Carol Paine was the coordinator of mental health services at the Hillsborough County Jail seven years ago, and there were days when the work was rewarding.
There were other days, however, when the challenge of helping the system's juveniles was quite frustrating. She dealt with teens so bad they had to be kept in a special juvenile section of the adult jail.
It was then that she realized she was dealing with the wrong end of the life span. So she quit the jail, became a volunteer nearly full time at the schools of her two children, and even worked as an aide in a class of emotionally disturbed students.
Eventually, Carol and her husband, former city Councilman Scott Paine, decided to do even more. They adopted a sibling group of four children with special needs.
"Parenting these kids is the toughest job anyone will ever love," Carol said. "But oh the difference we can make in individual lives and consequently the future of our families, community and world."
She speaks from experience. A teen that the Paines adopted several years ago is now a successful teacher in Pinellas County.
The story of the Paines came to me after I wrote about how the community could benefit if we made a greater effort to shape the lives of our youth. While not everyone has the necessities to follow in the Paines' footsteps, Carol said she wants people to know there are more special-needs children.
Or, should we say, more opportunities to make a difference.
Here's one reason Jim Davis may want to eschew running for governor: everyone wants his current job. Several people already have expressed an interest in Davis' congressional seat if he jumps in the race, including state Rep. Bob Henriquez and county Commissioner Chris Hart.
Now we're hearing that state Rep. Sandy Murman may have an interest in moving into Davis' seat. According to the grapevine, some insiders would like to see Murman run because it would open up a state House seat that former Chief Circuit Judge Dennis Alvarez could pursue. Alvarez recently took a job at the firm of Sandy's husband, Jim.
The colorful "Parking at the Courthouse" tile mural already was one of the coolest works in downtown Tampa. The mural, which is on the southern side of the parking garage adjacent to the downtown Tampa Police Department, has drawn raves since being dedicated last November.
Now the mosaic, commissioned by the city of Tampa Public Art Program, is considered one of the best in the world after recently receiving the Commercial Construction/Remodeling Prize at the recent Spectrum 2001 International Ceramic Tile Competition.
The Tampa Bay Chapter of the NFL Players Association is another group trying to make a difference. Last Saturday, members of the group, primarily former Bucs players such as Harold Hart, Lee Roy Selmon, James Evans, Mark Carrier and Mark Cotney, joined with local celebrities at Regal Bowling Lanes with kids from the Boys & Girls Club.
That may not be as grand as adopting four kids, but I want to believe every effort can make a difference.
My past column about helping youth was a reaction to death of Tampa police Officer Lois Marrero, and while teaching and expecting greater respect for police officers from youth was an opinion heralded by most readers, there was something of a dissenting opinion. One person called to suggest we should emphasize respect for all human life, not just police officers.
"Maybe if they have those types of funerals for everyone who dies instead of just for police officers," the reader suggested, "it might send a message to some of these troubled kids that they're just as important as the police officers."
_ Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or Hoopersptimes.com. His column appears on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.