Over the last two months, a vacant Pinellas County Government Highway Department vehicle maintenance and fueling facility in Lealman has been transformed into a multi-sports and activity complex for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Police Athletic League, (PAL).
The whole complex has been refurbished. Former parking lots and driveways are now street hockey rinks, and basketball courts. There are picnic benches under the trees and tetherball play areas. The sand is down for playing volleyball or for building sandcastles.
Even before the facility formally opened on December 12th, kids in the neighborhood were stopping by to play basketball and getting to know the staff and deputies assigned to the 46th Avenue facility.
The Lealman PAL program at 46th Avenue and 37th Street is the latest in a series of Pinellas County Sheriff's PAL initiatives. The mission of the Pinellas Sheriff's Police Athletic League is to offer the youth of Pinellas County alternatives to violence, gang involvement, and drugs. Sports, tutoring and mentoring programs give youngsters of all backgrounds an opportunity to have fun, grow and learn in a safe environment. "The value of this program is that local youth who come to PAL can meet their friends, make new ones and learn a sports skill, rather than be tempted to engage in criminal activity, vandalism or substance abuse, " according to Sheriff's PAL Director Jerry Babcock.
When schools are out, vandalism, vehicle burglaries and other youth related incidents have a tendency to increase. With the opening of the Sheriff's PAL Sports Complex in Lealman, a special series of PAL sports camps have already begun to be provided, so kids have an option and can get involved during spring, summer and winter breaks. The sports camps are in addition to the routine activities of team sports and tutoring.
The Sheriff's On-Track Program, which addresses the needs of at-risk kids and their parents, as well as the StepUp program will also be incorporated into the Lealman PAL curriculum. "We want to make this facility a neighborhood destination and a focal point," Babcock says. With the help our partners we now have a chance to give something back to the community, help young people become good citizens and provide services to parents seeking assistance."
The Lealman PAL project has been several years in the making, but with the cooperation and contributions of Pinellas County Government, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Lightning and other community partners, the long awaited program is a reality.
For more information on the Pinellas County Sheriff's PAL, call 727-582-6658 or visit the website at www.pinellascountypal.com.