2014 WEDU Be More Empowered Award Voting

The 2014 WEDU Be More Awards Voting pages are sponsored by Warren Averett CPAs and Advisors

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Paycor Small Nonprofit Award  |  This award will recognize the small nonprofit that best demonstrates the truth in statement that “big things come in small packages.” This award will recognize organizations with a budget under $500,000 and despite its modest size, has a major positive impact on our community. Online voting will identify the top five finalists, which will be further researched by an impartial judging panel to decide the ultimate winner.

Read the essays

Are You Safe, Inc.

Are You Safe, Inc. embodies the theme of "Being More Empowered!" Nearly every community in America, no matter how safe it may seem, is affected by domestic violence. Every year, millions of individuals – both adults and children – find their lives shattered by the effects of domestic violence; yet despite the dangers of living with an abuser, many victims find themselves financially unable to take the first legal steps that can help them end the violence and leave their abusive relationships behind. Are You Safe is a non-profit organization composed of Tampa-area attorneys and non-attorney volunteers dedicated to providing domestic violence victims with the legal services they need to finally escape from their abusive and controlling relationships. Our volunteer attorneys and legal staff help victims of domestic violence break free from the cycle of abuse by guiding them through the legal processes that can help them regain control of their lives. Are You Safe volunteers assist domestic violence victims in obtaining restraining orders – also known as injunctions for protection – that can help keep them safe from further abuse, and we provide free legal representation at the final hearing regarding the order. Our volunteer staff is uniquely positioned to provide the continued guidance domestic violence victims need to help them re-establish themselves as confident, capable members of the community.

Domestic violence affects us all.

The Children’s Guardian Fund, Inc.

Every day in our community, a child is removed from an abusive or neglectful family and placed in the state’s care. Such children face great challenges and have needs that cannot be met through the state. The Children’s Guardian Fund (CGF) and the 12th Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program work together to ensure that young people who do not have the support of their parents at least have the support of their community. Our gifts to them—from gift cards for their birthdays, to camp scholarships, to academic awards recognizing their achievements—help them develop a sense of normalcy and self-worth.

To meet the ever-growing health, educational and social needs of children in state care, CGF is working to increase both fundraising and the number of GAL child advocates so that all children are given a voice and an opportunity to change their lives. We are also exploring ways to cooperate with other organizations serving the needs of underprivileged and at-risk children to leverage our impact.

Most children in foster care come from chaotic and abusive environments. Many have never had a birthday cake, a book or a stuffed animal, much less the calm, undivided attention of an adult in their lives. Their needs range from the profound to the more mundane. Guardian ad Litem child advocates apply for funding through the Children’s Guardian Fund (CGF) to provide simple needs such as a prom dress or soccer cleats, or life-changing experiences such as specialized summer camps or music, art or sports lessons. Each request is tailored to a particular child’s physical and emotional well-being. In addition to providing funding for normalcy and enrichment items for children in foster and state care, CGF runs several programs to ensure that children are getting the necessary support for academic and social success.

Though our Next Step program, CGF advocates for adolescents age 13 to 23 who need extra support as they transition out of state care and into self-sufficiency. Our goal is to help these children become more successful academically and acquire important life skills before they start living independently.

Last year, kids stopped by our Clothes Closet over 100 times to choose free designer jeans, shirts, skirts and blouses. The boutique style clothes bank helps increase the self-esteem of foster children who will soon become adult members of our community.

Our Community Resource Opportunity Hub program is working to improve outcomes by identifying and connecting children in state care with the 12th Circuit’s many not-for-profit organizations already dedicated to the welfare of children. The goal of our new “Hub” program is to ensure that all children in state care are connected to the resources in our community that can help them succeed.

Through our Academic Awards program we recognize children in care who have made a commitment to their studies and have shown improvement in attitude and effort. Often, this is the first time a child receiving such an award from us is receiving positive feedback related to his/her education.

Circle of Friends Ministry

Teaching "giving back to community" is one of our main goals for our students- they may live with a disability but they have abilities to give to others. With this in mind we have collaborated with a local school, Our Children’s Academy, (OCA) with over 200 children with disabilities to bring gifts of books and festive holiday fun at Christmas. One of our students play Santa. This is done by networking with the Lake Wales Rotary helping us to collect books for the children. Our young people love going shopping to purchase books for the children. Another fun activity we provide for the school is an Easter egg hunt. Busses bring the children from the school to our City/ Kiwanis Park where our students have decorated and filled thousands of eggs with goodie. Upon arrival our students hand out Easter baskets to each of the children and help them hunt the eggs. When the eggs are gathered, POP students serve the little kids refreshments and then sing, sign and perform for the school. The Kiwanis, Woman’s Club, Women’s Ministry of Impact Church and the ELSE Group collaborate with us to provide this activity to OCA. Our students also donate to the Lake Wales Care Center and volunteer to help them with their ministry to the homeless and hungry. We network with Roosevelt Academy, a high school for the disabled, selling the products they make in our shop and Snack Shack. Networking with business man, Larry Powell, Belltone and Dr. James Nelson we provide our student, Lynette, with hearing aids and the care she needs to keep ear wax build-up out of her ears so she can hear and learn. Speech Pathologist, Becky Johnson, gives Lynette speech therapy. We network with local businesses in the Lake Wales Historic district for on the job training for our students, like the Entourage hair salon, Park Ave Hair Salon, The Exchange, an upscale consignment shop, Polka Dots, a gift shop and most of the businesses within 6 blocks of the historic district are customers for our Snack Shack students who pull their wagon up and down the streets to sell their snacks. Speech Pathologist, Becky Johnson, gives Lynette speech therapy. We network with local businesses in the Lake Wales Historic district for on the job training for our students, like the Entourage hair salon, Park Ave Hair Salon, The Exchange, an upscale consignment shop, Polka Dots, a gift shop and most of the businesses within 6 blocks of the historic district are customers for our Snack Shack students who pull their wagon up and down the streets to sell their snacks.

