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Safety Harbor Library: One Book, One Community / Press Release

in events/town square
Picture of the book, Between the World and Me, on a library shelf. (Screenshot from EMU webiste/Kathryn Malaxos) https://emu.edu/now/news/2017/common-read-selection-world-challenging-invitation/

The idea is that the city that opens the same book closes it in greater harmony.”  – Mary McGrory, The Washington Post, 2002. 

The Safety Harbor Public Library announces a One Book, One Community read featuring the New York Times Bestseller and National Book Award Winner, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. 

The book covers the most pressing questions about American history and ideals and the intimate concerns of an African American father for his son. Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s painful racial history and our current civil rights crisis. Written in the form of a letter to his adolescent son, he shares the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in American culture through a series of revelatory experiences. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, re-imagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage,Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward. 

Copies of the book are available at the library beginning July 30 and can be placed on hold if checked out to others. Discussion questions, author videos, and information on upcoming online book discussions can be found on the One Book, One Community webpage: http://cityofsafetyharbor.com/813/One-Book-One-Community 

The Library is located at 101 2nd Street N., Safety Harbor, FL 34695. Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm and Saturdays 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Questions regarding this program can be directed to Lisa, lkothe@cityofsafetyharbor.com  

Editorial: Anti-racism in Safety Harbor

in city hall/news/photos
Yard sign outside of Safety Harbor's City Hall reads "Black Lives Matter and justice for all." (Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)
Yard sign outside of Safety Harbor's City Hall reads "Black Lives Matter and justice for all." (Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

Safety Harbor is a small southern town. What are the implications of that phrase — “small southern town”? What are the implications of racism in small southern towns? In cities and towns across this country? Have we, as citizens of a small southern town, chosen to ignore the impact of history? In doing so, what are we missing about our town’s present?

White people in this town — in every town — have the luxury of ignoring racism. And we do it every day. Many of us who purport to hold justice and freedom dear have the luxury to ignore what is right in front of us. But for Black residents, there is no luxury of ignorance.

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Harbor Dish: 1,000 Meals And A Happy 91st Birthday

in news/town square
Volunteer Coordinator Cameron (left), Ilan, Dee and Sandie of the Harbor Dish prepare meals in the Presbyerian Church kitchen.

When Lori turned 91 on Friday, her friends from the Harbor Dish stopped by with cards, flowers and food.

“I don’t know what I would have done without them,” said Lori. “They have been absolutely wonderful to me.”

Lori, who has lived in the area 44 years, injured her back and fractured her skull in December when she tripped and fell.

She is recovering but is homebound, so Dish volunteers have been bringing her meals. Lori said that she can afford to pay but she “just can’t go out right now.”

“My refrigerator is full of goodies, and, most of the time, when they bring me food, they take time to sit and chat. And I like to talk,” said Lori, a widow and former secretary at Jim Walter Homes where her late husband was an international sales manager.

Providing meals, support and friendship is what the Harbor Dish is all about, said Dish founder Christina Sauger.

Lori turned 91 and celebrated with friends from the Harbor Dish

With more than 300 active volunteers, the Dish has been serving the Safety Harbor area since 2013.

Because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the non-profit group has seen need for food more than double since Florida’s safe-at-home restrictions began in March.

“We are helping a lot of working families that aren’t working right now and don’t qualify for other programs,” said Sauger, who along with other non-paid volunteers work out of the kitchen at the First Presbyterian Church at 255 5th Avenue South.

“And we’re delivering meals to a lot of elderly people who aren’t supposed to leave their homes now,” she said.

“Over the course of the pandemic we’ve given away over a thousand boxes of food,” said Cameron Zamanian, Dish Volunteer Coordinator.

Zamanian said that the Dish has a good relationship with the Whole Foods Market, collecting food every Sunday that is still good but nearing expiration.

“It’s a lot of food, and we bring it to the church and pack it in boxes for families that have signed up for our services,” he said. “We give each family a box with food and produce that could be five to 10 meals.”

Zamanian, who joined the Dish volunteers at the outset of the pandemic shutdown, said this program helps people while reducing food waste. The Dish is also partnered with Panera Bread, Nature’s Food Patch, Bonefish Grill and other food vendors and restaurants to receive donated food and prepared meals.

Sauger said that the Dish also cooks for children at the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch in Safety Harbor on Tuesdays. “We haven’t been able to prepare meals at the Ranch because of the COVID lockdown, but we still cook the meals and deliver them,” she said.

The Dish also prepares and delivers meals to people suffering from debilitating health conditions, including elderly citizens and cancer patients.

Sauger said that some people have a misconception about the Dish.

“We are not a soup kitchen,” she said. “We give a hand up and not a handout. It’s about more than just food. It’s about providing friendly support and a sense of community.”

