Afternoon rain drove a crowd of roughly 40 people inside Suncoast Center’s South St. Pete offices for a ceremonial ribbon cutting this past Wednesday, June 10. The event was held to publicly announce Leadership St. Pete’s contributions to Suncoast Center, a 71-year-old nonprofit Pinellas County rehabilitation organization that, in 2014, provided healthy lifestyle services for nearly 30,000 children and adults throughout the area.
“Leadership St. Pete class of 2015 […] thank you so much,” said Suncoast Center Chief Operating Officer Kristin Mathre. “You’ve been inspiring throughout the whole process.”
Leadership St. Pete (LSP), a division of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, is designed to promote and enhance community leadership in St. Petersburg through in-depth introductions to social, economic, business and political issues.
Each year the organization assembles a new class of local volunteers who, in collaboration with each other and sponsors, get to work on a large-scale project that benefits a local nonprofit organization. The 2015 class chose Suncoast Center’s South St. Pete offices, resulting in $10,000 worth of facility renovations.
“[The renovations] basically double the capacity of the [South St. Pete] Suncoast Center,” said a 2015 class member, Canaan McCaslin.
Those renovations consisted of a remodeling and expansion of the facility’s waiting room, which included the addition of windows, as well as the development of an entirely new group family room.
The project’s funding sponsors, who were courted by LSP throughout the class of 2015’s six-month stint of organization, came from local donating individuals and businesses, like John LeBudde and the Reno Downtown Joint, Chuck Prather and the Birchwood, Nathan Stonesypher and Green Bench Brewing, Stephen Schrutt and the Avenue, Walgreens, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the St. Pete Grand Prix.
“We’re going to invite members of the community in,” said Lisa, a Suncoast Center social from inside the newly developed group room. “We’re going to provide parenting education [in here] while we’re doing enrichment activities with the kids, giving them healthy snacks and engaging them in our services in any way that we can.”
South St. Pete’s Suncoast Center branch sits inside a silver chain link fence, is freshly painted white with blue trim and overlooks the intersection of MLK and 22nd Avenue South, across the street from a Walgreens and next door to a busy Mobil gas station that gets a lot of foot traffic.
The location falls within the redevelopment area for St. Petersburg’s Southside Community Redevelopment Plan, a plan devised by both the city and the county to combat blight and poverty throughout the area by using annual property-tax-hike-dollars to kick-start various privately invested redevelopment projects.
Suncoast Center’s broader goals revolve around three core principles: preventing child abuse, promoting optimal behavioral health, and championing family stability. Some of their more cut-and-dry efforts include youth substance abuse treatment, safe and secure exams for sexual assault victims, finding stable housing and competitive employment for mentally ill adults, and trauma therapy for both adults and children.
“We have stronger relationships with the community than we did to start with,” continued Lisa as she led a tour of the upgraded facility. “Leadership St. Pete really reached out to the community and connected with folks.”
The graduation ceremony for the 2015 LSP class was held last night. Applications for the upcoming LSP class year are usually made available at the end of August. Those over the age of 22 who live or do business in St. Petersburg are welcome to apply.