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Protest In Tampa Over Iranian Elections

Published : Tuesday, 23 Jun 2009, 10:53 PM EDT; Andrea Lypka / MyFoxTampaBay

TAMPA - The protests in Iran over election results and against the recently re-elected Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sparked protests in the Tampa Bay area Tuesday.

About 100 Iranian-Americans and other concerned citizens gathered near Dale Mabry and Spruce streets Tuesday wearing the colors of the Iranian flag: green, white, and red.

They chanted slogans in Farsi and English, including "Human rights for Iran" and "Democracy for Iran." They also wore signs saying "Free Iran," "Death to Khamenei," and "Where Is My Vote?"

They also sang the national anthem and revolutionary songs dating back 30 years ago, to support their relatives and people in Iran.

Nina Goudarzi organized the protest to support her family and friends in Iran. She wore a green shirt saying "Free Iran," and she spoke to the crowd through a megaphone.

Iran today is not what she wants for the Iran of tomorrow, she says.

"I hope this will bring freedom to people who live in Iran so that they can voice their opinion as freely as we can here," she said. "I am more energized than before and I am ready to do this again tomorrow."

The most common image at the protest was the face and the name of a woman: Neda Soltani, the Iranian killed in Iran on June 20. She has become a symbol of the international outcry. Many protestors say that her death gave them voice.

Goudarzi organized today's protest using Facebook and other social media. She even created a Facebook group to support the people in Iran.

"Yes, we may be far away in America or other countries, but this does not mean there is nothing we can do to help," she says on Facebook.

Protestors say they came to the U.S. for freedom and they want the same for Iran. One of the protesters is Ali Haghi. He is a business owner who stopped working earlier today to come to the protest.

"I am here to support my country, my people," Haghi said. "As long as the revolution is killing people in Iran, I am here to support them."

He says he has been in the U.S. since 1997, and he goes to Iran often because his family is still in Iran, including his brother, sisters and aunts. He says he can hardly talk to them now.

"Early in the morning if we call, we can't get through. We talk through email and through Twitter and on Yahoo," Haghi said.

The last time Haghi talked to his family over the phone was two days ago.

"They can't talk that much. It's better if you don't ask them anything because everything is controlled there," he said.

Haghi says he feels his hands are tied and there is nothing he can do. He says he can't sleep and he follows the events in Iran online.

Haghi's brother Parsa also came to show solidarity for the people in Iran.

"My people are getting killed for no reason. There is not freedom. You can't even talk about politics I just want my country and my people to be free. I don't want anyone calling us terrorists because we are not terrorists. We are very peaceful people," said Parsa Haghi said.

Michael Samak came to the United States 30 years ago from Iran. He says that recent developments there show the dark side of the regime.

"What goes on in Iran is a sad story for the humanity. I came here to express my regrets and solidarity for the people who are losing their lives and are risking their lives in Iran," Samak said.

Samak says that out of the 29,000 candidates, they selected four and "as far as I know, every single one of them had blood on their hands."

"I am an American citizen but that does not mean that I am attached to the homeland," he said.

Samak say that the fight against injustice has been fought before by Imam Hossein.

"I don't think Iranians will forget this. As Imam Hossein taught them, they will not stand for injustice," Samak.

Regardless of their nationality, protesters say they will continue on Neda's path.

Chris Jones, a Ph.D. student at the University of South Florida came to the event to support his Iranian friend.

"I am a libertarian and I think that everybody should be free," Jones said."Let's hope that this is a wake up call for everybody and that things will change in Iran and other countries."


Race For Charity - 1,100 Athletes Run For A Good Cause

Updated: Tuesday, 14 Jul 2009, 6:00 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 14 Jul 2009, 6:00 PM EDT

Andrea Lypka /

CLEARWATER - Eleven hundred athletes ran for fun -- and a good cause -- at the Fourth Annual Morton Plant Mease Triathlon on Sunday at Sand Key Park.

They started the triathlon with a one-third-mile open-water swim, then a 13-mile bike route through Clearwater and Belleair, and completed the race with a 3.1-mile run through the park.

Photo Gallery: The Morton Mease Plant Triathlon

Pam Haver came to the event for the first time. She says she liked the pace of the triathlon.

"It's not too much and not too little," she said. "I have done other triathlons but this is the first year for me at this one. I never go for time, I just hope to finish this one. Plus, my doctor says I shouldn't be doing this anymore. "

Some athletes say the race motivates them to train, stay in shape and win. One of them was the first at the finish line, Spencer Smith from Palm Harbor. The 36-year-old finished the race under one hour, with a race time of 56:10.

Smith is a three-time World Triathlon champion and two-time Ironman champion. His motto is "never stop trying."

"This is my fourth attempt," he said. "This year, it was nice to win this one. It took me longer to win this one than the World Triathlon Championship. Triathlons are my passion."

The top female finisher in the Female Elite group was Nina Craft ,41, from Clermont. She was also the 2009 Gasparilla Marathon and 2007 Ironman Brazil winner, and the 2007 Florida Ironman record-breaker.

The top five Elite and Open Division finishers received a $4,000 prize.

The oldest couple to compete and win in their age category was Ray Yost and Jackie Yost of Treasure Island. The Yosts have been to 100 triathlons so far, they say.

"I am the best 80-year-old out here," said Ray.

"We like to compete; it's fun," added his wife, Jackie Yost.

The event was a fundraiser to purchase an infant simulator for training purposes, said Brian Stanley, co-chair of Morton Plant Mease Foundation’s Skip Cline Young Leadership Society. He has been racing for a good cause for six years in the St. Anthony's Race and for three years at the Morton Plant Mease Triathlon. Stanley was also the winner of the Skip Cline division this year.

"This is a capital improvement that the medical staff can use for training purposes to deal with infant health issues," he said.

The festival has been growing every year, Stanley said.

"This year we are the largest race in Florida for sprint races," he said. "There must be a couple of thousand people out there today. As we grow, we will also grow our price purse, which will be more attractive to pro athletes."

Next year’s race will be held once June 27 in Sand Key Park.

For a complete list of race results, log on to .

Funds Needed For Historic Daycare

New campus would be for 300 children

Updated: Monday, 27 Jul 2009, 8:09 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 24 Jul 2009, 11:01 AM EDT

Andrea Lypka /

ST. PETERSBURG - It is one of the oldest daycare centers in St. Petersburg, and has a special curriculum that focuses on lessons of justice, peace, earth sustaining, and green practices.

Photo Gallery of the Happy Workers Children's Center

So it may not come as a surprise that there is a waiting list at Happy Workers Childrens' Center.
What is less obvious, though, is the fact that the center strives to make its services affordable for any family that wants to send a child there.

And as a result, the lessons are top quality – but the facilities have suffered.

"We have been an institution for over 80 years," said Leigh Gale, director of development.
And after being around for that long, there is sore need of a new facility.

Right now, they could be taking in 200 students. But in their current building, they barely have space for 150.

"Every time we accept one child, we turn three away because of lack of space," says Leigh Gale, director of development.

But the recent growing demand and diminishing funding may make an expansion hard.

The daycare center has recently experienced shortfall in funds because of partial funding loss from United Way of Tampa Bay and other non-profits. Initially, United Way supported the early childhood education program at the center with $180,000.

"But that's being cut around 10 to 13 percent," she said. "Individual giving is down significantly, as well. That's being felt from other non-profits in Tampa Bay. We are tapping into people who believe in our mission and in early childhood education."

The daycare operations are down to bare bones, but the center will not close its doors, Gale said.
"We have been an institution for over 80 years. I do believe the community will step up before we close our doors," she said.

The center continues the call set by its founder, Willie Lee McAdams, the wife of a Presbyterian minister, which is to provide affordable care with an early education focus, says Gale. The Happy Workers' success is because of the programs that other day care centers in the area don't offer. Volunteers and educators teach children about justice, peace and earth-keeping, she says.

And to continue that mission, their vision is to build an18,000 square-foot green campus, with a capacity for 300 children, will have 16 classrooms and will cost $6 million.

The first phase of the building, which will cost $1 million, will add five classrooms for children ages 2 months up to 2 years old because that is the highest demand from the community.

"We hope we can start the construction in a year because we see the need for our programs increase more and more," she said. "The new campus will allow us to double the number of children we currently serve."

And with that kind of campus, they say they could reduce their current waiting lists, which get bigger as the children get smaller.

But that's only if the funding comes through, and the center stays open, which all involved are deeply committed to.

"I do believe the community will step up before we close our doors," she said.t.

Happy Birthday, Snooty - Oldest Captive Manatee Turns 61

Updated: Tuesday, 21 Jul 2009, 1:46 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 21 Jul 2009, 1:43 PM EDT

Andrea Lypka /

Snooty may be the world’s oldest manatee. Today he turns 61.

Lee Santiloi has been taking care of Snooty for three years.

Manatees at South Florida Museum’s Parker Manatee Aquarium come and go, but official mascot 61-year-old Snooty stays.

Unlike his two pool-mates, Coral Lee and Little Nap, Snooty — the oldest known manatee in captivity — is hand-fed every morning. Manatee specialist Aarin Allen feeds him about 60 pounds of lettuce and 10 pounds of carrots, broccoli, kale, and cabbage every morning.

Today, one of Snooty’s research specialists brought him some carrots and strawberries soaked in pineapple juice.

“We stay away from treats, but today is his birthday,” aquarium director Marilyn Marigold said.

Photos: Snooty’s birthday

Marigold says Snooty is the oldest captive manatee.

“We think he is the oldest manatee on record,“ Marigold said. “The oldest fossils that have been found so far come from manatees in their fifties. We think he might be the oldest possible manatee that has lived.”

In the wild, manatees are lucky to make it in their twenties, she said.

The other two 3-year-old manatees are orphaned prematurely and are to be released in the nature in February, Marigold said.

“They don’t have experience to find warm water so they will stay with us until the end of the manatee winter,” she said.

But Snooty won’t stay alone because the aquarium is expecting to have other rescued manatees join him soon.

Marigold says Snooty has been an ambassador for the endangered species in Florida. Having an animal like him, that can express his personality, has helped his caretakers to find out about more about this species, she said.

The manatee was born in captivity in Miami and one of his volunteer caretakers says that he lives longer because he is vegetarian and did not experience the hardships these endangered species face: boats, fishing gear and severe weather conditions.

Marigold said that Snooty came to the aquarium as part of Desoto Celebration in 1949.

“Manatee County loved the idea of having a baby manatee as a mascot and they asked the previous owner if they could keep Snooty. I don’t think they had any idea of the years of commitment behind that request. He came here at 11 months and today he is 61 years old,” she said.

Even though Snooty is elderly, manatees grow, says Marigold.

“Three years ago, he was nine feet and four inches. When we did his measurements last week, he was nine feet seven inches long,” she said.

According to his veterinary assessment, Snooty has no health problems.

“He interacts a lot with the other manatees but he has to come to the side of the pool more often and take a nap,” Marigold said. “He is doing quite well; it shows you what a vegetarian dinner can do to you.”

Snooty also gets lots of exercise from his pool-mates and caretakers.

“He lives for people. When we come in, he waits for us. He just wants attention. The veterinarian says he just looks like a manatee but he is a person,” said Lee Santiloi, a volunteer caretaker.

Santiloi has been taking care of Snooty every Tuesday for three years. She has known Snooty since she was 4 years old.

“Every kindergartener comes here to see Snooty,” she continued. “I was terrified of him when he came up and wanted me to touch him. He looked like a monster to me. Now it’s completely different. I loved him ever since.”

Now a mother of two children, Santiloi says she feels a deep connection to Snooty.

“I love him. I feel he is a friend,” she said. “Everybody knows him and loves him. It would be a sad day when he won’t be with us anymore.”

For more information about the aquarium, click here.

Volunteers Needed To Save Rare Birds

Efforts focused on the Fourth of July

Updated: Thursday, 02 Jul 2009, 2:07 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 02 Jul 2009, 12:50 PM EDT

Andrea Lypka /

INDIAN SHORES - A speckled brown and black chick, only a couple of days old, peered up from a sandy nest on Indian Shores beach.

