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Police Athletic League opens new Midtown facility

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

The Grand Opening for a new Police Athletic League in Midtown St. Pete will kick off this Friday at 4 p.m.

After spending more than two years searching for a facility in that community, the 20th Street South Church of Christ offered up one of its buildings to house the program. The new location is at 820 20 Street South.

“It has been the desire of PAL Board of Directors to provide services for children in the midtown area for some time because we know many children from the area struggle to get to our facility at 1450 16th Street North,” said PAL chairman W.G. Spoor.

Midtown is one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and struggles with some of the highest juvenile crime rates in Pinellas County.

“Up until this point, there have been few positive outlets for our youth,” said Larry Collins, associate minister of the church, “By partnering with PAL, the church is helping to build a strong community where residents will want to stay.”

The facility is 7,500 square feet and will provide affordable education programs, after-school activities, summer camps and sports programs for kids and teens as well as mentoring and crime prevention services.

Programs began Monday with a summer camp serving 60 children in the community. After-school programs are set to begin in the fall.

The public is invited to a grand opening celebration at the church’s former sanctuary at 4 p.m. this Friday, June 12. Speakers will include St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Assistant Police Chief James Previtera. The event features activities for youth, including giant oversized games Jenga and Connect Four, an appearance by the Tampa Bay Rays’ mascot Raymond and youth performances by PAL Good Girls Rock.

The city approved $90,000 for costs associated with remodeling and retrofitting the building, including a new roof, repairs to the broken air conditioning system, new paint and fence and a security system.

A sole PAL board member contributed nearly $11,000 for painting, flooring and electrical work.

The service’s first-year operating costs will be covered by a $25,000 matching grant from former PAL board member Terry McCarthy. Other fundraising events will be scheduled to cover costs.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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