Sponsored By:

Empowered

Ultimate Medical Academy
Small Nonprofit Award

This award honors the small nonprofit that best demonstrates the truth in statement that “big things come in small packages.” This award will recognize an organization with a budget under $500,000 and despite its modest size, has a major positive impact on our community. A short essay on the organization’s impact was necessary at the time of nomination and are listed below. The top candidates that achieve the most votes via the online poll during the voting period will be further researched by an impartial judging panel to decide the ultimate winner.

Read the essays for each nominee, then cast your vote for this category below.

NOTE: The essays below have not been edited and are presented as originally shared by the author. They may contain grammatical or spelling errors.

Nominees

Visit Website

Bikes For Christ provides bicycles to veterans who are trying to re-establish themselves, underprivileged children, and anyone who is in need and is trying to overcome their current situation. Started in March of 2016, Bikes For Christ has grown into the premier provider of transportation to the homeless and needy. Their work takes them into parts of four counties to help their partner agencies who are working directly with clients in need. These partners range from smaller nonprofits all the way up to Metropolitan Ministries, The Veterans Administration, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, the Children’s Board Family Resource Centers and many more. Their work is in the background, supplying bicycles for the clients these agencies work with, yet is so critical to helping “that person” rise out of their dire situation. The League of American Bicyclists notes, “People who use bicycles know how much opportunity they offer: sometimes a rusty bicycle is the difference between getting to a job site and not working that day” (Pedaling Towards Equity report May 2013). In October 2017, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority eliminated 20 percent of public bus routes serving Hillsborough County, leaving many neighborhoods without access to a bus; prior to this change, Tampa Bay was already considered to have one of the worst public transit systems in the country (Tampa Bay Times, 8/7/2017). In closing, the work of Bikes For Christ is imperative here in the Tampa Bay area. The U.S. Census Bureau observed that families making less than $10,000 per year have the highest rates of “walking” to work of any income group due to lower rates of automobile ownership (U.S. Census Bureau, Modes Less Traveled: Bicycling and Walking to Work in the U.S. 2008-2012). This generally limits educational and occupational opportunities to those found within one’s neighborhood. For many low-income families, a bicycle can be a lifeline; providing access to work, school, and community resources that would otherwise be inaccessible. Our bikes provide an opportunity for someone to find job, work many miles from home and put food on the table for their family 365 days a year!

Visit Website

Some milestones in life are unforgettable: the day you graduate; your wedding day; the birth of your children. We had one of those milestones this year, when in February the Community Food Pantry distributed its 2,000,000th meal! Picture Raymond James stadium – all 65,890 seats. Those 2,000,000 meals would fill each seat 30 times! What makes this so meaningful is that we are just 12 years “young”, and we didn’t reach the 1,000,000 meal mark until 2017. The Community Food Pantry is one of the few client choice pantries in the Tampa Bay area. Our clients shop as they would at their local grocery store for fresh produce, meat, dairy, prepared foods, non-perishable groceries, breads and desserts. Tammy, one of our clients, is a veteran teacher with Hillsborough County Public Schools. She is a single mother trying to keep up with rising costs of rent and other household bills. “With the Community Food Pantry to help put food on the table it has made a big difference. My rent has increased $270 a month over the last few years. I truly do not know where I would have turned. I volunteer at the CFP during the summer as well when I am not teaching to give back to those helping my family.” Tammy is not alone. Even in an area of North Tampa where one would not suspect there is a need, we serve David and his wife who work different shifts so they can care for their daughter who has disabilities. “We have been coming for three years. We do not receive government assistance or help from any family members. Making choices for my family and not being handed a bag of food makes us feel good.” At the Community Food Pantry, serving with dignity means serving each client without regard to race, creed, religion, income or perceived need. Anyone who says they are hungry is served. And, in many cases, we never meet those we serve. We provide weekend food backpacks to 4 local schools and to a women veteran’s temporary housing group. We share with Joshua House, a safe haven for neglected children; McClain, Inc., a group home for persons with developmental disabilities, and Kingdom Kids of Tampa Bay, Inc. One of our prouder moments this year was to answer the plea to assist furloughed federal workers during the government shutdown. We opened our doors for special food distributions just to accommodate federal workers and sent hundreds of Bags of Hope toiletry bags to Tampa International Airport to supplement the food donations taking place there through the United Way and Feeding Tampa Bay. We are a small but mighty force in North Tampa, poised to hit the 3,000,000-meal mark in the Spring of 2020. It’s a great feeling to our hundreds of volunteers to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors. Together we make the community stronger.