Community Youth Development

Community Youth Development (CYD) empowers youth as leaders in service to their community. For the past seventeen years, CYD has successfully supported young people to make positive choices in Sarasota County.

Every year CYD serves over 2,000 middle and high school youth throughout Sarasota County. The youth are engaged with CYD in a variety of different ways, from positive social activities for middle school students to more intensive skill-based programs for high school students.

CYD offers high school students STAR, which stands for Students Taking Active Roles, a nationally recognized leadership training program that teaches them communication, teambuilding, leadership skills, and the importance of service. After students complete STAR, they are eligible to be matched by CYD with a nonprofit or county or city board of directors as a full voting member.

All CYD Youth Leaders learn the importance of giving back to their community and the love for service becomes ingrained in them. Ninety-four percent of STAR graduates made a contribution to improve their community. The impact these youth have on our community is immense and far-reaching. Not only through their service on boards of directors or CYD-designed service projects, but long after they graduate from high school.

What makes CYD so unique and able to serve so many youth are our partnerships with other nonprofit organizations and local government. CYD partners with other local youth serving organizations to provide over 150 positive activities for the youth in our community. In addition to these coalition agencies, CYD has partnered with over 75 nonprofit and government boards to provide board placements for STAR graduates.

CYD may be a small nonprofit in Sarasota County, but it makes a huge impact on the community and on the youth that it serves every year.

Crescent Community Clinic

Crescent of Hernando, Inc. DBA Crescent Community Clinic is submitting our WEDU Be More Award narrative which is based on our accomplishments since opening the health care clinic on June 11, 2008 in Brooksville, FL. Our dedicated physicians, medical personnel, office staff and committee members, are volunteers who go above and beyond attending to our patient’s needs

Under a $100,000 grant from the Blue Foundation the clinic built out space to expand services and relocated to a pocket of poverty zip code in Spring Hill on June 11, 2011.

Crescent Community Clinic is open weekdays except Thursday to provide uninsured adults from 18 to 64, who meet the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines with access to healthcare.

Clinic provides direct medical care for patients diagnosed with asthma, arthritis, cancer, COPD, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease and hypertension. Dental services include infection control extractions and fillings. Mental health assessments with licensed professionals are offered weekdays and at Saturday clinic. The clinic physicians do not prescribe narcotics or pain medication. Clinic is not an emergency clinic and patients must have appointments for health, dental or mental health services.

Health Literacy programs include: Individual Diet and Nutrition counseling, Smoking Cessation and Individual and Support Group for Mental Health programs. If unable to purchase medications, patients are enrolled in Pharmaceutical Prescription Assistance programs. Access Florida provides a counselor to assist patients enroll in SNAP.

Hernando County’s unemployment rate continues to be high and the county has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the state. Individuals without health insurance often use the hospital emergency rooms for non-emergency care. In research, local hospitals reported that a significant number of their non-emergent patients were uninsured. The hospitals refer uninsured patients to the clinic. The clinic receives approximately 70 to 80 applications for services each month.

Yearly report to the Florida Department of Health Volunteer Health Care Provider Program stated that between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2013 Crescent Community Clinic provided 7,129 face to face office visits which saved the community $4,000,000

Access to healthcare for the uninsured adults with chronic health care, basic dental and mental health services has necessitated expanding space for an addition of 3 exam rooms, 3 offices, lab, reception and expanded waiting room.

Sustaining the overhead costs of the clinic through patient donations, grants, media exposure, open house events, website, and fundraising events is challenging as the clinic does not receive any federal, state, county or United Way funding.

Continued recruiting of volunteer physicians, dentists and mental health professionals is on-going. Licensed professionals are granted Sovereign Immunity providing pro bono services. Office and support personnel are recruited through partnerships with South University, Argosy University, Career Central, Experience Works, ATA Career Academy and retired professionals.

Crossroads for Florida Kids

With just a year of existence under its belt, Crossroads for Florida Kids has made a tremendous impact on Tampa’s at-risk children. Crossroads is a non-profit legal advocacy organization that provides at-risk children and youth in Hillsborough County with high-quality, free legal representation.

In the year since its inception, Crossroads has engaged 75 pro bono attorneys to represent 61 children in dependency and delinquency (civil legal needs). An additional 10 lawyers have served over 100 children who came to delinquency court without a parent or guardian. Each month, Tampa’s finest lawyers are providing more than 200 hours of legal services to our most vulnerable citizens.

Crossroads’ goal is to increase the number of pro bono attorneys willing and able to help ameliorate the lives of poor children who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in difficult situations that could easily lead to long term negative outcomes. Pro bono attorneys meet their young clients at these crossroads in their lives, and through counseling and advocacy help them to persevere so as to develop their talents and to become productive citizens.

