Life Reimagined is an idea partnered with AARP to bring about change. Recently, the event St. Pete Rocks brought leaders and the community together to discuss the things we are doing right and what we can change.
Brother and sister Kristin Brett and Jeff Johnson share a love of giving back to the community.

Brother and sister Kristin Brett and Jeff Johnson share a love of giving back to the community.

What is essential for life is not what is seen, but what is felt. It’s the feeling of companionship, of community, and love. It’s the comfort that makes you feel at home, which in return, creates a passion that pushes your desire to be involved with your surroundings. You invest yourself into where you live because, when you love your home, a piece of you is sewn into the community. More and more people are discovering our hidden gem and falling in love. Can it be the preserved parks, up-and-coming downtown, or the beaches? It can’t be just that. There is something St. Petersburg is doing right, and it starts with the people.

Edible Peace Patch “From Farm to Plate” enthusiastically educates children about nutrition.

Edible Peace Patch “From Farm to Plate” enthusiastically educates children about nutrition.

“I’m just the mom of one of your students. I’m so impressed with what you’ve done, and I just want to help.” Usually, when a mom calls a teacher, it’s not for a good reason. The child might be tucked away in the next room, attempting to overhear and predict the trouble they are about to get into. But this phone call was quite different. Kristin Brett made this phone call to her daughter’s professor after listening to an “Our Town” discussion about the Edible Peace Patch Project. Hearing about the project’s initiative sparked her interest and she had to be involved.

Kristin is no stranger to non-profit organizations. She is now actively working for three organizations in the area: The Great Explorations Children’s Museum; The Edible Peace Patch Project; and the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership (see sidebars). Kristin has worked previously with All Children’s Hospital and the Heart Gallery. Just like the Edible Peace Patch, Kristin found the idea of the Heart Gallery intriguing because of some pictures she came across. While flipping through the newspaper, Kristin’s eyes stopped on a section highlighting children needing adoption. The Heart Gallery is a traveling photographic and audio exhibit which was created to find forever families for children in foster care. It was a grassroots effort when Kristin joined the steering committee, working with the project for seven years. She said her most rewarding experience was when she was working with the Heart Gallery. “Children who age out of foster care have a much higher rate of becoming homeless, pregnant; they are more likely to become involved in criminal activity. So, for a child or a teen to become adopted, it is truly a life-changing process. To have an impact on that is truly rewarding.”

Always behind the scenes and rarely in the spotlight, Kristin has given the most incredible gift anyone can give. It is something that cannot be bought, and only comes from the heart… it is selfless love. A saying she lives by is, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” Her desire to give back to those in need is a prime example of how people can shape a community.

Life Reimagined is an idea partnered with AARP to bring about change. Recently, the event St. Pete Rocks brought leaders and the community together to discuss the things we are doing right and what we can change.

Life Reimagined is an idea partnered with AARP to bring about change. Recently, the event St. Pete Rocks brought leaders and the community together to discuss the things we are doing right and what we can change.

Recently, AARP and the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership put together an event called the St. Pete Rocks Symposium to discuss what makes St. Petersburg a great community. AARP state director, Jeff Johnson, was working on a statewide event when he noticed “that we have two guys who are national and international speakers on the power of community, and they both choose to live in St. Petersburg.” He found it to be unusual, but a good barometer that we must be doing something right.

Jeff had to approach the question. What are we doing right? The event made time for all to appreciate what the area has to offer. Jeff states that one of the points taken from the event is: “there are a lot of physical attributes that we can talk about, but at the end of the day, what makes a city or community one which you love and you want to stay in are the people.”

St. Pete Downtown Partnership announced we will host the Monaco of BLUE Ocean Film Festival, an environmental documentary event.

St. Pete Downtown Partnership announced we will host the Monaco of BLUE Ocean Film Festival, an environmental documentary event.

t Great Explorations, kids “shop” in a grocery store while learning  the importance of everyday life choices and nutrition.

t Great Explorations, kids “shop” in a grocery store while learning the importance of everyday life choices and nutrition.

At St. Pete Rocks October 8th conversation at the Poynter Institute, an artist made a sketch from the discussion.

At St. Pete Rocks October 8th conversation at the Poynter Institute, an artist made a sketch from the discussion.

We always brainstorm about how we could change, improve, or fix something. To make change, Jeff lives by a saying from Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” It’s the people of St. Petersburg who use the spirit of love to make the city a good place to live. He believes that “as we deal with differences in our society – differences in partisanship or racial differences or orientation differences – there is a tendency for people to get so focused on their side versus the other side that it develops as a hate, that is nothing but negative for us. (He believes) the only way to learn how to overcome that is by learning how to love each other.”

