A closer look at the people energizing Tampa Bay’s Charity Coalition.
What do we need more of in the community? “I think it is cooperation,” says Diena Cannavino, national vice president of the nonprofit organization Bikers Against Trafficking. “As a community, I think what is really needed is cooperation. We have all these separate groups handling their own problems, but when you can get them to work together, that is when you can really make a difference.”
The word “coalition” is defined as “an alliance for combined action,” or “a group of people who join together for a common cause.” Fitting descriptions for the Tampa Bay Charity Coalition.
“You are doing God’s work … The world needs you and you need to expand and help more people in the different areas you all address.”
CEO American Power & Gas
Starting with just 38 nonprofits attending the first September 2014 luncheon at the historic Fort Harrison, Scientologists founded the coalition in late 2014. The alliance of nonprofits has blossomed into over 200 participants contributing their ideas and voices to help achieve their collective goals.
In the last three years, bimonthly meetings have brought opportunities to network, learn new skills and meet new people. Educational talks on marketing, organization management, public relations and getting your message out are also provided.
At one meeting in 2017, the guest speaker was Tom Cummins, a successful locally based businessman who has companies on several continents. He spoke about the lack of organizational skills being the downfall of companies, organizations and charities.
Using the Scientology Volunteer Minister’s booklet, The Basics of Organizing, Cummins described how he had started and managed his company’s expansion, moving from his beginnings on “the wrong side of the tracks in Las Vegas” to what he is now. “I’ve been at the lowest extreme, and now I know what the other extreme looks like,” he said.
One administrative tool Cummins covered was the Organizing Board, which displays the function, duties, sequences of action and authorities of an organization. Cummins stressed the use of this and other tools to help the charities present to do their work. “You are doing God’s work, but you are in this material universe,” said Cummins. “The world needs you and you need to expand and help more people in the different areas you all address. And you can do this with these tools.”
Tranette Engram, founder of the nonprofit She Helps to Empower (SHE), has used the knowledge learned in her group. “Not only did I expand but I was giving others real tools, thereby providing real help to even more people.” She went on, “I want others to have the same experience so that they can grow, too.”
Putting her words into action, she often brings friends to the coalition luncheon, and was the one to introduce her husband, Derrick Engram, to it.
“I connected with some very, very influential people there,” said Derrick. “There was one woman, from the Department of Juvenile Justice, who helped me to reach another contact, which was very helpful in the work that I’m doing with young men.” He is currently working on forming his own nonprofit group to empower young men to do well despite life’s obstacles.
“I’m all for everyone helping each other. I know I can’t do it all on my own,” said Derrick. He has exchanged help and seminars with another nonprofit that engages in similar work to empower youth. It’s good to “let the other people come in to provide their service,” and teach the kids something new, he commented.
“I’m very passionate when it comes to these young men. We can’t just lose them to the streets or the jail system; we have to do something,” Derrick said. He is planning to hold a fundraiser this year in the Fort Harrison, with the support of the Church of Scientology, to benefit youth charities.
Since meeting and working with Church of Scientology staff at the Charity Coalition, Derrick has come to know them. “They are a group of people that care about what you’re doing. They want to lend a hand. I mean, what they do to allow nonprofits to hold events and use their facilities at no cost—that is unheard of! You can’t get that anywhere else.”
Creating a safe environment where children are free to learn and grow up is a major focus of many of the nonprofits who are part of the Charity Coalition. But that’s not all; attending nonprofits also cover environmental protection and beautification, homeless empowerment and housing, veterans’ organizations, faith-based charities of all denominations, drug abuse specialists, criminal reform, anti-human trafficking activists, music and arts foundations, cultural groups, breast cancer awareness and recovery, and animal sanctuaries.
“We are proud to provide a platform for all these nonprofits to meet and collaborate,” said the community affairs director for the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization. “In the end, the more successful we are together, the better our community will be as a whole. We all want a better community for our youth, and with the Charity Coalition, we’re making one.”
Here are some of those who have partnered with the Charity Coalition or the Church of Scientology and what they have to say about it.
Caring for His Community
Maurice Mickens is an old hand at nonprofit activity. Having moved to Clearwater in 1992 to retire, he soon decided that just wasn’t his style. “I have always been a community-oriented person. I saw there was a need in the North Greenwood neighborhood.” That’s when he founded the Mount Carmel Community Development Corporation of Clearwater, Inc. in 2002 with the mission of creating economic development for the area of North Greenwood, affordable housing, performing arts and visual arts for adults and children.
“We built three houses for those in need,” said Mickens. “We also worked with the Chief of Police and other nonprofits on youth education. We had a diversion program for juvenile delinquents. We would take these young men who had broken the law and instead of having them go into the jail system, we would get them interested in the arts and other things to keep them out of that kind of life.
“Our main thrust is youth. We have got to give our youth a vision.”
Clearwater MLK Jr. Neighborhood Center Coalition, Inc.