The first child referred to Crossroads for representation was a teen girl who had been a good student in high school and was looking forward to attending college — until she was placed in a foster care home because of a parental problem. She ran away from the home, got into trouble, was arrested with others and charged as an adult, and jailed for several weeks. Crossroads attorneys represented her in dependency court and, after the Public Defender’s office withdrew because of a conflict, Crossroads attorneys began representing her in criminal court. Because of their advocacy, the teen was released from adult jail, and has been reunified with her family and is back in school. This is just one of the many successes that Crossroads volunteer lawyers have achieved for their clients.

Some of the kids that Crossroads serve have children of their own, some have serious mental or physical problems, and ALL bear the burden of past abuse or neglect that caused them to be dependent on the State of Florida for their care.

Crossroads attorneys are stepping in to the void to make sure that children’s rights are protected and that they get the services and support they need to be healthy, well and productive citizens.

DMG School Project

DMG School Project provides educational opportunities to both artists and community while contributing to the development of glass as a creative medium in both St. Petersburg and the international glass community.

The DMG School Project involves the public in all aspects of glass through master classes, demonstrations, lectures, and public service endeavors:

Since our Grand Opening in January of 2013, DMG School Project has demonstrated Glassblowing to over 10,000 delighted viewers.
DMG School Project has initiated ongoing college level classes for Eckerd College students, as well as a series of classes for the general public.
In partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, DMG School Project has developed the popular Gallery Lecture Series, providing the community with an opportunity to more intimately understand the creative process employed by featured artists. These range from relaxed gallery “talks” to more formal lectures. See our full schedule for a list of upcoming Gallery Lectures.
DMG School Project is an official Vendor of Education to the Pinellas County school system, offering specialized two and one half hour glass art experiences through the use of our Mobile Glass Lab.
We are sponsoring Pinellas County children, exhibiting their art in a special exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, during which scholarship prizes for artistic merit will be distributed by the DMG School Project.
In August 2013, DMG School Project sponsored the American Stage Theatre Company’s production of ART by Yasmina Reza. Proceeds from sales of work exhibited as part of the stage set design benefited the American Stage Theater Company.
DMG School Project brought fusing glass classes to homeless children in special Mobile Glass Lab classes in Orlando, in partnership with the Orlando Museum of Art.
We have supported a number of area charities by providing our venue for fundraising events. In November 2013, DMG School Project will be sponsoring Emerging Artists’ booths at Craft Art in St. Petersburg, and will be following up after the fair with a mentorship program for these artists.
DMG School Project also provides residency opportunities for intermediate and accomplished glass artists, mentoring their careers. These artists then offer their expertise to students and community members, bringing new perspective and diverse experience to the Project. These residencies also provide ongoing opportunities for Artists-In-Residence.

Dress for Success Tampa Bay

Dress for Success Tampa Bay is known for providing professional attire to unemployed women in the Tampa Bay area, but we are so much more than a suit. We dress a woman in confidence and then continue to train, encourage and support her as she pursues economic independence. In 2012 over 1200 women were suited for success at our Boutique. All of our clients have access to our Career Center which provides career counseling, computer classes, mock interviews and assistance in preparing their resumes, in 2012 we had 350 women go through the Career Center. We also offer an eight week program through the support of a Walmart Foundation, Going Places Network Sponsored by Walmart. This program helps unemployed and underemployed women gain professional skills, accelerate their job search and build confidence through weekly training sessions, one on one career coaching and networking in a supportive environment. Our clients are invited to join the Professional Women’s Group (PWG) an organization dedicated to providing a partnership of support, practical information and inspiration to achieve self-defined success in their career and lives. After attending three meetings, the women can become lifetime members of this organization. An example of how the PWG impacts lives you only need to read this quote from one of the members, “I found comfort talking to other professional women from a variety of backgrounds. I realize that this organization means something different for every person. For me it means a helping hand for a woman who may be on the edge of something great happening in their lives and they just need to look and feel their best to share their story.” All of this great work was done this with only two paid part-time employees and 175 volunteers, last year we recorded over 6000 volunteer hours. In 2013 the Tampa Bay Business Journal awarded Dress for Success Tampa Bay, the Judges Choice Award for Non Profit of the Year. You only need to visit our Boutique on Howard Avenue in Tampa to realize Dress for Success Tampa Bay deserving of this award.

Energy Essentials, Inc.

Energy Essentials, a 501(c)3 in its tenth year and creator of Core Health, is a non-profit based on giving.

Core Health is a non-cultural, non-religious expansion of our inborn core of pure health. We are virtually all born with perfect genes. We are all born with a core of pure energy health. This never goes away, but is covered by layers of clouds of confusion from life conditioning, dysfunctional patterns, and traumas. Core Health is RESULTS-BASED: Core Health processes gently, quickly, and easily remove this confusion with durable and lasting results demonstrated effective over many years, all ages, and variety of cultures.

Core Health began in 2002 with the development of “Heart Forgiveness”
(www.HeartForgiveness.us). In 2004, this birthed “Core Health” and related
“Life Application Series” (www.CoreHealth.us).

