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Communities of Seminole

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    Civic duty builds city not seen, but felt

    For decades, residents have gathered for the Pow Wow and other events that reinforce the sense of community.

    By JULIANNE WU

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published July 1, 2001


    photo
    [Times photos: Jill Sagers]
    Trina Watkins, left, chats with James Olliver, middle, and Paul Kaslander during a Seminole Chamber of Commerce mixer at the Barrington. Each year, the 350-member chamber names a Mr. or Ms. Seminole at a banquet, where a person (not necessarily a chamber member) is honored for civic work.

    Before Seminole became a city in 1970, civic involvement already was thriving.

    One of Seminole's biggest events, Pow Wow, began as a chicken dinner in 1967 to raise money for a football stadium at Seminole High School. It was sponsored by the then Seminole Volunteer Fire Department, the Kiwanis Club of Seminole, the Greater Seminole Area Chamber of Commerce and high school boosters.

    Today, Pow Wow is a two-day event that attracts about 15,000 people and earns money for community projects. The next one will be in March.

    It's not the city's only big civic event.

    Jimmy Johnson, now the chamber's executive director, and other business people organized Kids' Appreciation Day in 1981 to counteract negative publicity surrounding an incident with Seminole youngsters and drugs.

    Now, it is a way to thank and reward children for staying in school. This year it will be Aug. 18 at Seminole City Park.

    Harold "Doc" Kinsey, 64, a retired firefighter, is chairman of both the current Kids' Appreciation Day and Pow Wow 2002. He also is active in Kiwanis and the chamber board and was Mr. Seminole for 1998.

    Then there's the Seminole Stampede, first held in 1994 to mark the completion of the Lake Seminole bridge on 102nd Avenue and again in 1995 to celebrate the opening of Walsingham Park. Now it is one the chamber's major fundraisers.

    photo
    Beth Langebrake paints railing in August at the Seminole Vocational Educational Center. The Kiwanis Club member was helping fix up an area used by the club’s program Horses and the Handicapped.

    Perhaps one of the 350-member chamber's most meaningful events is the annual Mr./Ms. Seminole banquet, where a person (not necessarily a chamber member) is honored for cumulative civic work in Seminole.

    Getting the title -- like this year's honoree, Eva Jones, a local massage therapist and longtime community volunteer -- is not only a badge of honor, but a responsibility.

    Jones, 62, will serve as an ambassador of sorts for the chamber until next spring. She is only the fifth woman to receive the honor since 1965.

    "This is one of the most prestigious awards the chamber gives out," said Jimmy Johnson. "When I got it, I was overwhelmed."

    Johnson, 58, a retired Kmart Corp. manager, was Mr. Seminole for 1985.

    The Kiwanis Club of Seminole, though one of several longtime civic organizations still active in Seminole, merits special mention.

    The 40-year-old club which has 45 members -- including at least 10 past presidents -- continues to teach swimming safety to youngsters; runs a program, Horses and the Handicapped for disabled youth; fosters community-service programs for about 150 children in Seminole area schools and conducts other projects.

    photo
    Harold “Doc” Kinsey, a retired firefighter, was Mr. Seminole in 1998. He is active in Kiwanis and the chamber.

    "We would definitely welcome new members," said Bob Sims, 67, a retired Marine and the club's president-elect. "That's why we won't accept anyone's resignation," he joked. "We've got things to do here."

    Sims himself is a former chamber president and Mr. Seminole for 1993.

    Although the Kiwanis Club struggles for members, the chamber signs up new members regularly.

    One of them, Robert Holtzman, 58, not only joined but also got elected to the chamber board in October.

    Although Holtzman, a St. Petersburg financial adviser, hasn't relocated his business or his family to Seminole yet, he hopes to do so soon.

    "I joined this chamber because the people are fantastic, and Seminole reminds me of the neighborhood I grew up in in Brooklyn," he said. "It's growing, but it still retains that small-town feeling."

    - Information from Times files used in this report.

    Communities of Seminole