Chill by the grill

BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — The early morning rain may have wet the ground at the James B. Sanderlin Center, but it did not dampen the spirit and excitement of the families who came to the “Chilled by the Grill” event Aug. 10.

The center hosted its annual family fun day with approximately 350 people in attendance.  Saturday’s event celebrated the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year.

“We wanted to be sure that our students and parents are prepared for the current school year to achieve excellence,” said Executive Director Dr. Celeste Thomas, who noted that the turnout was outstanding.

The James B. Sanderlin Neighborhood Family Center is a non-profit agency in south St. Petersburg. The center focuses on family education, arts, economics, employment, positive values and health and wellness. Their mission is to cultivate a community where children and families are valued, loved and destined to succeed.

Family fun day has been a part of the Sanderlin Center since its inception, according to Raymond Sanderlin, Jr., a long-term board member and the nephew of Judge James B. Sanderlin, the first African-American judge in Pinellas County.

The event became more formalized as the years went on, but the goal has remained the same: to bring the community together while introducing the many services available to better lives.

Children received a backpack full of school supplies and other items sponsored by Simply Healthcare Plans and the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County. Free physicals were conducted, compliments of the Nurse Practitioners Association.

In the dining area, finger-licking barbeque hamburgers and hotdogs along with ice pops conquered thirst and hunger.

Across the way from the dining hall, barbers made sure the youngsters were stylish for the first day of school by providing free haircuts. Long lines of students caused throbbing hands and tired feet, but the barbers worked until every kid was serviced.

“It is important for our children to look the part of excellence,” said Nick Samuels, a volunteer from Foundation of Truth Tabernacle. “A fresh haircut helps our kids with their self-esteem. When you look good then you feel good. When you feel good then you perform well. When you do well then you get excellent results, higher achievement and you are recognized as such.”

On the outside, vendors lined the sidewalk and filled the yard, providing participants with tools to increase literacy, healthy eating and lifestyles. They also offered nutritional packets and information, childcare brochures and voting instructions, which certainly can be important to citizens desiring to re-establish voting rights.

Other activities for the kids included bounce houses, music and the Tampa Bay Rays, who gave out cool shades.

Through the rain clouds, Judge Sanderlin must have been smiling to create the rainbow that hovered over the family fun day. It was a full and eventually dry day of fun festivities.

To reach Dexter McCree, email

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