“My dream: I see the South County area providing for itself through nonprofit organizations and the generosity of volunteers versus waiting for the government to do anything.”
— Debbie Caneen
Newly elected president of the South Shore Coalition for Mental Health & Aging
Step one in achieving that dream begins at 10 a.m. Monday, May 11, in the Florida Room at 1009 N. Pebble Beach Blvd. in Sun City Center, where one of the largest gatherings of nonprofits, churches and community groups in South County is expected to take place for one purpose: determining area needs and what local resources are available to meet those needs.
“My goal is collaboration with all nonprofits,” said Debbie Caneen, the newly elected president of the South Shore Coalition for Mental Health & Aging.
The Coalition is the driving force behind the two-hour needs-assessment gathering.
“I want to bring the community together and bring [together] all these nonprofits that are working in the community so we know what each one is doing,” said Caneen. “It’s one-stop shopping so we can all refer to each other and make sure everyone gets what they need.”
Caneen said she also hopes the needs assessment will uncover any “voids in the community because if there is one, we want that need to be filled.”
Many area nonprofit groups and church representatives have already signed up for the event, organizers said.
Founded in 1992 by Dr. Kenneth Barringer, a retired pastor and clinical psychologist from Sun City Center, the nonprofit Coalition acts as guide and clearinghouse for information on services available, and provides mental health services to the residents of South Hillsborough County, including Sun City Center, Ruskin, Wimauma, Apollo Beach and Riverview.
Caneen said, “We want everyone to come and tell us what they are providing in the community and hear about the needs they are seeing. Then, once we identify those needs, we can go back to the Community Foundation and say ‘this is where we have the void and this is where we need the funding.’”
The endgame, she said, is to have a full package of support services in South County “where everyone can have their needs met.” Caneen also works as director of admissions at the Sun Towers Retirement Community in Sun City Center.
The Coalition wants nonprofit groups looking to get the word out about their services to attend the meeting; also any local group in need of any special services. Organizers are also keen to draw members of the worship community, often home to a plethora of help organizations such as food pantries and free counseling.
Waiting for government action is a nonstarter, Caneen said. “Everyone says our government should do this and that, but it is just not happening. We have the ability within our community to care for ourselves.”
The Coalition for Mental Health will use information gathered at the meeting as a starting point for a new South County Resource Guide. The guide would serve anyone, from those looking for help with a child, a senior or a pet.
Caneen said, “The idea behind the Coalition is collaboration of community so if we get together and find out where there are duplication of services, and then regroup and take a nonprofit that already has programming in place, and utilize that programming to fill a void — wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
Caneen also said she would like to see the effort expanded to other communities.
“I want to hand people a book that, when something pops up, they can say ‘we need this or that’ — well, the book would be their resource right here in our community.”