faded, sepia photograph hanging just inside the door of the Clearwater Historical Society shows men and women ascending a ladder with buckets in their hands. The inscription reads, “The Girls and Boys who saved our town on the night of the great fire, Oct 30th 1891.”
Clearwater was again saved from the even larger Great Fire of 1910. And out of those ashes, a business district rose to become a prosperous city.
In 1912, the community worked day and night to build Pinellas County’s courthouse, securing Clearwater’s role as the seat of Pinellas County. Two years later, the women of Clearwater spearheaded a fundraising campaign to build a local hospital, soon to become the Morton F. Plant Hospital.
And in 1921, after a devastating hurricane, Clearwater rebounded by becoming one of the centers of Florida’s real estate boom.
The attitude and action of early Clearwater residents — particularly in the face of adversity — defined the city as confident, optimistic, and possessing an unbreakable spirit.
That spirit still exists, and is exemplified by the many hard-working, non-profit groups that continually strive to improve the quality of life for all local citizens.
Clearwater Freedom highlights two of these groups in this edition: the YMCA and the Red Cross. Both reach out to their communities to give assistance where it is needed.
The Clearwater Family YMCA
The Young Men’s Christian Association will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in the year 2003. Since its modest beginnings in 1853 in then-newly industrialized London, the “Y” has become a place of hope and health for people of all faiths, all ages and all races. The Y does not merely function as a center for fitness, or to learn to swim; while these are well-known activities, the YMCA considers that character development is integral to the programs it offers.
Based on traditional Judeo-Christian principles, the Y emphasizes traits of responsibility, respect, honesty and caring. Building these between the members of the Y and those they influence is seen as an investment in the future of the community. The results are manifested in the fact that when a Y is put into a community, the crime in the area almost instantly drops.
The Clearwater Y serves 5,000 members, which represents a broad spectrum of the community, from infants to senior citizens. The Y is a leader in aquatic programming for people with special needs. They also operate on a policy that no one will be turned away due to an inability to pay, resulting in 287 people receiving membership assistance, and another 71 receiving a full scholarship to use the Y, in the last year alone.
Community spirit is exemplified by the hardworking, non-profit groups that strive to improve the quality of life for all local citizens.
Volunteers man the front desk, teach fitness classes, provide childcare and do many other functions to keep the Y up and running. Backed by a strong professional staff, the Clearwater YMCA has been serving the community since 1966. From this one Y, seven other YMCA facilities have been established in three counties. After years of nurturing the other Ys, the Clearwater Y has begun a capital campaign to extensively renovate their facilities. Community support is needed to bring the building up-to-date so that more programs can be offered for families, youth, young adults and seniors.
To find out how to become a YMCA volunteer or to participate in the capital campaign, call the YMCA of Clearwater at (727) 461-9622.
The American Red Cross
Every year, fires, floods, hurricanes, war and other disasters forever change the lives of thousands of families. But even before the flood waters begin to recede, or as aftershocks are still being felt, Red Cross staff and volunteers are opening shelters, distributing food and clothing, and even reading bedtime stories to children too afraid to go to sleep.
For more than 100 years, the Red Cross and its teams of volunteers have helped people to salvage their lives from the ravages of war and natural disaster. Tampa Bay’s Chapter has been serving Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties since 1917.
Locally, the Clearwater branch of the Red Cross is quietly housed in a one-story building just outside downtown. Their accomplishments, however, are anything but modest. The Tampa Bay Chapter of the Red Cross, which includes the Clearwater branch, have served 1,892 cases through their Armed Forces Emergency Services; opened 40 shelters which have helped 1,629 residents; given 160 training courses and delivered 30 community disaster education presentations. These activities are in addition to blood drives, food and clothing drives and holiday toy collections.
Volunteers comprise 97 percent of the Red Cross’s work force, and volunteers are always needed to keep up with the demand for the services that the Red Cross offers. Though residents may seem too busy to volunteer, if willing, the staff at the local Red Cross will help them arrange a schedule that will work for them.
To find out how to help the Red Cross, or to get information on first aid or disaster preparedness classes, please call (727) 446-2358, or visit their site on the world wide web at www.redcross.org.