A Cuban embrace, a child's place, a charitable space

Published Aug. 14, 2002|Updated Sept. 3, 2005

A lot of people had reason to be surprised by Mayor Dick Greco's controversial trip to Cuba last month, but perhaps no one had a better one than Steve Rupert.

Two years ago, Greco refused to support Rupert's efforts to create a sister city relationship between Tampa and Havana. The mayor told the Tampa Tribune, "We can't do anything with Cuba until the embargo is lifted and Castro is gone."

Refusing to give up, Rupert _ a longtime Tampa mediator _ took his idea to Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash. With his help, the proposal was approved and Rupert is now president of the Manatee to Manati (Cuba) Sister City Program.

You might think Rupert would be annoyed with Greco's reversal, but he sees only positives.

"I don't know what his motives were, but I was glad to see him do it," he said. "Anything that helps the Cuban people helps me and what my project is all about. I guess he was just waiting until he felt the time was right."

By the way, Rupert was in Cuba when he got word of Greco's visit. He went by the Hotel Nacional, and while he didn't see the mayor, he did see some of the people in his traveling party.

"They looked a little nervous to me," Rupert said.

Project Safe Place is a national effort to assist teenagers in crisis by creating a network of businesses and public facilities where young people can request assistance. For years, they have been able to go to such places as county fire stations, Domino's Pizza locations, Wendy's restaurants and Boys and Girls clubs.

Now the troubled teens can have a Safe Place roll right up to them. HARTline buses have joined the list of Safe Place sites, with each bus displaying a yellow and black Safe Place decal on their windshield.

When a youth boards a bus and requests help, bus operators will contact a HARTline dispatcher who will link the child with the Haven W. Poe Runaway Center. Staff members there will determine whether the child should be transported home or to a runaway shelter.

The program is administered locally by the Hillsborough County Department of Children's Services.

It took me 20 minutes to figure out where this Saturday's Big Brothers/Big Sisters charity event is taking place. "The Art of Helping Children" will be at Netprk at 5701 East Hillsborough. After some deep thought, I remembered that was the mall where I got my Chick-Fil-A sandwiches almost a decade ago.

With the promise of art works from Cezanne, Dali, Degas, Picasso and Rembrandt, a silent auction and gourmet food, there are plenty of enticements. Tickets are $50 and $75 for the celebrity/VIP preview party. Call 813-287-2210 for information.

Is it just me, or has everyone stopped reading their 401K quarterly earning reports? Earnings? That's the biggest misnomer of the year.

That's all I'm saying.