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Florida Blue will invest $1.7 million to address North Tampa poverty

“We thought we could make a difference here,” said Florida Blue’s CEO of two of the region’s poorest ZIP codes.
Volunteers use hand sanitizer at the University Area Community Center in Tampa as more than 600 families in need enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 20, 2020. Florida Blue announced Friday that it will invest $1.7 million to address poverty in North Tampa.
Volunteers use hand sanitizer at the University Area Community Center in Tampa as more than 600 families in need enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 20, 2020. Florida Blue announced Friday that it will invest $1.7 million to address poverty in North Tampa. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Jul. 30

Florida Blue announced Friday that it will invest $1.7 million to address the poverty in two of Tampa Bay’s poorest zip codes.

The investment, made in partnership with the Tampa Innovation Partnership, aims to provide better health, housing, employment, and other opportunities for these north Tampa communities.

It’s part of the statewide Growing Resilient Communities initiative launched by Guidewell, the holding company of insurer Florida Blue. The program’s goal is to combat generational poverty in four areas of the state: Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, and Orlando.

Florida Blue and GuideWell president and CEO Pat Geraghty said they chose these areas because they were among the “most challenged” in Florida.

“We thought we could make a difference here,” Geraghty said. “By lifting up those around us through investing in people and relevant programs, we aim to significantly impact those affected in a meaningful, powerful and long-lasting way that will benefit generations to come.”

David Pizzo, Florida Blue's market president for West Florida, speaks at Friday's announcement that Florida Blue is investing $1.7 million to fight poverty in North Tampa.
David Pizzo, Florida Blue's market president for West Florida, speaks at Friday's announcement that Florida Blue is investing $1.7 million to fight poverty in North Tampa. [ Photo courtesy of Florida Blue ]

ZIP code 33612 runs from E Busch Boulevard north to E Fletcher Avenue, is bordered on the east by the University of South Florida and on the west by the area around N Armenia Avenue. The 33613 ZIP code is the area north of E Fletcher Avenue, includes the USF campus, and runs north along U.S. 41 to Lutz. Those areas include the University area.

Florida Blue says it has been working on this investment since 2019 to address “the social drivers of generational poverty” across the state.

Tampa Innovation Partnership executive director Mark Sharpe said he’s seen the challenges facing these communities first-hand being born and raised in Tampa.

“I looked around and said, ‘We got to do better.’” Sharpe said. “With great institutions (like) Moffitt Cancer, Busch Gardens, (the) University of South Florida right across the street, you’ve got the challenges that we face.”

He said the next steps in the investment will be to build a coalition.

Sharpe hopes to bring in organizations and businesses across the spectrum like the NAACP, Crossover Church, the city of Tampa and others to help build these communities.

He hopes they’ll start seeing change by the end of the year.

“The people who live here are going to look around in a few years and go, ‘My goodness, I didn’t think this was possible,’” Sharpe said.

He challenged the business community to join the effort to improve the University area.

“Today’s event is a clarion call to the public and private sectors to disrupt the cycle of poverty,” he said at Friday’s announcement at University Mall. “Let us join forces to ensure that every community in Hillsborough County thrives.”