June '17 Not for profit Uplift St Pete

Leadership St Pete 2017: Illuminating Hope

Back to Front, Left to Right - Tee Grizzard, Mike Funsch Janette Dean, Wade Milligan Paul Stellrecht, Cathi Cardwell, Shaun Amarnani, Jonathan Bowman, Sarah Colby, Danielle Weitlauf, Jake Howse, Ashby Green, Michelle Royal, Delphinia Davis, Allyson Crawford, Audrey Grounds, Chris Scronce, Jim McEleney, Tyler Hayden, Mike Ostrowski, Martin Knaust, Jamelle Conner, Anna Ruth, Curtis Holloman, Ben Blackman, Bob Skelton, Ali Reeder, Ashley Ryneska, Andi Gordon, Caroline Dunkle, Shannon Sloan, Patti Helton.

Typically, it would be a challenge to organize such a diverse group of community leaders. But for Leadership St. Pete® (LSP) Class of 2017, the task seemed effortless. As class member and LSP Fundraising Chair Ashley Ryneska put it, “it’s simply a group of good people wanting to do good for this community”.

A division of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber and its affiliated 501(c)(3) Foundation, LSP is the second oldest leadership program in the country. Each year, the organization hand-selects local applicants to participate in a six-month program devised to promote and enhance community leadership.

This year the class dedicated its efforts to the Royal Theater Boys & Girls Club. Built in Midtown in 1948, the theater first served as an African-American arts entertainment center. In 1976 it was donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast. Since then, it has been utilized to provide before and after-school care to local at-risk youth. Leadership St. Pete identified a unique opportunity to enhance the existing space, creating the foundation for expanded programming specifically in arts. The newly renovated space would be designed to support a variety of enrichment programs including ballet & tap classes, comedy classes, painting classes, recording arts, and photography.

Classmate and LSP Project Manager Chris Scronce explains, “We felt that the difference we made here would inspire others to do the same, and continue their investment in the revitalization of Midtown St. Pete.”

With a cause in mind, they needed funds to set their plans in motion. First, the class set an initial fundraising target, but with some savvy efforts and strong community support they raised nearly double what they had planned, including cash and in-kind support.

Following just a few months of fundraising and two prep days, the class met on May 20th to collectively invest their own ‘sweat equity’ to complete the project. The full refurbishment effort included a new marquee sign, interior and exterior paint, new furniture and storage solutions, and exterior fencing to now enable safe, accessible outdoor activity. After a long day’s work, the group successfully and lovingly restored a long-time symbol of community transformation.

While the cosmetic refurbishments have been long overdue, Ryneska was quick to assert that the electrical upgrades were the most symbolic, with newly restored lighting now cascading down the formerly dimly-lit street, sending a powerful message to local youth and families. “It’s a daily reminder that we stand with them, and that we believe in them,” she said. “They are the hope for St. Petersburg’s bright future.”

The LSP program is made possible through the generous support of community partners like Duke Energy, Eckerd Leadership Development Institute and Collaborative Labs at St. Petersburg College, Patron Sponsors of the Class of 2017.

For more information about Leadership St. Pete®, visit www.stpete.com/lsp.

For more information about Royal Theater Boys & Girls Club, visit www.bgcsun.org.

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