12/06/13 Human Interest
The photos cover the kitchen walls.
Not just adorn them — hanging in neat frames or pinned under refrigerator magnets — but cover them, butting up against each other as if forming a personalized wallpaper.
"I didn't want there to be a gap in their lives," Joanie Blackwell, 51, said of her children. "I didn't want them to miss out. So I kept taking photos, even when it was hard."...
11/27/13 Human Interest
More than 20 years had passed since Shane Obedzinski first stepped foot on the baseball field where he filmed the movie The Sandlot. • He turned 10 on the set, and had no concept of what a success the movie would become. But when the 31-year-old Brandon man returned to Salt Lake City this summer for the 20th anniversary of the kids' baseball film, it was as if nothing had changed. • "The field looked just like it did 20 years ago," Obedzinski said while sitting at a table at New York Times Square Pizza, the restaurant he co-owns in Brandon. "We knew we had made a cool movie, but we didn't know it would have this lasting power."...
TAMPA — Visitors to MacDill Air Fore Base should add extra time to what can already be an exasperating commute to account for a new security policy requiring passes.
Previously, only a driver's license was required for visitors with military sponsors to enter.
But the base has updated its security policy, requiring anyone without an access pass to stop at the visitors center at the Dale Mabry Highway gate and get a pass before being allowed on base, said Air Force 2nd Lt. Patrick Gargan, a spokesman for the 6th Air Mobility Wing. He said the change was a response to an annual review and world events....
He walked the crash site before noon Sunday, trying to envision how his son's speeding car went airborne three times and crashed through a concrete-block wall.
Jeremiah Grady Simpson of Tampa, who turned 28 this month, died in that one-car crash early Sunday in Mulberry, south of Lakeland in Polk County.
"We're trying our best to try to find out what happened," Stephen Simpson, Jeremiah's father, said Sunday. "We don't have any idea why he was going south of Mulberry. No idea. Not at 2 in the morning."...
BRANDON — Florida is on the financial upswing and Tampa Bay is a huge part of that recovery, state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater told the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce Wednesday at a membership luncheon.
"We recognize that the port, the innovation, the new industry is happening here in Tampa Bay," Atwater said after the luncheon. "This is the real emerging economic engine."...
11/13/13 Economic Development
VALRICO — They deemed it a dream development.
A 6-acre park, architectural input, several acres of landscaping buffers and limitations on time of day for deliveries.
The original design called for a standard Kash n' Karry grocery store at the corner of S.R. 60 and S. Miller Road in Valrico.
But when residents protested the Lowe's that would come with the grocer, the developer tried to acquiesce, meeting for months in the late 1990s with a local activist and Hillsborough County staff....
I don't naturally enjoy running.
I purposefully avoided it, playing goalie on my high school soccer team, in part, to avoid sprinting up and down the 100-yard field, red-faced and winded like the rest of my teammates.
I've since shaken my absolute disdain for the sport, completing a few races and now training for a half-marathon. While I can list the benefits — cardiorespiratory fitness, stronger bones, stress relief, endorphins, confidence — I still struggle with motivation. I don't run with any focus on speed. I run with the desperate hope I can complete whatever specified distance and not collapse in the process. ...
TAMPA — The installation ceremony Sunday evening honoring Joshua Hearshen as the new rabbi of Congregation Rodeph Sholom wasn't just about him, but the introduction of a new chapter in the synagogue's 110-year history in Tampa.
"We haven't had that many rabbis in our history," installation co-chairwoman Margot Marcadis said.
"The Jewish community is part of the whole community. When you install a rabbi, that rabbi becomes a member of the general Tampa community as well."...
10/30/13 Local Government
BRANDON — Hillsborough County wants to label Brandon as a key economic development area and is considering creating a tax-increment finance district to help drive growth, Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill told the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.
"Brandon has the advantage of a relatively mature business environment, so the greater Brandon area will be one of what we call the economic development spaces that we will be focusing on," Merrill said, speaking at a chamber luncheon. "What that means is, and there will be a few of them identified around the county, we will then be focusing our economic development resources, both people and money, in those areas to leverage an already existing base that's working."...
When asked what gets him out of bed every morning, J.T. Doody's response is simple: Jesus, football and women. • His morning ritual involves an hourlong process in which the 30-year-old Iraq War veteran depends on his mom or a nursing assistant to do everything. Brush his teeth. Scrub his body. Wash his hair. • Doody spends his life in constraints, paralyzed because he contracted a hospital-borne infection while under treatment for injuries suffered in Iraq. • His days consist of a series of movements between his hospital bed, a 375-pound motorized wheelchair, and a sling that transfers him from his bed to his shower. • But Chris Ott refuses to let her son's limitations define his life. They eat at restaurants, check out bikini-clad girls at beach bars, host football parties every Sunday, even go to strip clubs. • "We try to make his life as normal as possible," Ott said. "Especially important is the socialization. You can't meet anyone if you're sitting in front of your TV." • While Doody possesses the technology and support to get out of bed, his will to want to move, to live, distinguishes him. It's one of the reasons the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce will honor him at its annual Ruskin Seafood Festival this weekend. • Nursing assistant Sheri Womble said that many wounded veterans simply stay in bed, glued to their televisions, no interest in an outside world they can't participate in. • "He's the only person I've met in his condition that really leads a normal life, and it's because of her," Womble said of Ott. "He does normal, typical 30-year-old guy stuff. It's a normal life, he just happens to be in a wheelchair."...
TAMPA — Cortnee Brantley is scheduled to appear before a judge Wednesday to determine if she violated terms of her bail while she appeals the conviction of a federal charge connected with the 2010 deaths of two Tampa police officers.
Brantley, 25, was sentenced this summer to a year and a day in prison for failing to warn authorities that her boyfriend, Dontae Morris, was a felon with a loaded gun. But she was allowed to remain free on bail while appealing the conviction....
BRANDON — Each month, a box of organic, all-natural snacks arrives at Jessica Ross' door.
She has sampled seaweed chips, giant corn kernels and holiday chocolates. Ross, who lives in Brandon, often takes the box to work and shares it with her co-workers at a food distribution company.
And while she enjoys the snacks and being exposed to new types of foods, she said her favorite part is that with each box she buys, the company that makes the boxes, Love with Food, donates a meal to a hungry child in the United States....
RUSKIN — SouthShore residents whose stomachs have been grumbling for more restaurants may finally see a boom in the food industry when the new Amazon warehouse arrives and brings 1,000 workers to the area.
"To me, it's kind of a simple math thing," said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. "Bottom line, you take a thousand new people in a community, and the average person eats out four or five times a week, think about what that's going to do when you multiply that number of people in one concentrated area."...
10/09/13 Working Life
RIVERVIEW — East Hillsborough snagged two of the top three spots for best communities in Florida for job seekers, according to a recent study completed by a national financial website.
NerdWallet.com awarded Valrico second place and Riverview third as the best locations for those on the job hunt.
The study evaluated three questions: Do people earn high salaries? Is the city growing? And, are most people employed? This required evaluating median household income, population growth of those 16 and over and the employment rate....
LUTZ — More than 100 people gathered along the track and prayed for the friend whom they still couldn't believe would never make them laugh, wrestle competitively or sing country songs again.
Friends and teachers held a vigil at Steinbrenner High School's stadium Sunday night to honor senior Frank Vasquez, who died after a driver slammed into and flipped his parked SUV early Saturday....