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Elisabeth Parker, Times Staff Writer

Elisabeth Parker is a community news reporter for the Times, based in Tampa. A graduate of the University of South Florida, she joined the Times in 2002.

She's always looking for story ideas.

Phone: (813) 226-3431

Email: eparker@tampabay.com

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  1. A young migrant worker transforms to college student

    Human Interest

    DOVER — The hands that once picked fruit in the fields surrounding this east Hillsborough community helped guide a baseball across the plate at the Tampa Bay Rays game Wednesday.

    The hands that once shielded him from the wrath of an angry father accepted a diploma from Strawberry Crest High School last week, making him the first in his family to graduate.

    The hands of Miguel Ventura hold the hopes of a brighter future, hopes that didn't exist in his heart and mind even a year ago. Back then, he saw himself as just another kid from another migrant family, wanting little more than a place to sleep....

    Strawberry Crest graduating senior Miguel Ventura receives his diploma during commencement on June 3 at the Florida State Fairgrounds.
  2. Readers respond to 'Holiday Hopes'

    News

    They say it's better to give than receive. They just might be on to something, as many of you readers know firsthand. For the ninth consecutive year, the Tampa Bay Times has told about people with extraordinary stories and great needs in our Holiday Hopes series. • Here's how readers responded.

    Rico Davis

    Readers came through for Rico Davis, providing a traditional Christmas dinner from HoneyBaked Ham of Brandon and presents for Ervin Washington III, who is 13, and his sister Angel Washington, 7. The presents were valued at about $500 said Vicki Sokolik, director at Starting Right, Now. Cash donations totaled $900 and will buy food for the children and their grandmother, who Davis says has little resources....

    TAMPA ‚€” Pfc. Michael Monthervil‚€™s time in Afghanistan had dwindled to three days. His Armey infantry platoon was connected to Special Forces, and the men had bonded like brothers during their eight months in the country. They completed missions and saw a lot of things that they can‚€™t talk about. Monthervil calls them his ‚€œbattle buddies.‚€
  3. Holiday Hopes: Injured soldier works to rebuild his life

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Pfc. Michael Monthervil's time in Afghanistan had dwindled to three days. His Army infantry platoon was connected to Special Forces, and the men had bonded like brothers during their eight months in the country. They completed missions and saw a lot of things that they can't talk about. Monthervil calls them his "battle buddies."

    On a recent weekday, he raised a hand from his wheelchair for a loose fist bump with a visitor. ...

    “My battle buddies tell me I’m strong to keep my head up and not stress out. I always wanted to do something bigger.”
Michael Monthervil, injured in Afghanistan
  4. Holiday Hopes: HCC student strives to help younger siblings overcome tragedy

    Human Interest

    TAMPA

    Telling the story gets a little easier each time, but it is always painful.

    He woke early that morning a year and a half ago to his sister's screams and jumped from his bed. He can't remember what month it was, just that he was about to take final exams for his junior year at Armwood High School.

    In his front yard, hell was playing out. Torn clothes were strewn about and his stepfather, the man he called Dad, was lying on the driveway gasping for breath. His mother, holding a gun, was screaming nearby, "out of her mind drunk."...

    Ervin Washington was fatally shot by his wife, Emon Kellar, deputies say.
  5. Holiday Hopes: Vazquez family soldiers on through lupus, financial hardships

    Human Interest

    BRANDON

    Sophia Vazquez turned 3 weeks old on Thursday.

    Recently, she slept cocooned against her mother's breast while her father worked on the car outside. The left brakes had started to grind and they discovered the right side brakes no longer worked. With no money for the repair, the family was stranded at home for days.

    But for the most part, the worries of the world haven't yet reached Sophia. She's an easy baby who cries rarely and sleeps soundly. ...

    Chanel, clockwise from left, Andrew, Isai and Amanda Vasquez say grace before dinner. “I don’t feel complete without her here with me,” Andrew says of Amanda.
  6. Holiday Hopes: Dedicated student seeks scholarship money

    Human Interest

    TEMPLE TERRACE

    She was 12 days old when her father was kidnapped by the Taliban. It was 1996 and they were living in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was on his way home from work to his wife and four children, the oldest just 5.

    Fereshta Abdul Khaled was too young to witness her mother's search for her father in their homeland or the trip to Iran and then Russia, to escape the Taliban and find a safe home. Nor does she remember her father's touch or his love....

    Fereshta Abdul Khaled, center, shares a plate of french fries with her sisters Sunia, left, and Arezu as their mother, Marzia Abdul Khaled, background, prepares more at their home in Temple Terrace.
  7. Florida House of Representatives: District 64

    Kyc

    Florida House | District 64

    A court challenge over the eligibility of a write-in candidate for the District 64 seat has pushed this contest between two Republicans from the primary to the general election. An appeal involving this race had not been decided by early October, but all registered voters in the district are able to vote in it. James Grant, whose father was a longtime state lawmaker, is being challenged by Miriam Steinberg, whose husband, Democrat Michael Steinberg, ran against Grant four years ago. By Elisabeth Parker, Times staff writer...