Group demonstration projects demonstrate spectacular RESULTS:
“Depression Disappears with Core Health.”*
“Freeing Incarcerated Criminal Drug Addicts”* – 100% success –
no one in jail 3 years post-release – with NO follow up support/contact.
“Antioch Jail for Women”*
“Beyond Energy Psychology”*
Stage IV cancer patients successes**
Public Schools, 4 years, with students + Teachers Wellness Program**
College Credit course: Core Health Energy and Dance

* Research Report: http://corehealth.us/research.html
** Brief Book

Core Health ~ The Quantum Way to Inner Power (www.IndieGoGo.com/Qwip):
Academic book, authored by founder Dr. Ed Carlson with Dr. Livia Kohn, Professor Emerita, Boston University. Upon request, we are happy to send you a copy. (We also produced 12 manuals, CD sets, and DVDs, plus 9 books.)

Core Health and Business: Teaming with Ed Oakley, 25 years of “Enlightened Leadership” program and with Dr. Dan Bagley, Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida.

Martial Arts “Hall of Honors”: Inducted Core Health, Dr. Ed Carlson, and 32 Facilitators at the 2013 Awards Banquet in the new category “Energy Health Expansion.” Dr. Carlson and Grandmaster Dr. David Harris have developed a dual belt system for students to train simultaneously for traditional martial arts belts and “energy belts.”

Certified Natural Health Professionals: Notified on arrival for a two day training of availability of Heart Forgiveness as an adjunct to their training, 30 of 60 people participated in the evening series. Five additional (unable to participate because of prior commitments) signed an unsolicited letter to CNHP to include Heart Forgiveness in future conferences.

In Addition to Core Health and Heart Forgiveness: “Are You FUNNY with MONEY?”, “Core Creativity,” and our annual “Silent Re~Treats.”
Taken as a whole, these series create a genuine “Journey of Self” to the
holy grail of freedom and creativity.

Outreach to Teachers: Over 212 Pinellas County teachers have received total scholarships and materials for the various series.
See “Core Health in Schools” brief book for results and reports.

Worldwide Outreach: All series are effective by telephone, providing world outreach.

Mission: Freeing Humankind to BE Excellent.
Motto: The KEY is to Be FREE!
Slogan: Fun, Free, Fast, Forever.

Dr. Bruce Lipton recommends Core Health on his website and in both recent books. Dr. Norm Shealy recommends Core Health and Life Applications.

The Grow Group

I would like to nominate The Grow Group for their dedication to serving people with disabilities in the Tampa Bay area for the WEDU Be More Award: Be More Empowered (for small non-profits)

The Grow Group was created in the summer of 2011 to work with Florida’s Department of Education to assist people with disabilities in obtaining and retaining meaningful employment. The organization was inspired by Audré Mossberg, a woman who was well known in Pinellas County for spearheading, orchestrating and managing various non-profits in Tarpon Springs and surrounding areas.
Since the beginning, The Grow Group has diligently worked towards creating jobs, relationships and supports for people with various disabilities. The non-profit is comprised of a few home offices, eight dedicated people and one shared passion to advocate for every person with a disability who is interested in entering the workforce. With their hands on approach and weekly meetings with each individual, they are able to learn more about the person’s interests, experience and abilities to ensure a more successful placement.

In addition to assisting employers with locating qualified and motivated candidates, The Grow Group educates and trains the job seeker on various skills required for their job search including: resume and cover letter development, completing online and paper applications, employment assessment training, interview skills, professional communication, transportation, certifications and much more.
Recently The Grow Group has begun assisting people with disabilities who are not able to return to traditional employment by helping them to start their own businesses by creating a business plan, securing funding and supporting the small business owner through all facets of the start-up phase. The organization realized the value and importance of assisting people with disabilities in becoming small business owners and its ability to boost our local economy and provide opportunities for others as the business grows.

Another program this organization began this past summer is called the Work Seed Fund. Through this program, individuals are selected each month to receive up to $2,000.00 to pay for something they need that would help to improve their chance of obtaining employment or to secure a specific position. This fund has recently paid for a person’s dental bill for teeth implants to encourage her to smile and exude more confidence during an interview. The fund has also paid for a new transmission in a woman’s care who needed her own transportation in order to keep the position she was recently offered. This month’s recipient is interested in working for Hillsborough County school system and the awarded money will go towards his certification costs and class supplies.

Although The Grow Group is a relatively new non-profit providing service in the Tampa Bay area, it has successfully placed around 100 people in permanent and meaningful employment each year and is expected to place even more in 2013. With each successful placement, The Grow Group continues to prove to employers the value and contributions a person with a disability can have on their organization and to prove to employees how valuable, capable and important they are to these organizations and our community.

High Risk Hope

I would like to introduce into your consideration the High Risk Hope Charity, a new organization dedicated to providing for the physical and psychological well-being of premature babies and their mothers and their families. As we all know premature babes represent a major life threatening situation to young mothers, new mothers and all mothers and High Risk Hope was organized by mothers who had been through the events leading up to premature births and vowed to do something about it. High Risk Hope had initiated a powerful fundraising and awareness raising mechanism to deal with the issue and hopefully alleviate the suffering and anxiety associated with this urgent medical situation.

The Kind Mouse

I am nominating The Kind Mouse because they are an innovative non-profit that are working hard to fulfill a need that is not oft met. Their niche is providing small, packaged, easy to eat foods for school age children who are on the "free lunch" program at school but who do not have food on the weekends at home, which they refer to as "nibbles". They also support "families in transition" who have been displaced due to economic conditions and are living in hotels, with low access to food. They have big dreams, including helping transition these families out of hotels and into "shared housing", to help re-establish these hungry families’ dignity while supporting them as they climb back up the ladder of success. The directors are genuine, authentic, and passionate and their organization is doing great, needed work with very little funding. Imagine what they could do with more?