Visit Website

Dress for Success Tampa Bay (DFSTB) is one of the longest-running affiliates of Dress for Success Worldwide, an international not-for-profit organization. It was established in 1998 with a mission to empower the women of Tampa Bay to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, development tools, and professional attire to help them thrive in work and in life. Poverty often affects women the most, and its effects on them and their families can be long-lasting. Therefore, addressing women’s needs is central to improving the quality of life for not only that woman but also her family, future generations, and her community. To date, DFSTB has served over 26,000 women with our programs and services to help them reach their full potential. Seventy-five percent of those women lived below the poverty line at the time of service. The goal to offer long-lasting solutions that enable women to break the cycle of poverty drove DFSTB to create a new service in 2017, the Moving Forward Program (MFP). It is designed to support unemployed and under-employed women rise to economic independence by helping them to develop professional skills, accelerate their job search, and build confidence to secure employment. To date, 175 women have successfully completed the program with 50% securing employment post-graduation. The MFP path to employment helped the women improve their quality of life and that of their family while also reducing their reliance on state and local social services. It was recognized that the MFP demographics have changed since the inception of the program with a 30% increase in AARP member participation. In response to the changing demographic, an MFP customized to fit the unique needs of the mature woman while offering the same level and quality of support, is under development. DFSTB believes that offering two distinct programs to better meet the needs of Tampa Bay women will lead to an increased number of MFP participants securing employment while also supporting our vision of a Tampa Bay where women do not live in poverty; are treated with dignity and respect; and are strengthening their families and shaping their communities. DFSTB programs and services could not exist without the wealth of talented and committed volunteers that give so much of their time, effort, and energy to every aspect of DFSTB services and programs. DFSTB has approximately 100 experienced, skilled, and trained active volunteers providing resume writing, interview coaching, career counseling, networking, job retention, career advancement, and professional suiting support to the clients served. In addition to supporting client services and programs, these volunteers provide administrative, merchandising, and event planning support to DFSTB. DFSTB relies completely on the generosity of corporations, small businesses, and individuals of Tampa Bay. Without the support of the donors, sponsors, and volunteers, the Moving Forward Program would not be able to serve the women of Tampa Bay and help them to achieve economic independence.

Visit Website

Feeding Pasco’s Elderly works to ensure that no senior is left forgotten or hungry. Pasco County has nearly over 150,000 seniors, many of which are no longer able-bodied and able to properly take care of their day-to-day needs. 16% of the county’s elderly do not know where there next meal will come from – that is why Feeding Pasco’s Elderly was formed. Based on a mission to ensure that no senior is left forgotten or hungry, a team of dedicated volunteers personally delivers meals to the hungry elderly throughout the county. The organization has no employees, with 100% of the contributions being directly passed through to those who desperately need this vital help. With no employees, Feeding Pasco’s Elderly has served nearly 8 million meals to the hungry elderly throughout the county. Without this program, many hidden and forgotten seniors will be left alone, hungry, and filled with doubt about when they will eat next. That is why I believe Feeding Pasco’s Elderly should be awarded through their efforts to Be More Empowered, as a small nonprofit with a budget under $500,000 that has a major impact.

Visit Website

The Freedom to Walk Foundation changed the course of my young stroke recovery. As one woman’s mission to touch the lives of those who cannot afford the blessings she was once gifted, the Foundation’s president personally gave me the education and information I needed to access the WalkAide, a revolutionary physical rehabilitation device that allows children and adults suffering foot paralysis from stroke, MS, CP or TBI to walk without assistance and even run again. The President and Founder, Mrs. Daisy Vega, runs most of the daily operations on her own. She is truly a role model for others with Multiple Sclerosis as she does not let her illness stop her from her greater mission. I think it is important for the Freedom to Walk Foundation to be nominated because though they have been serving 75,000 Floridians suffering from “foot drop” each year, the need for the WalkAide is nation-wide and as the only non-profit of their kind, the more people who know about them, means more children and adults defying their diagnosis and walking independently again. Thank you for your consideration.

