photo/Cyndy Peer

Keeping Safety Harbor Strong

in news/town square

On Monday, Scott Long started getting random messages from friends. They were writing to check on him, to ask questions, and like most of us in Safety Harbor, they were concerned about life with new rules due to coronavirus.

Then he was added to a Facebook group for bar and restaurant owners.

“I realized there had to be a better way,” he said during a phone interview.

So, he used the social media platform to create a group—one that could connect the Harbor, share information, and ask for help when needed. He named the group Safety Harbor Strong. Hours later, he had 500 members. Now, just days later, the group has over 1,000.

“It really took on a life of its own very quickly. It’s beyond what I thought would happen,” Long said. “Obviously, we all have our own needs and concerns. There are folks on there that I don’t know but they jumped on, posting what they need and what they can offer. There are a lot of teachers offering online lesson plans. Businesses offering pickup and delivery. There was someone whose dog needed help for a wound. People offered help.”

Megan Willoughby shared a post about BayCare offering drive up coronavirus testing.  Library Director Lisa Kothe shared that due to the library’s closure, the number of Hoopla check-outs has been increased to six per month through April 30. Harbor Dish founder Chris Sauger shared information on local food pantries, there is a post on free lunch locations for students and there have even been a few locals offering to help deliver meals.

The Sun contacted City Manager Matt Spoor to ask about City employees and how services have changed.  

“We are following all CDC guidelines for staff, cleaning, safe distance etc,” Spoor answered. “All employees will continue to work either from their work site, home, or take accrued leave. There is no one right answer, we have 200 employees across the City.”

There has never been anything to compare what we are experiencing to anything we have lived through, so of course, residents and City leaders alike are doing what they can to make life feel as normal, and be as conscientious, as possible.

Long is known for his public service. He is a former City Commissioner and currently serves on the Library Foundation Board. He started and continues to facilitate Melons for Moolah, an annual fundraiser benefiting local non-profits.

“Two big library fundraisers have been canceled,” he explained. “Drag Queen Bingo and Casino Night. A lot of events will not happen this year. ChalkFest was canceled and in the meantime, I am trying to prepare for June and Watermelon Week for Melons for Moolah.”

Like many in Safety Harbor and even worldwide, Long has taken a financial hit. “My business is being decimated by this. At the same time there is not a lot of work right now. I can sit and watch Netflix or I can do something for my community. “

Some of our local bars and restaurants are changing how they operate, some offering take-out, while others have moved tables to accommodate recommended social distancing. “II think what is going to help our small businesses in town is sharing the pain we are all going through. The challenges are the same. How do you keep employees and do right by your clients?”

We may have to stand six feet away from each other until the virus is no longer a threat, but at least we can still communicate online and through calls and texts to help each other, especially those who can’t—or shouldn’t—leave their homes. Long says he is just trying to fill his life with as much positivity as possible through the social media group.  “If we can get more people involved and sharing it, the more we can stay in touch and get involved.”

Laura moved to this city in 2008 and immediately realized she had found Paradise! In an effort to meet creative people who also enjoyed writing, she founded Safety Harbor Writers & Poets in 2010. She has since facilitated open mic nights, classes, conferences and more. She is co-author of A Brief History of Safety Harbor, Florida, and editor-in-chief of ODET, a Florida-based literary journal named for Odet Philippe, who she believes, was the first known storyteller to call this town home. Currently serving as the secretary for the Whispering Souls African American Cemetery, and as a museum board member, she plans to share local history, biographies, and more through her Safety Harbor Sun contributions. She can be reached by email at safetyharborhistory@gmail.com.