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Florida Holocaust Museum launches sixth annual Trunks of Hope fundraising campaign

The Florida Holocaust Museum has launched its sixth annual Trunks of Hope online campaign to ensure teachers and students have the free Holocaust education tools and resources they need to return to the classroom. Through their charitable foundation, Crofton Cares, Amy and Michael Southard  will match campaign donations be matched dollar for dollar up to $18,000. To make a donation, visit

St. Petersburg College awarded $90,000 from United Way Suncoast

The St. Petersburg College Foundation will receive $90,000 in community investment funding from United Way Suncoast. The funding will help support two of the school's programs, FAFSA: Fill it out! and It’s MY FUTURE! These programs expand efforts to provide one-on-one assistance to families needing assistance with the FAFSA application process. They also provide financial literacy information to current students with a goal of lowering borrowing levels for in-school students and lowering delinquency levels for students who have moved into repayment. United Way Suncoast recently completed the first year of funding of over $5.6 million in community investments utilizing a new investment process aimed at providing more strategic investments in the community, leading to greater impact and results for the area’s most vulnerable residents.

Pinellas adds 14 Covid deaths

The death toll from Covid-19 in Pinellas County grew by 14 people on Thursday. A total of 536 people have died from Covid-19 in Pinellas since the outbreak of the pandemic. Pinellas County deaths accounted for nearly 10 percent of the 148 new deaths reported statewide on Thursday. Only Broward and Miami-Dade counties had a larger number of new deaths on Thursday than did Pinellas. There has been a cumulative total of 18,329 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Pinellas County, including 112 new cases reported Thursday. The seven-day rolling average of people who have been tested for the virus and are positive was 4.9 percent, the lowest rate in several days.

Federal prosecutors in Tampa crack down on websites selling Covid products

The U.S.  Justice Department obtained a temporary restraining order in federal court in Tampa against three people who prosecutors said were seeking to profit from the Covid-19 pandemic. The defendants, identified in a news release as Thu Phan Dinh, Tran Khanh, and Nguyen Duy Toan, are accused of operating more than 300 websites that fraudulently purported to sell products that became scarce during the pandemic, including hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Thousands of victims in all 50 states paid for items supposedly sold through the websites but never received the purchased products, the news release said. The defendants also allegedly listed fraudulent contact addresses and phone numbers on the websites, causing unaffiliated individuals and businesses in the United States to receive numerous complaint calls from victims who had been defrauded by the scheme.  U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell issued an emergency temporary restraining order requiring the websites be disabled. All the defendants are from Vietnam, and Vietnamese authorities conducted their own investigation and arrested them, the news release said.

Tampa nonprofit opens St. Pete office to help women business owners

The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women has opened a satellite office in St. Petersburg to help female entrepreneurs and small business owners with training, education and counseling as they navigate the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. The goal is to make it convenient for women-owned small businesses in Pinellas County who want to apply for emergency loans and achieve greater economic security, said Ann Madsen, executive director of the Centre for Women. The organization operates the only SBA-designated Women’s Business Centre on the west coast of Florida and recently received a $420,000 grant from the Small Business Administration to extend services to business owners impacted by the coronavirus. One of the Centre's  business advisors will be onsite The Poynter Institute on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.. The building is currently not open to the public due to the pandemic so those interested should call the CARES line at 813-550-2022 to schedule an appointment or email The Women's Business Centre is one of six programs at The Centre for Women, a nonprofit based in Tampa.

Stein Mart closing stores after filing for bankruptcy

Stein Mart expects to close most, if not all, of its brick and mortar stores after filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition.  The combined effects of a challenging retail environment coupled with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic caused significant financial distress for the company, Hunt Hawkins, CEO, said in a news release. The company lacks sufficient liquidity to continue operating in the ordinary course of business, and determined that the best strategy to maximize value would be a liquidation of its assets pursuant to an organized going out of business sale, Hawkins said. Stein Mart (Nasdaq: SMRT), based in Jacksonville, operates 281 stores across 30 states, including a store at 218 37th Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. Other local stores are in the Seminole City Center, Northwood Plaza in Clearwater,  33951 U.S. 19 N. in Palm Harbor, Briton Plaza in south Tampa, Lithia Crossing in Valrico and 13210 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood. Stein Mart is evaluating any and all strategic alternatives, including the potential sale of its e-commerce business and related intellectual property, the news release said.