A seagull waited in the air for its parents to leave the nest so it could swoop down and snatch the eggs or chicks. It took the seagull less than a second to grab the baby and fly off.

Just as fast, Michelle Glean Simoneau ran over and scared the seagull away. The predator dropped the chick on the sand.

Simoneau put the chick on her raincoat and ran to the nearby aviary hospital, where they treated the baby, and saved it. It was the start of another day at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary.

>>Photo Gallery: Black Skimmers colony

Simoneau helps to watch over a Black Skimmers colony on Indian Shores. Black Skimmers are birds of a species of special concern –birds whose populations are dwindling.

"We have about over 300 adults and about 100 chicks on the beach," Simoneau said. "They are roped off by the St. Pete and Clearwater Audubon Society."

Black Skimmers are the only bird in the world which have lower bills that grow bigger than their upper bills.

"They are called Black Skimmers because they feed by gliding along the surface of the water and skim the water with their lower bill," said Clearwater Audubon Society volunteer David Hopkins.

Hopkins says that he started monitoring the beaches and watching the birds after he retired a couple of years ago.  He enjoys watching the adults coming back with fish in their bill and feeding the chicks.

"Sometimes they come back with bigger fish and you think that there is no way it's going to get into that chick but it does," he said.

When he finds a bird colony, Hopkins posts signs to protect them.

"I am not the classic birder but I enjoy watching them, identifying them, and doing what I can to give them a place to grow," he says.

Beach conditions tough

Life on the Black Skimmers' colony on Indian Shores beach is tough. Adults, the citizens of the largest colony in Pinellas County, scrape out small shallow nests and lay their eggs. The sand colored chicks and eggs face the predators-- gulls, crows and humans.

As the human population took over the beaches, these birds face even more danger, Simoneau said.

"We took over their habitat. We try to give them a little piece of nature back so that they can successfully reproduce," she said. "The Black Skimmers are here because they feel protected in this area by the sanctuary. They may know they are safe here."

The sanctuary also works together with the beach nesting program at Eckerd College.

"This is a community project to protect our birds; we have a lot of people from the community pitching in to help save these birds," Simoneau said.

Volunteers and bird stewards are protecting the area but they need more volunteers for the Fourth of July. The fireworks frighten the birds which will take off exposing the nests and endangering the eggs and the chicks. On this day, volunteers will surround the whole area, she says.

"We hold hands and form a human rope or chain around this area," she adds. "When the fireworks go off, the chicks starts scrambling. We gently urge the chicks to stay in the roped off area. It's a unique collaboration of volunteers."

This beach is a jewel for birders, says Simoneau who gets phone calls and emails from all over the world inquiring about the Black Skimmers.

"Every day, the beach is loaded with people taking pictures of them," she said. "We would like to invite the public to watch the chicks from the distance because they are just adorable."

A unique colony

The colony on Indian Shores is unique because it is the only colony on public beach, Hopkins says. Other colonies are in less populated areas like Egmont Key and Honeymoon State Park.

Even though Indian Shores beach is heavily populated and small, Black Skimmers feel at home on the beach at the Seabird Sanctuary for four years.

"They have nested on the beach on Sand Key for a while but they haven't come back there in the last two years. Sometimes, they come back to the same place several years in a row, sometimes they don't. We don’t know why," Hopkins said.

Hopkins says more volunteers are needed to monitor the bird colony.

"The more people we have working on this, the easier it is on everybody," he said. "Man is expanding their houses and paving their habitats, people wanna work and live on the beach, play on the beach. Well, this is where the birds have made their nests for thousands of years."

To volunteer at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary click on over to , call (727) 391-6211 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (727) 391-6211      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.


Pets that no one wants

Special care for special needs animals

Updated: Thursday, 04 Jun 2009, 8:13 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 04 Jun 2009, 8:10 PM EDT

Andrea Lypka/MyFoxTampaBay

CLEARWATER - At the Humane Society of Pinellas County, volunteers and vets are keeping a close eye on a puppy with no hair, and no hearing. "Roady" is a 5-month-old white female Pitbull Terrier who was found abandoned on the side of a road in February.

She was barely a newborn, deaf, sick as could be, and her future didn't look good.

“We were sure she would not make it. Just recently, she had some hair back and she is doing better,” said Twila Cole, special events coordinator for the shelter.

Now, Roady is not only getting her hair back, she is learning hand signs and is in puppy school learning socialization skills.

Her story is one of many examples of the pets no one wants—the least wanted pets in shelters; the hardest ones to adopt out.

At the Humane Society, they have a name for them: SPINS, or Special Pets in Need.


While puppies and kittens get adopted fast, and healthy, small breeds seem to find owners quickly, the SPINs take much longer to find the right home. Some never even do, and end up staying at the no-kill shelter permanently.

Their age, behavior, medical condition, or any combination of those factors makes them less adoptable.

“SPINS are seniors, usually 6-year-old and older pets, or pets that have been in the shelter for more than six months, or pets that have a special medical or physical need. It's not your everyday normal situation,” Cole said.

The day FOX 13 visited the shelter, there were 56 special-needs pets. Forty-one were cats; 15 were dogs, said Abigail Appleton, shelter manager.

“They are adoptable pets, they just need to find the right owner,” Cole said.

>> Click here to see a photo gallery of the animals at the shelter.

Cole says she has many success stories about SPINs. She describes "Sophie," a diabetic Doberman Pinscher.

"We told her story and the right person, who already had a diabetic Doberman, fell in love with her and the owner was committed for the future expenses of the dog,” Cole said.

The pets get very good care at the shelter—they have toys, sleep in their own beds, get blankets in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. They also get behavioral therapy, eat good food, and play daily with volunteers and other dogs in yards.

The shelter even has its own veterinary clinic. Albany, a 10-year-old black Schnauzer was paralyzed and was taken to the veterinary clinic a couple of days ago. She is now walking and is in the process of being adopted.

It is a level of care that the animals are lucky to have. Wally is an example of a dog that is in a better place now, thanks to the shelter. The 4-year-old tricolored Hound and Beagle mix came from another shelter where she was on death row.

"It was her lucky day, she charmed the right person," Cole said.

Wally has been treated from heartworms, and is now adoptable.


June is traditionally a month for weddings, so the shelter is promoting Tuxedo cats.

At the front entrance, Zak, a 6-year-old domestic black and white short-haired Tuxedo cat, is on display.

“Zak is the longest resident in the Tuxedo class. He has been here quite a while,” Cole said. ”He was turned in on March 26th because his family had a baby.”

Some of the pets have a rough transition when they are brought in the shelter. Vivian was 9-years-old when she was brought in. The previous owner gave her up because she had litter box problems.

“Vivian, who was brought in a year ago, ended up having fatty liver disease because of lack of food and nutrition,” Cole said. “She starved herself; she even had a feeding tube placement because she refused to eat."

Heart-breaking stories are all too common here. Like Jelly Bean, a 4-year-old Boxer-Chow mix with a thyroid condition who has been in and out of the shelter four times now.

“We always take our animals back, no questions asked. We also try to make sure that owners don’t sell our pets because we did find our pets for sale on Craigslist before.”

Sissy and Rebel, two Doberman mixes, came in together to the shelter on April 25th and they will be adopted only together. This is their second time at the shelter.

“We keep animals that are bonded, together. If Sissy and Rebel are out of each other’s sight, they panic,” said Cole.

Cole says that they remain committed to the animals that cross their doors: they do follow-ups to make sure that the pet is doing well and offer support programs for pet owners to make sure that the adoption is successful.

“We commit to our pets forever,” she said. “We are an open paw shelter. This means that we are trained at different levels to treat all the animals the same way. The animals get the same message and the same care every day.”

That care and commitment is summed up on the information sheet on Roadie's cage, the deaf, 5-month old pit bull terrier that someone left on the side of the road, who someone didn't want. Her sheet says "I had a rough beginning, but that won't stop me from being sweet."

For more information about the animals in this story, and many others at the Humane Society of Pinellas County, click here:


The first 'Earthship' in Florida

Building underway for self-sustainable home

Updated: Saturday, 11 Jul 2009, 11:39 AM EDT
Published : Saturday, 11 Jul 2009, 11:39 AM EDT

by Andrea Lypka /

MYAKKA CITY - Surrounded by commercial farms on Highway 64 and wetlands, a new home emerges, one that is sustainable and affordable -- built out of garbage. Many builders and environmentalists say trash may be the new brick because it reduces landfills and it is affordable.

A green dream comes true 

The landfill becomes a treasure; garbage a useful product for a Tampa couple who has dreamed about owning environmentally friendly home for about 20 years.

The new home would create utility and food for its inhabitants and it would produce no waste product. The bricks are used tires, recycled glass bottles and aluminum soda and beer cans.

The Pfalzers purchased a 10-acre lot in Myaka City to build an Earthship inspired by green builder Michael Reynolds. They first heard about the Earthship at a Johnny Carson show back in the 80's, says Michael Pfalzer.

"We liked the self sufficiency and other features of the home, including getting water from the rain, not relying so much on electric to maintain the temperature," he said. "We wanted to reduce our footprint on the Earth."

They started to gather used tires in September 2006, says Denise Pflazer.

"The tire wall is part of the main design of the Earthship," said Denise. "The Earthship is a rammed earth house and the used tires hold the compacted dirt in."

Contractor Bryan Roberts met the Pfalzers through a mutual contact at Sweetwater Organic Farm.

“Michael Reynolds wanted to build an Earthship in Florida but he told me he did not have the time to sit around and wait for the permit,” said Roberts.

He added Florida is one of the top two states for difficulty and stringent building codes. Roberts had the time to wait for the building permits and took over the project.

The Pfalzers' wishes become a reality: their home is being built entirely from recycled materials. Their home would also be their business: the garden would provide food and they would pay nothing for utility bills.

Roberts promises a hurricane proof, self-sustainable, off-grid house without utilities connected to it. The price of the home is $300,000, which runs line in line with the price of a traditional frame home. He adds that the 3,000-square-foot house will not look like tire and glass when finished. At the end, they berm the walls with earth and it will look more like and underground structure protected by the wind, while four domes on the roof reduce the uplift of the roof.

A one-of-a-kind home

Over 40,000 bottles, 40,000 aluminum cans and 1,700 tires will go into the construction of the home, says Roberts. Used in a honeycomb shape, these “bricks” reduce the amount of cement used in the masonry walls and keep them from the landfill.

The walls of the house are tires filled with dirt and stacked on each other.

“When filled with dirt, one tire weights over 300 pounds,” says Roberts. “We will be berming earth on the outside of the 30 inch thick wall. The wall over 9 feet thick outside of the home creates a thermal mass making it easy to influence the temperature inside the home.”

They use recycled materials and reuse them again in the construction. A glass-grinding machine will turn the unused glass into substitute for the cement.

The soy-based foam roof is designed to harvest rain-water into underground tanks. The water will be stored underground and filtered and recycled according to its end use.

“We will be using the water five times before it’s cleaned and returned to the Earth,” Roberts said.

The Earthship coexists with nature: the filtered water from the home will run to the wetlands and will nourish plants, and some plants will filter water back in the home. Solar panels will provide the electricity.

One of the most innovative features of the home are the constructed wetlands, the grey water system and the water system in the home, Roberts says. Except the water from the toilet, the water from the house will run into constructed wetlands and will become water for edible plants -- bananas, cucumbers, tomatoes.

Home is a community project 

The first Earthship in Florida will be completed in about nine months and it will teach the community new tricks in building and sustainable living, says Roberts. The construction site becomes a lab for those who want to learn more about sustainable living. Permaculture gardening courses and other workshops are offered on site.

“We decided that we will turn this project into a learning experience for the people,” Reynolds says. “We got involved with a lot of local universities and we have a lot of volunteers and interns who participate in this project because they want to learn about natural building. “

Using the social media, they connect with other people with similar ideas and projects.

“Ideas are important because innovation happens when people share ideas,” Roberts said. “We want to connect a real-world application with some really good ideas, expand on that vision and instill that into other people.”

