Clearwater Community Volunteers opens new ready-for-action center with facilities for local volunteer groups.
On stage in Osceola Courtyard in downtown Clearwater, the singer belted it out with gusto, backed by a really good band: “We’re here to make the difference, come on, we are the difference! This world ain’t gonna change itself … everybody needs a little help!” It was about 1:00 p.m. on March 24, and while swarming kids played games and visitors got lunches from colorful side tables, the singer was the voice for those in Clearwater and the wider Pinellas/Hillsborough areas who have made helping others a pivotal part of their lives.
He was singing the theme song of the Tampa Bay Charity Coalition, a group of more than 200 local charities and nonprofits, among whose members are the Clearwater Community Volunteers. And his audience were those gathered for the opening of a new facility for the use of the Clearwater Community Volunteers (CCV) and all area charitable organizations.
“Starting today, starting with our children, and partnering with other nonprofits we will bring needed help, and help those who help—more than ever before!”
Pam Ryan Anderson
Founder and President, Clearwater Community Volunteers
Giving “a little help”—or a lot—where it’s needed is something the Clearwater Community Volunteers live by. Since 1992, CCV has served 150,000 children and families, delivered 50 tons of food and toys to the homeless and children of Tampa Bay, and raised thousands of dollars benefiting local children’s charities and initiatives. Its yearly events for children and families, like the Giant Easter Egg Hunt and Winter Wonderland, have become must-attend occasions for the local community.
For years CCV members have made wreaths in a makeshift workshop, held their weekly meetings at a real estate office and entertained visitors wherever they happened to be. Such limitations are the lot of most local charitable efforts. A recent survey conducted among nonprofit organizations found that 56 percent of them had no office space to use other than their private homes.
Responding to a clear need, the Church of Scientology transformed a former law office on the southeast corner of Drew Street and Fort Harrison Avenue, Clearwater, into a center to house the CCV and give support to other volunteer organizations across the city and county.
CCV’s 25-year focus on events for kids and fundraising support for local children’s programs has brought it into creative partnership with many other volunteer groups, including Public Defender Bob Dillinger’s program, Nourish to Flourish; the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches; Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League; Shriners Hospital for Children; Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and Northern Florida; and The Children’s Home, Inc. The new center will provide space for more of the same: space for CCV and other groups to meet, work and teach.
“We are thrilled to have our own center,” said founder and CCV President Pam Ryan Anderson. “With a home base for all operations we will be able to turbocharge our efforts and teach other nonprofits what they need to know to be successful. Starting today, starting with our children, and partnering with other nonprofits we will bring needed help, and help those who help—more than ever before!”
“The Church brings all of us together at the Charity Coalition and facilitates relationships that I don’t think would have easily existed without them.”
Founder and CEO of The Benevolution Foundation
The ribbon-cutting was held on the threshold of the center, as key members of the Church of Scientology and CCV stood between two big satin bows behind a draping blue ribbon.
“It is our honor to have many of our partners here with us to celebrate more than four decades of community support from the Church of Scientology and the Clearwater Community Volunteers,” said Lisa Mansell, public affairs director for the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization. “And so, we dedicate this building on behalf of all volunteers, charities and nonprofits throughout this community.”
Wild applause met the cutting of the ribbon, and Mansell gave way to those attending as they crowded forward to enter and take a look.
As the crowd continued to shuffle in, Clemence Chevrot, director of the CCV Center, stood in the ocean-blue and sunshine-yellow interior to welcome them. The CCV logo crowned the wall behind the reception desk. Chevrot said, “I’m very happy to be a part of this. I’ve been volunteering since I was very young, and it means a lot to me to see the change in a person’s face when you really help them. Helping others to help others makes it even more special.”
Chevrot’s guided tour of the 3,700-square-foot facility began in a generous reception area enlarged by a sunny café-style lounge. Fitted with informational panels and an entertainment set, both had been provided with plenty of comfortable chairs that seemed to invite conversation and networking—a good location for collaborative chats that might help hatch a better community.
Chevrot showed the conference room with its flat-screen TV and speakers, designed to illustrate new plans and display recent successes for charity group executives, members and potential donors. She led the way to a nearby multipurpose room furnished with tables and chairs that can be configured to seat 30-plus people for group hands-on projects or for any occasion, with a projector display and speaker’s podium to make it easy to get a message across.
This was the location of a special meeting of the Tampa Bay Charity Coalition held just 30 minutes after the CCV Center opening. Formed by the Church to facilitate and coordinate efforts by local nonprofits, the Coalition has grown from just 38 nonprofits at their first meeting in September 2014 to more than 200 strong in 2018.
