CharityHoliday

Hands Across the Bay (and Other Charities for the Holidays)

Clearwater jewelers’ non-profit tops list of Colorful Clearwater’s charities for the holidays
By John Lawrence

You have noted the couple’s beautiful faces on advertisements throughout Tampa International Airport, on TV commercials in the Tampa Bay area and on the side of their jewelry fortress on Ulmerton Road in Clearwater.

What you might not have known is that Steven and Julie Weintraub, owners of Gold and Diamond Source – whose showroom flows like a sequined carpet – raise money that feeds, clothes, houses and treats thousands of Tampa’s troubled parents and children. Their Hands Across the Bay nonprofit holds two major fundraisers each year – Tampa Bay Dancing with the Stars and the Denim & Diamonds fundraiser at the Opal Sands on Clearwater Beach. The events bring other hard-working and fortunate people together to raise money to help families and children in crisis.

Julie Weintraub started the nonprofit after she witnessed a life end tragically during a police standoff.

“We decided to start Hands Across The Bay when we saw so many families in need when the housing bubble burst,” she says. “I saw a father commit suicide by cop over his electricity getting cut off and I thought ‘Wow, we could have paid that off and his children wouldn’t have gone through that – for likely what we spend on a dinner.’”

“On another occasion, we helped a young lady who was almost killed by her abusive ex-husband,” she says. “She was leaving and how little resources there were to help her actually rebuild her life. She was hit on the head and set on fire … I served as her advocate and sat through the entire trial with her and supported her in every way needed. He got life in prison.”

Diamond and Gold Source pays all the operational costs of the non-profit, including the salaries of the three businesswomen who run it for her. All the money raised goes to directly to charity.

Chelsea Heavenridge and Hannah McCall

“The money we raise helps boots-on-the ground organizations that provide basic needs for families that fall into crisis through no fault of their own,” says Chelsea Heavenridge, a great name for someone who’s dedicated to helping others. She is Director of Development for Hands Across the Bay and part of the trio who manage the nonprofit: Melissa Dohme is the group’s Director of Family Services and Hannah McCall is Outreach Coordinator and Domestic Violence Prevention Advocate. And of course, Julie Weintraub, the nonprofit’s CEO and founder who launched the charity in 2010, is the boss.

According to Heavenridge, Hands Across the Bay raised an estimated $300,000 in 2019, and because this year was interrupted by you-know-what, families are even more in crisis than ever. Covid-19 has led to job loss, no way to buy groceries and other immediate shortfalls. National food banks estimate some 8 billion donated meals will be needed to feed America in 2021.

“With Covid-19 happening, we have been helping with families’ light bills, water bills, and other utility bills,” Heavenridge says. “People responded at our Denim & Diamonds fundraiser by raising an estimated $100,000 in early December,” she says. “The donors were very generous; they are people who really care about Hands Across the Bay and its mission. We support all organization around Tampa Bay area and our donors are really interested in getting in there and helping the community in any way they can.”

Among the many charities the Weintraub’s nonprofit supports include: Wheelchairs for Kids; Help Us Gather (HUG), a social and activities group for people with disabilities; AdventHealth Pepin Heart Institute; A Kid’s Place, a safe haven for foster kids; Are you Safe, for victims of domestic violence; Dress for Success Tampa Bay, which provides a support network, professional attire, and helps women to achieve economic independence; Ronald McDonald House for families staying in Tampa as their children undergo medical procedures.

Iconic Hercules statue in front of the Gold and Diamond Source

In addition to holding fundraisers and offering ways to donate on its website, Gold and Diamond Source provides gift certificates and jewelry pieces to organizations that can auction them off and raise funds for other nonprofits, Heavenridge says. By the way, animal lovers also can donate to organizations that feed, shelter, and provide healthcare to animals.

To learn more about Hands Across the Bay and donate, go to handsacrossthebay.org.

There are many other ways to donate in Clearwater (ColorfulClearwater.com has a list at the end of this article) but we led with Hands Across the Bay because it has a lengthy list of local charities it supports, some of which are not as well-known as others.

Here are more local charities for Clearwater residents:

  • Gifting for Good – www.giftsforgood.com; Our gifts support the work of over 40 nonprofits and social enterprises in 19 states and 65 countries around the globe – in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, North America and Europe.
  • HeavenDropt, in Clearwater supports disabled veterans from their warehouse operation. They take donated parachutes used by airborne military and refashion them into purses, bandannas, hats, leashes and other accoutrements. Great people, great stuff, their website sells the items, at heavendropt.org.
  • Healthy Alternative Living Organization (HALO) serves foster children who are aging out of the foster system, and who are at-risk for homelessness, or worse. Contact Daniel Chaffman, co-founder and vice president, 813-774-2782 or email him at successfostergroup@gmail.com.
  • Holiday Shopping with Fashionistas for Goodoffers items for sale on Amazon and other company websites, a portion of which goes to causes of your choice. You can go to their Facebook page. Fashionistas for Good | Facebook
  • KIDS Campaign, Inc. – KIDS Campaign, Inc. | Facebook — has a dual mission of encouraging volunteer service in our community, and to help families of children with pediatric cancer.
  • Mothers of Minors (MOM) – momincfl.org – serves single parents in our community, and have hosted their “Showers Of Love” Community Baby Shower for more than five years.
  • Rescue Pink – Rescue Pink | Facebook – helps with spaying and neutering animals, rescues animals, and pays for medical needs of rescued animals.
  • Stano Foundation —stano.org – serves active duty military by shipping care packages to them overseas, and they also help our local veterans in need.

We also found this great list of nonprofits connected to the city and its needs: greatnonprofits.org/city/clearwater/fl. Here are a few of the organizations on that website. There are plenty more:

  • ARC Tampa Bay – This is a strong organization with decades of great history that helps people with developmental disabilities with housing, clothing, jobs and other aspects of life.
  • Homeless Empowerment Program – This nonprofit, which works with 25 other organizations, helps get medication, daily meals, clothes, and other items to people living on the streets. The HEP Dental and Wellness Clinic provided an astonishing 6,628 dental procedures valued at $1 million.
  • Salvation Army – Programs include serving homeless, food programs, aids and housing; toys, food and gifts to families at seasonal times; spousal abuse and retraining; day school for the underprivileged and spiritual guidance as appropriate.
  • VeteransPlus – a national group with Clearwater ties – helps veterans with monetary skills such as budgeting, saving, credit awareness, debt management, housing education & counseling, financial rehabilitation.
  • RCS – Their mission is to feed the hungry, help homeless families return to self-sufficiency and empower survivors of domestic violence.
  • 211 Tampa Bay Cares Inc. – A simple phone call gets people in crisis in touch with disaster aid, disaster preparedness and relief services, hot lines and crisis and suicide intervention. They provide mental health and other human services.
  • Operation Healing Forces Inc. serves active duty and wounded, ill and injured Special Operations Forces and their families by starting or continuing the process of mentally, physically and emotionally healing. It prepares these warriors to return to the fight – or transition successfully into civilian life.

John Lawrence is a free-lance writer who has covered Florida events for decades. He enjoys covering the people and places of Clearwater. He can be contacted at johnlguerra@gmail.com.

Feature photo by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

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