Visit Website

Inspire Equine is a marvelous, well kept facility that has a great heart for those with disabilities and those who need equine therapy to help their lives have value and success. Their grounds are immaculate and include a barn, well lit, paved aisles that are covered with non-slips mats. They have beautiful and large box stalls with each equine therapy mount having their own stall with their own nameplate, fans, thick shavings over the mats, clean buckets, great hay and continuous water. Each horse goes out daily to grass paddocks for playtime and exercise. Inspire helps their students to excel at Special Olympics. They have a great covered arena with all the obstacles for learning and teaching horsemanship. Every student is given special attention to help them have a successful day at the program. The smiles are worth a fortune. Whether they have autism, cerebral palsy, chronic brain injury, a developmental disability or are one of our very special Wounded Warriors, Inspire is there to light their path to success and happiness. Their Director, Melissa Yarbrough, has a heart and a vision to assist people with handicaps learn that they have more skills and value then they could have every imagined. She carefully screens each rider to place them with the mount that best suits them. She has a drIving program to teach those who either can’t ride or desire to learn how to drive horses. Driving can be very rewarding, especially for a person who can’t mount and be astride a horse. She not only teaches her students but enables them to compete in driving competitions. Inspire Equine teaches family values and enables the parents to see smiles and success when many times they felt all hope for advancement for their family member was lost. Equine Therapy can help a child who can not sit up erect to develop the muscles it takes to achieve that goal. The gait of the horse is similar to the gait of the human and riding helps the person to re-develop those muscles that they have lost. The grounds, the bathroom facilities, the tack room, the arena and the paddocks give the feel of a beautiful park. Families ate encouraged by the happiness there, even down to the beautiful flowers on the grounds. Inspire will reach so many hearts and the horses they use become best friends for the children and adults involved. Be it the smells and soft hair for a blind person, feeling the rhythm of stride for those who can’t walk alone, grooming, leading and giving big hugs, Inspire is there. The quietness of the grounds, the magic of the smiles, the warmth of the animals and the tenderness of the teaching, makes a facility what it is. There are few facilities and staff members that can hold a candle to Inspire Equine Program. They are very worthy and are a light in their community.

Visit Website

GFWC North Pinellas Woman’s Club, Inc. is a 100% volunteer-run non-profit 501c3 organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others. A member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (www.gfwc.org), the club boasts an unparalleled breadth of volunteer service across Pinellas County by partnering with and serving over 100 local non-profits in all sectors. Since 2013, our members have volunteered over 120,000 hours, contributed nearly $250,000 of in-kind donations to community charities and donated over $105,000 for local community grants and scholarships. Unique in our breadth of community service, the club supports over 160 community service projects each year throughout Pinellas County. Our 180+ volunteers truly live the volunteer spirit every day by serving the needs of our community in diverse ways. In any given week, members are preparing dinner for 150 homeless at Peace Café in Clearwater, sewing blankets for kids in foster care, cleaning the Pinellas Trail, greeting veterans on Honor Flights at Clearwater/St. Pete airport, educating our teens on dating and healthy relationships, collecting new and gently used children’s books and distributing them to new Habitat for Humanity homeowners, after-school programs, and foster care agencies, and more. Our grants and scholarships make a positive impact in our community. Recent grants have been awarded to Community Dental Clinic for a mobile blood pressure monitor for patients of the free dental clinic, Women on the Way at St. Pete College in Clearwater/St. Petersburg as a scholarship for women with financial needs, Peace Café Clearwater to purchase food for a homeless feeding program, and many more local organizations. The club recently contributed $10,000 to the City of Dunedin for a wheelchair swing at the Edgewater Park playground. Recipients of our volunteerism consistently express gratitude for our service and the best testimony of our impact comes from our long-term partners who continually request that we expand our service footprint and increase our support. For example, our signature Book Fairy program promotes literacy and lifelong learning by collecting and distributing new and gently used children’s books. Recipients include Habitat for Humanity homeowners, health clinics, camps, family centers, classrooms, after-school programs, foster care agencies, parades, and community events. To date, over 25,000 books have been donated. Our Teen Dating 101 program, a powerful program offered at local high schools to elevate awareness about the increasing epidemic of dating violence and to educate, empower and prevent abuse before it starts, has grown significantly over the past few years. Our club, along with community partner Hands Across the Bay, is now in our 12th year at Countryside High School. East Lake High School and Dunedin High School were added in 2019. To date, over 7500 high school students have participated. In recognition of our service, GFWC North Pinellas Woman’s Club has received many honors and awards. We were named “Outstanding GFWC Florida Club of the Year” seven times, including the last four years in a row. Together we are living the volunteer spirit and making a difference in the lives of others.

Visit Website

Heels to Heal is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to helping survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence receive the resources necessary for healing. Heels to Heal provides participants with twelve free counseling sessions. Melissa Mihok founded the organization after her own experience with sexual assault and the lengths she had to go through to find quality counseling and care. Melissa was fortunate enough to have the financial resources and transportation to get to her counseling sessions in Tampa, but she recognized that not everyone is as lucky. After being the victim of a crime, you should not be further victimized by red tape to get the resources you need. Heels to Heal was formed to create easy access to counseling services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. In Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties combined, there are over 13,000 reported cases of domestic violence per year. That is 13,000 people in our community who have had their lives disrupted by violence, most often perpetrated by people they know, trust and love. That is 13,000 people that may be experiencing symptoms of PTSD. That is 13,000 people who have disrupted sleep, nightmares, severe anxiety, and mistrust. On average we provide 200 counseling hours per month with a plan to increase those hours as we grow. The counseling sessions are imperative for survivors to process their trauma, overcome symptoms of PTSD and break the cycles of abuse which benefits not only the individual, but society as a whole. 100% of the participants that complete the program report a reduction in their PTSD symptoms. The participants are able to sleep better, process everyday stresses and begin living their lives again. Heels to Heal is able to provide the counseling sessions through our generous donors, sponsors and community partners. The majority of Heels to Heals’ funding comes from private donors. Heels to Heal: Empowering Victims to Become Survivors.

