By Kerry O’Reilly, Tampa Bay Times Marketing Director, LT ’15
What is the RICH House?
The RICH House serves disadvantaged children and their families in the communities of Sulphur Springs and Robles Park. The acronym stands for Resources In Community Hope.
Located at: 8218 N. Marks St. Tampa, Robles Park Housing Complex
Leadership Tampa Class of 2013 tackled an ambitious, yet important, class project: the renovation of the RICH House in Robles Park.
Adrian Martinez, Managing Partner of EKS Group, one of the leaders on the project, shared his insights into how it all came together and where it stands today.
Kerry O’Reilly: Tell us about the project.
Adrian Martinez: John Bennett was the idea man. He proposed the project to the class based on his experience with the first RICH House in Sulphur Springs.
Because of the size of the project there was something for everyone to do. We cleaned, painted, did basic carpentry and all kinds of handy-man/woman type jobs. We also bought, transported and assembled many pieces of IKEA furniture.
We had classmates in construction who helped with planning and budgeting the work: Todd Fultz and OT Delancy in particular. We had lawyers, including Ceci Berman, Jason Quintero, Amanda Uliano and others looking at permits, liabilities, insurance, etc. Elizabeth Hennig played a key role as well raising funds for the project.
We believed this project would be a lasting gift to the city and one that would keep our class united long after graduation since we all knew the project would require continuous help. For the most part, it has done that.
KO: Has the support from your class continued?
AM: LT‘13 members still show up once in a while and bring donations – books, food, drinks, school supplies, computers, TVs, etc. And just last month, Ceci Berman called me looking for a volunteer project at the RICH House for her Girl Scouts.
KO: How does the RICH House benefit the community?
AM: The RICH House provides kids who live in a crime-ridden neighborhood a safe haven to go after school. Otherwise, these kids would be home alone or on the streets where they become easy prey to gangs and other bad influences. If it was just a place for kids to come in and watch TV after school, it would be successful. However, it goes beyond that. Retired Tampa Police Department Officer Susan Bowers provides strong discipline with a great caring heart. She currently has about 24 kids in class every day. She goes above and beyond. In addition to math and history, Bowers and Tampa Police Reserve Officer Deina Penix teach discipline, leadership, nutrition, CPR, effective babysitting, respect for others, ethics, values and manners. And thanks to LTA member Renee Vaughn of Williams Consulting, who serves on the University of Tampa Board of Fellows, UT provides volunteer tutors and mentors.
RICH House also provides a constant police presence in the neighborhood. It is part of TPD’s neighborhood policing tactics. Parents begin to trust the police and provide Officer Bowers with tips about “the bad guys.”
KO: What’s next for RICH house?
AM: Being an old house, it still needs work. Bowers’ wish list includes:
– New flooring for the stage area
– A window in the stage area
It is my hope that LT‘13 and LTA can continue to work on this project.
KO: Can members of other LTA classes get involved in this great effort? If so, how?
AM: Yes! This is a great opportunity to take one class’ project and expand it to have an even larger, longer-lasting LTA impact. Please e-mail me at email@example.com if you’d like to get involved.