During the meeting community leaders joined the Church in dedicating the new facility: Joel R. Lewis, pastor of Out of Our Heart Ministries, which is dedicated to creating unity among people of all faiths; Karena Morrison, founder and CEO of the nonprofit The Benevolution Foundation, which encourages locally owned businesses to partner with area charities; and Neil Brickfield, executive director of the Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League (PAL), a community program providing tutoring, mentoring and sports activities for area youth.
Pastor Lewis spoke of his work as a minister and his experience with the Scientology Volunteer Ministers. Out of Our Heart Ministries was founded to bring people together on one accord: to remind them that “knowledge is free, love is free, and unity is free.” Pastor Lewis explained that the Scientology Volunteer Ministers exemplify this. He said he has seen the Volunteer Ministers going out into the community and asking people, “What do you need?” And then delivering that help to them.
“You are answering the needs of the community,” Lewis said. “My hope as we move forward is that I will continue to be a help to you as you are a help to me. Together we can take advantage of the tools and the knowledge that you bring—which have caused me to be able to better help my community.”
Karena Morrison first encountered the Church of Scientology and the Clearwater Community Volunteers while working with the Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Center Coalition. Hard times had fallen upon the center causing it to be closed, but with the help of the Church its doors were reopened with new life. “The Church graciously contributed to the renovations,” said Morrison, “and then came in and did them!” She spoke of how she witnessed “thousands of volunteer hours put in to bring the center back to life,” adding, “That was something!”
“And then last year, the Church of Scientology came to Greenwood after Hurricane Irma,” said Morrison. “I live nearby and there was no water or power for a week. These people had nothing they could do and nowhere to go.” She explained how the Scientology Volunteer Ministers were there every day giving out food, water and ice to everyone in the neighborhood. “You were the only organization there during that crucial time; it was greatly appreciated by the community.”
Morrison stressed the benefits made possible by the Tampa Bay Charity Coalition. “The Church brings all of us together at the Charity Coalition and facilitates relationships that I don’t think would have easily existed without them,” said Morrison. “In this way we can grow our nonprofits and become stronger as a community.”
Neil Brickfield sees the impact of CCV and other local charities in their benefit to the children he serves. He spoke of his personal work as the executive director of the Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League, saying, “It is the most rewarding work that I have done. These are kids who have it rough.” He explained that seeing the changes that can occur in the life of a young person when they have “just a bit of guidance and direction is a ‘miracle’ almost every day.”
Brickfield observed that he and his staff can’t do their jobs without community backing. “We completely count on our partners in the community to give us the extra boost when we need it,” he declared. “The Clearwater Community Volunteers are one of these groups.”
Brickfield detailed the many ways that CCV has helped his center and the kids he serves. From organizing and donating their bouncy house and train for kids at the PAL Back to School event, to getting food donated to families in need for the holidays, and even bringing donated toys so that Sheriff’s Deputies using the PAL Center could bring them to kids they knew wouldn’t have gotten a gift otherwise.
“You are answering the needs of the community. … Together we can take advantage of the tools and the knowledge that you bring—which have caused me to be able to better help my community.”
Pastor Joel R. Lewis
Out of Our Heart Ministries
“There are kids who had Christmas this year who wouldn’t otherwise have had it,” Brickfield said. “Why? Because the Clearwater Community Volunteers were there as a community partner for PAL. The Clearwater Community Volunteers are hard working people—it is clear that they have that drive to help. Now, with this center open, it will provide a place for other people who also have that drive to help to be able to accomplish their goals, too.”
Brickfield called the new center a “nonprofit incubator” and that he has never seen another one like it. In closing he said, “And I’m sure that you would all agree that there is only one fate for this center, and that is … success!” to which the audience responded with applause.
Chevrot, completing her tour of the center, passed by the ample, comfy-looking administrative offices which include nine work spaces with computers that can be reserved for use by nonprofits for planning, research, creating business documents or funding proposals, and other paperwork.
For CCV the location of this center couldn’t be much handier: It’s conveniently placed right next to Osceola Courtyard, where CCV produces Winter Wonderland every year, and a few blocks from Coachman Park, venue for CCV’s spring Easter Egg Hunt.
Being handy also means the new center will be easy to share. Although it will be administered by the Church of Scientology and Clearwater Community Volunteers, this center can make its resources available to any local nonprofit organization. Even Osceola Park, across the street, can be reserved for larger-scale events or fundraisers.
Use of the center, whether for recurring organizational meetings or for one-time events, can be scheduled at the center’s reception desk on a first-come first-serve basis. As this magazine goes to press, local Boy Scout Troop 313 has already reserved space for its weekly meetings.
“We’re here to help those who help” said Chevrot. “Having a new headquarters will make it easier for local nonprofits to do their work, and that means a better tomorrow for all of us. I would like to say to all nonprofits, the help you provide to our community is invaluable; our help is yours.”