This dynamic duo is an undiscovered jewel of St. Petersburg who just happen to be brother and sister. They both gravitated here for different reasons, and now are proud to call St. Petersburg their home. Everywhere we look we can find a good story, but here, in the Old Northeast, the stories are quite unique. There is a comfort and unseen love inter twined with every resident. St. Petersburg is a good place that has good people and good things happening. It is the time of year to reflect on everything we are thankful for. Look around to see the beauty of the environment and the people in the community, for this is your story. Happy Holidays.

See below for non-profits wholeheartedly supported by Kristin (Edible Peace Patch, Great Explorations Children’s Museum, and the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership) and Jeff (Life Reimagined and St Pete Rocks). And find some gems to polish!

by Ashleigh Powers

GREAT EXPLORATIONS CHILDREN’S MUSEUM

Founded in 1987, Great Explorations has been serving children and families in the greater Tampa Bay area for over a quarter of a century.

Recognized as one of Florida’s top museums and one of America’s top museums for children, Great Explorations is the premier destination for families in the Tampa Bay area.

Interactive exhibits, a preschool, camps, field trips, workshops for parents and caregivers, as well as volunteer opportunities for young adults, connect the Museum to a broad audience. Great Explorations provides quality children’s experiences for families in our community, and introduces new and innovative ways for children to learn through creativity, play and exploration. www.greatex.org

THE EDIBLE PEACE PATCH PROJECT

he Edible Peace Patch Project began in 2009 when a group of college students convinced Dr. Kip Curtis, their professor, to teach them to grow food. In exchange he asked them to build their own classroom on the schoolyard of one of the most at-risk elementary schools in the county and to offer standard-based lessons to the kids who visited them there. Four and a half years later, Dr. Curtis and Peace Patch volunteers are cultivating four gardens. Test results show higher science scores because of these gardens and anecdotes abound about boys not only staying in school, but also beginning to do award-winning work.

The Peace Patch plans to add four more gardens in 2014 and is planning to build an urban farm and commercial kitchen on the south side of St. Petersburg to serve fresh healthy lunch choices to the 5,000 schoolchildren in the eight Title 1 schools served by their garden program. www.peacepatch.org

THE ST. PETERSBURGDOWNTOWN PARTNERSHIP

Established in 1962, the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership is a shareholder-supported, not-for-profit organization that is focused on promoting urban (sustainable) growth and redevelopment in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Partnership’s main roles are identifying and advocating for important issues affecting the downtown, assisting with project planning and development, organizing community resources for action, and promoting downtown as a desirable place to live, work, play and invest.

Recently, the Partnership has played a lead role in the November, 2014 hosting of the BLUE Ocean Film Festival, an international film festival, conservation summit and film/media industry conference. The summit and film/media industry conference draw leaders and luminaries from the marine conservation, film and art disciplines. www.sppetepartnership.org

LIFE REIMAGINED

Life Reimagined is an idea from AARP born out of the experience of their members. Thanks to increases in healthy longevity, many Americans are experiencing (or anticipating) a new life stage. Many people in their 50s and 60s are emptying the nest and wrapping up their career, but they aren’t interested in the retirement model that suited their parents. With added years of vitality, they want to continue to learn, grow, contribute to their community and pursue the goals and dreams they haven’t had a chance to before. Life Reimagined is their effort to equip people with tools and resources to navigate those waters. Through the website, lifereimagined.org, and new book, Life Reimagined: Discovering Your New Life Possibilities by Richard J. Leider and Alan M. Webber, you can reconnect with your sense of purpose and engage in a process to help you figure out how to get where you always wanted to go.

ST. PETE ROCKS

St. Pete Rocks started as a little idea: two interna-tional experts in “community” (Rich Luker and Peter Kageyama) live in St. Petersburg, and as best Jeff could tell, nobody had asked them to talk about why they chose to live here. On October 8, AARP Florida and the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership got them together with some community-minded leaders to hear what they had to say, and called the event St. Pete Rocks. One of the metaphors used in the discussion that night was that our community was filled with “unpolished gems” (treasured people, institutions, programs and events that few people knew about) as well as “unpolished rocks” (things that carry both assets and liabilities which they can build with). They also talked about an essential dynamic in community leaders – being visionary and being a connector. The general takeaway was that there is value in expanding the discussion to include other voices, finding ways to “polish” those gems and rocks, and connect them to each other, and identifying and developing local visionaries and connectors.

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