The builder 

Bryan Roberts is a pragmatic who dreams and builds green. He says green is part of who he is. He grew up on a farm in Tennessee and he learned to repair equipment from his grandfather, an engineer for the US Army’s core of engineers and using common sense.

“When we had a problem on the farm, we solved it without throwing money at it,” he said.

Because of the hard winters, they built a solar water heater they used to warm up water for cattles. They also used water from the washing machine to water our garden.

“We didn’t do it because it was sustainable but because it made good sense,” he said.

Roberts says he may build other Earthships in Florida because “green can be done inexpensively if you apply common sense.”

“In order to make a difference with sustainable technology, it has to be within reach of the average home buyer,” he explains. “We use a more common sense approach to building taking in consideration site orientation and the building materials that we use.”

The future is in building affordable green homes, he says.

“For a long time in Florida, we build as much as we can and as fast as we can,” he continues. “We build a box; we put it on the lot without any consideration of the sun, without any consideration of the wind because air conditioning has been cheap. But that is changing.”

He is also building simultaneously an affordable multi-home development using used shipping containers, contemporary architecture featuring a lot of the innovative systems used in the Earthips: the constructed wetland, passive solar design, the thermal mass.

Green building goes far beyond bamboo floors and low VOC paint, Roberts said.

“It is a philosophy in the whole system,” he added.

For more information about the Earthship, click here.

To find out more about the Earthship Project in Florida, click here.


Rescue Adopts 1,000th Beagle

Adoptions down this year, though

Updated: Monday, 27 Jul 2009, 4:21 PM EDT
Published : Monday, 27 Jul 2009, 7:05 AM EDT

Andrea Lypka /

President Jack Novoselski with CJ at the event.

Sharon and Bill Thompson traveled from Fort Myers to pick up 2-year-old Harry. He is the 1,000th adopted beagle.

The Tampa Bay Beagle Rescue adopted its 1,000th beagle Saturday. Harry III got a second chance — a family and a job.

Sharon and Bill Thompson travelled from Fort Myers to pick up 2-year-old Harry at the adoption event held at Lopez Park.

>>Photo Gallery: Beagle adoption day

Even though volunteers say Harry “has a puppy heart with a grown attitude,” the tricolored beagle had a rough start in life. After he was briefly adopted from Clay County Animal Control, he was dropped off again when the owner found out he was heartworm positive.

His luck turned around again when he got picked up by volunteers from Tampa Bay Beagle Rescue. After he got treated, he was ready for adoption.

Harry’s lucky day was when his owners, the Thompsons, found his pictures online and fell in love with him. They say they lost their 15-year-old dog recently, and they wanted another pet.

With the adoption, Bill’s long time wish came true.

“I used to hunt with a guy who had beagles 30 years ago.  I always wanted one,” said Bill.

Harry’s job is to scare away rabbits around the home and to take care of the property. In return he will get a loving home and afternoon walks, say the Thompsons.

They also say the organization was more than helpful during the adoption process.

“They really care that these dogs go to good homes. We like that,” said Sharon.

Seven beagles found new homes over the weekend.  Application team leader Madeleine Trembley says that the adoption day was successful.

“There is a dog out there for everyone we just need to set everyone up for the success,” she said.

“Being a foster mom is very rewarding,” added Julie Fehr, one of the board members who is also a foster mom for two dogs. “I am one of the bleeding hearts in the world and I believe that all dogs deserve a second chance. These dogs end up in shelters for reasons that are beyond their control.”

Many beagles with yellow bandanas that said “adopt me please” did not have a chance to find a family, but they got a chance to run and play with other dogs. One of them was CJ, a 3-and-a-half year-old beagle with damaged disc that left her paralyzed in her hind legs, said President Jack Novoselski. Thanks to the organization, CJ has a new life—she is chasing squirrels in her K-9 Kart.

“She thinks it’s her squirrel-chasing-vehicle. If she sees a squirrel, she takes off in a heartbeat,” he said.

Novoselski says that they organize adoption events and beagle meetups bi-weekly in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Private meetups are also available for those who consider adopting a pet, said Novoselski.

He said the organization kept growing since 2003, and last year they adopted 307 dogs.

“This year, adoptions are down but I hope we adopt 250,” he said.  “We can’t save every beagle, but we are going to save every beagle we can.”

For more information about the non-profit organization or to volunteer, visit To find out more about CJ, go here.

The next Beagle Adoption and Meetup is Saturday August 8th, 2009 9:00 a.m.- 12:00 noon at Al Lopez Park at 4900 N Himes Ave Tampa, 33614

Saltimbanco comes to Tampa

First appearance here for Cirque du Soleil show

Updated: Thursday, 25 Jun 2009, 12:54 PM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 24 Jun 2009, 12:20 PM EDT

Andrea Lypka /

Leaping from pole to pole the acrobats soar through the air.

TAMPA – Saltimbanco, Cirque du Soleil’s popular touring show, debuts tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. For the man behind the performers, the production is the pinnacle of a long career.

Michael John Ocampo, the team’s head coach, says that he saw Saltimbanco all the way back in 1992, a year before he even got a job with Cirque du Soleil.

“I was sitting at the edge of my seat with my mouth hanging open with awe,” Ocampo said. “The presentation of the show and the entire package of Cirque du Soleil was just amazing.”

This show remains one of his favorite shows, he says.

“People are always touched by the first show they see,” said Ocampo. “All the emotions from watching it for the first time come back.”

Before coming to Cirque du Soleil, he was a gymnast, power tumbler, and coach.

“I started gymnastics when he was 6 years old, competed in gymnastics when I was 7 until 18, then I went into tumbling,” Ocampo said.

Ocampo started as an artist in Cirque du Soleil shows like Alegria, and later he performed in Saltimbanco and coached the Quidam show’s team.

The current cast of 51 international performers — each with 15 to 20 years of acrobatic background and some of them world champions — were selected from national teams and trained for four months in Montreal, says Ocampo.

Saltimbanco also celebrates a milestone: it will perform its 5,000th show. Originally done in a big top show, this time Saltimbanco comes to Tampa as part of an arena tour.

The show features themes like family, evolution of character and city life. It includes live music, hand made and custom fitted costumes and it borrows from theatre, dance and music.

Tickets for the Saltimbanco Arena Tour at the St. Pete Times Forum are on sale at , or by calling 813-287-8844 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            813-287-8844      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. Tickets range from $40 to $110 for adults and $32 to $88 for children (12 and under).

Youth Ranchers Take On Sailing, Success

Updated: Friday, 07 Aug 2009, 3:41 AM EDT
Published : Thursday, 06 Aug 2009, 11:38 AM EDT


SAFETY HARBOR – Three ranchers from the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch in Safety Harbor are taking on a sailing adventure.

Jordan, Ray, and Steven have a common goal: to compete against other ranchers in a race in October, and they say they want to win.

Broken homes and bad environment made some of the children to start life on the wrong foot. The ranchers have different stories with similar endings. They made poor choices, they say, but have worked hard to change their lives.

They have been working with volunteer sailing coaches from the Sailability Outreach program once a month since March, learning sailing basics in Clearwater Beach.

This is not a free boatride but an opportunity they earn with good behavior. For some of the ranchers, sailing became a hobby.

“I lose track of time when I have time. When I am in the water, I have fun,” Jordan said, adding that programs like this help him stay out of trouble.  “Trouble is easy to get into but hard to get out.”

Playing football helped him stay out of trouble for a while, and at the ranch, he is now training to get ready for a triathlon in Sand Key, and to sail.

“It was really fun. It was the first time when I got out in the water,” he said. “I learned a lot, I want go back.”

Jordan had never been out on a boat before March. Now he hopes to win the sailing race against other ranchers from Live Oak, Bartow, Bradenton, Inglis, and Barberville at the First Annual Regatta in October.

“He is out of mal-adapted environments,” program director at the ranch, Scott Halbach said. “This place is not a place where bad kids go; we are an opportunity for them. Ultimately, our goal is to make these children successful.”

And 16-year-old Ray is successful. R.J. has been living for two years at the ranch because of behavioral problems, but he earned the trust of Halbach. He is now the “big brother” for many ranchers.

He says he wanted to learn to sail, but he did not have a chance to do it until he came to the ranch.

“When the chance came, I was like, sweet,” he said. “I like to be out in the water and sail the boats.”

R.J. is now making positive choices: he works at the ranch, and is saving money for a car.

The center is not a magic wand but Halbach says the programs reduce juvenile delinquency. It’s a place where ranchers have the opportunity to improve their academic skills, get counseling, and get out of abusive environments.

“It’s all about choices and structure,” Halbach said. “The key to our success is the structure we provide the children from the time they get out of bed.”

Working with abused children in Jacksonville has been a life-changing experience for Halbach.

“I have been through college and majored in English and I thought I will be teaching,” he said.

He was a youth assistant for more than four years, and for a year, he was a cottage parent. He says the program is successful, and he does not judge it by data, but by the number of children who keep in touch with him.

“The two boys, I am really proud of,” he said. “They are excellent kids. I am glad they both are in this program.”

The ranchers, 10 girls and 20 boys, are busy—they work, study, pray and play. Each child has a job: clean up the cottage, do laundry, gardening, and other tasks. “Cottage parents” like Laurie Eichar and Carl Eichar keep them out of trouble and make sure they follow the rules. The center provides organized recreation for the children, including a sailing program.

The Sailability program was another opportunity for the children—it sparked an interest in them in their environment that they had never experienced before.

“The program has been a success,” vice president of Sailability Tom Calhoun said. “We want more children to experience it.”

Most of the kids who participate in this program have never been out on the water. They are scared of the water at first, Calhoun says. But the outreach program organized by volunteer coaches at Sailability of Greater Tampa Bay is meant to empower individuals with mental, physical disabilities, and behavioral challenges.

“The kids have a good time,” he said “But we like to think of ourselves as an empowerment program that just happens to sail. The children know what they can do now. They can sail a boat.”

Calhoun says the program is more than training, it empowers participants, and it builds up their confidence.

>> For more information about Sailability of Greater Tampa Bay, click here.

>> For more information about Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch in Safety Harbor, click here.


Sailing Toward A Better Life

Updated: Wednesday, 01 Jul 2009, 5:14 PM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 01 Jul 2009, 4:55 PM EDT

Andrea Lypka /

From left to right: Alen Janjus, Team Leader at Refugee Services, Pedro Diaz, Isabelia Rios and Eidy Diaz talk about the summer field trips and study groups available for Pedro. Janjus took Pedro and other high school aged children deep …

Pedro Diaz (left) and his father, Eidy Diaz (right) get help from the Refugee Services of Gulf Coast Family Services.

Pedro Diaz (left), interpreter Isabelia Rios (center) and Eidy Diaz talk about the future.

ST. PETERSBURG – Eidy Diaz decided to put his life and his son, Pedro’s, in the hands of the south winds and the currents of the Gulf of Mexico.For approximately one week each year, Diaz says, the winds are strong enough to propel a makeshift raft from the north coast of Cuba toward Florida.And in April of 2008, Diaz decided to take his chances, and set sail.He and his son were clinging from a light boat without food for five days to get to the United States from Cuba.After a storm on the open water, Diaz, his son, and a friend barely made it to the shores of Miami Beach.

But ultimately, this time Diaz’s eighth attempt to escape from Cuba was successful. He arrived with a pair of shorts, no shoes, no shirt and nothing else to start a new life in St. Petersburg.

The first thing the visitor sees on the wall where he stays is a diploma of an Award of Achievement for ESOL course for Adults.

“My goal is to study to get a better job so I can get ahead,” Diaz says through Isabelia Rios, an interpreter. “I am studying English and computer and will start a CNA course in July.”

Childhood tragedies; religious persecution

Diaz fled Cuba for fear of religious persecution. He does not want to reference his religious affiliation for fear that it may affect other Cubans of the same faith.

He says he did not have an easy childhood in Havana because he lost his parents early.

“I was 13 years old and I found myself alone on the street. The government did not help me,” he said.

Diaz was 9 years old when he lost his father in an accident, and then his mother died from asthma when he was 13.

