BY FRANK DROUZAS Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — The Police Athletic League (PAL) of St. Petersburg opened their new Midtown facility at 820 20th St. S. last week and held grand opening festivities Fri., June 12 to mark the occasion. PAL partnered with the 20th Street South Church of Christ, which provided one of its buildings for the program.
The event featured an appearance by the Tampa Bay Rays’ mascot Raymond, youth performances by PAL Good Girls Rock and The Mt. Zion Progressive Marching Band entertained. Church officials hope the 7,500-square-foot facility will provide a positive outlet for the youth in the Midtown area, which has one of the highest juvenile crime rates in Pinellas County.
“We are ready to do something for this neighborhood, for this community and for all the young people,” said Minister/Elder Robert Smith of 20th Street South Church of Christ in an opening prayer.
Mayor Rick Kriseman, having just arrived back in St. Pete from a mayoral summit in Montreal, spoke about the importance of a strong bond between the police department and the community.
“The PAL organization has had a tremendous impact on the youth of our community,” Kriseman said, “and to be here in south St. Petersburg and working with those kids who are most at risk and who need it, is a powerful statement to what we’re trying to accomplish here in the city of St. Petersburg.”
Associate Minister of 20th Street Church of Christ Larry Collins said that God brought PAL and the church together for the children of Midtown.
“PAL was looking for a building two years ago, and we were looking for a way to use the building…I know it was God that had some planning going on with that,” he said.
Doug Linder, executive director of PAL of St. Pete, noted that the organization was founded in 1952 and incorporated in 1960. It is a 501c3 organization that provides affordable educational programs, after school programs, summer camps and athletic programs for children and teens. In partnership with the St. Petersburg Police Department, PAL also provides mentoring and crime prevention programs.
PAL board member Tim Walsh called the moment a proud and historic one for PAL, which he said is long overdue in serving south St. Pete area.
“The future of PAL really exists in this neighborhood,” Walsh said. “The kids in this community need our programming.”
Assistant Chief Luke Williams, who attended PAL as a child, noted he is glad the community has come together to give the youth another venue.
“It’s incumbent upon us to train our children,” he said.
Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, director of Urban Affairs, announced that Global PC Parts is giving five laptops to the facility and will present five laptops a month for the next couple of months until they have a fully outfitted computer lab.