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New St. Petersburg book club honors shooting victim Paris Whitehead-Hamilton

A ceremony last week launched a book club in honor of an 8-year-old victim of a drive-by shooting.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and Lori Matway, the city administrator for school resources, attended the launch of "I Can See Paris from Midtown Book Club" at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum at 2240 Ninth Ave. S.

The six-month program honors the memory of Paris Whitehead-Hamilton, who was shot and killed in her front bedroom more than a year ago.

During the ceremony in the museum's Legacy Garden, Foster stressed the benefits of reading and a quality education to the 12 girls — most of whom were classmates of Paris — at the Imagine School at St. Petersburg, 1950 First Ave. N.

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Also at the ceremony was Jeffery Worthy, a market manager at Walmart, who said something curious to me: Walmart has had a difficult time filling job openings in the area.

Some job seekers apparently don't realize this, but during the screening process, applicants who fail a drug test or have a felony on their record are eliminated from consideration by Walmart.

And that, said Worthy, has him worried.

A new 100,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter is under construction at the former site of Montgomery Ward at 34th Street between First and Second avenues N, just west of the Historic Kenwood neighborhood.

The store is set to open in July, with 250 job openings. Worthy said he is hopeful the giant retailer won't have similar trouble filling positions there.

Walmart has three other stores in the area. One is 2 1/2 miles away on 34th Street S, another is 5 1/2 miles north on Tyrone Boulevard and another is 6 1/2 miles north on U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park.

Worthy's concerns drew skepticism from Ed Peachey, the president and chief executive officer of WorkNet Pinellas, a St. Petersburg career training center, since 2002.

The economic downturn has added millions to the unemployment rolls. Florida has an unemployment rate of 12 percent, so employers can be far more selective when considering applicants.

With so many people out of work, jobs should be easy to fill, Peachey said. "In today's economy, I don't think you'll find it too hard to fill 250 jobs, considering how many people are out of work.

"We'd certainly like to work with him (Worthy) and help alleviate some of these issues, if he'd like to utilize our services," he said.

Peachey also said his office has a routine warning for job seekers.

"We tell people, 'If you can't pass a drug screening, don't bother applying for the job,' because you're not going to be placed," he said.

Sandra J. Gadsden is an assistant metro editor/community news. She can be reached at or at (727) 893-8874.

New St. Petersburg book club honors shooting victim Paris Whitehead-Hamilton 11/20/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 19, 2010 7:10pm]
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