The Life Center of the Suncoast Inc.

There isn’t a single person on this earth whose life will not be touched by the death of someone close. How people process the grief that comes from loss and move forward towards their healing, immeasurably impacts the spirit, body, and mind of every individual, and—ultimately—the wellness of our entire community. Successful healing from the wounds of trauma involves healing the whole person and helping them reconnect to their families, the workplace, and their communities.

Since 1981, it has been the mission of The Life Center of the Suncoast, Inc. (TLC) to provide grief and trauma counseling, emotional support, educational programs and intervention to children, adults, and families experiencing death, illness, or who are victims of crime due to homicide, hit and run accidents, DUIs, sexual or physical assaults, stalking, and robbery.

In the comforting atmosphere of a 1926 Seminole Heights bungalow in Tampa, people are encouraged to explore and resolve some of the deepest and most painful issues of life.
In the past 32 years, The Life Center of the Suncoast, Inc, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, has transformed the pain and grief of loss for over 65,000 Tampa Bay area constituents. Our four areas of community service include: 1) Individual counseling sessions; 2) Ongoing support groups, which include the only ongoing Suicide Loss Support, Children’s Grief Support, Parent/Child Education, Teen Grief, Widow’s Grief Support, Parents Grieving a child’s death, Victims of Crime Support. 3) In-service seminars on grief and trauma to the community 4) Internship training for graduate mental health students.

Since 1999, TLC is one of the primary bereavement referral sources for Victims of Crimes Assistance and Victim Advocate Agencies including The State Attorney and Office of Attorney General. TLC has served over 1,300 victims of crime. Referrals come from hospices, hospitals, Hillsborough & Pasco District Schools and psychological services, & the Department of Children & Family Services. The Life Center provides cutting edge therapeutic approaches for grief and trauma, consistent with current psychological research found on this subject. We view counseling as preventative of future pathological behaviors, which has long term implications on the health and productivity of individuals and community.

For 30 years TLC’s Executive Director, Sheryle R. Baker has been an expert in bereavement counseling services locally and nationally. Sheryle R. Baker, M.A., LMHC, is the Executive Director of The LIFE Center, with 30 years of experience as a bereavement psychotherapist, consultant and clinical supervisor of mental health graduates. Sheryle trained with international Death and Dying author and psychiatrist, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Sheryle is certified in EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocess therapy), an evidenced based therapy that reduces post-traumatic stress. Her honors include: Executive Director of the Year Finalist – ESCOT; Victims Services Award from The Office of Justice Department, Washington, D.C. Sheryle was honored in May 2012 as a finalist for the Medical Hero Award in Mental Health and received Purple Heart award for victims.

Life Enrichment Center of Tampa

It is easy to drive right by the Life Enrichment Center at 9704 North Boulevard the first time you go there.There is an identifying sign, but it hardly seems possible that the little one story yellow house with the turquoise-blue door is home to Hillsborough County’s only private, non-profit senior center. Its mission, according to Executive Director Ronna Metcalf, is to provide older adults the opportunity to enjoy lifelong learning through creative, academic and wellness classes. More than 700 active adults take advantage of classes offered through the year.
Since opening in 1980, the Center’s cultural arts program has received national and international recognition. Its artists annually enter paintings in competition at the Florida State Fair, earning numerous awards including "Best of Show." In September 2013 at the twelfth annual Life Enrichment Center art exhibit at TECO Plaza in downtown Tampa, members of the Forever Moving dance class performed dances inspired by paintings on exhibit and choreographed by Susan Taylor Lennon of the University of Tampa.
In December 2012, participants in the life writing classes published PAGES OF MY LIFE, an anthology of personal memoirs, which is now a required textbook at University of South Florida’s School of Aging Studies.
Instructors at the Center are professionals in their fields and/or highly experienced in their fields of expertise. Encouragement and personal instruction opens the aduls students to exploring artistic ventures they may not have had time for during their career years. Discussion, critiquing. and new ideas are shared and tested.
A sense of joy permeates the building during class sessions. Older folks are focusing on being creative, how they can "be more" than just "seniors." As our society continues to age and live longer, organizations such as the Life Enrichment Center become even more important. Research indicates that baby boomers look for activities that challenge them, stimulate them and enable them to explore creative options, many for the first time. This is what the Life Enrichment Center is all about.
Students pay fees for their classes, which help cover the salaries of the contracted teachers. Other financial support for the Center comes from private contributions, corporate sponsors, civic organizations, grants and fundraising events. All donations are tax deductible. the Center’s annual budget is about $120,000, which includes the salaries of the executive director and the office manager.
A thirteen-member board of trustees, citizens of the Tampa Bay area, aid in the direction of the Center. A website – http://lectampa.org – and newsletter inform students and others of activities offered throughout the year. Take a look at the website. Come and visit the Center. Don’t pass us by. When you leave, you’ll "be more".