Seven times, he tried to come to the U.S., he says. His first attempt to come to the United States was when he was 14 years old. He didn’t get far — state officers caught him, he said. In 1991, he attempted to flee the country twice. At 16, he was thrown into jail.

“I had a lot of problems while in prison,” Diaz said. “The government had a bad reference about me. When I came out, I would not get a job.”

While in jail, he studied and wrote a novel and trilogy based on his experiences in Cuba from 1959 to present.

“When you will read my novel, you will see my story,” he promised.

A treacherous journey

After he came out of jail, he planned his escape under scrutiny. He designed a 13 to 14 feet long and four feet wide polyurethane boat, he said. One sail, a wheel and rustic oars were all made by him.

Diaz also took advantage of the south winds that kick up once a year, giving him and his boat a better chance of escaping. He left on a Wednesday at 9 p.m. with his son, and a friend.

“We were five days on the water without food. We got very serious burns,” he said. “Every boat we saw, we would signal for help, but nobody saw us.”

They were fairly close to the U.S. when a storm hit them, they lost the bag of food in the ocean and they got lost at sea, he says.

“On Monday morning, we saw light and birds. We went all the way across, but nobody saw us,” he said.

They passed a lagoon with mangroves, swam to the beach, and asked for help. They ended up going through immigration, and went to stay with a family member in St. Petersburg.

A better future

Now, far from Cuba, Diaz faces a new reality in America. He now goes to school, and his son, Pedro, will have a better future, he says.

With the help the Refugee Youth and Family Program, run by Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services in Clearwater, Diaz and Pedro are set up for new careers. Pedro’s dream is to work in electronics and Diaz wants to become a doctor to help people.

“They have been a real support,” said Diaz. They helped sign up Pedro for school. We are grateful because we did not get this type of support in our country.”

His new life in the U.S. is very promising, says Alen Janjus, Program Team Leader for Refugee Youth & Family Program that serves Diazs 16-year-old son and 100 other refugee youth in Tampa Bay.

Janjus encourages Eidy to study further and continue writing dramas.

“My real interest has always been the literature. That’s my dream,” he said.

The program provides tutoring and case management for refugees who face the same challenges in their new country: acculturation, language, career, and the school system. Janjus says he was in the same shoes 12 years ago.

“I came as a refugee from the former Yugoslavia, so I can understand how Pedro and Eidy feel. They need connection to the society and I am here to help them,” he said.

Janjus says he is a little bit of everything: he teaches the refugees about their new country, he is liaison to the community services, and he is also a friend.

“It’s very fulfilling,” he said. “When you see their success, it makes you feel that you accomplished something.”

After eight attempts and help from friends and an organization, a better life is no longer just a far-off hope for the Diazes.

“I feel very happy here,” said Diaz. “I opened a new chapter in my life. I am a second Marco Polo.”

Crisis Center Of Tampa Bay In Crisis

‘The needs are going through the roof’

Updated: Friday, 24 Jul 2009, 1:54 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 23 Jul 2009, 5:59 PM EDT

by Andrea Lypka /

The center held tour to introduce the center for 18 volunteers.

TAMPA – More people in crisis ask for help and more consider suicide daily in Tampa Bay, according to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay .

“The needs in this community are going through the roof,” said Sue Levitt, vice president for development.  “The most dramatic statistic — suicide calls to our center are up 125 percent. Sexual assault numbers have increased; domestic violence, increased.”

About 9,000 people in crisis call 211, the center’s hotline, to ask for help, information, or referral.

As the rape center for Hillsborough County, the organization also offers support and treatment for sexually assaulted people, whether victims report the crimes or not.

President David Braughton said 340 victims were treated at this center last year.

“This year the number of the reported sexual assaults has increased by about 10 percent. The problem is growing,” he said, blaming the poor economy.

The organization also receives 90 new cases of sexually abused children a month, Levitt said. Daily, the center registers one sexual assault.

In addition, 2,000 people used the center’s ambulance transport services last month.

“Can you imagine, in this economic climate, what has happened to our family support services numbers, where clients come for short time help for mortgage payments? Everything is going through the roof,” Levitt offered.

Even though the center employs a staff of 170 employees, they have 160 volunteers; the center needs more volunteers to help the growing need in the community.

“The Crisis Center is bare bone organization; we don’t have admins here because we believe we should give every penny to the client services. We live in a time when 160 volunteers is not enough,” Levitt added.

To volunteer, contact Marilyn Bray at 813-969-4976 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            813-969-4976      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or To get help, just dial 211 or visit the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay website at

Commission Votes To Ban Kegs On Beach

Commission votes to ban kegs on beach

TREASURE ISLAND – City commissioners voted unanimously to ban beer kegs on the beaches of Treasure Island at the Sept. 23 meeting. City Manager Reid Silverboard said alcohol containers larger than four
gallons would no longer be allowed on the city’s beaches and parks. He also said that special permits would be issued for public events serving alcohol on the beach. The ban on kegs was a welcomed move by some
residents who have complained of trash left on the beaches after parties and of the inappropriate behavior of revelers.

Resident Kevin Johnson said the ban on kegs on the beach would reduce public drinking and discourage indecent behavior, such as public urination. Another resident, John Fore, said the ordinance would be ineffective because the rules and regulations posted on signage by public beach access points are not enforced. “I can never recall seeing a keg on the beach. Kegs on the beach is not a problem,” Fore said.

Higher millage rate for the fiscal year

In a 4-1 vote, the commission approved the final millage rate of 2.6868 for the fiscal year 2009-2010, up from the previous year’s rate of 2.4999. The reason for the millage rate increase is to finance the general fund, saidMayor Robert Minning. Commissioner Ed Gayton did not support the proposed millage increase and said the city should have looked into ways to save money.

“We haven’t looked at decreasing the fire department or other essential services,” Commissioner Gayton said. “I don’t think this is the time to increase our fund balance.”

Commissioner Gayton said he was concerned that when property values go back up the current millage rate will not decrease. “I don’t see any reason to increase the millage rate. We are not looking to lay off any police officers. In fact we added to our police force with a special officer on Sunset Beach, a community policeofficer for $65,000 which brings the number of police officers to 20,” he said.

Resident John Fore complimented Commissioner Gayton for his effort to save the taxpayers’ money. He said that the millage increase is essentially a tax increase and said the city should not raise taxes at this time.

“Well, in my way of thinking, an increase in the tax rate results in an increase in taxes, both in the present and in future years when property values again begin to rise.”

Fore said the city should look into other options, including reducing its personnel and programs.

“I have no idea what the total adverse effect this tax increase will have on the economic health of this city at this time, but for sure, it does not help it. Or maybe the commission believes that Treasure Island, like
Fargo, N.D., is just not participating in this recession,” Fore said.

Resident Kevin Johnson objected that the city had combined the fire department and police department’s annual budgets under public safety instead of breaking down each department’s budget individually as other
beach communities have done.

“I guess the average taxpayer would like to see what their fire department and police department cost them,” he said.

City Manager Reid Silverboard said the recommended budget for the police department is $2,776, 383 and $1,356,803 for the fire department.

Mayor Minning said the city had organized six workshops to determine the millage rate, stating that the “budget is fair.”

Stormwater utility rate increased by 10 percent

In a 4-1 decision, the commission approved a stormwater utility rate increase. Vice Mayor Phil Collins said it was a “one cent per day” increase that will generate $32,000. According to City Manager Reid Silverboard, the rate increase is needed because the stormwater utility fund is depleted.

Commissioner Carol Coward said that the rate increase would not affect residents.

“This is grant money and does not come from our pocket,” she said.

Child Inspires Volunteers To Help Clearwater Marine Aquarium

CLEARWATER – Even as the tough economy has led many organizations to scale back their donations to nonprofits, a little girl has found a way to help a good cause. After a visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium,
12-year-old Nicole Crews was determined to help the marine life rehabilitation center make repairs to its aging facility.

“When I came to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium I saw it needed a lot of work. I asked them how we can help them out and make CMA look better,” Nicole said.

Her father, Steven Crews, works with the Merchandise Execution Team at Home Depot in Orlando and convinced the corporation to fund the much-needed repairs at CMA.

“Home Depot is giving back to the community,” Steven Crews said. “We are trying to make things better for the community. Not only the stores in the Tampa Bay area but all the stores donate money for projects like this.”

During their day off, Nicole and her father, and about 50 staff from Home Depot and CMA, volunteered their time to make the repairs on Sept. 19. They repaired an outdoor shed, pulled up dead grass, spray-painted new lines in the parking lot, fixed the roof, and renovated the otter exhibit. Charlotte Pardoz is captain of Team Depot, Home Depot’s associate volunteer program in Clearwater. “We are here for a worthy cause and this is a great place,” she said. “People love animals and they come out and help us.”

Jeni Hatter, director of media relations at CMA, also volunteered her time to the project.

“We are all working together. It just warms my heart to look around and see what these people are doing on their day off,” Hatter said. “I am always impressed with all of our volunteers. But these people have full time
jobs and come here to volunteer on their day off. It’s a perfect example of companies helping each other out.”

Home Depot donated around $7,000 for the project, Steven Crews said.

“Every time I talk about this organization, I get goose bumps,” he said. “If you come here, you get the feel of appreciation. You get to see how hard people work here to make a difference in conservation and the lives of the animals.”

Gardens For A Better Future

Updated: Tuesday, 02 Jun 2009, 4:50 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 02 Jun 2009, 4:42 PM EDT

Andrea Lypka/MyFoxTampaBay

ST. PETERSBURG - Community gardens may reduce or even stop crimes in neighborhoods, some local gardeners say.

On a warm Saturday morning, they gathered to clean up and weed a community garden in a neighborhood where sirens and gunshots have been the norm recently.

The site at Bartlett Community Garden was empty two years ago, but now native Florida plants and vegetables flourish on the leased lot under the care of some dedicated gardeners. They grow habanero peppers, jalapeños, and cherry tomatoes, among many other vegetables.

They also hope to weed out the violence that has plagued the area.

"When people see a 'Paris Garden' I want them to remember Paris but I also want them to remember how we can do better for this neighborhood to change and stop the violence," said Andrea Hildebran, founder of the community garden.

Hildrebran is referring to Paris Whitehead-Hamilton, the 8-year-old girl killed in a drive-by shooting in April. Hildebran plans to build more gardens in the neighborhood in the memory of the little girl.

"Having a 'Paris Garden' in Bartlett Park is a memorial for the little girl," Hildebran said. "Her death was also a point when a lot of people decided to make a difference in the community. I want to keep that alive."


A college student, a community nurse, an owner of a bookstore in Tampa, an organic chef, and other community members are among those who have come together to share tips about organic gardening and healthy. From the existing 44 gardening plots, 10 plots are still available.

To garden here, the members need to pick out a 50 square foot plot and pay $3 monthly or a $25 yearly membership fee. For a $100, members can have a plot for a lifetime, said Angie Honda, coordinator for the garden.

"We are raising money to buy the land because we want the land to stay as a resource for the community," said Honda, who spreads mulch on the garden plot.

Honda's inspiration is her itinerant organic farmer sister, who lives in different places during the growing season. During the winter, she lives in a house in Springfield, IL and prepares plants for the growing season. In the growing season, she moves to North Carolina to an organic mountain farm.

"She lives off the cash economy, she does not work for money, she barters, and she doesn't use electricity, except if it is solar generated, and she uses water from the mountains," Honda said.

Gardening is a trade-off for Honda and an escape from her mundane job.

"I think humans have a real connection with the soil. I work in a cubicle. The garden helps me stay sane and get out of the everyday habits," Honda said.

Bartlett Park Community Garden is the dream of one woman who sees it as a way to bring the community together.

Andrea Hildebran planted this idea in other gardeners’ heads. Since she opened the organic garden in March 1, 2008, more and more locals ask her for plants and gardening advice.

"We built this garden in hope of bringing people together, creating a different atmosphere in the neighborhood. I think it is working, but more needs to be done," she said.

She is also president of Green Florida, an organization that builds community gardens in the neighborhood.

