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Walk-a-thon raises cash as well as awareness

The neighborhood, which hasn't had a fundraiser in 10 years, hopes to raise the profile of its civic association.

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 1, 2002


Led by a police escort, a band of sign-toting marchers sent a message to their neighbors Saturday.

They weren't protesters.

They were members of the North Hyde Park Civic Association, which was holding a walk-a-thon to raise money for office supplies and to raise awareness about its fight against drugs and crime.

"We wanted to say, 'Hey, we're here, this association works for you,' " said Reynaldo McQuay, one of 15 residents who participated.

The walk-a-thon, which was followed by a carnival in West Pines Park, was the association's first fundraiser since a spaghetti dinner a decade ago, said Robert Allen, the group's president.

The group raised $1,500, mostly from area businesses, including Kash n' Karry, McDonald's, Fox Dental Laboratory and Ferman Automotive. The money will be used to buy a computer and fax machine.

But Saturday's event wasn't just about money.

The association is waging a constant battle against weedy lots, drug dealers and crime.

At a recent meeting, one resident reported drug peddling in alleys north of Kennedy Boulevard. Tampa police announced the arrest of an alleged drug dealer but said he was back at work after posting bail.

In the middle of the meeting, Allen discovered a man casing vehicles in the parking lot.

Police say North Hyde Park isn't as rough as it was a decade ago, but there is still much to do.

"The elderly are afraid to come out of their doors," said McQuay, a 12-year resident. "We've had a few get robbed in their yards."

The walk-a-thon began at Mount Olive AME Church on Fremont and ended at West Pines Park.

Participants carried poster board signs bearing the names of companies that donated money. Two police cars flashed their lights while Allen honked from his minivan.

"This is serious for me," said Wanda Vinson, a lifelong resident. "It takes hard work to keep a neighborhood beautiful, especially a little village in a rising city."

Vinson began working with the civic association three years ago. Since then, she's convinced her next-door neighbors to help.

"It's a domino effect," she said.

-- Staff writer Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or matus@sptimes.com.

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