Putting our community to work

BY DR. KANIKA TOMALIN, Deputy Mayor of St. Petersburg

ST PETERSBURG — This week, I invite you to join Mayor Rick Kriseman, Urban Affairs Director Nikki Gaskin-Capehart and me as we formally welcome the Pinellas Ex-Offender Re Entry Coalition (PERC) to our community. We will celebrate this strategic advancement in our effort to build a City of Opportunity on Thurs., Feb. 5 at a Ribbon Cutting and Grand Opening of the Dr. David T. Welch Center for Progress and Community Development, 1601-1521 16th St. S. We will gather at 3 p.m. in the Community Garden at the north end of the property. I hope you will join us.

When we work toward sustainable solutions that seek the common good for those in greatest need, we are living the vision of the Sunshine City. Our administration’s sleeves are rolled up with the business of this heavy work and there is much to be done.

In October, Mayor Kriseman stood with community leaders on the steps of City Hall and announced two of our City of Opportunity initiatives: raising the minimum wage for city employees and “banning the box.” Both are efforts designed to deliver developmental opportunities for St. Pete’s residents to enjoy sustainable solutions that shift the trajectory of threatened futures. We are working with the 2020 Plan to lift our families out of poverty and our school board to usher in additional opportunities and job training for our community’s children.

This commitment to inclusive practicesand unbiased opportunity makes us very proud to partner with PERC to bring second chance re-entry services into our community in a meaningful way.In keeping with our platform of opportunity creation and our work to develop the Southside Community Redevelopment Area (CRA), PERC will work on the 16th Street Corridor to assist ex-offenders with finding employment and training to help facilitate a successful re-entry into the community once a debt to society has been fulfilled. The organization will also promote social entrepreneurship and the creation of new business opportunities.

The PERC Hires program,supported in large part by State Representative Darryl Rouson and the Florida Department of Corrections, is already making excellent strides, recruiting 189 employers who are working to expand employment opportunities to returning citizens. PERC, in partnership with the 2020 Plan organizers and the PinellasCounty Urban League, have designed an “Employment Link Platform”and will begin weekly orientation workshops assisting clients with resume preparation, assistance with completing employment applications, and an array of interview and employability skills.

I invite you to join us in welcoming PERC to our community, as well as every returning citizen who is looking to start a new chapter, find work, take care of themselves and their families and contribute constructively to the community we are all working to better. This is the collective empowerment that will truly distinguish St. Pete as a city of opportunity for all.

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