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The Sassy Sandpiper: Still ‘Lealman’s Eden’

Lealman's Eden | Ray Neri Park | TB Reporter

One good idea will be transformed into another good idea.

By M.R. WILSON, Columnist, TB Reporter

LEALMAN – A few weeks ago, visitors to the Raymond H. Neri Community Park spotted something new, inspired by the good people of central Ohio.

A “Care Cabinet” was stocked with food, personal hygiene items, gently used clothing and shoes. Inside was a note: “May your day be brighter, your burdens be lighter, because you know there is someone who cares.” One donor left a small cross. Or perhaps it was given by a grateful recipient.

A frequent visitor to the park (who prefers to remain anonymous) watched the news clip highlighted above and thought something like the “Blessing Boxes” in Ohio would be a great idea for Ray’s Place. Chris Moore, assistant to the county administrator, Lealman Community, agreed. He set the wheels in motion. Nov. 14, a recyclable newspaper vending bin was delivered to the park by Ryan Brinson, countywide resource liaison, planning department, Pinellas County. Huge thanks to our public servants! These gentlemen know how to get things done—and fast!

Laura Petersen Brown, a Lealman resident since 2012, brought paint and brushes for decorating the Care Cabinet along with canned goods and loads of encouragement and enthusiasm.

Brown said, “The park fulfills my love of the home I left in Ohio, minus the deer…however, the alligators are amazing! I’m not sure what I’d do without my place of peacefulness….I’ve met so many great friends here. Now we have a Care Cabinet right across from the book box!”

What a coincidence: Laura Petersen Brown moved here from Ohio, where the idea of Blessing Boxes/Care Cabinets was born. Good people, the Ohioans!

One week after its delivery, the Care Cabinet was reported “gone” in a Nov. 21 post on Facebook by Patricia Cornett.

My heart sank. I hurried to the park to see for myself. To my dismay, it was missing.

I contacted Chris Moore, who investigated and learned people were bathing in a park bathroom, using soap and shampoo provided in the Care Cabinet. They dried off with toilet paper and left a mess that included trash from donated items.

This incident prompted a park ranger to remove the Care Cabinet during a time of active complaints of drug use and other undesirable behavior at the park.

To me, this is rather like “guilt by association.” Nothing at all is wrong with the intention; it’s the sad reality of social ills that lead to homelessness, vagrancy, drug abuse and a whole host of other issues that play out vividly in public settings, notably parks. It is frightening and can be dangerous.

Several members of the Facebook group, Friends of Raymond H. Neri Community Park, commented. Despite this unfortunate turn of events, they love this park. It is still Lealman’s Eden.

But this story doesn’t end there.

The confiscated Care Cabinet is currently in “protective custody” of the Parks Department, awaiting a new mission as a Little Free Library on a quiet avenue nearby.

Stay tuned for details.

laura petersen brown | Lealman's Eden | Ray Neri Park
Laura Petersen Brown



Sassy Sandpiper | M.R. Wilson | Ray Neri Park | Lealman | Tampabay News | News Tampa

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