Officials at the University Area Community Center extend an open invitation to those who are civic minded to join them Saturday for the sole purpose of creating a better tomorrow in the one of the county's most at-risk neighborhoods.
The University Area Community Development Corporation staff, partners and friends will gather at the center, 14013 N. 22nd St. at 8 a.m., where they'll be equipped with the necessary tools of the trade to Paint the Town and perform other volunteer services in an effort to spruce up the neighborhood.
Armed with items such as paint brushes, buckets, brooms, rakes and trash bags they'll be sent on a mission to eliminate some of the eyesores within an area known for its poverty.
Volunteers can help collect debris in yards, add a coat to selected homes, try their hands at small landscaping projects or show off their creative skills on a 25-foot wall that will be transformed into a mural on 142nd Avenue and 18th Street near Mort Elementary School.
Cesar Hernandez, a UACDC engagement coordinator, said because it's an area also known for its large transient population, one of the agency's main objectives is to attract and keep homeowners.
"What we're trying to accomplish is to get people invested in their community, because as it is we have the reputation of being a 'suitcase city,'" he said. "It's not going to happen in one day but it has to start somewhere."
PNC Bank, the event's primary sponsor, has donated $10,000 toward the effort and Rebuild Tampa Bay, a nonprofit group, will loan the brushes, buckets and ladders.
Dan Jurman, UACDC's executive director and CEO, said he's in the process of seeking approval from about a half a dozen homeowners in the community.
"They are all owner-occupied with folks who are having financial struggles and we want to help them," said Jurman, who noted one of the homeowners also will receive a new roof.
"It's also going to be nice to have the mural in place of that ugly wall," he said. "We wanted something bright and cheery that kids will see when they walk to school."
Dexter Barge, director of the Hillsborough County's code enforcement department, said his team has partnered with the UACDC in its effort. Some from his staff plan to be on hand to paint over graffiti-covered walls.
"I feel this is an extremely important event in that it brings people and groups together for a common cause," he said. "Plus it gives them more of a sense of pride in the community."
Harland Henry, a Tampa Palms resident and independent economic and community development strategist, signed up to participate in the event early on.
"My hope is that we don't just spend one day on this effort," he said. "Part of this project should be an education in pride and sustainability."