When is a penny a nickel? Ask Steve Cleveland, CEO of Florida Dream Center (FLDC).
Squeezing every ounce from the tiniest of coins is a talent Steve masters daily at FLDC. His skill prepared FLDC to expand its footprint in Pinellas County as COVID-19 raged throughout the year. In this dire time, the 100,000 pounds of food FLDC distributes weekly doubled to 200,000 pounds, and the staff grew to serve 2,600 Pinellas families, many of which saw incomes that plummeted to zero.
The more we worked together, the more [PCF] understood what we provide the community. Steve Cleveland, Florida Dream Center CEO
Steadfast Throughout the Pandemic
“We were lucky when other nonprofits were not,” said Steve. When the pandemic shut down other agencies, FLDC picked up the slack until others could open again. One agency forced to close was Lealman Asian Community Center.
Before COVID-19, FLDC limited its services to areas of Lealman and Tarpon Springs. “When COVID hit, we opened to anyone we could help, including Seminole, Largo, and other locales because the CARES Act dollars allowed us to do that,” said Steve.
Steve recounts the gravity of the COVID-19 crisis in a phone call he received from a former FLDC donor. The donor said, “Remember me? I donated to you in the past. Now, I need help.” The gentleman had lost his job and had a family to feed.
Founded in 2012 on a $750 annual budget, FLDC now operates on $890,000 annually. Add to this the in-kind food and materials contributions from national food and home-improvement stores, and FLDC’s budget approaches $3 million.
As FLDC Development Coordinator Subrina Driggers says, “Find the need; fill the need.” She refers to the breadth of services FLDC provides to the greater Pinellas community. On Saturdays, for example, FLDC manages the Adopt-A-Block outreach program that provides homeless and low-income residents with a myriad of supplies, including food and toiletries.
Beyond Food Services
FLDC’s services don’t stop with food. Its staff and teams of volunteers go into low-income communities on Saturdays to provide nearly anything the community needs, including street clean-up, home repairs, lawn maintenance, and a host of other services. Adopt-a-Block, for example, removes roughly 70 tons of trash from the Lealman area each month.
“Steve is the type of CEO who never asks anyone to do something he has not done himself,” said Subrina. “I have mowed lawns and delivered a lot of food,” Steve said. Steve personally repairs homes. It helps that he is a certified general contractor for the state of Florida.
The new challenge is continually seeking funding and getting volunteers involved when it is safe for their return. “Before COVID-19, we had thousands of volunteers to help paint and replace windows and floorboards. Now, that number is slim because we want everyone to remain safe, but the volunteers are gradually coming back,” said Steve.
Florida Dream Center’s services are far-reaching and consequential. Besides working with law enforcement to mitigate the effects of human trafficking, it tackles homelessness, hunger, poverty, and addiction recovery — all of this in collaboration with other community agencies.
FLDC defines its commitment as restoring dreams, renewing hope, and rebuilding lives by providing services that address immediate and long-term needs in the areas of homelessness, human trafficking, hunger, poverty, and community outreach.
If you wish to get involved with this life-changing, impactful, and expanding organization, contact FLDC at 727-851-9074 or email Zelda O’Connell.
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