Lifelong Learning Academy

The Lifelong Learning Academy, Inc. is a grassroots organization that evolved 15 years ago out of the desire of a handful of motivated retirees. They wanted to continue their involvement in constructive learning activities after retirement and needed an organization to support their needs. They began meeting to explore topics of interest from literature to current events; the organization was growing through word of mouth marketing alone.
Over the past 15 years, the organization has developed into a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide university-level learning experiences to older adults in Sarasota and Manatee counties. We are located primarily at the University of South Florida, Sarasota- Manatee campus, where we rent classroom space. However, we also hold courses at other locations throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties so that those who are not able to drive to our main campus can still experience the Academy.

Last year the Lifelong Learning Academy offered more than 150, 6-8 session courses to approximately 1,600 area residents. This semester we have experienced a 28% increase in student registrations from last fall. The Academy had over 3,000 registrations, in 20 topic categories. During 20 weeks out of the year, the Academy also provides a discussion program each week, Einstein’s Circle. This program is free and open to the public. Einstein Circle’s are learning experiences where participants listen to an expert speak on a topic and then engage in a discussion of that topic with the audience. Einstein Circle subjects vary greatly, ranging from Evolution to the Legalization of Marijuana.

The Academy also has a speaker’s bureau which provides lectures on a wide range of topics free of charge to other non-profit organization audiences and fee based lectures to many community groups.

Our course instructors are retired professionals that have a great deal of knowledge and experience to share. They are paid very nominally, and yet remain eager to provide quality learning experiences to our students. Because our student population brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, our courses are interactive. The combination of knowledgeable, enthusiastic instructors and students has been key to our organization’s success.

The Academy is more than courses, discussions and lectures, it is a family of learners with similar interests who come together and often find their new friends. They choose to dine together, start book clubs, and attend local cultural events together. This reduces the isolation that often accompanies retiring or moving to paradise to retire.

Our primary goal for the coming year is to reach out and expand our services in the community through formal marketing efforts. We do this so that even more community members will realize that the Academy could be the type of stimulating learning and social experience that they are missing in retirement.

The Academy is funded primarily through registration fees and student donations. Over the past fifteen years: with no formal marketing, no formal fundraising, and minimal staff the Academy has demonstrated what well-intentioned grassroots people are capable of creating for their community.

The Our AIM Foundation

The Our AIM Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit corporation located in Pinellas County. It was formed to oversee and facilitate programs that bring young people and senior citizens together for the purpose of mutual understanding and education. It began with the experience of a nine-year-old boy named Ishan Mandani and his mother, Nisha, who saw the positive effects the boy’s presence had on home-bound senior citizens that Nisha was visiting for a local volunteer program.

The Our AIM Foundation provides oversight for Close 2 Heart, a program in which teens visit residents of Hospice facilities, and Grandkids, in which residents of assisted living facilities are seen. Visits are designed to benefit both the teens and the seniors; and the teens have the added incentive of receiving volunteer hours for Bright Futures scholarships. Our AIM works with a very involved founder, Nisha Mandani, a part time Executive Director, and three part time Program Coordinators, who facilitate school and assisted living facility interaction in the counties where the programs are located.

The programs, especially Grandkids, have generated wide interest and are poised to grow nationally. In fact, the founders were recently asked to present a paper on Grandkids at the Canadian Association on Gerantology at its annual conference, so the potential exists for international growth. Excited about the potential growth but cautious to be sure it is properly managed, the foundation is working on the development of online training program to ensure consistent and documented training of students prior to visiting ALFs; and development of a data management system to track the information generated by Grandkids clubs in an increasing number of schools. To do this, Our AIM has secured the donation of the training program by Sealund and Associates, a national training firm, and the development of the data management system from the Nielsen Company. . Both of these donations are worth considerable money and have accounted for many hours of staff time on the part of the donors.

Today, early in its existence, the Our AIM Foundation has Grandkids Clubs in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Orange Counties, and a relationship with Hospice of the Suncoast for the Close 2 Heart program. The Foundation has worked with volunteers, donations and a minimal investment of funds to grow and show success in its first five years, and is prudently managing its growth so that it will be able to accommodate additional schools, ALFs and participants as interest continues to rise in its easily-replicable programs.

People For Haiti

“People For Haiti”: A catastrophic earthquake demanded its presence. In January, 2010, two Trinity, FL doctors heard the cries for help and found their way to Haiti. What they saw there was pure devastation. In the span of 30-40 seconds, 30,000 people lost their lives and many others desperately needed medical attention. Though they encountered many roadblocks in trying to get to Haiti through various organizations, Dr. Leo Vieira and Dr. Robert Ferreira found a path to Haiti. When they returned, they vowed that it would not be their last trip over. There was too much work to be done.

Dr. Vieira’s wife, Guiga, quickly jumped into action. She organized a grassroots effort to gather funds and medical supplies to take over there. Before they knew what was happening, friends and neighbors joined in and many volunteered to go with them to help. The next thing you know, "People For Haiti" was born.

What started by three, led to 4 mission trips a year, each attended by approximately 14 volunteers. These volunteers are made up of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, teachers, lawyers, stay-at-home moms, and students. People that just want to HELP. All of the volunteers pay for their own flights and boarding at a Haitian orphanage. Each volunteer is responsible for raising a certain amount of money to help fund the trip. "People For Haiti" relies on fundraising efforts to obtain the money needed for medicine and supplies. Their annual budget is approximately $30,000.

