ST. PETERSBURG — While trying to raise money to repave the parking lot and maintain the building, one neighborhood family center came up with an idea. Why not do a fundraiser that honors those who have paved the way?
The James B. Sanderlin Family Center, at 2335 22nd Ave. S, will host its second annual benefit on April 18.
The theme of the fundraiser is "Paving the Way." It focuses on those who have made contributions to the center and the community.
This year's benefit will honor the late Judge James B. Sanderlin, after whom the center is named.
"He made a big contribution to this community. Never asked for a dime. Never asked for the glory. Never asked for anything," said Lounell Britt, executive director of the Sanderlin center.
The benefit, at Sunken Gardens' Banquet Hall, will include dinner catered by Carrabba's Italian Grill and a silent auction. Tickets are $50, with table sponsorships available for $500.
The event will include speakers on the judge's legacy and the history of his involvement in St. Petersburg.
As the first black judge in the district and circuit, Sanderlin was a pioneer for civil rights in the area in the 1960s and '70s.
He helped desegregate Pinellas schools and represented sanitation workers in a 1968 strike to help them gain equal pay. He also represented 12 African-American police officers in a suit to gain advancement opportunities.
Sanderlin died in 1990. The James B. Sanderlin Family Center opened in the early '90s.
"I really want this to be about history and for us to remember the impact that this great man has had on the community," said Laurallyn Segur, 51, who heads the fundraising committee. "He has made such a difference."
Proceeds will help with the center's maintenance.
"We call it a fundraiser but it's really a friend-raiser," said Dianna King, 60, president of the center's board of trustees. "We want people to stay aware of what we're doing and just how important it is to the community."
Last year's fundraiser honored Britt and raised about $8,000.
The Sanderlin center focuses on family, education, the arts, spirituality and economics.
It offers a variety of programs, including karate classes, teen and health councils, computer and sewing classes, and family counseling.
Sybil Crocetti is a reporter for the Neighborhood News Bureau, a program of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.