Visit Website

In the Pink, Boutique Inc. 501(c)(3), located in Downtown Sarasota has been serving Sarasota, Manatee, Pinellas, Charlotte and Desoto counties since its founding in June 2014. In the Pink is a non-profit boutique for women living with cancer. We specialize in post-mastectomy bras and breast prosthesis, as well as post-surgical garments. We offer wigs and head scarves to chemotherapy patients. We fit and provide compression garments for those diagnosed with post-mastectomy lymphedema. We also provide radiation skincare and a range of solutions for those dealing with the physical and emotional effects of the diagnosis and treatment for Cancer. In the Pink works with all major insurance companies to provide coverage for over 3,000 patients in our community. For those without insurance, those who are Medicaid eligible or even those with high-deductibles and co-pays, we donate our products and services. In 2018, In the Pink donated more than $6,000 in medically necessary product to women in our community. So far in 2019, we have donated more than $5,000 in product to 27 women. Not only do we provide the necessary supplies for women during their journey with cancer, we also strive to provide a calm, peaceful, open-hearted and compassionate atmosphere. We provide the space our clients need to simply be, feel and talk about their experience – without judgement, strong opinions or any expectation. Whether losing a breast or one’s hair, a woman’s femininity can take a hit – we are able to ease this transition while emphasizing the temporary nature of the disease. Take a look at some things our clients have to say: Private, peaceful, informative, a blessing. Thank you. – E.G. [Rachel] was very caring and professional and I walked out feeling normal again!! – C.D. This is a wonderful place! The expertise of [Rache] and her calm peaceful presence made my hair loss and wig selection experience a positive thing. She is very knowledgeable and accommodating. – F.L. My mom just got a new wig and bra from [Rachel Armstrong] and she was so kind and patient with my mom…. she was an angel, my mom told me this over and over…so easy to talk to, so sensitive to her needs, telling my mom to take care of herself during this very hard time. Thank you for making her feel so feminine during the chemotherapy, and for being so patient with her. Thanks [Rachel], you are the best! – K.L. In the Pink relies on revenue generated through insurance claims, the sale of items such as t-shirts, skincare products, etc. in the shop, fundraising, and most importantly, our donors. In the Pink could not keep its doors open without our donors and our fundraising efforts. Winning a Be More Award would gain us more recognition, enabling us to continue to provide.

Visit Website

This one of a kind national museum has been operating in the Tampa Bay area for 29 years. Thousands of local residents and tourists have visited the museum or experienced the award-winning traveling show known as the Comedy Time -Tunnel. A history of the evolution of American Comedy from the first comedian to Television. Interns from the local colleges work at the museum and learn all types of skills which can be used to better their career. The traveling show has appeared at most of the senior living facilities and the VA for free or a very low fee. The museum television specials have been shown on national network bringing an appraised publicity value to Tampa Bay in the amount of $1 to $2 million dollars. In 2007 attendance at the museum ws at 227,000. After that, the museum started its traveling shows. This is the first official museum of comedy history for the United States. Four sitting Presidents and even Prs. Nelson Mandela have been part of its program. The President of the Museum gets paid $1.00 per year and states the project is a labor of love because people need to laugh!

