Florida’s heavy June sun was shining down on the 20th Street Church of Christ in Midtown St. Pete yesterday afternoon, as church ministers and parishioners got together with the community, city officials and the St. Petersburg Police Athletic League (PAL) to celebrate the announcement a new youth facility. For the foreseeable future, the evangelist church’s 750-square-foot former sanctuary will be PAL’s South St. Pete headquarters.
“This is a great day and a great opportunity for the police department,” said assistant police chief James Previtera. “As this program starts and it grows, we hope that [the local community] will see the police officers that serve this area as their advocates and as their friends and as their protectors.”
The PAL board of directors had been looking for a Midtown location for a couple of years. The area’s juvenile crime rate is among the highest in Pinellas County, and PAL’s mission statement revolves around addressing the needs of disadvantaged youth, while also curbing any potential negative involvement they might have with law enforcement.
“Working with those kids who are the most at risk […] is what we’re trying to accomplish here,” said Mayor Rick Kriseman to a crowd of onlookers sitting beneat a shaded pavilion.
So far, PAL has spent $11,000 on remodeling, painting, flooring and electrical work at their new location, most of which was paid for by former a PAL board member, Terry McCarthy, who is also picking up the $25,000 tab for PAL Midtown’s rookie year operating costs, via a matching grant.
Not to be outdone, St. Petersburg City Council approved an additional $90,000 in funding for PAL Midtown this past May. The money will go towards a new roof, air conditioning system, fence, emergency alarm system, and some exterior power washing and painting for the facility.
The revamped facility will feature track and field, wrestling, basketball, and baseball, amongst other athletic endeavors for area kids. PAL Midtown’s range of services will also include addressing gang involvement, discussing good choices versus bad choices, laying out effective goal-setting techniques, and other like initiatives.
“We want to thank God for allowing us to work in partnership with the […] Police Athletic League, the City of St. Pete, and for what all of you have done for our children,” said 20th Street Church of Christ associate minister Larry Collins. “I’m sure that many days after this they’ll say, ‘I thank God that I was a part of the PAL program.'”