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Shoes for Kids: From Safety Harbor to Costa Rica

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Costa Rican children receiving new shoes.
Costa Rican children receiving new shoes. (Photo/Café Vino Tinto)

Tucked away on the side of a commercial building and adjacent to a parking lot is a charming little coffee shop that has become a favorite spot for Safety Harbor locals.  Café Vino Tinto recently celebrated their third anniversary and are planning to move to a larger location next spring.

Café Vino Tinto, 737 Main Street, opened in 2016 and has expanded from their original, basic walk-up window. They now have a covered patio, seating among the trees, and an indoor air conditioned dining area. The walk-up window is still where you order lattes or a cuppa Joe, but now waffles and frittatas are available Thursday through Sundays. They have proven to be customer favorites with waffle flavors like Cornbread and Wild Blueberry or Lemon Chiffon Cream. Protein Bars and sweets to go are also on the menu. The fresh roasted coffee is a flavorful medium roast developed over years of trial and error.

The café was an unintended side effect of a business transaction entered into by local resident, former mayor, and real estate lawyer Kent Runnells. Runnells has travelled to Costa Rica for years for fishing and boating trips. In 2008, while hiking with a friend, he happened upon a coffee farm in the Tarrazu Region south of San Jose and was struck by its beautiful setting. They learned the farm was for sale and decided to purchase the 17 acre operation. One of the views from the farm was of a high waterfall that the locals say “flows like red wine.” The name of the café came from the image of that waterfall and the bagged coffee is labelled The Waterfall Coffee.

The existing farmers continue to operate the farm and Runnells spent several years learning about the region, the coffee business, and the art of roasting. For his share of the concern, he took payment in coffee beans and soon had sacks stored all over his house. He perfected his roasting process through trial and error and in 2012 started selling his coffee from local outlets and a stand at Safety Harbor Third Friday events. They could sell 800-1,000 cups in 4 hours. 

In June of 2016 the retail location became available and Runnells and his daughter Logan decided to open a shop. Logan has a background in Food and Beverage, but had no experience with coffee as a business. The trial and errors continued with roasting test and commercial espresso machines. The Runnells have perfected a slow roasting process that results in a complex, medium roast, deep flavored, smooth coffee. They estimate they’ve roasted 25,000 pounds of beans since the business started. Logan learned about the nuances of each roast, blending and testing to identify flavor profiles they’re happy with. Their loyal clientele attest to the success of their efforts. Kent has lived in Safety Harbor for 33 years and has his business on Main Street. They both appreciate the extraordinary support that this town provides to local entrepreneurs.

Kent Runnells visits the farm several times a year and has gotten to know the farmers and the pickers. Many of the laborers picking beans are indigenous peoples, primarily from Panama. Most of them are poor and can’t afford expensive imported items like sneakers. Almost all of the worker’s children had no shoes, so about 5 years ago Kent began to bring children’s shoes with him in his luggage. 

Soccer is the predominant sport in Central America and every town has a soccer field, so he began to hand out shoes at the soccer fields. About a year ago Runnells learned about a children’s mission in the area run by Ryan and Lauri Bickel. Under the Faith Ministries umbrella, the Bickels house neglected children and also run a center that feeds about 75 children daily, so Runnells now funnels the shoes through their program.

The Café welcomes donations of new and gently used children’s shoes.  Sneakers with cleats would be extremely welcome, since soccer is so popular in Costa Rica. Yellow and orange are the most popular colors.  Shoes are very costly there, partly due to a 30% import duty, so they have a disproportionately high status in the culture.

So far, Safety Harbor area residents have provided overwhelming support to the Shoes for Kids effort. One local student led a drive at Safety Harbor Middle School and collected over 100 pairs of shoes. If you would like to donate shoes, you can bring them to the café or drop them off on the patio. only children’s shoes are needed, not socks or clothes.

