I was privileged to be able to participate in bringing some gifts and spreading a bit of joy among the residents of Pinellas Hope this Holiday Season. Tony Viera, Matt Donaldson, and Sarah Barkley Raaymakers, attorneys with the law firm of Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett, P.A. goes to Pinellas Hope regularly to assist the residents with legal matters that they may have and they invited some of us to go along during this holiday season. Pinellas Hope is a program of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, which opened on 10 acres of land on December 1, 2008. It is a temporary emergency shelter for over 250 homeless men and women located in Clearwater. In this safe haven for the residents they meet with case managers and are assisted with legal issues, job and housing placement. Many of the residents live in tents, while a few who may be disabled have small cottages. There is a large kitchen, several offices, a large covered eating area. The 300 residents receive the use of laundry facilities, computers, telephones, GED classes and medical checkups. As we walked through the gates we were greeted by various people with big smiles on their faces who were truly happy to see us. We approached the large covered area which was surrounded by a row of beautifully decorated Christmas trees. I walked through with Carrie Jannazo, Laura Morgan and Megan Sipe, coworkers of mine at Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett, carrying goodies through to the back kitchen. On this sunny afternoon, Tony Viera came in and set up in a nearby office. He had appointments that were made for him by with several residents by the staff of Pinellas Hope, but stopped to help Matt Donaldson, fully dressed as Santa Claus and carrying a sack full of goodies. Matt cried, “Ho, Ho, Ho” and stopped to pull a gift out of his sack for each of the residents. His bright smile and humor were infectious and he brought the spirit of Christmas into the covered area as they sat and spoke to him and exchanged hugs. In a story for the Tampa Bay Times written by David Decamp and Stephen Nohlgren, they state that, “Success is hard to measure. Organizers say they help move many into long-term housing, but their statistics show that nearly just as many, four of 10 residents, are likely to get kicked out, land in jail, or simply disappear. Here at Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett, we say “Hooray to the 6 out of 10 who are helped by Pinellas Hope. We were all happy to help out and to bring a small piece of joy into the lives of the residents of Pinellas Hope, as it continues in its mission on 20 acres of land to provide a safe living environment for homeless, and will continue to do so.
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