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Girls Inc. receives $280,000 for project
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Girls Inc. of Pinellas is the recipient of a $280,000 Pinellas County Community Development Block Grant for a major remodeling project that includes a new STEM lab and a new cafeteria and kitchen. The organization also received a $10,000 grant to build a community garden with 12 family lots.
PINELLAS PARK – Girls Inc. of Pinellas recently found out that they’ll be receiving a $280,000 Pinellas County Community Development Block Grant this fall.

The money will be used to fund a major remodeling project at Girls Inc.’s facilities located at 7700 61st St. N., Pinellas Park.

“It’s really exciting,” said Kristina Fortner, Girls Inc.’s executive director.

The biggest portion of the project is the planned state-of-the-art STEM lab that will be built.

“It’ll look like a regular high school or middle school lab,” Fortner said, with separate islands for projects, high-powered microscopes and other equipment needed to properly conduct experiments.

“They’ll actually be able to conduct experiments in a controlled environment,” she added.

Currently, as the girls work on science experiments, they often transplant them from room to room to work on their various stages.

“We have the program and the space, but the space isn’t utilized for what it could be,” Fortner added.

Girls Inc. has partnerships with corporations like Lockheed Martin, Tech Data and GE Aviation. A proper science lab will allow them to visit the facilities and have a STEM-level space for presentations.

The cafeteria and kitchen also will get a facelift. The cafeteria will be completely demolished and rebuilt, and the kitchen will get commercial-grade stoves, a new dishwasher and a warmer.

“Right now cooking for 200 girls in the summer is not an easy task,” Fortner said.

They’ll also make the space better suited for parent-child cooking classes and events.

The current ceramic studio also will be redone and turned into an art studio, and the library will get new wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Many of Girls Inc.’s books are in storage because they don’t have enough space for them in the library.

New accordion doors will be installed in the multi-purpose room so they can properly divide the room when it’s needed for several uses at once. Lighting in the facility will be updated and be more environmental friendly as well.

Aesthetically, the lobby will be painted and new cubbies will be installed.

“It’ll be very much in line with Girls Inc. national – red, black and gray, that boldness,” Fortner said.

Fortner hopes the work will be completed by June 2015, but says that the project’s architect, RGA Design Group, is still reviewing the plans.

“We have to keep in mind that we have to stay operational at the same time,” she said. “So we’ve had several meetings with them about what that might look like.”

Girls Inc. also received a $10,000 Allegany grant to build a community garden.

Right now, the organization has a small garden – with tomatoes, sweet potatoes, jalapenos and lettuce – that they’ve put into place themselves and have the girls work on.

This community garden grant is a partnership with the Edible Peace Patch Project, All Children’s Hospital and Kohl’s Cooks for Kids.

There will be 12 family plots in addition to a community garden. The Edible Peace Patch Project will help them by installing an irrigation system, and Kohl’s will offer family cooking classes.

“Our goal is to develop a plant-to-plate sort of mentality,” Fortner said.

This is in line with the kitchen renovations, as well.

“We want to get not just the kids but the parents to see it’s not complicated, it’s not difficult,” she said, “even if we just teach them more about purchasing certain foods organically.”

The garden will likely be installed this fall and 40 community volunteers will be needed for the project.

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