"People For Haiti" sees approximately 1000 or more patients with each mission trip. All patient care is absolutely free of charge. They set up in remote villages, on mountaintops and in orphanages. People wait in the hot sun for hours to see a doctor for even a few minutes. They treat anything from minor cuts and colds, to performing surgeries in primitive conditions. Several children have been born and the parents counseled on childcare and birth control through “People For Haiti”.

"People For Haiti" has also trained many of the local Haitians to become nurses and have sponsored them to attend school. In fact, one of those trainees just started his own clinic, which is up and running. Many of the volunteers have reached out to sponsor children to go to school and/or are in the process of adoption. There has been marked improvement in the overall health of the children and Haitians in the area that "People For Haiti" has visited.

It has been a remarkable journey since that fateful day of January 12, 2010. Nobody thought it would last this long, but "People For Haiti" continues to thrive and grow. It has to. “The people of Haiti” are counting on them!

PlaySmart, Inc.

PlaySmart’s mission is to help at-risk youth reach their academic and life potential through sports. Created as an "idea on a napkin" by a group of alumni from Princeton University, PlaySmart has made great strides around the country and in Tampa Bay (where its head quarters reside) ensuring that all youth have access and opportunities to participate in quality afterschool and summer time youth development programming. With a very small staff and budget, PlaySmart has carved out a niche in the youth development world with its flagship program – the PlaySmart Academy. The Academy is a unique program for lower income middle school youth and features athletics, life skills and leadership development, character education, academic enrichment, mentoring and mission driven field trips. The program reaches over 100 kids in Tampa Bay a year and ALL youth attend FREE of cost (at a value of close to $500 per kid). There is a major & quot;play deficit" in our communities – many kids have the means to play sports, go to enrichment camps and program but many simply do not because they can’t afford it or do not have the support around them to get them involved. PlaySmart is there to provide opportunities for the kids are who participating and continues to not charge for its core youth programs. The reason for this is because of the organization’s history of making an impact even on a small scale and its ability to leverage local and national resources to support its mission. Major companies like Nike, Lids Sports (which PlaySmart was one of three national to be recognized with an award), Top of the World Hats, TB Lightning (the organization’s board chair won a community hero award) are behind PlaySmart’s work because they can see the difference it makes. PlaySmart also has a knack for involving and partnering with others to fill various youth service gaps. They seek out PlaySmart to involve their kids in the organization’s Academy. Groups and schools like All Sports Community Service, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Metropolitan Ministries, Academy Prep Centers, Blake High School, and others are all great partners. Lastly, the organization maximizes the relationships with its volunteers and has various amateur and professional coaches, trainers and other frequently involved in its programs. High school students are enrolled as service leaders at the Academies mentoring and guiding the middle school participants. Countless parents and the youth themselves share that PlaySmart is very unique in its programs and approach to engaging youth in key skill building they need to be successful – not to mention that is offered at no cost. As one parent mentioned in a letter, "The Academy was the only thing my daughter could do this summer because of it being no cost – thank you PlaySmart."


There are few organizations that have as much heart as ProNica. ProNica challenges people in the community to think outside of their surroundings. It empowers not just the community of St Petersburg, but also communities throughout Nicaragua. All too often, we as individuals become fixated on the negatives in our own lives and forget to think of those who would happily trade places with us—Negatives and all. No matter how poorly we think our situation may be, there are hungry children, abused woman, and other victims of society not too far from us, whom would happily trade places with us at any given time. ProNica does not go into Nicaragua with the idea that it knows what is best for the people, quite the opposite. ProNica realizes that these people know and understand their situations better than anyone and are able to make choices for themselves. So what does ProNica do to help? ProNica works hand and hand with partner organization in Nicaragua to make sure those neglected children are feed, and to make sure those abused women have a safe place to go at night. There is a program in Nicaraguan sponsored by ProNica that helps ex-sex workers earn cosmetology degrees so they are equipped to work in the hair industry. There is also a organization that helps street boys, it helps to educate and feed them, and provides learning equipment for many young boys.
At first, I was a bit hesitant to nominate ProNica for this award because majority of the good work it does is centered in Nicaragua. But when I really think about it, ProNica challenges the community of St Petersburg to think about the bigger picture, to think about those who are far away. ProNica does not just help out children and women in Nicaragua, it also helps out the community of St Petersburg. Anybody who has volunteered for ProNica would tell you that ProNica changes lives and restores dreams in the lives of people who did not even know they had dreams.

Tony Jannus Distinguished Avaiation Society

I would like to propose the Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society for a 2014 WEDU Be More Award. This particular group is quite different from your normal line up of worthy candidtates, but I believe that the society which is a 501 c (3) tax exempt organization because it generates scholarships for worthy and high achieving high school students to pursue a career in aviation at Florida aeronautical schools, most frequently at Emory Riddle on the east coast, but it also promotes and reminds us of a most significant event in aviation history that will be celebrating its one hundredth anniversary on January 1, 2014 of the first commercial flight in aviation history right here in the Tampa Bay area.

On this the centennial year of the Flight and the fiftieth year of the celebration I would encourage you to consider an organization that brings great focus to the Bay area, that commemorates a significant historical event and which enables the furthering of the education of many young people toward a meaningful and significant career in commercial aviation.

YES! of America United, Inc.