"I love having a place where people can come. It's exciting to see folks approaching gardening from different perspectives, and you can only do that with a location where people can come and garden together," Hildebran said.

Volunteers and local gardeners keep the garden alive. Some of the youngest gardeners are 6-year-old Abby M. Brown and her 9-year-old brother R.J. Rufus. They ride their bikes to the garden, and they say they like to come there because it's fun.

"I like the raking. I like tomatoes the best. I am gardening tomatoes right there," Abby said.

Rufus says that rather than purchasing produce from the store, he prefers to grow his own vegetables because they stay fresh longer.

"We planted tomatoes and peppers with my father," Rufus said. "And I will also plant orange and mango trees."

The kids also planted a mandarin-orange tree in honor of Paris Hamilton.

Angie Honda says for some children, the harvests are an eye-opening experience.

"Some children who come to the garden believe that Publix created the food behind the counter," Honda said. "When they pull the first carrot out of the ground, they eat it."


The gardens are a lifeline for those who opt for a healthier diet on a shoestring budget.

People buy plots and start to garden from different reasons.

"I lost my house in a divorce and I wanted to dig in the ground," said Tom Elman. He found out about the garden on the Saturday Market in St. Petersburg.

"I recently harvested one of the best cucumbers I had in years," he said. "I got some cherry tomatoes and bok choy last week. I am having a great time here, and it gives me an opportunity to do some volunteer work."

Elman, an acupuncture specialist by profession, joined the garden three months ago.

"Once it gets too hot for tomatoes, I plan to grow some herbs because they are more heat tolerant," he said.

Most of the time, the actual gardening takes him about 20 minutes of work weekly. He then spreads mulch to ensure the soil's moisture, talks to people about gardening or repairs the irrigation.

"We are lucky here to have the drip irrigation system, so we don't need to water the plants," he said.

Elman then comes out once a week to weed and harvest the ripe vegetables.

"You can see that aphids that collect around the new growth of the plant," said Darden Rice, showing the small, plant-eating insects on the milkweed, a butterfly plant on her plot. "If you look under the leaves, you see a ladybug that is a natural predator of the aphids. If you don't use pesticides and you let nature take its course, a couple of ladybugs will keep the aphid population in check."

As nature has its way to heal plants from the aphids, the gardeners hope their work can help heal the community in Bartlett Park.


To participate in the Paris Garden Projects, volunteer or to find out more information about Green Florida, the nonprofit organization behind the community garden visit

Upcoming workshop:
Holistic Healing Through Your Garden
Saturday, June 6th 10:00am - 12:00 pm at the Bartlett Park Community Garden
1443 Highland Street South.

Residents Rally Against Proposed Post Office Closures

ST. PETE BEACH – About 200 concerned citizens gathered on Aug. 25 to support two beach post offices being considered for closure, one in St. Pete Beach and another in Pass-a-Grille, while the U.S. Postal Service weighs consolidating office locations nationwide.

Citizens outside the St. Pete Beach post office held hand-lettered signs with slogans like “Save our post office,” “We need our St. Pete Beach post office” and “We love our post office.”

Resident Barbara Menendez said it would be a shame to close the post office in St. Pete Beach. She has been coming to St. Pete Beach with her family since the 1940s, and has been a resident since 1998. She said the St. Pete Beach post office is the one she uses most often. “We have more people coming to this post office than any other office in the area. It’s a shame if they are going to close it,” she said. Menendez and others have been working to get petitions signed against the possible closure of the two offices in St. Pete Beach.

“I know for a fact that without this full service post office this community will suffer,” Lorraine Huhn said. “While I was gathering signatures on Saturday, I met a couple from Scotland who spent $63 on postal services. You see, other people are impacted, too. This is a collaborative effort.”

Kevin Hing, one of the organizers of the campaign, said a total of 209 petition signatures against the closure of the two post offices had been gathered. “We are here to celebrate our love and support for the post office. Both of these post offices are on the U.S. Postal Service’s list for potential closure,” Hing said. “We are trying
to convey to USPS, to our congressmen and to the public at large why we believe that our post offices need to be saved.”

The closings may affect the whole community, including local businesses, and the tourism industry, organizers say.

Hing said St. Pete Beach, which contributes 20 percent of Pinellas County’s bed tax, a tourism development tax, faces closure of its entire postal capacity. Other communities that contribute less to the tourism economy,
such as Clearwater and St. Petersburg, may lose only two out of 10 offices, Hing said.

“We can’t lose 100 percent of our postal capacity,” he said.

“When you look at the bed taxes we pay, we are number three in the state. We don’t just lose this post office. We can lose everything. And people here don’t deserve that. This post office is more crowded than the one on 22nd Avenue. The city depends on this post office,“ said Commissioner Al Halpern.

Organizers say the closing of the two offices could also pose a hardship for elderly residents who may not be able to visit post offices in St. Petersburg. “We have a lot of people here who don’t drive well or should not drive. They have to have nearby postal services to handle their postal needs,” Commissioner Beverly Garnett said.

St. Pete Beach post office personnel declined to comment about the possible closures. Gary Sawtelle of the USPS in Tampa said there are no plans yet to close down the two post offices on the beach. He said
closures are determined through a review on a case-by-case basis, considering factors such as “service standards, cost savings, customer access, real estate values, impact on employees, and long-term needs of the Postal Service.”

“We are currently evaluating our district 15 postal offices for possible consolidation. But they haven’t been identified for closure,” Sawtelle said. “If the station or branch is ultimately selected, the operation would be
consolidated with a nearby postal facility, not closed.”

The reason for the consolidation of the post offices is a decrease in mail volume and window transactions.

“For 2008, these factors resulted in a mail volume loss of 9.5 billion pieces, or 4.5 percent. The original outlook for 2009 was an additional volume decline of 8 billion pieces; however it now appears volume decline for
this year may exceed 20 billion pieces. We receive no tax dollars for our operations and rely on postage for our revenues. The result is a potential revenue shortfall of $7 billion for 2009,” Sawtelle said.

In addition to the St. Pete Beach and Passa-Grille locations, 13 other offices may be shut down in the Tampa Bay area. Sawtelle said he expected evaluation of those offices to be completed within 30 to 60 days and if one of the offices is identified for closure, customers will be notified.

Treasure Island Update

TREASURE ISLAND – In light of recent public outcry against partygoers on Sunset Beach, a resident spoke out at the city commission meeting on July 21, demanding a response to the parking problems and issues related to alleged underage drinking and public intoxication.

Mary Daughtry asked the commission to look into how other beach communities deal with such issues. She said she has heard a lot of “misinformation” and wanted to know about the possible overtime work the police provided, the efficiency of the police on Sunset Beach, the number of tickets issued for public intoxication and more.

“How much over budget is our police department so far through the end of July? What other departments are incurring overtime or additional costs on what’s going on Sunset Beach? How many vehicles have actually been towed on Sunset Beach where we are not able to get emergency vehicles down the road because of the way these cars have been parked?” she asked.

Mayor Bob Minning said a special workshop would be held Wednesday, Aug. 5 to discuss solutions on crowd control and parking issues on Sunset Beach.

Two major events are scheduled

The commission approved the dates and locations for two major events. The American Cancer Society’s major fundraiser event, Relay for Life 2010, will be held on the beach at Gulf Boulevard and 104th Avenue on April 16 and 17, 2010. The Sanding Ovations Master Sand Classic event will be held Nov. 20-22. This event will benefit the Treasure Island Chamber of Commerce and the city will keep the profit from the parking fees, Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Hayduke said. The chamber of commerce will move the New Year’s Eve fireworks
to this event because of some residents’ complaints about late fireworks.

Resident Pam MacIntyre wanted to know the time of the events. “I have a lot of elderly neighbors. A prior event woke them up and they thought they heard gunshots,” she said.

Hayduke said the fireworks will start earlier this year and will be followed by a concert. The event will wrap up at 10 p.m. to accommodate the requests of residents who are bothered by late fireworks.

Parking pay stations to be installed

Public Works Director Jim Murphy said one way to increase city revenues would be to install additional parking meters on 101st, 102nd, 103rd and 123rd Avenues and at 7925 Gulf Blvd. He recommended setting an hourly parking rate of $1.50 for the community center, the 104th Avenue parking lots and the West Gulf Boulevard
lots 2 and 3. He said the installation of the additional parking meters would cost the city $94,000.

Commissioner Carol Coward asked whether collecting the money from the meters and writing tickets was being handled effectively.

“We are doing the best we can right now,” City Manager Silverboard said. “At this time, I don’t want to recommend hiring another person.”

Belleair Beach Addresses Harrison Avenue Bridge Options

BELLEAIR BEACH — The Belleair Beach City Council discussed the weakened condition of the Harrison Avenue Bridge and reviewed the bridge inspection report, design options and engineering costs associated with this project at the Dec. 18 meeting.

Daniel Teal, vice president of Volkert & Associates, said that based on inspections conducted in 2006 and 2008, the bridge “is structurally deficient” and in need of major reparations. According to the bridge inspection report, the beams and abutments of the bridge require major repairs within a timely manner. Teal recommended the south portion of the bridge be removed during construction to create a single traffic lane. He also advised the city to either replace the sheet pile abutments with new bulkhead or repair the current abutment.

“The Harrison Avenue Bridge is in poor condition and it needs to be replaced,” Reuben Clarson of Reuben Clarson Consulting told the Barrier Islands Gazette. The city appointed the engineer to develop design options for the bridge. He reviewed three alternatives for the repair of the small bridge at the meeting. The first option includes the removal of half of the bridge and the installation of a new vinyl sheet pile wall in front of the existing seawall under the bridge. The second and third alternatives consist of sheeting and dewatering of the area under the bridge for excavation, the installation of a pile-supported concrete floor, poured pedestal walls and sidewalls. The third option involves construction of a bridge deck and approach slabs on each side of the bridge. While the first two options are more cost-effective with a ballpark cost of $290,000, the approximate price for the third alternative is $345,000.

“The intent is not to encroach upon the waterway underneath the bridge but to replace the bridge structure that you drive across. There will be a new seawall behind the existing seawall as well as pilings that will support the load of the bridge,” Clarson said.

The design fee for the project is $19,000 with $15,000 due on delivery of the preliminary plans in late January.
The remainder of the balance is due on receipt of the final set of plans in February. Oversight of the construction is $42,500. Helping the commission with the Request for Proposals (RFP) will add another $900 to the balance due, bringing the total cost of Clarson’s services to $61,500.

Several council members questioned the construction fees.

Council member Kathy Mortenson said she hopes the RFP fee can be capped and reduced to that of 12-15 percent of the cost of the project. “We do have to watch the budget,” Vice Mayor Stan Sofer added.

Council member Richard Crowl requested clarifications regarding the $19,000 fee for the engineering design and council ultimately entered an agreement that pays Clarson an hourly rate for his work.

Repairs of the bridge may take three to four months to complete after city council approves the plans.

In Honor Of The Fallen Heroes

June 1 – 15, 2009

ST. PETE BEACH – On Memorial Day at American Legion Long Key Post 305 in St. Pete Beach, a round of applause welcomed retired, former and current U.S. Army personnel.

About 70 visitors, guests and friends honored the memory of men and women in the armed forces who gave their lives so that we may live in freedom.

After the Pledge of Allegiance and a rendition of America the Beautiful led by the secretary of the auxiliary, Master of Ceremonies Marilyn Kerin and Chaplain Bill Howard welcomed guests. Attendees included Terri Finnerty (wife of St. Pete Beach Mayor Mike Finnerty), St. Pete Beach Commissioner Christopher Leonard, Auxiliary President Dee Bell, Post Commander Joe Capri and others.

Reverend Father Hayden Crawford from St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in St. Pete Beach provided the benediction followed by the laying of a wreath accompanied by a bagpipe selection.

Guest speaker of the ceremony was Lt. Col. Michael Howard who serves as Chief of Counterintelligence and Human Intelligent Division on the staff of the United States Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base. Lt. Col. Howard deployed to Iraq in 2007 where he commanded Special Investigation Expeditionary Detachment 2410 at Kirkuk Regional Air Base.

