UNIVERSITY AREA — If you have a passion for helping people in need and improving the neighborhoods where they live, organizers of Saturday’s third-annual Paint the Town are hoping you’ll lend a hand.
The event kicks off at 8:15 a.m. with a complimentary breakfast and registration at the University Area Community Center, 14013 N. 22nd St. Following a brief opening ceremony at 9 a.m., teams of volunteers will set out to spruce up the 4-square-mile area surrounding the center that is home to more than 30,000 at-risk, lower-income residents.
Tasks at hand will include painting, sweeping, raking and picking up trash, according to coordinator Ronnie Oliver, director of development of the University Area Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization based at the community center.
Volunteers will also install a handrail at the entrance of a mobile home and fix a fence at another residence in the community so they are in compliance with Hillsborough County code.
“These are important projects because it’s not by choice that these people are in these situations,” Oliver said. “They want to improve their lives, but sometimes they just don’t have the means to fix up their houses.”
He’s looking to attract 400 to 500 helpers.
The event, which this year is sponsored by the New York Yankees Foundation, is part of the UACDC’s “Make it Happen” campaign with a focus on building public and private partnership with a coalition of agencies.
There will be volunteers on hand from the University of South Florida’s Stampede of Service initiative, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and the Bank of America.
Justin Fitzgerald, USF assistant director of leadership and community involvement, who handles the Stampede of Service program, intends to send about 200 students to the event.
“It’s a way to give back to the community,” he said. “They’re our neighbors and we want to help.”
Tom Damico, environmental coordinator for Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, said his organization’s volunteers, projected to number about 100, will be bent on picking up trash.
“We appreciate the opportunity to help people understand the problem of litter, because if it is not removed it ends up getting into our waterways,” he said.
In addition, representatives from Hillsborough County Fire Rescue will conduct a neighborhood survey to determine which residences lack smoke alarms. In turn, they will return to install them at no cost to the homeowners.
“Our job is to protect people from fire and keep people safe,” said Ronnie Rivera, the agency spokesperson. “The elderly, children, and people with low incomes are the most vulnerable so we’re happy to help.”
Paint the Town will conclude with a block party luncheon from noon to 2 p.m. at the community center.
To register, call Oliver at (813) 558-5212, ext. 210, or email him at [email protected]
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]