Dong-Phuong Nguyen, Times Staff Writer

Dong-Phuong Nguyen

Dong-Phuong Nguyen was born in Saigon, Vietnam. She joined the Times in 2001 as a general assignment reporter in Tampa. Phuong now covers the community she lives in — New Tampa, a suburban pocket in northeast Hillsborough — writing about everything and anything.

Phone: (813) 269-5312

Email: nguyen@tampabay.com

  1. Tony Dungy surprises students at Pride Elementary

    Human Interest

    NEW TAMPA — Fifth-grader Sam Tkacik walked into the Pride Elementary School cafeteria Thursday morning for the Great American Teach-In and got a shock.

    The speaker was Tony Dungy, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach.

    "What is he doing here?" Sam thought. "He should be on SportsCenter or something."

    The story of how Dungy ended up at this suburban elementary school dates back nine months to a dinged car in a church parking lot. And it only burnishes the image that has made him a beloved local figure....

    Teacher Lori Farmer shows the note that Tony Dungy left on her car after he thought he scraped it in a church parking lot.
  2. Friends, family of 'Bachelor Pad' winner say he's a really nice guy

    News

    TAMPA — He has been called every nasty name in the book. Death threats arrive via Facebook and Twitter. Even his parents are the subject of the public's vitriol.

    Almost two months after winning this season's reality show Bachelor Pad, in which Nick Peterson walked away with $250,000 after he chose not to split the prize with his partner, Peterson continues to receive backlash from the viewing public. ...

    Personal trainer Nick Peterson walked away from the drama-filled show with $250,000.
  3. New Tampa homeowner wins judgment against homeowners association

    Crime

    NEW TAMPA — In January 2002, the Pebble Creek Homeowners Association dispatched a lawn crew to a couple's property to replace sod that had died during a record drought.

    Then they billed the homeowners for the job.

    Retired police captain Ed Simmons and his wife Billye disputed the actions of the association and refused to pay.

    That sent the $2,212 bill into the center of various lawsuits between both parties that has spanned more than a decade....

  4. Tampa personal trainer, UT graduate wins 'Bachelor Pad'

    The Feed

    TAMPA — A day after South Tampa personal trainer Nick Peterson walked away with $250,000 on the third season of the reality TV show Bachelor Pad on Monday night, he found himself defending his decision that left his partner with nothing.

    Peterson, also known as "Peety," shocked viewers during the season finale of the show — an elimination-style, two-hour game show in which contestants from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette compete for dates and a final cash prize of $250,000 — when he chose to "keep" the prize money instead of splitting it with his partner....

    On the ABC show Bachelor Pad, Rachel Truehart was stunned when Nick “Peety” Peterson reneged on a pact to share the prize money.
  5. Food trucks rolling into the suburbs

    Business

    ODESSA

    Nick Tzoumas grew up in Chicago, where food trucks are so popular, the City Council recently banned vendors from doing business within 200 feet of a restaurant. Tzoumas' dad, who owned a sub shop for many years, once appeared on a local Chicago television station denouncing the trucks. So why was Tzoumas standing in the middle of the suburbs last Friday night eating a gourmet hot dog from a food truck called Americanwiener? "This reminds me of home," Tzoumas said. "The food is cheap and really, really good. And there's nothing like it around here." The food truck craze, which hit Tampa almost a year ago, has seeped into the suburbs....

  6. Blind but still golfing, Odessa man competes nationally

    Human Interest

    ODESSA — Tony Schiros loved to golf. He loved it so much, he vowed someday he would live on the Silver Dollar Golf Course in Odessa, where he had been playing for decades.

    In 2007, Schiros sold his mattress business and realized his dream. He moved into a double-wide mobile home between the third and fourth holes.

    But three months after moving in, Schiros went blind.

    The golf course went dark; his golf clubs collected dust....

    Tony Schiros, 65, will compete in the Blind Golf Association championship in New York.
  7. Faith Outreach Center buys historic property for Christian retreat in Odessa

    Human Interest

    ODESSA — The first time Pastor George Walters and his wife, Mickey, drove by the dilapidated structure on the corner of Race Track Road and Gunn Highway, they were enamored with its serene surroundings.

    Their glances as they passed the lot over the years turned into talk about how fantastic the property would be if it served as the site of a recreational spot for Christians — if only it were for sale....