“Under his command, his detachment conducted counter threat operations in the vicinity of Kirkuk, capturing 60 insurgents guilty of committing murder, intimidation, extortion, kidnapping and other crimes against Iraqi citizens, Iraqi police and coalition forces. His unit also carried out humanitarian service, providing school supplies to over 900 Iraqi children in desperate need. His unit’s effective counterinsurgency operations made great contributions to Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Chaplain Howard said.

“Memorial Day is a day to remember,” USAF Lt. Col. Howard said. He also honored the memory of two special agents, Ryan Balmer and Matthew Kuglics killed by a roadside bomb in Kirkuk, Iraq on June 5, 2007. “These two magnificent agents were the best of the Air Force’s battlefield airmen. One way of honoring them was to identify and capture those who were responsible. The great cause of liberty requires deep commitment. Sometimes to remember means more than merely recalling from memory, but to cherish the memory as a
precious possession. We cherish the legacy of liberty, faith in God and in the country and the foundation for prosperity. We are in the company of several such people whose service in sacrificing in past conflicts deserves our recognition. We are here today to memorialize and to commemorate all those who bared the burdens with us and for us. But unlike us they were called upon by the divine will to make the ultimate sacrifice. As we keep their memory alive may we contemplate Abraham Lincoln’s message in that great Gettysburg’s Address – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave their last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

Volunteers sought for Relay for Life of the Gulf Beaches

July 15 – 31, 2009

By Andrea Lypka

TREASURE ISLAND – The American Cancer Society is looking for volunteers for a major fundraising event, Relay for Life of the Gulf Beaches, to be held on the beach in Treasure Island on April 16 – 17, 2010.

ACS Community Representative Christine Hartman held a Leadership Luncheon at Sloppy Joe’s restaurant on Treasure Island on July 9 to inform community leaders about the fundraiser. She said she would like to recruit 20 people to fill committee member positions for the event.

“We are anxiously recruiting committee members to help make this the best Relay for Life event in Pinellas County,” Hartman said. The 18-hour event raises money to support advocacy, education, research and services for cancer patients and their caregivers. She said more than 11,000 people in the Suncoast area are diagnosed with cancer each year.

“We want to make sure that we have the funds to help continue with the programs and services to support cancer survivors and their families,” she said.

“I have talked to many people and there is a wealth of enthusiasm on the beaches for this event,” Hartman said. “I encourage and welcome anyone who can help in any way, whether that person is interested in forming a team, wants to sponsor the event or would like to share ideas.”

The ideal committee member is “anyone who has the time and desire for the fight against cancer,” she said. “These committee members are key to the success of this event.”

Hartman said the goal is to raise $35,000 next year during the Relay for Life of the Gulf Beaches. Many sponsorship opportunities are also available to businesses and organizations, she said.

A highlight of the event is to honor survivors and caregivers. During the Luminaria Ceremony of Hope, illuminated bags will be handed out to participants in the evening to remember those who have lost
the battle with cancer and to honor those who are currently fighting.

Last year, nine teams participated in the Relay for Life of the Gulf Beaches, raising $16,000, of which the City of Treasure Island’s Team II raised $4,000, Hartman said.

“This event was very strong in the area a couple of years ago but then it lost some of its support. It made a comeback last year,” she said.

Hartman said she has been working at the American Cancer Society for 6 months and would like to reach out to the beach community.

“I always had it in my heart to work for a non-profit organization,” she said.

For more information, go to http://www. or call 1-800-ACS-2345 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            1-800-ACS-2345      end_of_the_skype_highlighting. For more information about the event or to join the committee, contact Christine Hartman, Community Representative at christine., or call (727) 812-7026 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (727) 812-7026      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

Public Anger At Partygoers Is On The Rise

July 15 – 31, 2009

By Andrea Lypka

TREASURE ISLAND – At the City Commission meeting on July 7, some residents and business owners complained that Treasure Island becomes “Trash Island” every weekend.

St. Petersburg Lion’s Club Treasurer and Board member Danny Beauchesne spoke up against drinking on the beach. He showed “before and after” pictures with bottles, kegs and coolers left on the beach as evidence.

“It seems like every Saturday there is a huge party in front of our clubhouse,” he said. “After the City of Treasure Island proposed the no-drinking ordinance on the beach and the vote did not pass, it seems the beach destruction has doubled. Not only have the kids multiplied so has their outrageous behavior,” Beauchesne said. “They are not even giving us access to the beach.”

“A young lady who could not have been more than 18 was drinking a bottle of vodka a foot away from my son and proceeds to fall down and pass out. The incidents on Saturday alone brought the fire department and rescue out to the beach four times,” Beauchesne said. “What is this costing our taxpayers?”

Kevin Johnson brought a bag of garbage he picked up following the Fourth of July festivities, which included fireworks, bottles, beer cans and cigarette butts.

“We are dumbfounded by the lack of concern by the city as well as the police department in regard to this problem,” Johnson said.

James Goostree, however, said he was tired of residents complaining about the littering and drinking on the beach.

“Leave Treasure Island open so businesses can make a living,” Goostree said. “We need business here. Half of downtown is vacant. The homeowners who live in that area knew on the day when they bought the property that Caddy’s, Ka’ Tiki and the Lion’s Club were there.”

“We need to have people coming to the beaches,” Janie Hermann said, adding that she was not bothered by anyone while she celebrated Independence Day at the Lion’s Club.

Business owner Diana Busboom said that the mayhem has made its way right up to her doorstep.

“We had urination on our yard, we have people pull up in front of the mailbox and urinate on that,” Busboom said. “We’re leaving. We said this was the last straw.”

Among the options some suggested were an alcohol ban, a fireworks ban, more neighborhood watch and limiting the size of coolers allowed on the beach. Others suggested better policing and reinforcement of laws against public urination and underage drinking were possible solutions.

Tony Amico, owner of Caddy’s, said the beach near his restaurant is safe because he has hired security. He said he cleans the beach and makes sure it stays safe, but said he has no authority outside his business.

“Caddy’s doesn’t benefit from the drinking, we just spend more time cleaning up the beach,” Amico said.

Amico proposed restricting drinking to the beach behind his business where he has control.

“There are two sides to the story,” Mayor Robert Minning said, citing a police report stating that between spring break and Fourth of July the number of violations on the beach had decreased.

Commissioner Carol Coward asked residents to help the city with ideas and come up with “reasonable solutions” at a future workshop.

“We can’t do it without you cooperating with us,” Commissioner Coward said.


Clearwater Marine Aquarium hosts Fourth of July celebration

Barrier Islands Gazette
July 15 – 31, 2009

By Andrea Lypka

CLEARWATER – Children and their families packed into the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on July 4 to partake in CMA’s first-ever Fourth of July celebration.

The aquarium’s dolphin performers treated spectators to an Independence Day-themed show, leaping from the water to reach a red, white and blue ball and wearing a holiday-inspired hat. Some of the dolphins had stars painted on their tails. The performers were rewarded with fish and praise.

“We wanted to do something fun for the kids because the Fourth of July is a family-type of celebration,” CMA’s Jeni Hatter said. “We also wanted to involve the whole community because it is such an important holiday in American history.”

Six children, Sierra Klein (11), Brenna Jenkins (9), Lauren Poulin (15), Zoe Gallagher (6), Hannah Foster (14), and Jesse Perdomo (12) were finalists in an essay contest about the meaning of Independence Day. They were invited to read their essays to the audience.

Six winners were selected from six entries. “It was fair and fun,” Hatter said. “We let everybody win because of the fun, collective idea of this event.”

The children were given exclusive photoops with the aquarium’s dolphins, Winter, Panama, Indy and Nicholas, and had the opportunity to be part of the dolphin show. Besides sharing their essays, the winners heard stories about the rescue of the four Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins who have since found a permanent home at CMA. Some of the children went home with presents, including a stuffed Winter toy.

The grand prize winner was Sierra Klein from Tampa, a student at Pinellas County Jewish Day School in Clearwater.

“This day is special to me because it means freedom and pride,” Klein said.

“Fireworks in the air, July summer heat, the ice cream man going by, that’s America to me,” she said, reading from her essay.

“It means having a newspaper where you can write whatever you want. And it means being able to say whatever you want and not being thrown in jail because of your opinion,” Klein said.

She said the CMA is one of her favorite places to come because of the educational opportunities it offers.

Another winner, Brenna Jenkins, a Bay Crest Elementary student from Largo, said Indepence Day represents freedom of expression.

“I can worship whom I want and it gives me an opportunity to speak my mind, and as long as it is not against the laws, I can follow my heart and dreams,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said she found out about the contest from her father. She wrote the essay on her own in one day, she said.

“The next day my Dad and I checked on it to make sure all the punctuation was good. I changed it around and I submitted it,” Jenkins said.

She said the grand prize, a one-week free admission to summer camp at CMA, motivated her to write the essay. “I went to CMA summer camp last summer and I liked it a lot,” she said. “I liked what I did last year and
I want to do it this year, too.”

After the presentations, Jenkins said she was anxious to see how the aquarium’s animals were growing.

Even though she pet Winter twice and Panama once, Jenkins says she wanted to pet Nicholas, a dolphin rescued on Christmas Eve in 2002. Jenkins says she even got to pet one of the sea turtles when she was on volunteer sea turtle watch at CMA previously.

“We had to stick our hands in the water with a thermometer to make sure the water temperature is good for the sea turtles so they don’t die,” Jenkins said.

The first 100 guests received a special gift: reprints from a patriotic painting called “Stars and Stripes,” painted by none other than Winter the dolphin.

“It is a fun family event. That was the whole point of it,” Hatter said. “Even though I’m at work now, I work at an aquarium. It really doesn’t get much better that that. I would do something similar with my family anyway, so I am happy to be here today.”

Tarpon Rodeo Benefits Tampa Bay Watch

Barrier Islands Gazette
July 1 – 15, 2009

By Andrea Lypka

TIERRA VERDE – Anglers headed out June 20 for the fourth annual Ed Alber Tarpon Rodeo. The event, which had angler’s fishing their favorite spots throughout Tampa Bay to one mile off-shore, is Tampa Bay’s first all-release tarpon tournament.

The event benefited Tampa Bay Watch, an environmental non-profit organization that protects and restores marine and wetland habitat around Tampa Bay.

“The Ed Alber Tarpon Rodeo helps to sponsor our habitat restoration program but we are also able to promote resources like tarpon and shark, and show people how critically important they are for the health and recovery of the estuary,” Tampa Bay Watch Director Peter Clark said.

The catch-and-release fishing tournament has been growing during the years, organizers say. A total of 27 boats entered this year’s event, making it the most successful Ed Alber Tarpon Rodeo to date.

Most of the tarpon is caught in June and July in concentrated areas like the Skyway Bridge or Egmont Key, said Steve McCreary from the executive board of directors. He joined the organization 12 years ago because of the programs offered for habitat restoration.

“With this fishing tournament we want to raise awareness about the organization’s programs that recreate and restore marine habitat and educate the community about the environment, McCreary said.

Anglers caught a record number of fish weighing between 120-200 pounds thanks to the strong fishing tide.

“Probably the most fish we have ever had in the four years of the event,” said McCreary.

The winning boats were determinedby the total number of certified photos of tarpon or sharks measuring a minimum of 24 inches.

The event is named after Edwin A. Alber (1955-2006), one of the founding board members of Tampa Bay Watch.

McCreary says that the community can make a difference by becoming involved in the restoration of the bay.

“We are proud of our organization,” McCreary said. “The bay is cleaner today than it was 40 years ago.”

The winners are:

First Place Shark Division: Boat #5 sponsored by Freeloaders Yacht Club. Anglers Mark Mcleod, Stacy Mcleod, Tim Fetter, Marty Elnicki from Boat #5 (with 9 releases);

First Place in Tarpon Division: Boat # 20 sponsored by Larry Weiner and Yvonne Grimm. Anglers: Larry Weiner, Larry Mastry, Jeff Mastry, Chris Sutton (with 6 releases);

Second Place Tarpon Division: Boat #6 sponsored by A & S Construction Anglers: Mark Rubio, Al Willis, Tom Zack, Pat Colvert (with 5 releases);

Third Place Tarpon Division: Boat #7 sponsored by Gilchrist Club. Anglers; Leiza Fitzgerald, Richard Brubaker, Brad Matz, Steve Habryl (with 2 releases).


