When I began writing this column earlier this year, I mentioned I’ve been covering South Shore for more than 10 years and the thing that strikes me most about the area is its people. Year after year, whenever there’s a need, folks around here turn out in droves to help their neighbors.
That makes me rather proud because those same folks are my neighbors.
It doesn’t matter the source of the crisis, be it financial hardship, crime or natural disaster, South Shore residents don’t wait for God or the government to help. We take matters into our own hands.
It can be seen through a collection of supplies for military personnel deployed overseas or clothing and shoes for migrant children. It can be found in a community-wide garage sale to help someone pay their medical bills or a fundraiser to rebuild a burned-down house. And it’s evident when small, nonprofit groups sell watermelon rind pickles or pecans to raise scholarship money for local high school teens.
Sometimes the support is as mundane as a neighborhood rally. When a freaky storm hit Sun City Center a couple weeks ago damaging tree limbs and destroying carports in Kings Point, residents immediately hit the streets to clean-up.
When a young Apollo Beach business owner and father of two small children almost lost his leg in a motorcycle accident, the Sun City Center Chamber hosted a family fun day to help pay his expenses. Despite pouring rains, a substantial crowd turned out.
About a month ago when an East Bay High School student was seriously injured in a car accident during a break from a Relay for Life fundraiser, the Ruskin VFW hosted an event on her behalf that was standing-room only. The effort raised $6,400 to help her rehabilitate.
South Shore’s Nearly New Shop, the fundraising arm of the Interfaith Council of Sun City Center, accepts items donated by the community, sells them for pennies on the dollar, and then — through the nonprofit council — gives away hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in scholarships for South Shore’s graduating seniors, and grants to other nonprofits helping folks in need. Like I said, people here always find a way.
Even those who are dying take part. The Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center has numerous funds specifically bequeathed for grants to benefit children, low-income families — even pets.
Speaking of pets, I’ve noticed lately an increasing number of stray dogs and cats have become the recipients of South Shore’s largesse.
Fortunately we have dedicated groups like Critter Adoption and Rescue Effort and Critter Mama Rescue in Ruskin; All About Paws and LL Cool Pup RAPP in Wimauma; and Lost Angels in Riverview, which provide transitional shelter and place abandoned or lost dogs in permanent homes. We also have Feline Folks and South Shore Felines in Sun City Center that focus on cats.
Despite what they do — and it’s a lot — there are still way too many animals without homes.
What’s really bizarre is how many of my South Shore-based Facebook friends have taken to posting photos of just about every breed dog in need of a home. Some days I can hardly find their status updates.
When I moved to Ruskin about five years ago, one of the first things I noticed was the incredible amount of strays running the streets. It bothered me immensely to see dogs regularly trying to cross U.S. 41 without human supervision — and cars swerving to miss them. Where were their owners?
I have a stake in saying this because I adopted two dogs found wandering parts of Wimauma. Abby, our 6-year-old Chihuahua-terrier mix, was dumped on U.S. 301 with a litter of pups. Thankfully, Linda and Steve Cardamone, who owned a pet store at the time, rescued her and hooked us up.
Our newest and youngest pet, a sheltie mix named Shelby, was barely 6 months old when, lost or abandoned, she was found covered in fleas and malnourished. I have Linda to thank for her, as well.
Even my granddog, Lucy, is a hand-me-down.
I’m not trying to pat myself on the back here. My point in mentioning this is we wouldn’t need all these rescue groups or shelters — and might have a lot more room on Facebook — if people were more responsible in spaying and neutering their pets and providing them proper homes. And if they would adopt rescues.
But I digress.
There are countless examples of generosity I could recount in this column to wax on about our community’s big heart. Instead I’ll just say this: whether its man or beast in need of help, South Shore takes care of its own.