“By being involved in all this activity, I realized there were a lot of charities fighting for grants, fighting each other, clashing on dates. They were fractured,” Mickens said. That is why he is a founding member of the Florida Alliance of Community Development Corporations; he’s also a founding member of the Clearwater MLK Jr. Neighborhood Center Coalition, Inc.
“When I heard about the Church of Scientology starting the Charity Coalition in Tampa Bay, I was very intrigued by it.
“It gives us a chance to talk to each other. We get a chance to get reacquainted. You get to understand what it is that the other charities are doing.
“What I tell people is that the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization is a service organization—and that’s true. All these nonprofits need to have a combining force to pull them together. The Church of Scientology has done that, pulled them together.”
Mickens sees that the empowerment of nonprofits is key to making a safe environment. “Our main thrust is youth. We have got to give our youth a vision. Right now, they don’t have one. There are a lot of people getting into things they shouldn’t be, not finishing school, etc. These nonprofits, they are trying to cement the community together and provide solutions to the problems we face.”
Mickens notes that “the Coalition is needed. We, as a coalition, need to find the nonprofits’ needs and fill those needs … I think it will grow and do well.”
Making Hope Shine
Horace Drew is the founder and president of Rays of Hope Community Outreach. Started in 2012, the nonprofit group provides mentoring for youth ages 8-19 to motivate them to excel as they reach their educational goals.
Drew, a football coach for 17 years, was motivated to start his nonprofit by one young man. The youth had opened up at a “Coaches and Seniors Retreat” with his team, saying that earlier that year he had sat on the beach pointing a gun at his head. He knew he didn’t have the love of his own family. The only thing that made him put the gun down was when he thought of his team—his football family. “He would have killed himself if it wasn’t for the love from our team,” said Drew. “That got me to thinking that I have got to do something for these kids.”
“That got me to thinking that I have got to do something for these kids.”
Founder and President, Rays of Hope Community Outreach
Now, with Rays of Hope, Drew has been able to provide opportunities for kids that they would never have had without his help. And they speak for themselves. This program “has opened up my eyes that there is somewhere in this world for me. This program has changed my life just by having a mentor by my side,” said one young man who has been with Drew since the beginning.
Drew was recently able to hold a fundraising event in February in the historic Fort Harrison through support of the Church of Scientology. The proceeds went to fund a college tour in Atlanta for youth in need. “To be able to have this beautiful venue to have our event is so appreciated.”
Drew has worked with several of the Church-sponsored humanitarian campaigns. “I met up with The Way to Happiness Association of Tampa Bay and the Drug-Free World Foundation Florida, and I’ve been able to do work with them to get the message to the kids.” He has had United for Human Rights volunteer Emma Ashton deliver seminars to his youth.
Drew “was very welcoming and the kids were very receptive to the material,” said Ashton. “They all learned their human rights and several of them asked for extra booklets, so they could bring them home to show their parents. Horace was a gentleman and you could tell he really cares for others.”
But as Drew said, “It’s not about me; it’s about the kids.”
Coming Together for Change
“Working with the Charity Coalition has helped me in a lot of ways,” said Helen Neal-Ali. “I met several programs there, like The Way to Happiness (TWTH). We got booklets from them, and now I have one that is specialized with my own cover. By working together, we got T-shirts with our nonprofit logo on it. I also got to meet different ministers and connect up with new ministries.”
Neal-Ali has been working with her nonprofit, Agape Outreach Inc., for 22 years and is also an ordained minister. Mentoring girls, she recently reconnected with Horace Drew of Rays of Hope, an old school friend, to combine their programs, and thus reach even more youth. “Working together, we were able to take it to another level.”
Speaking of her partnership with The Way to Happiness Association of Tampa Bay, Neal-Ali said, “I was impressed by the precepts. I incorporate it into my sermons. When I preach I also go over the common sense precepts covered in The Way to Happiness. I’ve taught The Way to Happiness to women from jails, to kids, to everyone.”
“Going to the meetings inspires me to keep going … you know it’s not just you out there on your own.”
Agape Outreach Inc.
Recalling a particular time when she had delivered a series of sermons on TWTH to women at a work-release center in St. Petersburg, she said, “After a while, the guys also wanted to go to church. One guy told me, ‘These women are changing. I want to go to church too.’ And when he did, I gave him a booklet.
“He told me, ‘This makes sense. This is going to change my life.’ And it did. It totally changed his life. He’s a new man now,” said Neil-Ali.
“What’s really important about the Charity Coalition is coming together to collaborate,” said Neal-Ali. “Going to the meetings inspires me to keep going. Because I can see other people like me doing something about it; you know it’s not just you out there on your own.
“Seeing the other charities sharing their work and finding out what they are doing is encouraging. What I like about it is that the coalition is all denominations, all races, all walks of life coming together—that’s the way we are going to make a difference.”