Young Minds Blossom With School Garden

Barrier Islands Gazette
July 1 – 15, 2009

By Andrea Lypka

CLEARWATER – This summer ESOL (English as a Second Language) students are learning English while gardening in the new edible schoolyard at High Point Elementary in Clearwater. With the help of a teacher
and volunteers, ESOL students gave the schoolyard a manicure. Students and Sustainability Club members at St. Petersburg College layered the soil and placed plants in the edible garden on June 8.

Nancy McClelland teaches more than English in the edible garden. She says her method will increase students’ academic skills and behavior and it will also bring the community together in a multiethnic neighborhood.

“I consider myself a naturalist. I love nature,” she said. “Going out to my garden in my home, it’s like a catharsis.”

She envisions an edible schoolyard garden where all kindergarten through fifth grade children could be involved in learning about gardening and nature.

“It’s going to grow. It is a sustainable long range project,” McClelland said. “We are getting the community involved and that is one of our school improvement goals. The garden will stay here for the kids and the community. At this age you can get kids to love and respect nature. If you can get children to respect nature at this age, they can teach their children, so it goes on and on.”

McClelland said the garden would produce a variety of vegetables, fruits, perennials and annuals, all grown in an ecologically responsible fashion.

“Whether planting, observing, measuring, weighing, journaling, or harvesting, children will become connected to the earth,” McClelland said. “This empowers them and gives them a sense of achievement and ownership.”

Sustainability clubs of St. Petersburg College (SPC), as well as donors, including Gateway Organic Farm, helped McClelland’s idea get rooted. Some even donated papaya seedlings, shrubs, banana trees,
pepper seeds and Florida native plants. She said a teacher would also build a birdbath in the garden.

Eric Stewart, an agriculture student from SPC and volunteer in the schoolyard project, said that teaching the youth about sustainable plants is essential. He also started a community garden nine months ago at the Holiday Lake West Civic Association in Pasco County. His goal is to create a sustainable community in Pasco.

“I am here to build a garden so kids can learn where food comes from. It doesn’t come from a box, it comes from the ground,” Stewart said. “It’s a good learning experience because we understand how nature develops and how nature feeds us. Then we can start to appreciate (nature).”

Also known as lasagna gardening, this type of gardening involves laying flat cardboard to kill the grass and create a spongy planting medium that will absorb and hold water and provide the nutrients needed for the plants. A layer of mulch is spread over the cardboard, followed by potting soil and more mulch. The cardboard is expected to decompose over the summer, and the garden will be ready in September, McClelland said.

“Permaculture gardens are sustainable because they use less water, and no fertilizers or pesticides, reaping five times the food and creating biologically superior communities,” said Robert Segundo, a certified permaculture designer. He says he designed a pest-free living ecosystem at High Point Elementary similar to what Mother Nature would do.

According to Segundo, the philosophy behind so-called “permaculture gardens” is one of working with, rather than against, nature.

“We intermix our plants to keep them from becoming host to pests, and we plant plants that help other plants,” Segundo said. “For instance, dill will bring in wasps that will take away cut worms in our leaf rollers. Ladybugs will eat the aphids from the plants.”

“We will grow beans with almost any other plants because beans provide nitrogen in the soil, (which acts as) food for other plants,” Segundo said. Underneath the tall sunflowers, cucumbers will grow because they prefer the shade. The stems of the sunflowers also form a trellis for the cucumbers to climb up.

Segundo believes that permaculture is about more than just gardening.

“Permaculture is also about volunteering time to help the community. We are trying to keep gardens as localized as possible to take away the carbon footprint,” he said.

According to Segundo, an edible garden should produce continuously and it should produce for future generations.

“I am not only teaching people how to survive but how to survive indefinitely,” Segundo said.

Bark-At-The-Ball Park A Doggone Success

Barrier Islands Gazette
May 1 – 15, 2009

By Andrea Lypka

CLEARWATER – The Humane Society of Pinellas hosted the first of three Bark-at-the-Ball Park events this year
on Sunday, April 19, at Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater. The caninefriendly event allows patrons to watch a live baseball game, run the bases with their four-legged friend and serves as a fundraiser for the Human Society. The event kicked off with the Clearwater Threshers taking on the Tampa Yankees.

Vendors such as Nature’s Select of Tampa Bay, Banfield, The Pet Hospital and Devine Canine and Pawzative Zensation were also on hand.

The Upper Suncoast Dog Training Club of Clearwater put on an agility demonstration and the Ruffable Raffle provided gift baskets for lucky winners.

Russ and Amelia Torrant from Clearwater ran the bases with their two Great Pyrenees dogs, 8-yearold Woofie and 6-year-old True.

“We have been to all the Bark in the Park events. We love our dogs. We bought Woofie from a breeder in Crystal River and we rescued True from the Florida Pyrenees Rescue, “ Amelia said.

“It’s not only an educational event but it’s a great way to celebrate companionship with our animals and it is also a chance to raise some money for our organization,” Human Society Special Events Coordinator Twila Cole said of the event.

Cole said 30 animals were adopted at last year’s event and expects public awareness and adoptions to increase as a result of these events. She brought her bulldog puppy, 7-week-old Zane to the event.

The event’s mascot was 4-year-old Julius, a Silky Terrier. Julius has his own calendar. His owner is Stuart Saltzman of Clearwater Beach. Years ago Saltzman began handing out calendars featuring his dog instead of Christmas cards. He recently partnered with the Human Society for a new calendar featuring 18 photos of Julius wearing a sunhat and shirt at various locations throughout the Tampa Bay area. A portion of the proceeds from each calendar benefits the Human Society, helping it aid thousands of needy animals in the community each year. The calendar is available via the Humane Society.

The Clearwater Threshers beat the Tampa Yankees, 3-1 on this day.

The next Bark-at-the-Ball Park events are slated for June 12 and August 21.


Keep Pinellas Beautiful Honors Volunteers

Barrier Islands Gazette
May 1 – 15, 2009

By Andrea Lypka

ST. PETERSBURG – Keep Pinellas Beautiful rewarded its volunteers at the Third Annual Awards and Recognition Luncheon held April 9.

Executive Director William Sanders of Keep Pinellas Beautiful recognized the exemplary performance of 85 volunteers involved with reducing litter, recycling and improvement of their local communities.

The organization rewarded many volunteers in the Adopt-a-Mile, Adopt-a-Shore, Pinellas Marine Litter Patrol, Annual Countywide Cleanups, Community Cleanups, Diving-for-Trash and Adopt-a-Road programs.

Winners of the Adopt-a-Mile program include Thurgood Marshal Middle School (first place), Pinellas Park High School (second place) and Walsingham Elementary School (third place).

Certificates of Appreciation were provided to the Rotary Club of Seminole Lake for 17 years of service and Boy Scout Troop #355 for 15 years of volunteering.

Andrea Dillon, the Proudlock family and the State Attorney’s Office were recognized for providing 13 years of service.

The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary, Concurrent Technology Corporation and Mary and John Leonard received Certificates of Appreciation for 10 years of support.

The James E. Woods family received the Coordinator’s Award in the Outstanding Adoptee Group.

Lavone Derringer accepted the Adopt-a-Shore Coordinator’s Award on behalf the Sirata Resort.

Frank and CiCi Macauley of Madeira Beach were awarded the Coordinator’s Award for Exceptional Volunteer Service.

Site captains receiving a Certificate of Appreciation for 1-2 years of service to the Annual Countywide Great American and Florida Coastal Cleanups include Giovanna Santiago, Mandy Edmunds, Steve Sutch, Scott Smith, Valerie Lane, Dawn De Santis, Seth Godfrey and Sarah Josus.

Recipients of the Coordinator’s Award for three to four years of service include Andrew Smith, Bob Williams, David White, Dr Craig Holm, Joe Malo, Karen Maldonado, Kathy Koutsoumbaris, Mary Palmer, Peter Cavalli, Steve Collier, Art Gilbert, Ken Wynn, John Vivinetto and Lou Schoutt.

Barbara Stalbird, Debbie Mallory, Karen Malo, Lynn Rives, Robert McWilliams, Sherri Kennedy, Alma Held, Ed Tower, James Tucker and Don Nolan received the Director’s Award for five to 10 years of service.

Steve Ellis, Anne Fogarty (accepted the award on behalf the City of Clearwater), Martha Garcia, Debbi Laramee, Barry Mc Donald, Sarah Josus (received the award on behalf Clearwater Parks and Recreation Department) and Randy Schwab received the President’s Award for 10-12 years of service.

Recipients of the Coordinator’s Award for Community Cleanups include Kathy MacDaniel, Susan Loulkis, Marie Elam, Janet Donegan, Phillip Harris, Charles “Eric” Wilson, Mike Klemme, Mike Witty, Anamarie Riviera and Melissa Harrison.

Jim Igler (Dive Team Leader) received the Diving-for-Trash Coordinator’s Award.

Rev. Jay Sewell received the Rosie Award for Outstanding Community Leader.

William Sanders presented the Rosie Award for Outstanding Volunteer Group 2008 to the Clearwater High School’s Ecology Club. Laura Daley and Shalya Keller representing Clearwater High School said that they are proud to accept the award on behalf their school for the coastal cleanups.

“We do one cleanup each semester,” Daley said. “We have a pretty large number of students that help support our cause. I just enjoy making Clearwater a more beautiful place, keeping it clean and getting
students involved in this at an early age.”

Don Nolan and his wife Betty are from Treasure Island. The Nolans received an environmental award for their monthly beach cleanups. For 10 years the Nolans have spearheaded a beach cleanup every second Saturday of the month.

“We have 20 and sometimes even more participants and we are supported by other organizations, too. We average about 300 pounds of trash a month. We hope to do this activity for another 10 (years),” Don said.

Betty said that the award is important for them.

“It’s a thank you for our effort for the last two years. It means a lot to me because I am trying to keep the environment clean for the future generations, for everybody.”

About 115 people attended the luncheon.

Sponsors of the event include the City of Clearwater, Hands-on Recycling, the City of Indian Rocks Beach, the
City of Redington Shores, the City of Madeira Beach, the City of Largo, AshBitt Environmental and Progress Energy.


Environmental Stewards

Barrier Islands Gazette
May 1 – 15, 2009

By Andrea Lypka
MADEIRA BEACH – When Frank and Cici Macauley participate with the Marine Litter Patrol conducted by Keep Pinellas Beautiful, Cici sits in the bow of the canoe. This makes it easier for her to go into the mangroves to retrieve the trash that has collected there. The Macauleys carry a 10-foot aluminum pole that helps reach
trash under the water and the thicker areas of the mangroves. Keeping a watchful eye for the occasional snake such as the deadly water moccasin, Cici crawls under the mangroves to retrieve trash. They are constantly on the lookout for monofilament fish line of which birds often become tangled. If they see a
tangled bird, they rescue and release it.The Keep Pinellas Beautiful Pinellas Marine Litter Patrol program recruits volunteers with canoes, kayaks and shallow bottom boats to remove litter and debris from the bayous, coastal waterways and mangrove islands in Pinellas County.It is a dirty and sometimes dangerous work they perform.“We get into areas that you would not believe exist in Pinellas County and it is unbelievable that in these remote areas we find everything from shopping carts to toilets,” Frank Macauley said. Even though it sometimes seems that people care less about the environment today than years ago, the Macauleys don’t get discouraged. “Maybe we are making an impression on somebody,” Frank said.Frank is fortunate. His father Frank Sr. and two uncles, Thomas Whipple and Harry Lefebvre, taught him the importance of the environment. He was often reminded to “leave things better than you found them.”Last year during the least tern nesting season Frank and Cici took their 4-year-old neighbor, Ava Cavasos, on chick patrol. Sometimes least terns nest on rooftops and the chicks fall off. Ava learned how to find the
chicks and return them to the nesting area.Both Frank and Cici moved to Pinellas County in 1974. Frank hails from Rhode Island and Cici from Miami. For more than a decade they have guided people through many of the backcountry areas in Florida such as the Ocala National Forest, Myakka State Park Wilderness Area, Cockroach Bay and Everglades National Park.