    Grant
  8. Traveling exhibit highlights Tampa's colorful Prohibition history

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — During the days of Prohibition, Tampa was a wet spot.

    Rum flowed in from Cuba and moonshine from surrounding rural areas.

    Prohibition didn't curtail drinking. Instead, it went underground — in some cases literally. Local lore tells of tunnels leading from the Ybor City port up into speakeasies.

    "The area had some logistical advantages," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of the Tampa Bay History Center. "Florida was one of the wettest states and Tampa was one of the wettest cities."...

    This photo from 1931 shows whiskey caches uncovered by authorities at 1014 10th Ave. in Tampa (around the current location of the Children’s Board office).
  9. Veterans with spinal cord injuries gain jobs, sense of purpose

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Troy Webb rolled his wheelchair back from a wall of screens showing the busy hallways of the James A. Haley VA Medical Center. He can see into a million square feet of the center through more than 100 cameras from his work space, a room the size of an average bedroom.

    He picked up a ringing phone. A Mercedes was involved in an accident in the parking garage. It was turning out to be a quiet morning, but more than 10,000 people would filter through the center by the end of the day....

    Troy Webb, 37, works at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center as a police dispatcher. It’s his first job in 15 years.
  10. Jane Goodall surprises children in USF nature program

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Anthony Santos Rivera was among the kindergarteners at the University of South Florida Botanical Gardens carrying magnifying glasses, which they used to inspect leaves, butterflies and caterpillars Tuesday.

    The Pizzo Elementary School students were on a field trip as part of a program started by well-known primatologist Jane Goodall. Called Roots & Shoots, it encourages young people to save the Earth. Anthony's class is building a butterfly garden in a courtyard of the school. ...

    Scientist Jane Goodall hugs Avalon Theisen, 13, after a surprise visit from Goodall at the USF Botanical Gardens in Tampa on Tuesday. Goodall spoke to students about the work she has done in her career and The Roots and Shoots program. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  11. New slaughterhouse caters to Muslims

    Human Interest

    BY ELISABETH PARKER Times Staff Writer

    TAMPA

    Along an industrial strip on the city's eastern edge, a block north of the Victory Temple and a drive-through Good Times Liquor, a halal slaughterhouse opened a meat market this summer.

    Fresh meat open to the public, says a sign outside Musa Slaughterhouse at 6211 N 56th St.

    Drivers passing see large pictures of bucolic goats, chicks, sheep and cows that trim the top of the large warehouse. ...

    Customers at Musa Slaughterhouse can select the goats and sheep they want from open pens and observe the slaughter.
  12. Interview: MOSI's interim director on the museum's changes

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Things are in flux at the Museum of Science and Industry.

    In the past year, the Hillsborough County government, which owns MOSI's land and has loaned it money, ordered up a consultant's report that found the museum was in financial decline and needed to overhaul questionable accounting practices. MOSI temporarily closed its cafe after pests were found. And the nonprofit museum accepted the resignation of longtime president Wit Ostrenko, who announced plans to retire....

    Molly Demeu­lenaere, 36, is excited about big changes at MOSI.
  13. Betty King Culbreath Gibbons dies at age 92

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Betty King Culbreath Gibbons lived a life of coincidences.

    Born in Oklahoma in 1921, she came to Tampa as a small child and lived most of her life here. As a teen, she loved to sail her boat across Tampa Bay.

    "My mother was an extraordinary, dynamic and adventurous person," Kay Culbreath Heller said. "She never lost that joy of sailing."

    Culbreath Gibbons, a millionaire socialite who married two of Tampa Bay's most influential and best-known men, died Friday. She was 92....

    In this 2007 photo, Sen. Sam Gibbons, who died at 92 in 2012, is shown with his wife, Betty Culbreath Gibbons.
  14. Hope Terrible: A success story with an unusual name

    Human Interest

    Two awards from the Tampa Housing Authority hang on Hope Terrible's dining room wall. One is the Geraldine Barnes Resident Recognition for personal development, dated 2012. The other, which she received in July, recognizes her for "Extraordinary Accomplishments as a Public Housing Resident." Terrible was honored for starting her own business, Full of Hope Cleaning Services.

    Her counselor had invited her to a lunch and didn't tell her about the award. "That was a shock," she said. "I called my mom as soon as I left. My mama's so proud of me."...

    Hope Terrible, 45, creator of Full of Hope Cleaning Services, poses in her home with some tools of the trade.
  15. Tampa Bay Markets reaching out for more farmers

    Human Interest

    HYDE PARK — Eggs from Lutz and eggplant and okra from Brooksville draw more than 1,000 shoppers on the first Sunday of every month to Hyde Park Village.

    It's the largest of six open-air Fresh Markets operated by Tampa Bay Markets in the area. But even so, the fresh bounty offered accounts for just a quarter of the goods available.

    That's a problem, said Tiffany Ferrecchia, market manager. She hears regularly from people who come from other states expecting to find more heirloom tomatoes and fresh greens at the markets....