Herb Safety

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If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me that their neighbor’s sister’s boss’s cousin’s daughter said they should take some such herb for some such reason, I’d be writing this from the deck of my yacht while enjoying a perfectly chilled Cristal instead of at a cramped desk on an aging Mac with a ring on the wood under my teacup.  Nonetheless, as I go about extolling the value of botanical medicines, I feel compelled to occasionally stress their sensible use.

We know that plants can heal. We know that the risk of side effects is typically very low. Still, it’s vital that you understand the properties of what you’re taking and why. Just because an herb was effective for your co-workers distant relative doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you.

Popularity can breed confusion, and when it comes to herbal remedies the best advice I can offer is:  do your own research. Gain a basic understanding of the human body and how it works. Understand the condition you’re seeking to treat and the remedy you decide to use. Invest in a few natural health books, the first of which should be Prescription for Nutritional Healing (Balch), an easy to use comprehensive guide. Of course you’ll find plenty of information on the Internet, but there’s a lot of misinformation too, particularly on sites bent on selling you something.  Personally, I stick with science-based research on sites like Livestrong or PubMed.  Be selective. Accept that your health is your responsibility and never forget that knowledge is power.

So, you’ve learned how the body works, what your treating, what remedy to choose and how best to use it. You’ve already checked to make sure there are no possible interactions with any pharmaceuticals you might be taking. Now, you’re going to look for a quality natural product. I have nothing against big box stores, but I’ll remind you of that old adage: you usually get what you pay for.  Unless you’re ordering directly from the manufacturer, I’d be wary of on-line stores. Call me old fashioned, but I want to hold a product in my hand –and check the expiration date– before I plunk down my hard earned cash.  Visit your local independently owned health food store instead, where you’ll get valuable assistance you simply won’t get from a stock clerk at the neighborhood Piggly Wiggly.

It’s important to resist the urge to go overboard and grab 3 or 4 different remedies to treat the same condition. How are you going to know which one is working?  Start with one, and if you don’t get the desired results move on to the next. 

Ok. You have your remedy… now, you’re going to follow the label instructions. Pay attention here: just because some is good doesn’t mean more is better. The majority of reported adverse events are the result of a lack of research into the product, its action, or a failure to follow the dosing instructions. When you get started on your journey with natural medicine I recommend building a reference for future use in the form of a health journal, where you record what you used, how you used it, and how well it worked. When illness strikes you don’t want to waste time with something you tried before that didn’t get the job done.  I firmly believe in self-sufficiency through health-sufficiency, and this is as good a place to start as any.

Nutritional supplements and herbal remedies are widely available, can be wonderfully effective, and –contrary to popular belief– are heavily regulated. But you gotta use your head.  When your neighbor’s sister’s boss’s cousin’s daughter has a suggestion, accept it graciously but disregard it completely… until you’ve done your own research.

Finally, if you have a serious or chronic health condition, don’t self-treat without the assistance of a trained professional, or if you use a natural remedy and don’t get better after a few days, it would be wise to check in with your doctor.

This information is provided for educational purposes, and is not intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease, nor should it be considered a substitute for the expert care of a qualified medical professional.

Art Show: The Love of Safety Harbor

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The Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center is hosting an art show this summer that celebrates our city. The Love of Safety Harbor will be on exhibit through August, with an Open House on Friday, July 19 from 7 to 9 p.m.

The Museum is a busy place with classes for children and adults, summer camps, as well as a permanent collection and rotating shows. Each summer, the Museum features a theme that is shown for three months. Christine McWilliams, a Recreation Supervisor, plans the programming for the center as well as the Safety Harbor’s two other gallery spaces in the Library and in City Hall. 

The Love of Safety Harbor call for entries was promoted on Facebook and open to artists and designers to submit works with a Safety Harbor theme or connection. There are twenty-seven artists featured and many of the pieces are for sale. There are acrylic, watercolor, and oil paintings as well as photography, a painted rock and stuffed owls.

The Open House will also feature a Silent Auction of several donated items including photos on canvas, four notecards with original oil painting, a shadow box and a variety of paintings. All proceeds from the auction will benefit the Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center. There will also be refreshments available and vendors selling their crafts.