Visit Website

In 2016, New Tampa Players saw a need in our Tampa theatre community: diversity and inclusion. As a resident theatre of the University Area CDC, they talked with the University Area residents about what they would like to see on the stage at the UACDC. Residents stressed the importance of children being able to see someone just like them on stage. NTP took that to heart and chose “The Wiz” to be their summer show in the summer of 2017. With a diverse cast of 40, “The Wiz” was a hit. In the fall of 2017, NTP reached out to the LGBTQA community to tell a story that is often forgotten: the story of the making of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Through song, “Quilt: A Musical Celebration” tells the stories of many of the makers of the first squares of the AIDS Memorial Quilt and the loved ones that they lost. New Tampa Players toured the production to four locations in the Tampa Bay area and also presented it at the Florida Theater Conference Play Festival, winning 7 awards. For these two projects, New Tampa Players was honored with a Commendation from the Tampa City Council. Over their next two seasons, New Tampa Players worked to bring more underserved groups into community theatre. In 2018, they produced Annie with a diverse cast of 51. In 2019, they produced The Little Mermaid with a diverse cast of 54. Their largest contribution to diversity and inclusion in Tampa Bay Community Theatre is the Penguin Project. The Penguin Project is a theatre program for children and young adults with special needs. It was created in 2004 by Dr. Andrew Morgan of Peoria, Illinois. In 2018, New Tampa Players became the first replication site for the Penguin Project in Florida. All roles in a Penguin Project production are performed by young artists, children and young adults with special needs. The hallmark of the Penguin Project is that each child is matched with a peer mentor who works with throughout the process. This not only gives the child a chance to be on stage, but it also gives the children and young adults with special needs and their families a chance to build a social network. In April 2019, New Tampa Players produced their first Penguin Project production Aladdin Jr with a cast of 60 to standing ovations. For this effort, New Tampa Players was awarded a Commendation from the Tampa City Council by Councilman Luis Viera at the closing performance. Director of the Penguin Project, Nora Paine, has also been awarded the 2019 Outstanding Community Volunteer Award by the Mayor’s Alliance for Person’s with Disabilities for her work in the Penguin Project. New Tampa Players is giving many in our community a voice on stage and a reflection of their own experience in the audience. New Tampa Players looks for ways to connect with all members of the community in meaningful ways.

Visit Website

The epidemic of youth substance abuse, vaping illnesses, addiction, and substance-related deaths has reached a crisis level. NOPE of Hillsborough works tirelessly every week to diminish the number of overdose deaths through community education, family support, and purposeful advocacy. The team of volunteers delivers high impact presentations to middle and high school students, educating them about the 911 Good Samaritan Act that encourages them to never leave a friend behind. More than 130,000 Hillsborough County students have been empowered with the knowledge that one time of experimenting can kill. Students leave the 50-minute NOPE presentation knowing that they can help break this cycle of selling, buying, and using drugs. They are empowered with confidence to take charge of a situation where alcohol or drugs are involved, knowing that their call to 911 could save a person’s life. Through the NOPE of Hillsborough parent and community presentations, adults are being educated and empowered to take charge of their family’s direction when it comes to substance use and abuse. The NOPE team reminds them of the Florida Social Host Liability Law which directly discourages any parent from thinking it’s okay to allow teens to drink in their home. Adults are educated about trending drugs, various vaping devices, marijuana in both edible and smoke form, and signs of possible substance use by their child. Tips are provided during these adult presentations which empower the attendee to have that important conversation with their child in hopes of saving their family from the drama and heartache associated with addiction. The need for awareness of NARCAN in our community is addressed during the NOPE of Hillsborough presentations. The approach taken empowers all in attendance to understand the use of NARCAN in an opioid overdose situation. Hand-in-hand with this subject of NARCAN comes the desire to erase the shame and stigma attached to the disease of addiction. There is a sense of hope provided by the NOPE presentations in spite of the purposefully blunt and emotional messages shared. Addiction is a treatable disease. NOPE of Hillsborough is proud to offer a community support group. Journey to Healing Hearts is a support group for anyone who has lost a loved one or a friend to any drug or alcohol-related incident. Members come together to share experiences of how they cope with the grief they carry from their loss. The group is non-professional and free to participants. NOPE hosts an annual candlelight vigil every October. This free community event honors those lives lost to a substance-related death, it lifts up those who have lost a loved one to alcohol or drug-related incident, and it provides hope for those still struggling with addiction in their lives. NOPE of Hillsborough strives to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease of addiction so that those suffering may openly seek help. Our community has been vastly impacted on a positive level thanks to the 8+ years of presentations shared with passion and care by this family of volunteers associated with NOPE of Hillsborough.

Visit Website

Our volunteer Security Patrol helps to keep the Crime rate in Sun City Center the lowest in Hillsborough County by continuously Patroling the streets of SCC every 3 hours, 15 hours a day. We operate solely on Donations from the residents of SCC. We purchase our own vehicles and maintain our own dispatch station and headquarters building. To not spend our resident’s money folishly we only have one part employee and members volunteer to do the rest of the administration work that needs to be done.

