By Jeffrey Zanker, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Chapter of the Association of Naval Service Officers (ANSO) continues their four-year Sallie House project for the St. Petersburg Salvation Army as part of the MLK Day of Service.
“We provide hope for the less privileged,” said Commander David Negron-Alicea, who is an ANSO member and project leader.
ANSO has worked with the Salvation Army since 2013 after noticing their children’s shelter needed some revamping. They worked with members to discuss ideas and requests while coming up with a few of their own.
“We give our wishes, they provide the service,” said Rand-lyn Farrell, director of development for the Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army’s Sallie House shelters children who are removed from their home due to abuse, abandonment or neglect. The house takes in 24 children from birth to 17 years old until a possible family reunion or adoption.
ANSO is a non-profit organization that is part of the United States Sea Services: the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. Their main initiative is recruiting Hispanic Americans into military personnel roles such as naval officers through education and support.
The Sallie House is part of ANSO’s community outreach services in Tampa Bay, which includes Feed America and the Ronald McDonald House, but the Sallie House is their biggest outreach.
Every January, Coast Guard volunteers spend one week working on the house. Some of their previous services have included cleaning and painting the house, along with adding a butterfly garden and bicycle rack. Last year, the group donated a computer center for entertainment and educational services.
This year, Negron-Alicea said the group plans to add two water fountains in the backyard, along with awnings for shaded spots. Other planned services include giving out children’s clothing, replenishing the butterfly garden and washing the building.
“It is an ongoing process to improve the center,” Negron-Alicea said.
Earlier this week, the crew set up an umbrella shaded post next to the playground along with another shaded area in the backyard. Around 25 volunteers will work on the project this year.
Coast Guard officer David McCarthy has been a volunteer since 2015. He has found the project to be a rewarding experience for his company.
“For only a few days, we help manpower the house,” he said.
Marissa Massey, who serves as MT2 (machine technician second-class), started volunteering last year, and enjoys the opportunity to serve the community.
“I’m excited to work for something special, especially for children,” Massey said.
On January 16, ANSO will host a celebration for the project’s completion. The event will provide rides, activities, refreshments and entertainment for the children as well as the volunteers and foster families.
“We give them an example of hope that things can get better to build a brighter future,” Negron-Alicea said about the project’s importance.