  8. A teen ballerina dances her way from Tampa to the Royal Ballet of London

    Human Interest

    TAMPA

    Hannah Bettes moved away from home when she was 14 years old.

    She wanted to be a professional ballerina. Instructors agreed she had the raw talent, but she needed more training.

    Her parents rented an apartment in Tampa's Channel District, just minutes away from an acclaimed teacher at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts — but a two-hour drive from their house in DeLand, north of Orlando....

  9. Youth football leagues working to overcome loss of stolen equipment

    Human Interest

    CARROLLWOOD — Parents and young football hopefuls from Carrollwood to East Tampa are struggling to begin their summer youth leagues after thieves stole thousands of dollars in equipment from two separate organizations.

    In East Tampa, almost 200 children sign up to play football for the Highland Pines Cougars every season.

    Coaches, parents and children hold bake sales, wash cars and sell dinners to raise money for uniforms and equipment. The extra funds keep registration costs down, making it affordable for more families....

  10. UCH, iPhone let ballplayer get the play-by-play on birth of daughter

    Human Interest

    NEW TAMPA — Michael Bernard thought he would miss his daughter's birth.

    The former University of South Florida basketball player was half a world away playing basketball professionally for a European team.

    They made it to the playoffs, extending their season, so he wouldn't get back to Tampa in time.

    Bernard did get to hear his baby's first cries.

    An iPhone brought the birth of 7-pound, 5-ounce Maliyah to her dad's living room in Levice, a town in western Slovakia, where her cries filled his ears, where a nurse could be heard counting fingers and toes, where the surgeon's hearty congratulations brought this 6-foot-9-inch ballplayer to tears....

    And baby makes five. The Bernard family at home.
  11. Women's center in Brandon welcomes news clients: men

    Human Interest

    BRANDON — It was a cold January day, around lunchtime, when the old man knocked on the door of the Women's Resource Center of Tampa Bay.

    Tired and hungry, he was all alone. The past two years, he had been living in his blue Buick, sleeping upright in his car in a Walmart parking lot.

    He was dressed in soiled and tattered clothing, flies and insects swarmed his body.

    The woman at the door was kind. She asked him what he needed....

    Patrick O’Roark picks out a suit for job interviews from the clothes offered at the Women’s Resource Center of Tampa Bay. Each Wednesday at the Brandon center is now “Men’s Day.”
  12. Firefighters, lifeguards attempted rescue of doomed Lutz swimmers

    Accidents

    ANNA MARIA ISLAND — West Manatee Fire Rescue firefighter Nathan Bergbom held the woman's head above the water and told the other swimmers not to let her go.

    A man lying on his stomach on a raft, exhausted and out of breath, had both hands looped beneath the unresponsive woman's arms as two others tried to keep her afloat.

    The swimmers had been trapped in a rip current for several minutes before Bergbom arrived, and they were spent. Bergbom noticed one of the swimmers, an older gentleman, was also struggling....

  13. Many methods to uniform madness

    K12

    School is right around the corner, so you know what that means — back-to-school shopping. But many students in Hillsborough County can just forget about the latest trends and fashion statements.

    Twenty years ago, the school district voted to give schools the option of adopting a school uniform policy. Love or hate it, 78 elementary and 15 middle schools have a mandatory uniform policy. For 18 other elementary schools, uniforms are voluntary. No high schools participate. ...

  14. Case of stolen laptops reads like Hollywood script

    Crime

    TAMPA — The ping of a cell phone, the surveillance image of a car near an abandoned warehouse, an e-mail address attached to a SunPass transponder.

    Those technological tools have been used by investigators as they try to crack the case of thousands of laptop computers stolen from a contractor for the U.S. Special Operations Command.

    In a search warrant, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office detective details recent efforts aimed at nabbing the people responsible for breaking into the iGov Technologies office on Palm River Road on March 6....

  15. SOCom says no military information on stolen laptops

    Crime

    TAMPA — Thousands of laptops stolen from a private contractor for U.S. Special Operations Command contained no sensitive information, SOCom officials said Tuesday.

    "There was no security breach of military information or software," Maj. Denise Boyd said. "No military software had been loaded onto the computers."

    Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded the private company, iGov, a $450 million contract to supply mobile technology services linking special operations troops all over the world....