Visit Website

I am nominating Silly Sock Saturdays because this nonprofit was founded and run by a local teenager and was started almost 3 years ago when he was given an assignment asking how to make a difference in the community. The mission is to bring joy and happiness to kids in hospitals during what could be a very scary time in their lives. Every month for over the past two years he has delivered silly designed socks along with coloring books, toys and other comfort items to children in the local hospitals. There are times when children are in the hospital and don’t have anything, or just need a distraction from what is going on, or just to know that someone cares about them. He takes the time to personalize the gifts into three different age groups as well as to divide by gender to be able to make sure that the children enjoy them. He has been able to make a positive impact on the community and touched the lives of so many children and families as well as the staff and nurses that have such amazing feedback and stories to share about how these gifts are making a difference! As the founder and president of this nonprofit Zachary has also been invited to share his story with other youth in the hopes that they too will be inspired to make a positive impact in their community no matter how big or small or what their age is. Silly Sock Saturdays hopes to continue making deliveries for a long time and being able to continue making a difference to many more children and families!

Visit Website

THE KIND MOUSE PRODUCTIONS, INC., fondly referred to as The Kind Mouse, helps fight food insecurity and chronic child hunger in Pinellas County. Their mission is “To assist families in transition and their chronically hungry children while developing the next generation of volunteers to carry on the mission of The Kind Mouse. No hardworking individual and their family should ever go hungry.” The Kind Mouse provides an essential community service by kindly and quietly serving food, kindness and hope to low- and no-income individuals and families who do not have the financial means to provide for the basic day-to-day needs of their children. Since 2012, The Kind Mouse has filled more than 300,000 hungry tummies in the following ways. MOUSE NIBBLES WEEKEND PACK SACKS – While many children receive free and reduced-price breakfasts and lunches at school, they do not always have reliable access to food on the weekends and evenings. Each Friday, chronically hungry students receive a Mouse Nibbles sack filled with 10-12 healthy snack items that will feed them through the weekend. Kind Mouse volunteers pack 350 or more individual Mouse Nibbles sacks each week. FAMILIES IN TRANSITION – The Kind Mouse provides food, housewares and pet food to families whose wage earner has recently lost their job or is in a career transition. Kind Mouse provides these services for up to 90 days while the wage earner seeks alternate employment. EMERGENCY FOOD – The Kind Mouse provides emergency food to the school system upon request. An immediate donation is made so that the hungry child is fed that same day. Kind Mouse also provides emergency food to partner agencies upon request. KIDS FEEDING KIDS – Through the Mice in Training and Mice Interns youth outreach clubs, The Kind Mouse reaches out into the community by teaching kids the value of community service from the early age of 5 through age 18. During a child’s school career, they participate in Kind Mouse’s outreach groups Mice in Training and Mice Interns where they learn how to run a board, speak in public, organize food drives, attend events, fund raise and show compassion to children their own age who are less fortunate. These are their Kids Feeding Kids. The Kind Mouse employs one full-time resource and four part-time resources. Annual budget is $354,710. On average, they distribute 74,500 pounds of food annually which equates to approximately 54,800 meals. They rely heavily on a committed and passionate volunteer base of 150 strong. They are recognized as an important community resource and were humbled by the favor bestowed on them when Rick Kriseman, Mayor of Saint Petersburg, proclaimed May 10th as Kind Mouse Day in 2018 and 2019. It is their calling and privilege to kindly and quietly serve our community. Empowered and impactful!

Visit Website

Theatre eXceptional is a professional theater and education company that actively recruits artists with disabilities. Through a variety of theatre classes (Theatre 101, Musical Theatre, Improv, Drumming, Voice and Diction, Shakespeare Studies, Advanced Musical Theatre, Advanced Acting) they offer professional education in the many aspects of theater. They produced two-four shows a year. There is a musical each September which casts area professional actors with actors with disabilities. The cast size is usually about 45 actors. Additionally, there are professional sets, a live orchestra of 5-8 members, professional costumes, props, choreographer, director, etc. Theatre eXceptional also does straight plays which speak in some way to disability awareness and also blends casts of professional actors and actors with disabilities. These include Children of a Lesser God, Our Town, The Boys Next Door as well as musicals Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, Oliver and Bye Bye Birdie. What sets this organization apart is the quality of classes, taught by professional teaching artists, and the high quality professional level productions. The audience often comments that they come to see the shows because it is always good theater — Theatre eXceptional has watched their actors with disabilities grow and develop their skills from week to week. Some have been able to go on and work in traditional theater settings because of the development and progress they have made through classes and professional productions. Theatre eXceptional actors who have performed with the Spanish Lyric Opera, 8 O’Clock Commuinty Theater, Tampa Bay Fringe Festival, SaraSolo Festival and The St. Petersburg Shakespeare Festival. Theatre eXeptional recognizes that there are actors, with various disabilities (cognitive, physical, blindness, deafness, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, etc…) who are talented and passionate about theater. The organization’s approach — high quality education, training and professional level opportunity — allows them to develop the skills they need to be successful not only in our organization, but, if they choose, in other theater companies. David Warner formerly with Creative Loafing, now the Editor of Dupont Registry said of Theatre eXceptional: “The point is, the story has more than meets the eye, as does this exceptional cast, a blend of professional actors with actors who have different disabilities. The point — other than a good time at the theater — is how Theatre eXceptional showcases talent, not disabilities.” This is who this organization is and what they continue to do. Perspectives are changed; lives are changed — on stage and in our audience. We have no full/part time employees. Paid contractors vary from project to project. Theatre eXceptional teaching artists are paid a small stipend each semester and our teaching actors are paid per show that they do. All others involved — board of directors, administrators, event organizers and participants, etc., are volunteers.

