Despite Congress’ August recess it was business as usual for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
However, on the morning of Aug. 23, Castor, a Democrat who represents Florida’s 14th District, opted to spend her office hours at the University Area Community Development Corporation headquarters on North 22nd Street rather than at her usual North Armenia Avenue workplace.
Her staff, who accompanied her to the site, billed it as an opportunity for area residents to sit down one-on-one with Castor to discuss issues concerning the federal government.
Jackie Mendez, who heads up the recently formed We Care program at Iglesia De Dios Pentecostal Church on North Nebraska Avenue, said financial aid is desperately needed to help fill its food pantry and to find jobs and housing for Hispanics who’ve immigrated from Mexico and Latin America.
“We’re open Tuesdays and Wednesdays and every day people call but we can’t help them because we don’t have the funds,” Mendez said. “They are being discriminated against and it’s not right. I know because it happened to me.”
De Admay, a nearby resident and foe of President Barack Obama, came with an 8-by-11 inch list of what she contends warrants the president’s impeachment. Among those listed were claims of the Benghazi attack “coverup,” the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance scandal, and the claim that the administration is allowing “illegals” to enter our country without consequence.
“I worked hard all my life – 40 years – and now that I’m disabled I get $834 a month disability and $139 in food stamps a month,” said Admay. She added that as a result, there are days she goes without eating.
“I have nothing and these illegals are getting all my money,” she said.
Vietnam veteran and retired electrician James Froonjian, a longtime supporter of Castor, was there to discuss several issues, including the future of Social Security.
“I don’t like what I’m seeing,” said the North Tampa resident. “I’m concerned about the middle-class representation and about industrial jobs being sent overseas.”
Heart transplant recipient Pat Beacham of West Tampa, a retired schoolteacher, is worried about the high cost of Medicare’s prescription drug plan.
“I had $364,000 when I retired in 1999 and now I’m lucky to have $64,” she said. “My meds cost more than two thirds of my income.”
Patricia Hall, a neighbor of Castor’s who accompanied Beacham, said the congresswoman sincerely cares about the wellbeing of her constituents.
She noted how Castor steered her to the Taxpayer Advocate Service office when her IRS tax refund check was stolen.
“She has a lot of empathy for people,” Hall said.
David Rogoff, director of the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health’s Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice, happened to be in the building on an unrelated issue but decided to stop in and express his approval for the work Castor is doing to help the community.
“She’s a real good advocate to have,” he said.
University Area Community Development Corporation Executive Director and CEO Dan Jurman also dropped by to express his thanks to Castor.
“We’re incredibly grateful to the congresswoman for taking the time to connect with these people,” he said.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at JoyceCMcKenzie@gmail.com.