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Front Porch spending starts
By LEONORA LaPETER
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 25, 2000
ST. PETERSBURG -- The state has already begun making the purchases: swim goggles and swim caps for a competitive racing team at McLin swimming pool, concrete for a basketball court at 20th Street Church of Christ and sewing machines for a women's group hoping to attract youngsters to quiltmaking.
The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice earlier this month recommended giving almost $500,000 in Front Porch community revitalization funds to established youth groups in St. Petersburg neighborhoods designated by Gov. Jeb Bush's Front Porch community revitalization program. The grants, ranging from $380 to $40,000, had to be used for equipment, materials, supplies, scholarships and other goods.
Youth organizations had no trouble coming up with needs. The state recommended funding everything from tennis lessons and dance instruction to computer equipment and uniforms for football and basketball teams.
"(The grants) had to address four areas: keeping kids busy, staying in school, living violence-free and getting a job," said L. Faye Jackson, Front Porch's community liaison.
The St. Petersburg community targeted by the Front Porch initiative is bordered by portions of First Avenue S and Fifth Avenue S, 18th Avenue S, Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) Street S and 28th Street S. About 10,000 people live in the 1.6-square-mile area and earn an average income of $6,669.
But the awards recommended by a grant committee still need a nod from the purchasing department at the Department of Juvenile Justice, which is funding the requests for Front Porch. The money must be spent by June 30.
Most of the purchase requests are likely to pass muster, but several among the 67 groups awarded money might find their requests are rejected for some reason, said Timothy Niermann, a district director for the Department of Juvenile Justice.
Still, some groups have already started spending the money.
George B. Smith, executive director of the nonprofit Mount Zion Human Services, said he asked staff at Jordan Park, the public housing complex, to look for 10 kids interested in participating in the organization's King's Kids Summer Kamp at 950 20th St. S.
Smith said the $6,000 his organization received will give the kids, ages 5 to 13, 10 weeks at the camp.
"These are kids who could have ended up possibly being home alone," Smith said.
Other groups are waiting to hear whether the state, which is organizing the purchase of most items, will come through. At the 20th Street Church of Christ, 825 20th St. S, the youth group wants $6,086 to refurbish a basketball court and buy bleachers, a water fountain and a volleyball net.
"This is very much needed," said Larry Collins, youth director and associate minister at the church. "The existing basketball court is very slippery, and the kids don't like playing on it. Sometimes they have to go to another park."
The swim team at the city's McLin swimming pool will get the equipment it needs to remain competitive with swim teams at the city's other five pools if its grant is approved.
St. Petersburg Aquatics asked for $10,445 to buy swimsuits, goggles, swim caps, pool buoys, kickboards, pace clocks and stopwatches.
"Basically what this money will do, it will enable us to have complete funding of competitive swimming at McLin for the first time," said Jack Wells, a board member of St. Petersburg Aquatics.
Aglow International is looking forward to getting $5,000 for three sewing machines and a computer to train youngsters interested in participating in the community quilting initiative.
"It's about quilting, but it's also about communicating with youngsters," said Lottie Bellamy, vice president of administration to the area board for AGLOW International. "It's about resurrecting things that have a cultural and historical value and resurrecting an art that's kind of dwindling away."
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