Visit Website

I first heard about Tribe about 2 months ago when a friend shared their Facebook page with me. I have been struggling and my friend knew my children and I could benefit from everything Tribe has to offer. My immediate need was clothes for my children so when I contacted Kristen via the Tribe FB page she made the process so seamless, getting us everything we needed and more, spending her time getting to know me and pulling clothing items for my family to bag up and have ready for pick up. Picking up the bags already full of the right sizes and outfits needed made my life that much less stressful as a mom of 5. When I went to pick up my bags of much needed clothing Kristen was there waiting to give me a tour of the facility that she has worked so hard bringing together. She really is the most dedicated public servant I have ever met. Upon our tour of Tribe I felt embarrassed to be unable to afford the extreamly cheap class that was about to start for my 3 oldest children. She must have sensed my parental guilt, she whispered “they can go to class, you and I can chat No charge”. I couldn’t believe it, The classes teacher was sweet and welcoming to my children, My children loved the place, the experience, everything they raved about the class and Tribe for weeks afterward. They asked to go back more times than I can count. and with the classes being only $5 dollars per class per child Tribe opened a door for my children to actually enjoy their childhood in a way that my community could not otherwise provide before Tribe came about. The area isn’t that great and I cannot afford to do even the simplest outting with my children. So after I looked at my budget to attend Tribe on a semi regular basis I realized it wasn’t an option financially. fast forward afew days and I get this random friend request and message from Kristen. She said my family had been on her mind then proceeded to offer me a volunteering position at Tribe in exchange for free classes for my children while I was there doing the behind the scenes projects that keeps Tribe fun for the kids. I thought about her offer for a couple days and finally came up with a schedule of time I could volunteer. My kids love their teachers, their time at Tribe and interacting with new children and doing new things every week. The entire experience for children and even parents is so rewarding. Kristen is such a dedicated and motivated woman. She dreamt up this place and by the grace of God materialized it to benefit her community and even the entire school across the street from tribe. Where does she find the time and energy? Tribe is a blessing to my community and I wish there were more like it.

Visit Website

Venice Area Pregnancy Care Center serves Sarasota County to include Venice, Nokomis, Osprey, and several zip codes for Englewood and North Port. The Center’s focus is providing for the needs of mothers, infants, toddlers, and our young children by providing, no questions asked, a good deal what an infant needs at birth to include infant car seats, bassinettes, cribs, layettes, formula and baby food. As the child grows, portable cribs and monthly diapers are distributed. Also, if funds and donations allow, children’s clothing to size five. The organization serves to provide child restraint car seats, one of the most costly items provided to our clients. Each child must leave the hospital in a federally approved child restraint car seat. A child must use a rear facing seat until one year old or twenty pounds. If over twenty pounds but not yet one year of age, the infant must use a rear-facing convertible seat. New Florida law requires children to age 5 to be in an authorized seat. Children 40-80 pounds and under 4 feet 9 inches must use a booster seat. If not in compliance, an already needy parent can face fines of $60 and risk losing 3 points on their driver’s license. The Center has no budget as each fiscal year is relies solely on grants and donations for income. Staffed by all volunteers, the Center already has had 723 client visits in 2019 year-to-date distributing 906 packages of diapers, 36 cribs or bassinets, 85 car seats, and 37 layettes. Many in the community have come to depend on the Venice Area Pregnancy Care Center for their family’s needs since its inception in 1985. With donations and grants generally under $25,000 per year and staffed by 35 volunteers, the outreach is phenomenal. For the time since data was collected for the period beginning January 1, 2005 to September 30, 2019, Venice Area Pregnancy Care Center has managed to: 1) Service 18,628 total client visits 2) Assisted 2,021 new clients, averaging 118 new clients per year 3) Distributed 20,028 packages of diapers 4) Provided 799 cribs or bassinets 5) Supplied 1,858 new car seats 6) Presented 1,037 layettes to new parents It’s for all these reasons, Venice Area Pregnancy Care Center is nominated for the WEDU Small Non-profit Award.

