Years in Tampa Bay
I am a hometown ‘Burger, just about as close to a local as you can get. My family and I moved to St. Pete when I was 6 years old, and I’ve been a lover of Pinellas County ever since.
I am the Founder and Executive Director of SPRING Zone St. Pete. We are seeking to build community capacity and to help unite, empower and heal our youth and families.
What do you do?
Who knows better what your problems are than you and your nextdoor neighbor? I go into the community and talk to people to find out what we need in that particular area. I find the people in that community that are already doing their best to meet that need and serve those people, then connect them with a larger nonprofit or corporation that operates in that sphere, as well as local volunteers and donors that can help chip in. Then we write the grant and get the development together. All you have to do is look for the people that are already doing the work. There are so many people that care so much about our communities.
Why do you do it?
That is what I ask myself every single day. The answer is always the same: you have to love people. You have to have a genuine want in your spirit to see people succeed and grow until you actually have a community. There’s no such thing as a St. Petersburg community – it’s dozens of communities that are often disconnected. St. Pete does not function, it does not progress, and it does not support itself from the ground up unless each of the communities have critical linkages. The only way you can do that is by building community capacity. Diversity isn’t enough – we need diversity plus togetherness plus collaboration, cooperation and community capacity.
What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)
I asked myself, “Why do I keep telling myself what I can’t do? I can teach, I can touch, I can empower, I can inform, I can collaborate.” I realized no job was going to let me do all of those things, so I decided to do it myself. I don’t need someone to see value in the work that I do, I just have to take the skills I’ve developed in my lifetime and push them towards one purpose. Everything I do is for our kids, parents. Everything that I do is to help people see that everything is going to be okay.
What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?
That people are doing it already. It’s very important to note that people are giving out money and opportunities, but it’s not happening at a micro level. To me, that shows a true disconnect with understanding what it actually takes to build community capacity. There’s a disconnect between what money and resources can do and who should receive it.
What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?
Getting here in the first place. It’s not cool being a jack-of-all-trades until you figure out what your passion is. I found myself being torn because I cared about so many things.
What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?
Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
We have so many events, each one devoted to the community. Many focus on mental health, for everyone from black men to entire families and everyone in between. We will be bringing in professionals, asking important questions, and building cultures where people can discuss the important things. I’m gonna keep on pushing, and hopefully you guys join. Can’t do it without you.