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Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay focuses on Lealman with $200K Bank of America grant

Margie Manning

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Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay partnered with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Spectrum on a project in Lealman in September.

Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay expects to impact at least 120 homeowners in Lealman over the next two years, with the help of a $200,000 Neighborhood Builders grant from Bank of America.

Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay, a nonprofit that provides critical home repairs, accessibility modifications, and energy-efficient upgrades for low-income homeowners, is using the grant to launch Building a Healthier Lealman.

Lealman, in south central Pinellas County, has a median household income of $31,771 and median property value of $76,400, much lower than the median household income of $51,512 and median property value of $197,300 in Pinellas County, according to 2017 data from datausa.io.

“Lealman is becoming very attractive to young homebuyers that can’t afford to live in St. Petersburg,” said Jose Garcia, executive director of Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay. “We’re seeing an opportunity to make this neighborhood very attractive and livable for middle-income families.”

RTTB expects to work with 50 Lealman homeowners this year and another 70 the following year, he said. Some homes will get rehab services, while others will get safety improvements or disaster preparedness work.

Neighborhood Builders is a national program that Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) has been running for 16 years. The Tampa-St. Pete area has been included in the program since its inception, said Ann Shaler, the bank’s Tampa Bay market manager.

“We were really impressed with the identification of the need in Lealman,” Shaler said. “The other factor was the reputation Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay has of being able go into a place-based community like this and gain credibility within the neighborhood and with the residents.”

Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay CEO Jose Garcia (center) with Bank of America Chief Operations and Technology Officer Cathy Bessant, and Tampa Bay Market President Bill Goede, at a ceremony Tuesday night.

Organizations that receive a Neighborhood Builders grant can use the funds for operations, including hiring staff.

RTTB has hired Teresa Van Alstine as program manager for Building a Healthier Lealman and plans to open a satellite office in the community, Garcia said.

Community impact

Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay is an affiliate of Rebuilding Together, the largest non-profit volunteer home rehabilitation organization in America, with 146 affiliates across the country.

Founded in 2000, Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay has rehabbed more than 500 homes in the Tampa-St. Pete area, with a total value of more than $4 million. The organization also constructs new affordable housing.

RTTB has focused a lot of its resources on neighborhoods, including Sulphur Springs and West Tampa, as well as the Campbell Park and Bartlett Park areas in St. Petersburg.

While RTTB’s members do rehab services, such as roof repair and air conditioning system work, the group engages corporate sponsors and volunteers to do painting, landscaping and similar tasks.

“We can have an impact not only inside the house for the residents, but also for the community,” Garcia said.

In September, RTTB worked on rehab efforts in Lealman in a partnership with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Spectrum. Volunteers from the Lightning and Spectrum put the finishing touches on the homes of three Lealman homeowners. Repairs to these homes include the installation of new doors, AC unit repairs, accessibility modifications, and electrical and plumbing repairs, a news release said.

The Bank of America funding allows RTTB to establish Building a Healthier Lealman, but Garcia is looking beyond the Neighborhood Builders grant funding.

“When we select a neighborhood we know there will be a long-term need for our services, so we know we need to develop relationships with the local municipality, with the businesses in the area so we  can get corporate engagement, foundation funding engagement and government funding,” he said. “This money from Bank of America is large enough for us to bring programs into play. We will develop our presence in Lealman and we will continue working and expanding from there to do more services and to help more people. We are planning to stay, and we are planning to become very strong in the area for the next two years, and we’re hoping to develop sufficient relationships to have a sustainable program there.”

Investment in the future

In addition to the funding, the Neighborhood Builders program provides training for CEOs of the organizations that get grants.

Garcia will meet with the other winning nonprofit CEOs for intensive leadership training, focusing on board development, sustainability and social enterprises. “They learn from each other and expand their peer group,” Shaler said.

Each grant recipient also selects an emerging leader who also gets training.

“We see that as an investment in the future leadership of not-for-profits in local markets all across the country,” Shaler said. “The ultimate goal of the Neighborhood Builder award is not only the immediate impact to the project, but really the long-term thriving community, by investing in the people and the organization.”

A second $200,000 Neighborhood Builder award this year went to Enterprising Latinas Inc. CEO Liz Gutierrez team has established a women’s network for mutual support and engaged 150 active members, where they have provided workforce training in childcare, food service, nursing, sewing, business development training and more at the Wimauma Opportunity Center.

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