Visit Website

Water Smart Tots, Inc. is a 501(C)3 nonprofit corporation dedicated to decreasing pediatric drowning in the Greater Tampa Bay Area by promoting awareness through water safety education and by providing scholarships for survival swimming skills to children 1 to 6 years old who are financially underprivileged. Water Smart Tots was founded in 2014 with the belief that ALL children should have access to survival swim lessons, regardless of socioeconomic status. The average cost of survival swim lessons in the Greater Tampa Bay Area is $90 per week, and new students typically receive 6 weeks of lessons with refresher students receiving a maximum of 3 weeks. This is simply financially unattainable for many families. Since we began awarding lessons in 2015, we have awarded over 300 children survival swim lessons valued at over $100,000. We partner with 15 survival swim instructors throughout the Greater Tampa Bay Area who agree to accept our scholarship students at a reduced rate. Our funding to award these scholarships is reliant on independent fundraising, donations, and grants. We have also been selected as Valrico FishHawk Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Charity of Choice, as well as the recipient for Charity Chick’s 2020 Cruise fundraising. Water Smart Tots has had the good fortune to receive contributions from many businesses in an effort to raise funds for our mission. Donors can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/WaterSmartTots/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1296200850449301 In addition to product donations, we have received grants/financial support from: Junior League of Tampa, The DeBartolo Family Foundation, The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, The Reginald & Angela Goins Charitable Fund, The Couch Family Foundation, The Florida Swimming Pool Association, The Swimming Pool Education & Safety Fund, ALDI, Publix, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners-St. Petersburg Chapter, MOM’s Club-Lithia/Bevis, 100 Women Who Care-Southshore, Brandon Physician’s Group, as well as monetary donations from individuals. Without the support of our community, we would have a much smaller impact. In addition to survival swimming lessons, we attend outreach events, and give water safety presentations in the community. Our “Preschool Water Safety Series” is presented each May for National Water Safety Month. Since we began this series in 2015, we have educated over 2,700 area preschoolers on the importance of water safety. Pictures of our outreach events are available on our website at: https://www.watersmarttots.org We thank you for your time and consideration.

Visit Website

In current times, our society is struggling with civility and the ability to have meaningful dialogue about the things that show us as more alike than different from each other. As we work toward educating ourselves and our neighbors about how our differences are actually our strengths, organizations such as Your Real Stories (YRS) are leading the charge by creating space for people to talk across real and perceived differences, resulting in a positive impact on local communities. Since its inception, YRS has produced live programming as well as photographic and video exhibitions that tell the stories of people whose voices and perspectives are often not heard or celebrated. YRS uses the tools of journalism, storytelling, and theater to engage communities in conversations about tough topics. Their model is called theatrical journalism and works to elevate the voices of marginalized individuals/populations. Eight diverse and dedicated women produced the first project 8 years ago, which developed to the incorporation as a 501c3 in 2013. Their unique brand of theatrical journalism is a process in which local community members are interviewed, and from those interviews scripts are created that tell engaging human stories founded on the principles of inclusion and excellent journalism. With scripts in hand, local actors are cast to perform the stories in front of a live audience in a theater setting. The community members who first shared their stories are also in the audience, experiencing their own story in a new, often cathartic way and participating in group discussions following the storytelling/theatrical presentation. These stories go deeper than the sound bite culture we have become too familiar with and instead take a deep dive into disparate, local perspectives, asking the audience to reflect on their personal roles and responsibilities to humanity in the past, present, and future. The YRS vision is to create, grow, and sustain an inclusive movement of people and communities who strive to explore and understand their own stories and the experiences of others. YRS has worked with Metro Inclusive Health and Family Resources to tell the stories of homeless LGBTQ+ youth. In addition, they have tackled race relations and told the stories of the relationships among black women who worked as “the help” and the white women and men who hired them across the decades. They have also interviewed local women who were on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement. The latest initiative has been Marriage Stories, which focuses on interracial relationships before the Loving vs. Virginia decision and the fight for marriage equality in modern times. Your Real Stories brings valuable connection to our community, encouraging people to communicate across differences, share their own stories, experience the stories of others, and be introduced to themselves and their neighbors in unique and eye-opening ways. For these reasons, Your Real Stories would be an excellent selection for the Be More Empowered Award.

Interested in sponsoring the 2020 WEDU Be More Awards? Check out our sponsor packages (.PDF)
Follow and join the conversation using #WEDUBeMore
FacebookTwitterInstagram

Copyright © 2019 Florida West Coast Public Broadcasting Inc. (WEDU PBS) All rights reserved.
Berkman Family Broadcast Center | 1300 North Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33607-5699
Contact Us: [email protected] | (813) 254-9338 ext. 2241 | (800) 354-9338
www.wedu.org