Featured Artists

  • Caroline Karp
  • Kristen Krouk
  • Richard Lewis
  • Susan McCormick
  • Bernadette Menz
  • Shirley Payne
  • Charlie Pollitzer

Transit: Use It or Lose It

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PSTA (Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority) has a long history of servicing Safety Harbor with regular and reliable transit. Over the years, low ridership has moved those routes to the top of the list for elimination during consolidation and budget cuts.

There was a time buses ran north and south on McMullen-Booth Road, those days are long gone. In the past, the useful Route 62 – directly connecting from Tyrone Mall in the south to Countryside Mall and up to Boot Ranch in the north – rode right down our main street zagging back on Enterprise Road. Back then, Safety Harbor residents could step out and ride nearly anywhere in the county without the hassle of a transfer. But because they didn’t, Route 62 now runs directly up Belcher Road passing our town by.

The Jolly Trolley

PSTA organized funding for a “Jolly Trolley” week-end service between our downtown and Dunedin. Residents or visitors in either town could visit the other, enjoy a dinner and refreshments, and not worry about parking or having “one too many.” The trolley ran especially on festive holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Cinco de Mayo, but it was also underutilized.

The Jolly Trolley’s Safety Harbor route began on February 1, 2014 and ended on February 4, 2017.

North County Connector

Today PSTA supports north Pinellas County with a network of three North County “Connector” buses, from a hub at Countryside Mall. One runs north through Dunedin and Palm Harbor up to Tarpon Springs. One runs east through Countryside and Oldsmar to the Tampa transfer hub. The “Safety Harbor Connector,” Route 814, runs right down Safety Harbor’s Main Street, then up to its turnaround point at Philippe Park. These Connectors feed riders to the main hub for north county at Countryside Mall. There, connecting buses take riders south to St. Petersburg, to east/west arterials, north to Pasco’s PCPT (Pasco County Public Transportation) network, and west to Clearwater and the beaches.

Low usage equals fewer routes

“Connector” buses use a hybrid route, defaulting to fixed roads and times. However, you can call PSTA in advance (two hours to three days) and a connector will veer up to three-quarters of a mile to pick you up or drop you off at any location. Sadly, the Safety Harbor Connector has the lowest ridership of any route in the PSTA system. It was recently scheduled for elimination and saved only at the last minute. The similarly underutilized connector between Dunedin and Tarpon, as a cost savings, has just been rebranded for only fixed route; no more door-to-door north of the mall. The “East Lake” Connector was discontinued long ago because most residents own cars and can afford to operate them.

Low ridership in Safety Harbor also resulted in a shorter schedule, with our connector now only operating between 7 am and 6 pm Monday through Saturday. To return home from St. Petersburg or Pasco might require leaving as early as 3 pm to catch the last departure from Countryside. See the PSTA website for exact schedules and routes, and how to ride the Safety Harbor / North County Connector.

If we want more service, more frequency, to more convenient locations there is only one requirement: Get out of your car and ride the Connector. With public transit, we use it or lose it.

Spanish Needle

in news/town square

Chances are you’ve seen this amazing plant, hiding in plain sight along roadsides, in parks, at the beach, or in your own yard. Those small, cheerful, daisy-like flowers that give way to annoying barbed seeds that stick stronger than Velcro to socks, paws, and anything that may brush by. What we refer to around here as Spanish Needles, bidens pilosa (or alba) spring up in dense clumps practically overnight, happily thriving no matter how poor the soil or conditions. In fact, bidens has a notorious reputation as an invasive and troublesome weed in more than 40 countries.1 But take heed: this botanical problem child has many redeeming qualities, not the least of which is that it just may save your life.