“We still take people to places that 98 percent of Floridians don’t know, places that will give you a glimpse of the Stone Age,” Frank said.

During a cleanup at Fort DeSoto a giant ray capsized Macauley’s canoe. The canoe was loaded with trash including the dashboard of an automobile. “We were fortunate that we were able to salvage all the trash out of the four feet of water but I never did find my shoe,” CiCi said.

The Macauleys have amassed a log of volunteer hours with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Florida and Pinellas County.

“We try to do the best we can to remove as much litter as possible. I will soon be gone and I hope that I have set a good example and inspired someone to take my place. This is what keeps me going; the only time Cici and I will miss a Keep Pinellas Beautiful cleanup is if we are out of town or ill,” Frank said.

The Macauleys say that once they explain to people about the cleanup, most of them appreciate and even replicate their work.

“If you change one person, it’s an accomplishment,” CiCi said.


A Lifetime Volunteering Has Its Rewards

Barrier Islands Gazette
April 1 – 15, 2009

By Andrea Lypka

MADEIRA BEACH – When her mother took Julie-Eileen McConnell to the Gulf Beaches Public Library in Madeira Beach to volunteer, she had no idea that this library would become her base. Now, almost 30 years later, McConnell is one of the most cherished volunteers of the library, according to circulation manager Stan Silverstein.

“We are lucky to have her, she is a wonderful dimension to our library,” acting director Travis Sherman said. She describes McConnell as the most dedicated volunteer who is actively involved in programming and one who deeply cares for the library. McConnell, a resident of North Redington Beach, has been volunteering at the library for the longest time. She can’t say how many hours she volunteers there because even though she spends eight hours a week at the library, she takes most of her work home. She calls herself a “semi-native” of Florida and says that her parents, Robert C. McConnell and Colleen McConnell, got her into volunteering.

At the age of 16 she was already a volunteer in a retirement home in Washington D.C.

She moved to Florida with her family in 1969 and said her father became an unpaid mayor in Redington Beach from 1971 to 1972. After that, she said, he became a Little League coach and her mother obtained a position on the Gulf Beaches Library’s Board in 1980. She took Julie-Eileen McConnell to the library to shelf and survey work. Later, she got into storytelling to children.

She is involved with programming at the library of which she began participating three and one half years ago with group discussions about 19th century women authors. She is also hosting periodic film programs at the Gulf Beaches Library and plans to do a biography film book series next year about personalities like Marie Curie. Last year she launched the Great Books and Book Events program at the library and Eckerd College. These book events include a book discussion, lunch and film. She went back to school to obtain a master’s
degree in literature from Harrison Middleton University. She is a librarian and involved in children’s programming at Church by the Sea in Madeira Beach. She served as a volunteer and worked in the children’s
department at Pinellas Public Library Cooperative for 10 years and at the Seminole Library for 20 years.

“Gulf Beaches Library has always been my lifelong Shangri-La. There is something enchanting in this library to me,” McConnell said. McConnell will volunteer at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. in April.

Volunteering is more important now than ever because libraries receive fewer funds and are laying workers off across the country. If people have an unfulfilling job, volunteering may bring satisfaction and may even land
them a job, according to McConnell.

“Volunteering makes dreams come true. At the library, I learned so much about gardening, history and about life in general,” she said.

McConnell is sprucing up on her museum background at Eckerd College and taking computer courses because she wants to work part-time. Nevertheless, she will not leave the library.

“The library keeps me going and it has given me opportunities I would not have had otherwise,” she said.

The Gulf Beaches Public Library continues to grow, thanks to the support of five communities including Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, North Redington Beach, Redington Shores and Treasure Island and its volunteers. The library has five volunteers during the summer and 15- 20 volunteers the rest of the year.

Sherman said the library continues to offer programming because of volunteers like McConnell.



The Oracle

Budget cuts limit first-time freshmen

By Andrea Lypka, Correspondent

Published: Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Updated: Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Being a college student just got a little harder — at least for USF’s freshman class.

Statewide budget cuts, which recently trimmed the University’s funding by $50.4 million, have caused USF to limit its first-time student enrollment and raise tuition, making the University experience both more selective and more expensive for freshmen.

Rising cost of an education
USF responded to the loss in funds by increasing tuition across the board and implementing a fee on top of the cost of tuition. The fee, known as differential tuition, is not covered by Bright Futures scholarships.

This makes the cost of a college education roughly 15 percent higher for incoming freshmen and transfer students, but that doesn’t mean those students are forced to pay for the increase entirely out of their pockets for the increase.

The Office of Financial Aid has devoted more of its funding toward providing additional need-based scholarships.

“We didn’t change the pool of resources — we didn’t add to the pot of scholarships,” said Leellen Brigman, associate vice president of enrollment and planning. “We had to increase funding for need-based scholarships because of the increase in tuition in January and in the fall.”

The average tuition cost for full-time, in-state students rose from $3,340 annually to $3,990 annually, said Billie Jo Hamilton, director of the Office of Financial Aid. For out-of-state students, it rose from $16,040 to $16,710.

The Office of Financial Aid receives more than half of the money it awards students from federal state funding, which accounts for about $162 million of the $285 million received, Brigman said.

Most students receive some form of aid
Last year, the University awarded about $267 million in financial aid. The other resources are state funds, institutional scholarships, student loans and funding for work-study programs. Though data are not available on how many students will receive financial aid this year, the University awarded about 48,000 students some form of financial aid last year, Hamilton said.

Most scholarship money does not come from state funds, and some scholarships have increased to supplement higher tuition. For example, scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, a private not-for-profit organization, increased from $10,000 to $12,000 because of tuition increases, said Lisa Rycroft, assistant director of scholarships and high ability. This year, 35 students received this award compared to last year’s 29. It is projected that 40 students will receive this award next year, Brigman said.

“Our goal is to increase the national awards each year,” she said.

USF also slightly increased funding for some need-based scholarships because of raised tuition, she said. Since the University does not have a centralized system for data on all scholarships, grants and financial aid awarded, these data were not available.

Tightening the enrollment cap
Though the University is making changes to supplement tuition increases, it is also restricting the number of students it admits.

“The freshman admission standards did not change from last year, but the Board of Governors told us to cap the freshmen first-time-in-college students,” Brigman said.

This is so the state’s 11 public universities do not admit more students than they have resources available to adequately provide for, she said.

The cap caused the University to be more selective: The average incoming freshman’s GPA for the Tampa campus is 3.72 with an average SAT score of 1148 — compared to last year’s averages of 3.61 and 1133, respectively.

This means the SAT scores increased by 1.3 percent and the average GPA climbed by 2.8 percent.

Despite the restrictions, the University as a whole experienced a slight increase in incoming freshmen — from 3,772 last year to 3,909 for the fall semester, according to the USF Web site.

Honors College faces similar increases
The criteria for acceptance in the Honors College increased as well — to a 3.8 GPA and a 1300 SAT score from 3.7 and 1270.

“We had roughly the same number of students this year as we had last year, even with the higher standards. More and more better students are seeing USF as one of their choices,” said Honors College Dean Stuart Silverman.

Honors students make up about 15 percent of the freshman class, and within the Honors College, these students make up 472 of the approximately 1,800 students. About 85 percent of honors students receive a Bright Futures scholarship, and the other 15 percent are mostly out-of-state students who don’t qualify for Bright Futures or students who have lost their scholarships, Silverman said.

Though the admissions criteria for the Honors College are higher, the admission process is on a case-by-case basis, Silverman said. Sometimes exceptions are made. For example, 25 students this year did not meet the required academic standards, but were admitted based on their achievements in other fields such as volunteering or skills.

Admissions standards in the college are not expected to change unless the financial resources slow down, Silverman said. The Honors College receives its scholarship money from private donations and the University’s scholarship allocation.

The Honors College offers a variety of scholarships with varying requirements. More information on these can be found on its Web site,

For Dialysis Patiens, A Summer Camp Experience

Carlo Posada is preparing to head to summer camp, and it can't come soon enough. "I can't wait to go. It's going to be fun because I hear they have archery, and I am good at archery," the 13 year old says.

Body Found In Water Off Northeast Florida

A body believed to be that of a man who lost hold of his boogie board while in waters off the coast of northeast Florida has been found.

Turbulent Flight Injures Passengers Out Of Miami

A Brazilian jet liner traveling from Miami ran into rough turbulence, injuring 21 people on board. The plane twice went into a sharp dive, slamming people into the ceiling of the cabin, passengers said.

Citizens Watch Over Endangered Sea Turtles

Bruno Falkenstein usually sees the beach well before anyone else shows up. On moonless nights he patrols the sand looking for sea turtle nests.

“It’s fun to be out here early in the morning because you may be lucky enough to see a turtle with phosphorus on her back. It’s a substance that glows in the dark. As the sand is hitting her back, it starts to glow. She looks like a million stars sitting on the beach,” he said.

Firefighters Battle A Blaze And Bees

Firefighters battled a swarm of bees during their fire extinguishing efforts at an older one-story wood frame home in St. Petersburg Tuesday morning. The fire broke out just before 10 o’clock in the 1600 block of 29th Avenue North.

Food Pantries: Donations low, Needs grow

At 9 a.m., at the Beach Community Food Pantry in Indian Rocks Beach, about 15 people waited in line. They are people who have lost jobs, or have run out of unemployment – and all need food. By 10:30 a.m., most of the food was gone.

"We have peanut butter and peanut butter," said volunteer Nancy Hanna. "All the food we get, it's gone for the day."

Local Official Honored For Land Conservation

Brooker Creek Preserve celebrated - National Trails Day by honoring key people who played a mayor role in land conservation and land acquisition in the Bay Area. They also unveiled 22 interpretive and directional signs
along the nature trails throughout the preserve.

Flood Victims Confront Gov. Crist

Governor Charlie Crist visited floodvictims and flood-damaged areas in Daytona Beach Tuesday, and asked President Barack Obama to declare the area a federal disaster zone.

The cost of the damages is estimated to be $50 million, and hundreds are in need of assistance. Crist saw first-hand some people whose lives were turned upside down by the flooding at the Holly Hill Recreation Center, now a service center for flood victims.

And he got an earful.

Locals Fight Back Against Crime Increase

As thieves target more homes and cars in a subdivision in Seffner, residents are fed up and ready to fight back.

Neighbors in the Bloomfield Hills subdivision are tired of being victims.  In just the past two weeks, many of their cars and homes have been targeted by thieves.  It doesn't appear, the criminals are being picky. They've hit cars and trucks, every make and model.

Madeira Beach May Outsource Fire Services

Residents of Madeira Beach may no longer have their own fire department if city leaders have their way.

City Manager W.D. Higginbotham proposed to contract  out for fire rescue services during a city commission workshop Tuesday.

Patients To Feel Pain Of Volunteer Shortage

The St. Petersburg Free Clinic faces a volunteer shortage that they say may affect the health care services they provide for thousands of people every year. The shortage comes at a time when they say the downturn in the economy is causing more people who have lost their jobs and health benefits to seek help at the center.

Costly Prognosis For Failing Bridge - Rehabilitation Runs In The Millions

A new report outlines costly options for repairing and maintaining the Friendship Trail Bridge, and says the costs would only extend the lifespan of the bridge for a limited amount of time.

The Friendship Trail Bridge and fishing pier was closed in December because of major structural flaws. Estimated costs and rehabilitation options for the recreational bridge are more than $10 million, according to the follow-up engineering report by Kisinger Campo & Associates and SDR Engineering Consultants.

Volunteers Give Gift Of Vision - Eye Doctors, Opticians Travel The Globe

Sandra Salas says she makes the blind see. The Lutz optician recently returned from her second trip from South America as part of a team that provided eye care and glasses at no cost for thousands who needed it.