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Community Foundation of Tampa Bay opens new downtown office, launches mental health initiative

Jaymi Butler

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Community Foundation of Tampa Bay
The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay's new offices are located on Central Avenue next to the James Museum.

October has been a busy month for the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay

The nonprofit, which connects people and resources to inspire charitable giving and create meaningful, lasting impacts on the Tampa Bay region, just launched a new initiative aimed at responding to mental health challenges in the community. And after a Covid-related delay, the Foundation opened a 1,700 square-foot new office next to the James Museum on Central Avenue, something that’s been in the works for several years.

“Having the Foundation in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg shows a true commitment to our community,” said Mayor Rick Kriseman in a video statement. “This office space will be a home for philanthropists, nonprofit leaders and community partners to collaborate on community-based solutions.”

While its office may be new, the Foundation has been an integral part of the St. Pete nonprofit and philanthropic landscape since it was founded in 1990, and St. Pete is the second-largest city where the Foundation operates. In the last year alone, it provided more than $5.2 million to Pinellas-based nonprofits.

The new space, which opened Oct. 6, includes a coffee bar, rooms that can be configured to accommodate a variety of gatherings, and technology to support virtual meetings. But an especially important feature is what hangs on the walls.

“One thing we wanted to do is support St. Pete and our local artists,” said the Foundation’s senior director for strategic communications, Jennifer R. Malin.

Art by Ya La’ford

The focal point in the lobby is a mural by artist Ya La’ford. The piece, called WE ARE Community, is an abstract representation of the perimeter of the five counties served by the Foundation. The office also has an art wall where the work of a different artist will be featured quarterly. Currently, the space is occupied by artwork from Nathan Beard, the assistant curator at Dunedin Fine Art Center. Additionally, the Foundation has purchased five pieces from digital artist Nick Davis that are also on display. 

While there’s a lot of excitement over the new office, what’s really important is what happens inside the space, Malin said. Right now, the Foundation is focused on its Mental Health First Aid initiative, which is even more critical in light of the pandemic. 

Mental Health First Aid, which could be compared to CPR for mental health issues, is a nationally certified training course that empowers people who work in public-facing roles to identify, understand and respond to signs of addictions and mental illness. The Foundation’s goal is to train 5,000 people over the next three years, partnering with St. Petersburg College and Love IV Lawrence, a Foundation-hosted fund that supports organizations making positive changes around mental health.

The certification involves roughly eight hours of training. Participants complete a self-paced introduction to the material that takes about two hours followed by a one-day class that will be taught online through SPC. A number of people have already signed up to take the first class, which will be held in the next few weeks. 

“We’re very excited to offer such an important initiative,” Malin said. 

The Foundation will cover the cost of the course for people who work at nonprofit organizations, education institutions, faith communities and other public service organizations across the Tampa Bay region. Members of the public are also invited to take the course, at a cost of $125 per person. 

“Mental health plays a major role in creating a vibrant community,” said Marlene Spalten, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. “We’ve long supported organizations like Love IV Lawrence that are working to address mental health in our region. It’s time to do even more.”

Explore the Catalyst’s Impact section to watch Impact Catalyst, check the Impact Connector for volunteer opportunities and stay updated on the people and organizations working to make our community a better place.

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