Starting Jan. 11, the new location for the monthly St. Petersburg Police Department’s food and resource giveaway will be at St. Petersburg College, Midtown campus at 1300 22nd St. S, from 4-5:30 p.m.
BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Now that we have come to the close of the holiday season, we can focus again on the increasing number of struggling residents. The year 2021 was challenging for many people. Affordable housing has diminished, while rental rates have skyrocketed. Many families had to decide between household necessities and feeding the children.
Least of all, the COVID-19 pandemic struck pain and fear in families. ‘Tis the season was challenging to be jolly.
For the last six years, the St. Petersburg Police Department has provided fresh vegetables and other food items to community residents every second Tuesday of the month in the Tangerine Plaza parking lot on 22nd Street and 18th Avenue south.
Starting Jan. 11, the new location will be St. Petersburg College, Midtown campus at 1300 22nd St. S, from 4-5:30 p.m.
The outreach effort is one of the many community intervention efforts coordinated by Rev. Kenny Irby, community intervention director with the St. Pete Police Department, to serve the residents of St. Pete in need and to build positive relationships.
“Responding to the food desert dynamic in the southern region of our city has been a prime opportunity to serve and to help meet an essential need,” explained Irby.
Before COVID-19, the partnership expanded to a full-blown quarterly resource and health fair, providing additional needed resources and health care support. Sherri Hoover of Simply Heath Care initially managed it but is now managed by Dedicated Senior Medical Center.
“In the end, the SPPD partners with multiple community service agencies in meeting basic needs of at-risk residents and creating positive non-enforcement experiences in safe places,” said Irby.
Joven “Jo” Jocelyn, an admissions recruiter for St. Petersburg College, served as a vendor fair.
“I enjoy attending the resource and health fairs,” he said. “It gives me an opportunity to provide information about starting or continuing education at SPC. We also hand out a lot of SPC swag and engage in some great conversations that lead to the exchange of contact information for further discussion. Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’”
In December, FIS donated 44 turkeys, which officers handed out at the Feeding Tampa Bay resource fair.
“It is a fresh force to get people out of hungry lines,” said Kim Rainey, Feeding Tampa Bay staff mobile pantry coordinator. “We typically bring 6,000 to 8,000 pounds of fresh food including fruits, vegetables, bread, and meats to distribute to residents. It is a tremendous help when we partner with other community groups who share the same goal of combating hunger. We are consistently here to serve our neighbors and help always with nutritional food and lots of hope.”
St. Petersburg Police Community Service Officers Tan Blackshear and Carla Ramos enjoy working the health fair because of the interaction with the citizens. Officer Blackshear, who has been involved since its inception in 2016, feels that it is vital for residents to see police officers in a positive light and as regular people rather than the other job duties that sometimes appear unfavorable.