The Leadership St. Pete (LSP) class of 2021 held a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday to showcase the drastic improvements it has made to the Mustard Seed Inn.
Owned by WestCare and located in the Grand Central District, the Mustard Seed Inn has been a beacon, for more than 20 years, for homeless people beginning their recovery from addiction and/or mental issues. In addition to temporary housing, it also provides counseling, case management, job support and numerous other services.
Every year, LSP conducts a class project to provide planning, fundraising and labor for the betterment of a local nonprofit. When Larry McArthur, Vice President of WestCare Gulf Coast Florida, heard that the Mustard Seed Inn was in the running for the project he thought that this home for addicts and the homeless may be a long shot.
Those fears were unfounded, he said to the Friday gathering, getting choked up in the moment.
“This is a testament to the commitment and excellence of Leadership St. Pete,” McArthur said. “They made a miracle a reality.”
Denyve Boyle of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, who spearheaded the project, said that the vote was held in November and under the shadow of the pandemic they spent the next five to six months raising money and completing the transformation.
More than $158,000 was raised, and “with sweat equity that is over a million,” Boyle joked.
The difference is noticeable from Central Avenue, as artist Bianca Russell has painted bright and positive murals over the walls surrounding the building. On one wall is the motto for the project, Seeds of Hope. Inside the lettering are hands from all races spelling out the motto in sign language.
There is extensive landscaping, outdoor seating, a grill and smoker, and an outdoor gym for Mustard Seed residents.
Boyle pointed out that LSP planted lavender in the garden to also make the courtyard smell nice – along with a mango tree to ensure there will be fresh fruit nearby for years to come.
In addition to the improvements on the outside, Seeds of Hope also transformed the underused library into a modern career center, and updated the old TV room into a cozy community space.
Steve Westphal, of the Westphal Foundation, eloquently explained the gravity of what the Mustard Seed Inn and this project mean to the St. Petersburg community.
“When you put life into this building you are putting life into people,” he said. “No one does it alone.”
St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman also spoke at the ceremony, and reiterated his goal that this be a city that shines on everyone, “even for people that don’t often have doors like this open for them.”
“This is an opportunity for them to build up their body and mind,” Kriseman said. “On behalf of the 270,000 people in this city, thank you. Thank you for caring.”