ST. PETERSBURG — Theresa D. Jones has a reputation for being community-minded. She works tirelessly to improve the quality of life for everyone she meets. If she’s not serving on a board or committee, she’s delivering food for Meals on Wheels.
“I am a strong-willed, community-minded woman, who genuinely cares about improving the community, with an emphasis on the inner city,” said the Erie, PA native.
The oldest of seven children, she was raised in public housing and used education and activism as a vehicle for improving her life and as a platform for helping others.
“I care deeply for the community and in particular the children within the inner city because I was one of those children while growing up,” said Jones.
Jones graduated from high school with honors and went on to Edinboro State College (now Edinboro University of Pennsylvania) where she majored in secondary education. Although she decided not to go into teaching, she knew she wanted to spend her career helping others. Jones eventually ended up in Florida and working for the City of St. Petersburg, where she has just recently retired after more than 30 years. During her time there, she worked in many different capacities, such as Minority Business Enterprise Coordinator Development and Community Affairs Director.
She also had staff oversight and responsibility for the City’s Summer Youth Intern Program and the Workforce Development Program. These programs specifically provide opportunities for low-income, at-risk youth to have employment opportunities during the summer and/or workforce training. But she feels her most worthwhile contribution to community development is when she served as a relocation officer for the city.
She helped people move out of slum housing in the Methodist Town area, now known as Jamestown. She’s also very proud of assisting minority-owned businesses in learning how to obtain and successfully execute construction and service contracts for the city and other governmental and private entities.
During her time at the city, Jones raised her now 23-year-old son as a single mother and ensured she was involved in every aspect of her son’s life. She served as team mother, kid transporter, and all-around cheerleader for his little league, football, soccer, band and a myriad of other activities he belonged to.
Her retirement has given her more time to pursue her first love – helping others.
She continues to serve as an officer of the board of directors for R’ Club Child Care, Louise Graham Regeneration Center and the Pinellas County Urban League Guild. She remains an active volunteer in the community doing such things as delivering Meals on Wheels twice a week and assists with the annual Homeless Point in Time Count. Jones is also proud to have established and chaired the original Wealth Building Coalition, now known as the Prosperity Coalition. It was explicitly established to ensure that individuals who were eligible for the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit actually filed for the credit.
“These were the early starts of community wealth building within the minority community. And some folks actually bought their first home when they received their relocation dollars or their earned income tax refund,” said Jones.
She added that she is not currently working on any community development project but continues to enjoy her retirement and volunteer duties. In the future, she plans to travel and settle further into the life of a retiree. Her expectations for the future are to see continued growth and development within both the Midtown and Childs Park areas through the city’s initiatives, community-based initiatives and increased private-sector investment.