A major gathering of area agencies, charities and civic groups resoundingly backed a major drive to create the first South County resource guide that will pair local needs with local resources.
“There is a tremendous [need]. Some may not have thought that, but there really is a need,” said Pastor Mark Salmon, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Sun City Center. “And I know there is need in Sun City Center as well, because I’ve seen it helping other people who were not church members.
“And we are even helping some of those in different ways as well,” he said. “In some cases we’re going to do odd jobs that they need. We’ve started a little ministry. If they need help, let us know — change light bulbs or whatever it may be.”
Salmon was one of more than 50 community representatives who turned out last week for the South Shore Mental Health Coalition community-needs conference in the Florida Room of the Sun City Center Community Association Atrium.
Almost 400 local organizations have been identified as potential community resources for inclusion in the guidebook, which is expected to be ready in the fall.
With a print run estimated to exceed 30,000, the guidebook will be distributed throughout South County at libraries, local chambers of commerce, businesses and community centers. It will also be available online.
“I think it went very well,” said conference chairperson Anna Lively. “I feel pretty confident that the folks who were here are going to reach out in their communities and their churches and their neighborhood, and they’re going to gather those volunteers that we desperately need. But we really had the cream of the crop here today.”
Lively said, “We had some people who are very vested in our community, [who] want to see the success of this endeavor, they want to see this resource guide come to publication, they want to see what it can do for our community in identifying the needs that we have and the resources that we have.”
Salmon hopes the guide will pair up those who can give with those in need. “Even today I have to go to Tampa [General] Hospital,” he said, adding that they were helping a waitress, “a poor working person, working hard, in her late 40s and she needs acute dental work. Trying to find dental work for somebody like her,” he added, “has been almost impossible. I couldn’t believe it. I called around. I have one possibility. I’ll be taking her some information today. And that’s a working person, who is working hard — doesn’t own a car — only transportation is a bicycle.”
Salmon said he and other clergy members have seen the needs firsthand. “I am one of those ministers who has gone in homes and found a way to look in a refrigerator and it’s been very disappointing what I’ve seen. Sometimes they have food but sometimes they’ve sacrificed food because they’ve had to buy medicine or their electricity bill has gone way up.”
Salmon also said that society is unprepared for a population that is living longer than most anticipated. ‘Who would have ever thought that people would have lived as long as they are, and they’ve outlived their retirement checks and that kind of stuff.”
Karen Ryan, chief of the Sun City Center Security Patrol, also welcomed the guidebook endeavor.
“I think getting every single organization to realize that there is hunger … there is a need for services in South County,” she said. “The Tampa area has been well taken care of. We’re sort of the forgotten land down here. Putting this together is a much-needed resource for people within South County because we’ve never had anything to go on. As the population grows, these resources are going to be very, very handy for everyone.”
“There is a pride factor,” Salmon said. “They really need our help, and we need to be there and this community is doing that, and this is part of it.
“But it’s so dysfunctional, like everything often is. So, if we can pull things together, where we can have resources and network with one another and talk with one another … we can come together and help the people we are here to serve.”
Creating a resource guide will be a huge step, Salmon said. “It will be [a godsend]. It has to be, for sure.”
To learn more about the South Shore Mental Health Coalition, visit mentalhealthandaging.org or call 813-419-4902.
For more information on the conference, call Debbie Caneen at 813-892-2990.