In 1981, the United Nations declared Sept. 21 as a day to strengthen "the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples," creating the International Day of Peace.
To celebrate, high school students from Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, including the Rotary Club of Clearwater Beach, painted pictures of peace on area storefront windows.
Many of the students involved in the Painting for Peace Project in Clearwater Beach were Rotary exchange students representing the countries of Brazil, France, Croatia, Germany, Denmark, Ecuador, Austria, Thailand, Spain, Taiwan, Switzerland, Finland and Sweden.
The Rotary Club of Clearwater Beach was joined in its Painting for Peace Day efforts by the Rotary Club Bitola Shirok Sokak in Bitola, Macedonia, where students from several high schools there painted for peace and spread the Rotarian spirit.
The alliance was made possible through a social media connection. Rotarians Alexandra Everist from the Rotary Club of Clearwater Beach and Natasia Nestorovska, president of the Bitola Shirok Sokak Rotary, connected on LinkedIn and worked on both sides of the ocean to bring the project to life.
"The message, 'Peace starts with you and me,' will be the leading message for the community," Nestorovska said of the project. "We will promote peace in every day life, peace with your friends, relatives, peace with your colleagues, neighbors, peace with members of other nationalities, peace with yourself."
Local businesses that volunteered their windows included Florida Beach Rentals, Crabby Bills Beachwalk, Nick Ekonomides Law Firm, Belloise Realty, Nature's Food Patch, Marley's Monster Grill, Beach Rentals, Chapel by the Sea, Island Dog Outfitters and Aloha on the Beach.
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At a recent meeting of the Belleair Rotary Club, Sheila Lopez, chief operating officer of Catholic Charities, spoke to club members about the organization's Shelters of Hope programs, which provide safe living environments for families and individuals facing a limited income, disability or crisis that causes them to be without housing.
One of those programs, Pinellas Hope, is a temporary emergency shelter for more 250 homeless men and women situated on 13 acres in an industrial area of Pinellas Park.
The facility opened Dec. 1, 2007, and provides 255 tents, 10 casitas and 80 apartments, the latter of which cost a family 30 percent of income.
In addition to shelter, 850,000 meals have been served, brought in by volunteers.
Those in need who are drug and alcohol free per test screen are eligible to receive services which include the use of a tent, sleeping bag, mat and ditty bag. While receiving services a person must volunteer 10 hours a week or five hours if employed.
There are 10 beds available for clients with medical problems. To help those with mental health problems, Pinellas Emergency Mental Health Services provides one mental health counselor and one substance abuse counselor.
The camp is client-run and has 12 paid staff members who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Three thousand volunteers keep the facility running. Three warehouses accept household donations and the charity welcomes cash donations.
Background checks are done on all the residents and case managers who meet with them on a regular basis to set goals towards self-sufficiency. They also assist the residents with job and housing placement and perform follow up visits with them six months after they leave the shelter.
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Donoghue-Dunedin Toastmasters members Debra Lombardozzi of Tarpon Springs and Amanda Hunt of Dunedin literally talked their way into first-place wins for best humorous speaker and best evaluation respectively at the club's Humorous Speech & Evaluation Contest Sept. 21 at the Clearwater Main Library.
Lombardozzi and Hunt will now compete against winners from other Area 21 Toastmasters Clubs as they work their way through Area and Division levels for a chance to compete in November at the Toastmasters District 48 conference in Bradenton.
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