“We don’t qualify people,” she said. “We get referrals. We don’t require a lot of personal information, and everybody is treated with respect. You won’t often see pictures of the people we serve on social media. Everything is done privately.”

The Harbor Dish is modeled after the One World Everybody Eats community cafes, including Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchens in New Jersey. There are about 60 cafes nationwide where patrons pay what they can or pay it forward for someone in need.

“But no one is paying right now because of the virus situation,” Sauger said.
And beyond the COVID-19 crisis, there is a need. Nearly half of the children in the three elementary schools serving Safety Harbor qualified for free or reduced-price lunch during the 2019-2020 school year.

Zamanian said there is always a need by the Dish for committed volunteers as well as for donations. The Dish has one delivery vehicle, an SUV, but could use another, said Sauger.

“Our next step is to open a café where people can come in and see what we do,” Zamanian said.

“The space we are using at the church is donated and it is shared,” Sauger added. “We need a commercial kitchen.”

Plans to open a Harbor Dish café on 4th Avenue South were scrapped several years ago when bringing the building up to city code proved too costly.

The Dish is actively seeking a space for a small cafe, where everyone can dine together in dignity, regardless of means.

Sauger said that in general in these cafes, about 80 percent of customers pay the suggested amount or pay it forward for the other 20 percent, who pay whatever they can. It has been a successful model that allows everyone respect and fosters a strong sense of community — something that everyone is looking forward to getting back to after the pandemic.

To get in touch with the Harbor Dish, call (727) 796-8286 or e-mail: harbordish.harbordish.org

Harbor dish volunteers provide boxes of food for families who have been hit hard by the COVID 19 virus threat.

May the Fourth

in news/town square
Safety Harbor Marina boat ramp, predawn on March 28, 2020. (Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

Today, Pinellas County beaches reopen amidst a pandemic. Tonight, the city commission will meet virtually to discuss, amongst other things, how to best support shuttered local businesses as they also begin to reopen under new guidelines. And here at the Safety Harbor Sun, we are taking a moment to reflect.

The Safety Harbor Sun launched as a hyperlocal, digital news site one year ago today. Started as a graduate school project exploring new models of hyperlocal journalism, our goals remain the same: to be a community-led, community-supported sustainable local news and information source, to be a forum for productive community dialogue and to provide opportunities for residents to participate in journalism and journalism education.

The coronavirus pandemic reinforces for us that, in this era of dwindling local news coverage, “fake news” and questionable sources, bot-driven social media discussions and deep partisanship, trustworthy local news is needed more than ever.

The Safety Harbor Sun‘s first year was self-funded (as part of that graduate school project) and we are fortunate to report that the very basic expenses of our next year have been covered through donations to our GoFundMe campaign. We look forward to the next year and hope you will continue to support us: as readers, as contributors of writing or photography, through financial support and by sharing our content with your neighbors, families and friends.

Like you, we love Safety Harbor. We are glad to be here.

Hope, unity and red ribbons

in news/town square
Ribbons for Hope tag reads "Hanga bow on your door, mailbox or tree to show support for our town during this Coronavirus pandemic. 'Together we can get through anything.' #HopefortheHarbor provided by McMullen Flower Shoppe"
Ribbons for Hope (Photo/Jarine Dotson)

Betty Jo McMullen has operated B.J.’s Flower Basket at 101 Main Street for an astonishing 63 years in the same location.  Local residents recently began to notice a container outside of her store with red ribbons, free for the taking. We caught up with BJ to find out about the intent behind this. She explained that the ribbons were a symbol of hope and unity during these difficult times we’re living in now. She thought about the yellow ribbons of years past and was inspired to do something similar as a message of support for fellow Safety Harbor residents. “It’s all about help for the harbor” she says.

Bj’s Flower Basket located at 101 Main Street, Safety Harbor. (Photo/Jarine Dotson)

Her daughter Melanie and her granddaughter Ginny are making the ribbons every night while they watch TV. The ribbons are a red bow with streamers and most of them are taken by the public every day. If you see red ribbons popping up on trees and door knobs around town you’ll know this is where they came from. BJ said she just wants to give a little note of encouragement to Harbor residents to say “together we can get through anything”. More than 100 ribbons have been picked up so far. She leaves a bin out in front of her store 24 hours a day, every day of the week. All of the feedback she has gotten so far has been positive and encouraging.

A basketful of ribbons outside of BJ’s Flower Basket. (Photo/Jarine Dotson)

BJ has lived in the area her entire life and her children now live in the house she grew up in on McMullen-Booth Road.  Although the store is not open to the public right now, florists are able to make deliveries. She says they deliver flowers to people’s homes and wipe the containers off with Clorox.  She calls the resident to let them know they have flowers on their front porch or doorstep.

Shoes for Kids: From Safety Harbor to Costa Rica

in town square
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.

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