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Concert to honor judge, benefit Sanderlin Center

Funds raised by local performers at the Palladium on Sunday will help renovate the center's non-functioning kitchen.


CORRECTION (4/22/01): The following story is incomplete in describing the Juvenile Welfare Board's contributions to the Sanderlin Family Services Center. The Center received a $22,000 grant from the Juvenile Welfare Board to replace some celings, as well as for new carpeting and electrical work.

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2001

ST. PETERSBURG -- A music and dance concert set for Sunday will honor a prominent local civil rights leader and benefit the volunteer service center established in his name.

"In His Honor -- A Tribute to Judge James B. Sanderlin" raises the curtain at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Palladium, 253 Fifth Ave. N. The concert features local performers, including pianist Brent Douglas, singers from Sunstate Opera, and St. Petersburg Festival Ballet dancer Holly Eisengart.

Proceeds from the $15 admission price will go toward renovating the kitchen at Sanderlin Family Services Center. The center has not had a functional kitchen since it opened in 1990.

Sanderlin, Pinellas County's first African-American judge who was appointed by then-Gov. Bob Graham to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, died in 1990. Regarded by black leaders as a quiet but powerful force for change, he is best remembered for leading a 1968 garbage strike that split the city along racial lines. His lawsuit against the Pinellas School Board resulted in a federal desegregation order.

Several independent agencies have outposts at the Sanderlin building at 2335 22nd Ave. S, including Family Resources Inc., Family Service Center, Weed & Seed, and the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. Volunteers offer high-school equivalency courses and free legal counseling. A resource center allows police to do paperwork and interact with neighbors.

The 25,000-square-foot property has weathered incarnations as a retirement home, then housed Pinellas County Alcohol Services before being boarded up in 1985. The four buildings that make up the property were appraised in 2000 at $960,700. The Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg in October 2000 sold the property to the center for $200,000, and granted the money to pay for it over a 10-year period.

A grant from the Juvenile Welfare Board pays for several staff positions but does not cover building renovations, such as recently completed roof repairs prompted by codes investigators, or the $10,000 to $15,000 the center will need to begin work on the kitchen, said director Lounelle Britt.

Britt, 62, a retired social worker, said community support helped keep Sanderlin Family Services Center alive all along and will continue to do so.

"We've had college students, garden clubs, corporations and community agencies out here fixing windows and hauling out trash," she said. "Anybody who could hold a broom, paint or whatever. A lot of them have come because they knew the judge."

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