YES! of America United, Inc. is an all volunteer organization with a budget of $20,000 headed up by an Executive Director who works countless hours with no pay and is legally blind. The organization has no other employees and operates all its programs with volunteers. YES! is small but a powerful and well respected organization. Its Mission is to positively change what it means to have a disability with programs, training, and outreach that enrich, educate and empower people as they live, work, and play in their inclusive community. YES! fosters choices and independence for people with disabilities by providing training in self-reliance, self-advocacy and personal empowerment. We facilitate socialization and inclusion by providing referrals to appropriate programs, services and entertainment venues. YES! develops and maintains strategic partnerships with local and state agencies and organizations to maximize our reach and range of services provided to the disabled community.

YES! challenges and encourages people with a disability to take their next step
forward. YES! interacts with people with disabilities, and also those without disabilities, so that they may begin to understand what it is like to live with a disability. Joining together and inspiring a better life for all is the YES! of America United vision.

YES! accomplishes this vision, both locally and statewide, through its many programs, activities and events impacting our core values – advocacy, education, enrichment and networking/communication.

Advocacy is critical to people with disabilities. YES! members are active participants and serve an advisory capacity to a number of Councils/Boards including:
• Tampa Mayor’s and Hillsborough County Joint Alliance for People with Disabilities
• Transportation Disadvantaged Board
• Florida Inclusion Council- advisors to the National Volunteer Commission
• Florida Rehabilitation Council (FRC)
• Florida Outreach Project for Deaf/Blind (FOP)

Education is forefront of YES’s efforts. Disability Awareness Education includes:
• SDHC, Davis Elementary: children, teachers and staff
• Tallahassee where YES!’s Executive Director recently spent a month educating elected officials on transportation, education, and employment for people with disabilities
• Business interests such as HART’s Disadvantaged Transportation Board
• In our community, in conversations with businesses, hotels, restaurants, and banks, as well as church members, neighbors, etc.

Enriching the lives of people with a disability by offering opportunities to participate in YES! sponsored activities that integrate people with disabilities with those who have no disability:
• Hawaiian Inspired Prom
• Holiday Feast at Suncoast New Options at Thanksgivi
• Christmas Party at Suncoast New Options
• Valentine’s Party in conjunction with Suncoast New Options
• Celebrate Abilities Concert partnering with Hillsborough Community College
• Spring Fling at All People’s Life Center
• Shriner’s Circus
• Christmas in July for seniors

Networking and communication, a hallmark of all YES! programs, activities and events including:
• F.A.I.R. (Family Abilities Information Rally): 1300 participants, 200 vendors, 60 volunteers
• Holiday Smiles: provided 600 individuals and 200 families with food and gifts
• YES! of America United’s community presence is in itself an ongoing operation and opportunity to network and share the value of all of our citizens

Young Performing Artists (YPAs), Inc.

Established in 1998, Young Performing Artists (YPAs), Inc. is a 501 c) 3), not-for-profit, statewide focused, state recognized corporation whose mission is to identify and address the specialized needs of young (up to 22) performing and visual artists and to provide creative solutions to youth development. YPAs, Inc. continues to assist and serve Florida’s young people and/or artists, who will make the ‘Arts’ their life’s worth and work. YPAs, Inc. has awarded approx. $25,000+ in artistic scholarships and awards; identified approx. 400 of Florida’s most talented young artists and have provided approx. $300,000+ in cultural art educational local and statewide programming. YPAs, Inc. encourages the young artists of today who will keep the ‘Arts’ of tomorrow alive. ‘A Day of Stars’, allows young artists, statewide, to compete, perform, and acquire artistic scholarships. Past events featured Eric Darius, Recorded Jazz Artists with #1 hit songs, provided entertainment and career development onsite. In 1998, 1st event held at Walt Disney. Graffiti Art program entitled ‘Walls for Graffiti Art’ whose mission is to develop ‘Open Air Graffiti Art Galleries’ is listed with the Florida League of Cities as a best practice. Its headquarter offices are in Sumter County, FL, a Central Florida rural county with 12.9% persons below poverty and designated as an underserved art county by the State Div. of Cultural Affairs. In 2000, there was a tremendous lack of art studies in the local countywide school system, one had not offered art classes since the 1994 retirement of its teacher. YPAs, Inc. identified & referred a local artist who was hired thus reinstating art classes that continues today. In 2000, YPAs, Inc. revised its mission statement to include providing creative solutions to youth development to ensure that local children receive cultural and arts education & awareness. A collaboration towards this mission was a partnership with the City of Wildwood and the Boys & Girls Club of Sumter for their ‘Community Art’ and ‘Heart for the Art’ programs. For both programs, professional artists conducted workshops in dance, visual/ fine arts, vocals, photography and music disciplines for children and youth. Another, collaboration was with a community citizen based group, who were renewing its interest of renovating a community historic building, which served as the cafeteria to the community’s segregated school. This collaboration resulted in YPAs, Inc. accepting the donation of the historic Royal building which is renovated, designated a Governor Crist’s 2007 Point of Light Project and house the Royal Historical Enrichment & Art Program (RHEAP). In 2001 – 2013, YPAs, Inc. implemented its ‘School Cultural Art and Educational Program which travels across the county serving approximately 5000 out of 8000 district students. In 2012, YPAs, Inc. was instrumental in helping a local School become part of the DOE & FAAE Arts Integration pilot program and collaborated with Very Special Arts (VSA) to bring ‘the arts’ to children with disabilities. YPAs, Inc. has proven that being headquartered in a small rural town has no effect on the size of a project.


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