Also known as beggar’s ticks, farmer’s friend, pitchfork weed, or tickseed sunflowers, bidens reportedly originated in South America and has spread around the globe, even thriving in the desert. Today there are some 230 known bidens species (in the aster family of plants), many of which are well documented as an important source of both food and medicine among indigenous peoples.2  Frankly, I’m fascinated with bidens and the emerging research which supports its use for everything from killing MRSA to controlling toxic algae blooms.

Yep. I said MRSA, a drug resistant staph bacteria that has — and continues to– claim thousands of American lives. But MRSA appears to have met its match. A study published in the US National Library of Medicine found that bidens kicks the pants off MRSA.4 I’ll say it again: a little weed that people hate more than love kills a bacteria that has decimated families and frustrated medical science for decades. Bidens offers potent, pharmacologically active antibacterial properties, clinically studied and often quite remarkable in practical use.  But that’s just the beginning.3

Not only is it proving a powerful antibacterial/antimicrobial, studies show bidens effectively treats viruses, microbes, protozoans, wounds, gout, gastrointestinal diseases, fever, fungal infection, liver disorders, diabetes, edema, abscess, inflammation, malaria, snake bite, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases.4  One study even points to its value as an anti-cancer treatment.5 And that’s the short list. In my research I was pleasantly surprised to learn that bidens extract was found to control toxic algae blooms.6    

If you’d like to use bidens for home health, a few words of advice.  The available science points to a fresh plant, alcohol-based tincture as the most effective for antibacterial purposes. However, I’ve successfully used a simple infusion for mouth ulcer’s, wounds, and a few minor infections. I purposefully grow bidens and harvest it from my yard. Avoid picking itfrom along roadways or where pesticides or chemicals are used because of the risk of contamination. Identifying bidens when it’s not in bloom or gone to seed could be tricky, so make certain you’re harvesting the right plant. Always, always, do your own research, and work with a professional if you have a serious or chronic medical condition. 

Personally, I find bidens an enormously promising plant. It’s a prolific producer, doesn’t need controlled conditions for growing and is –pretty much everywhere anyway.  In fact, I think it’s so abundant because Nature wants to make certain we notice her marvelous medicines for the common man.

This information is provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any illness or disease. It should not be considered medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the expert care of a qualified medical practitioner.

If you want to know more about infusions, decoctions, or how to make your own tincture visit: 

1   Journal of Basic and Environmental Sciences, 6 (2019) 33-44

2 , 4   Bartolome AP, Villaseñor IM, Yang WC. Bidens pilosa L. (Asteraceae): Botanical Properties, Traditional Uses, Phytochemistry, and Pharmacology. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:340215. doi:10.1155/2013/340215

3  Kourtis AP, Hatfield K, Baggs J, et al. Vital Signs: Epidemiology and Recent Trends in Methicillin-Resistant and in Methicillin-Susceptible Staphylococcus aureus Bloodstream Infections — United States. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:214–219. DOI:

5   Department of Pharmacy, Annamalai University, Annamalainagar – 608002, India. Studies of anticancer and antipyretic activity of Bidens pilosa whole plant. imalakrishnan Sundararajan, Akalanka Dey, Anton Smith, Arul Gana Doss, Manavalan Rajappan, and Sridhar Natarajan Afr Health Sci. 2006 Mar; 6(1): 27–30.

6  Inhibitory Effects of Bidens pilosa Plant Extracts on the Growth of the Bloom-Forming Alga Microcystis aeruginosa  Van Nguyen, Q., Tran, T.H., Pham, T.N. et al. Water Air Soil Pollut (2019) 230: 24.

Glimpses of Fourth of July fun

in news/town square
Fourth of July 2019 in Safety Harbor, Florida. (Photo/Jarine Dotson)

Safety Harbor had a full day of festivities for the Fourth of July. The day started with American Legion Post 238’s annual Fourth of July Parade on Main Street. A ceremony in John Wilson Park followed the parade. In the early evening, people flocked to the Marina Park parking lot for music and food trucks. And, of course, a fireworks celebration capped of the day’s events. (Photos/Jarine Dotson and Kathryn Malaxos)

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