By J.A. Jones, Staff Writer
CLEARWATER – The gift-giving season got off to a rousing start immediately after Thanksgiving in North Greenwood at the Clearwater Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Center Coalition. The center hosted the outdoor ULOC of Tampa/Feeding Tampa Bay “Christmas Toy & Feeding Giveaway” on Nov. 28.
Mounds of new toys were divided up among children from two to 17, provided by Pastor Samantha Brown’s ULOC of Tampa, Inc. (Unique Ladies of Character). The organization, which provides housing and recovery programs to women recently out of prison or jail, in drug treatment, or experiencing homelessness, was founded in 2003.
Brown’s housing programs have helped women throughout Pinellas recover their lives, and this year brought her annual Christmas giveaway to Clearwater.
The Clearwater MLK Jr. Neighborhood Center has also offered shelter to the homeless when temperatures have dipped below 45 degrees so far this winter, through a partnership with the organization Learning Empowered (LE), the lead Agency for the Pinellas County Cold Night Shelter Program.
For the 2020-21 cold-weather season through March 15, the MLK Center will offer their building at 1201 Douglas Ave. in Clearwater as a backup shelter site. Homeless members of the Clearwater community are offered a warm location with pallets and blankets to sleep inside off the streets.
Learning Empowered was founded in 1975 as United Methodist Cooperative Ministries/Suncoast, Inc. (UMCM Suncoast) by the United Methodist Church to support Pinellas families’ needs and offers a variety of programs including Early Learning, Citizenship, and ESOL programs. The “Ready To Rent” class offers education in homeownership, including budgeting, repairing credit and dealing with prior evictions on one’s record.
The Clearwater MLK Jr. Neighborhood Center Coalition runs the center. Board president Carmen Lundy shared, “The Center is a refuge right in the middle of the neighborhood,” and offering shelter to the homeless during the cold season continues that commitment to the community.
Since 2013 the center has been run entirely by volunteers from the North Greenwood and surrounding communities, offering space for everything from political and cultural education classes to weddings, NAACP Youth Flea Markets, and Daddy-Daughter dances.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, the center had continued to offer feedings through partnerships with Feeding Tampa Bay, The Upper Pinellas County Ministerial Alliance, and Simply Healthcare.
Visit https://clearwatermlkcenter.org/ for more information.