Pinellas County commission extends local state of emergency

The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday extended its state of local emergency declaration for Covid-19 through Aug. 21. The extension of the declaration keeps in force a countywide ordinance requiring face coverings and social distancing practiced in indoor public places. Since the ordinance went into effect, there have been steady declines in the rolling 7-day averages for case counts and positive tests, public health officials said. The board also got an update on hurricane readiness during the pandemic. One key change this year could lead to fewer evacuations. Rather than relying strictly on the existing evacuation map, which assumes that all hurricanes carry the same storm surge risk per category, evacuations will be based on directional storms surge analysis based on the National Hurricane Center surge model data, according to Cathie Perkins, emergency management director. More shelters will be opened per storm category to facilitate social distancing, and the emergency management department has reached out to the Convention and Visitors Bureau and local chambers to identify area hotels that would be willing to convert their facilities into shelters.

Free Covid testing to be held three Saturdays in August

A coalition of local organizations including the Pinellas County Urban League, the YMCA and the Pinellas County Department of Health will be holding free Covid-19 drive-through and walk-up testing at three sites during the month of August. 

  • Saturday, Aug. 15 from 8 a.m.-11 a.m. at Ridgecrest YMCA, 1801 119th St. North in Largo
  • Saturday, Aug. 22 from 8 a.m.-11 a.m. at Clearwater MLK Center, 1201 Douglas Ave.
  • Saturday, Aug. 29 from 8 a.m.-11 a.m. at Mt. Zion PMB Church, 955 20th St. South in St. Pete
Testing will be done by appointment only by calling (888) 320-9077. Organizers are also seeking volunteers to direct traffic and help complete paperwork. Email to sign up. 

BayCare plans new hospital in Plant City

South Florida Baptist Hospital plans to build a new hospital about four miles from its current location in Plant City. The proposed new location is off Exit 22 of Interstate 4. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2021 and take about 30 months to complete. The hospital, part of the BayCare Health System, opened in 1953 and has undergone 12 major additions, renovations and expansions. It has run out of room to expand on its current site, said Karen Kerr, hospital president. The planned $326 million project will include 150 private patient rooms with the ability to add 30 more in the future. It also will include an 85,000-square-foot medical office building.

Tribute to Courageous 12 planned for EDGE Central

EDGE Central Development Partners has committed to commission artwork honoring The Courageous 12, the 12 Black St. Petersburg police officers who sued the city to gain the full rights of their white counterparts. The tribute monument will be installed at the mixed-use project EDGE Central Development plans for the former St. Petersburg Police headquarters. The St. Petersburg City Council is scheduled to vote Aug. 20 on a plan to sell the property at 1300 1st Ave. N. to EDGE Central Development, which will contribute at least $50,000 and up to $100,000 for the monument. The city's public arts commission also pledged $100,000 for the tribute. Last year, the city unveiled a plaque honoring The Courageous 12 inside the lobby of the new police headquarters, when the last surviving member, Leon Jackson, said the group was "the Jackie Robinson of police integration."

Pinellas County reports nine more Covid-19 deaths

The Florida Department of Health reported Wednesday that nine more people in Pinellas County have died from Covid-19, bringing the total to 522. The county also recorded another 114 confirmed cases of the virus and 2o additional hospitalizations. As of Wednesday, the county now has 18,217 residents who've tested positive. However, the rolling average of the percentage of positive cases has been trending downward over the past two weeks, with a 5.2 percent positive rate Tuesday. The St. Pete Catalyst has a daily update on total cases by ZIP code, which you can find here.

Community Foundation of Tampa Bay announces new leadership

The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay announced its new board members and changes to its leadership for fiscal year 2021.  The new board members are:

  • Robert H. Mohr – Chair
  • Mike M. Starkey - Chair-elect 
  • Edward F. Koren – Treasurer 
  • Linda O. Simmons – Secretary
  • Betty Castor - Past chair
Willie Tims, Jr. joins the board as a new member, while Susanna C. Fenhagen and Richard J. Rios will join the foundation's leadership council. Founded in 1990, the foundation connects donors, nonprofits, community and business leaders, professional advisors, volunteers and residents to make the maximum positive impact in the Tampa Bay region.

The St. Pete Catalyst

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