The annual Polywog Invitational Charity Golf Classic donated a total of $108,000 to six local charities as the sun set on an informal, cheerful gathering at St. Petersburg Country Club. Now in their 63rd year, the Polywogs have raised and donated more than $2 million to numerous Pinellas County nonprofit groups.
This year's recipients are R'Club Child Care Inc., Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, the Children's Dream Fund, the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, First Tee of St. Petersburg and Ready for Life.
The Polywogs started in 1964 to organize the St. Petersburg Women's Open Golf Championship. It has held various competitions and fundraisers over the years, but keeps the name that derived from the Greek word "poly," meaning many, and the abbreviation for Women's Open Golf.
Tamika Redd doesn't know what would have happened to her family if not for Daystar Life Center, she told the audience at the annual With These Hands Breakfast honoring Daystar donors and volunteers.
"They never gave up on us, so we never gave up on ourselves," the mother of six said.
Redd, her husband and their six boys ages 4 to 17 moved to St. Petersburg in July after having made an arrangement to have housing vouchers ahead of time. But when landlords found out they had six kids, they were turned away repeatedly. The family had to sleep in their rental truck, escaping the heat during the day at libraries.
They went to public parks for the boys to run around and watch preseason football practice. A coach noticed them and asked some of the boys to join the team. When Redd explained they didn't even have a home, he told them about Daystar.
"We were treated with respect. They made us not feel bad about needing help," Redd said. Staff members were impressed with how well-behaved all the boys were. Any time the family stopped by the center at 226 Sixth St. S, the boys were reading, studying Spanish or helping one another. Daystar found the family short-term accommodations while helping the parents get bus passes, Florida IDs and clothes. Ultimately, the nonprofit helped them find permanent housing.
"They even made sure it had a working washer and dryer, which is a plus for six kids, let me tell you," Redd said, laughing. She now has a job at Wendy's, and her husband works in construction.
"Daystar made sure my kids had an awesome Christmas," a teary Redd recounted. "Every time we go in there to check the mail, it's like seeing family."
The Redds are just a few of the thousands of people Daystar assists each year. Some are homeless while many work full time, but one unexpected car repair or sickness can put them behind on bills or short on food. Daystar helps cover the gap by paying rent or utilities, or donating a bag of groceries so families don't get way behind financially and end up homeless. It also gives away bike locks and lights, bus passes, personal hygiene items and even cellphones that can help the homeless to get work.
County Commissioner Ken Welch received the With These Hands award for his leadership in helping the underserved areas of Pinellas County.
"You do an amazing job of providing hope and help to people in need in our community," he told the Daystar staff and volunteers.
Jeanne and Kevin Milkey were honored with the inaugural Franciscan Heart Award. A recent generous donation will allow Daystar to expand its operations to reach more people.
PARC also honored its volunteers at a special event on the organization's campus. During the previous fiscal year, volunteers donated 15,429 hours to PARC, saving it more than $341,000.
"We are so thankful for all of our volunteers," said Karen Higgins, PARC's president and chief executive officer. "PARC was founded by volunteers in 1953 by a group of concerned parents who wanted to make sure their children received the same opportunities as others. Today, these efforts continue through PARC's staff, board of directors and volunteers — whose dedication exemplify what a group of compassionate individuals can do for children and adults with developmental disabilities that PARC serves."
PARC's Inspire Choir performed and awards were presented. Joanne Cox received Community Volunteer of the Year. Ronnie DeCarlo was given the Edith B. Smith award. Banker's Financial Corporation was given PARC's community service award.
• The Edible Peace Patch fundraiser is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. May 20 at the Historic Train Station at the Morean Center for Clay in St. Petersburg. The nonprofit builds educational gardens in schools and helps students who live in "urban food deserts" — areas where fresh fruit and vegetables are not readily available — understand how to grow fresh food and eat healthy.