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.
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....
12/18/14 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. ...
12/12/14 Human Interest
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."...
12/04/14 Human Interest
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. ...
11/28/14 Human Interest
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....
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...
09/26/14 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."...
09/18/14 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....
09/09/14 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. ...
09/04/14 Human Interest
BY ELISABETH PARKER Times Staff Writer
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. ...
09/02/14 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....
09/01/14 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....
08/28/14 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."...
08/28/14 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....
08/22/14 Local Government
TAMPA — Your vote for James Grant or Miriam Steinberg for state House District 64 won't count — at least not on Tuesday.
Although both candidates will be listed on the ballot for voters in Carrollwood, Citrus Park, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor, a notice that precedes the names says, by court order, the votes will not be tallied.
But the next sentence says: "This order is currently under appellate review and the information contained in this notice is subject to change pending the outcome of the appeal."...