunate news that their fire prevention system needed to be replaced. While speaking to the assistant director, he offered a bit of a silver lining. His daughter was looking to raise money for local charities, and he thought that ALPHA House would be a great choice.
After speaking with her father, Rebecca was sure this was who she wanted to help, and he hatched a plan to raise the money.
“He went and bought me a TV, a 55-inch, and then he bought me these little raffle tickets so everyone could buy some,” said Rebecca.
Things started off slow initially, which coincided with Christmas break, and some of her friends gave up. However, Rebecca stayed with it and eventually surpassed her goal of $400. When it was all said and done, they would raise $500 in raffle tickets for the 55-inch smart TV with built-in Roku.
“My favorite part was walking around with my dad,” Rebecca said. “We would walk around my neighborhood seeing if people wanted to buy, and they were saying yes, so I liked that.”
The ALPHA House is Pinellas County’s only residential maternity program and has provided housing and support to more than 3,000 women, teens, and infants. Almost 90 percent of those who have gone through the ALPHA House program have successfully transitioned into permanent housing and independent living. Their community outreach program has distributed childcare items to more than 30,000 families in need.
They can house 16 women at a time, not including the babies, and help with everything from securing a high school diploma to making sure they are employable and have money saved when they leave the program. While most shelters have transitioned to rapid rehousing, around 90 days, women at ALPHA House can stay for up to two years after the baby is born.
Julie Swigon, director of operations at ALPHA House, stresses the importance of people like the Duverlus family.
“A lot of our program is dependent on individual funding and donations,” Swigon said. “It’s especially nice to see younger people and schools do drives … to take that time personally out of their busy schedules to think about others that are less fortunate and things they might need that a lot of us may take for granted.”
Swigon said the money goes to operating costs, but specifically things such as diapers. They currently have a couple of highly allergic children, and they have to procure specialty brands of diapers and particular foods for them.
“You meet the general needs, first and foremost,” she said. “But when there are donations like this, sometimes we can go above and beyond and take them to McDonald’s or something. Get the specialty diapers, lotions, and wipes. Those things don’t factor into the budget.”
Swigon said that due to COVID-19, they cannot have volunteers in the building, and now they have to do most of the things they usually would rely on volunteers to handle. Right now, they need supplies and money more than anything.
“Please remember these little agencies that are trying to get by in a pandemic,” she said. “There are also more and more people that need our services because of the pandemic as well.”
Rebecca wishes the best for the women at ALPHA House.
“I’m hoping they will be happy with everything they get, and they are able to move on,” she said. “If they need anything, I hope they are able to use this money to get all the supplies they need.”
Diems Duverlus also wanted to leave an important message for the women at ALPHA House.
“This is just a gesture to remind them that they are valued,” he said. “A lot of people are thinking about them, and they should know that we are in this together.”
If you would like to learn more or donate to the ALPHA House, please visit them at alphahousepinellas.org.