If you're from Pinellas Park - or just have a heart - this one should make you smile.
A community effort is underway, spearheaded by the Pinellas Park Medical District, to raise money for the family of Eric Kanganis, the 25-year-old Tarpon Springs man who was killed Tuesday in an industrial accident. Kanganis died after a large steel roll fell on him at USP Structural Connectors, a steel plant on 62nd Avenue, where he had been working for the last three years.
News of Kanganis' death shook Jennifer Vickery, even though she never had met him.
"I was flat-out devastated," she said. I was just sick to my stomach when I read it."
Vickery wanted to do something. As a committee member with the Pinellas Park Medical District, a cooperative effort of local doctors and medical offices that formed last year to promote health care options in Pinellas Park, she thought the organization might be able to help. She reached out to board members, and they quickly agreed.
The medical district is tied in with the city and the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce, so it wasn't long before people stepped up. The idea of a food fundraiser surfaced; and before you knew it, Park Station was lined up as the venue, Roe's Deli had agreed to cater the event for almost nothing, and community members were volunteering to pick up food, set up or help with whatever else needed doing.
"Everybody was wanting to help," Vickery said. "It was honestly an amazing movement of people. We didn't hem and haw about it."
Company officials at USP were blown away when they heard people wanted to help, Vickery said. They made the connection between the medical district and Kanganis' family and plan to have a contingent of employees at Wednesday's spaghetti lunch fundraiser.
You hear about so many tragedies affecting so many families, so I asked Vickery what it was about Kanganis' death that moved her to reach out and help the family of a man she never had met and about whom she knew nothing. Maybe it was his proximity - He was part of this community - or his age.
"Twenty-five," said Vickery, who's just 31 herself. "He was just starting his life."
Organizers haven't set a specific goal for the lunch. Vickery said she would like to get 50 people there and raise $500 for Kanganis' family, but she's hoping for more than that.
In some ways, though, the effort already has succeeded, she said. Doctors, city officials and other busy people are taking time out of their schedules to be there. So many people have volunteered to help. It's a testament to the special connection people in Pinellas Park feel for their community.
"What I hope is that more people come out to show that we're here for people to lean on in our own community," Vickery said.
The spaghetti lunch fundraiser runs from noon to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Park Station, 5851 Park Blvd. in Pinellas Park. Reservations are requested but not required, and boxed lunches will be available for takeout. Lunch costs $10 per person. To make a reservation, call (727) 544-4777.
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