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With help, a family comes in off the streets

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

About six months ago, Wells Fargo gave up on a ramshackle house it had taken in a foreclosure action. Rather than try to rehab it or raze it, the bank donated it and $9,500, the estimated amount to flatten the building, to the Florida Dream Center.

After a lot of volunteer sweat and effort, the house became a home Saturday when a homeless mother and her three sons moved in.

But the family’s story doesn’t end there. The house was one step in a longer process that is geared to making sure families will be able to rebuild their lives and become self-sufficient.

In this case, Wells Fargo donated the house and money to the Dream Center. Volunteers from the Dream Center rehabbed the house — upgraded the electrical system, put glass in the windows, installed new siding and new flooring, among other work. The Pinellas County Housing Coalition found the family and will continue to work with them. By the time the family reaches “graduation” from the program, members should be able to pay their bills and buy or rent another house, said Steven Cleveland, the adopt-a-block director for the Dream Center.

This is the first such project the Dream Center has worked within Pinellas. But the Dream Center is no stranger to county officials. Pinellas commissioners are scheduled Tuesday to donate three heavy duty mowers the county no longer needs, valued at about $14,000 total, to the center.

The mowers will be used in the Dream Center’s neighborhood improvement projects in the unincorporated Lealman area and other sections of the county.

“Lealman is our big focal point,” Cleveland said. “We’re all over Lealman.”

Dream Center volunteers can be seen in Lealman neighborhoods each Saturday morning with their adopt-a-block program. The center does whatever is needed — mowing, plumbing, painting, providing new appliances — in a block. While the volunteers expand the program to other blocks, they keep coming back to the blocks they’ve already worked on to make sure residents are still doing well.

They also provide food — 50 to 100 boxes each week on a rotating basis.

“That’s a lot of food,” Cleveland said.

More is needed, Cleveland said, but the center needs more volunteers and other sources of food.

“I can’t promise somebody something and not go through with it,” he said.

Although Lealman has been the group’s focus since November 2014, the Dream Center has done three projects in St. Petersburg and has done projects in the unincorporated High Point area. High Point is generally north of Ulmerton Road, east of Largo and west of Feather Sound.

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