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Creativity, Commerce and Culture Reborn
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Freedom Magazine, published by the Church of Scientology 
Scientology's Clearwater Community Volunteers
Tight Team Zeros in on Creating a Better Community
by Steve Ayer

At the helm of a burgeoning force of volunteers credited with more than 170,000 service hours in the past year alone, Clearwater businesswoman, mother and artist, Joanie Sigal sets the pace for community activism

Runners at the start of the annual Say No to Drugs Classic
Elite runners take off at the start of the annual Say No To Drugs Classic
On a warm spring day in 1995, Joanie Sigal, her husband and two sons moved into a quiet neighborhood near Clearwater High School. Moving from Northern California, Joanie clearly remembers that day. The daughter of an Air Force officer, Joanie had spent most of her life moving around, never being in one location more than four years.

“I thought to myself, we’re putting down roots and we’re going to live here for many, many years. This is where my boys will grow up. I want them to grow up in a safe environment. I’d better get busy and take an active role in helping to make that happen.”

So began a very busy new life in which, in addition to working to raise those two boys, establishing a home and partaking in Church of Scientology services, Joanie helped to launch, and later lead, Clearwater’s largest volunteer organization.

Tradition of Volunteerism

Runners going over the old causeway for the last time
Legging it over the old causeway for the last time
The hallmarks of religion’s influence in society are the good works of church volunteers. Ladies auxiliary groups have tended to the sick, held the bake sales that help fund the new hymnals, conducted Sunday School or a host of many other duties, all above and beyond their church worship.

The Church of Scientology is no different.

What began in 1996 as a small, but dedicated group known simply as the Clearwater Community Volunteers (CCV) has become the umbrella organization for 15 area volunteer teams that have grown to more than 400 active members and 2,000 volunteers. These groups include the Church-chartered Boy Scout troop and Cub Scout Pack, three Girl Scouts units, the Cherish the Children Foundation, Artists in Action and many others.

Self-funded, the group contributed 170,000 volunteer hours last year on a variety of programs that not only touched families throughout Tampa Bay, but also reached statewide and beyond.

New Leadership Builds on Tradition

Clearwater Community Volunteers Director Joanie Sigal, and her executive committee
Clearwater Comminuty Volunteers Director, Joanie Sigal, and her executive committee, present proceeds of their "Fashion with Flair" show at the Belleair Country Club to Boys and Girls Club of Clearwater Director Aaron McGlon.
The pace of CCV leadership and activism was set by the founder of the group, Bennetta Slaughter, who turned to Sigal to carry the CCV torch so that Slaughter could take on a new role as CEO of Applied Scholastics International. (See article “Tampa Bay Educators Offer Worldwide Solution to Illiteracy,”)

“Over the years, I had been involved with Winter Wonderland and all CCV activities in some capacity” Sigal told Freedom . “When Bennetta decided to head up Applied Scholastics and asked me to take charge of the CCV I really didn’t even think about it — I just jumped in.”

Taking the helm of CCV, Sigal galvanized her board of directors and turned up the intensity on those actions that had already made for a productive community betterment team. The annual Winter Wonderland, Foster Children’s Christmas Party and Say No To Drugs Race followed in quick succession, one after the other. Then, with barely a breather came a huge fundraising rummage sale at an empty hardware store near downtown, followed by the Annual Easter Egg Hunt.

This year, something new was added as well, with a fundraising fashion show held in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club of Clearwater. Hosted by the Bellaire Country Club, $20,000 was raised and then split between the Boys and Girls Club and Winter Wonderland.

“Joanie makes it clear that all of these events are a team effort,” says Clearwater resident and fellow volunteer Pam Ryan, owner of Ryan Realty. “We put on huge, successful events, as well as fundraisers and we’re able to do that because of the awesome team we have.”

Active in CCV for many years, Ryan, Gloria Slaughter, Debbie Sharp, Craig Burton and a host of others form the nucleus of the volunteer group.

Their dedication was recognized earlier this year in a proclamation issued by the Mayor of Clearwater on behalf of the city. Acknowledged were all CCV members as “a vital and positive force in our community." Because the group “is making a significant contribution to bettering the social, community and cultural conditions of the City of Clearwater,” the proclamation states, March 20, 2003 was declared “Clearwater Volunteers Day” by the City of Clearwater.

Sigal says she’s lucky to have so much dedicated backup in the group. “All of my executive staff, and the heads of the individual volunteer groups, are the ones that really make us go. These dedicated, part-time volunteers work incredibly hard to make our city a better place to live full-time.”

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