Metro announces grand opening for state-of-the-art health and community center

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Metro Wellness and Community Centers will welcome the public into its new, state-of-the-art health and community center during a grand opening celebration Feb. 9.

Metro currently offers personalized health and wellness services in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater and New Port Richey. The organization first began transforming its St. Petersburg location after purchasing the 47,000-square-foot building it called home in partnership with CAN Community Health in 2016. At the time, they utilized only 18,000 square feet of the campus.

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Watermark’s Wedding Bells: Mark & Ricky Celaya-Renaud

By : Aaron Drake
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“I proposed to Mark – we are both Eagle Scouts and have a shared affinity for the outdoors and nature, so I planned out a camping trip to the Florida Caverns State Park,” Ricky Celaya-Renaud shares. “We did a flashlight tour of the main caverns, and at the last possible chance before leaving the cave, I gathered my courage, got down on one knee and asked him to marry me.”

“Ricky decided to sign us up for a cave tour in the woods – I’m terrified of bats, by the way – where he decided to ask me to marry him at the very end,” Mark Celaya-Renaud adds. “At that point, I would’ve done anything to get out of that cave! Luckily, I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t already want to, so not only did I get to get out of the home of winged-monsters, but I came out of it engaged to the love of my life.”Ricky, a property manager and native of St. Petersburg, currently lives with his husband Mark, a senior analyst and transplant from Granada Hills, Calif., in Tampa.

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Jim Nixon: St. Petersburg LGBTQ Liaison, LGBTQ Welcome Center manager

By : Kevin King
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Jim Nixon is remarkable. He is known to the LGBTQ community through his many years of advocacy, his sales work with Watermark and his efforts to elevate Metro Wellness and Community Centers through strategic outreach and marketing. Thanks to Jim, the LGBTQ Welcome Center in St. Pete’s Grand Central District has been refreshed and refocused, serving as a safe and inviting place for both residents and visitors.

The broader Tampa Bay community, and especially our growing arts community, may know Jim through his work with Ruth Eckerd Hall or The Dali Museum. Today, we also know Jim as St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s LGBTQ Liaison, a vital role encouraged by the Human Rights Campaign. It speaks to Jim’s remarkability that he volunteered for the position long before our city coffers allowed us to fund it. As both a volunteer and an employee, he has excelled. Readers of Watermark likely know that Mayor Kriseman is a longtime champion for the LGBTQ community and has illustrated that in ways big and small.

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12.13.18 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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It occurred to me as I began to write this column that it would be my last in the year it began, 2018. It’s been a year I’ll never forget for a number of reasons, “chief” among them that I celebrated one year on Watermark’s staff Dec. 11.

My first column highlighted how writing full-time had always been my lifelong dream, something I’ve reiterated ad nauseam, but I’m still thankful that I get to do it and that I get to do it here. I’m very grateful for the family I’ve made at Watermark, for our readers and for our advertisers who make all of this possible. The stories of our ever-expanding LGBTQ community matter and have to be told.

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St. Petersburg gathers for Transgender Day of Remembrance 2018

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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LGBTQ community advocates and allies gathered Nov. 20 on Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) at St. Petersburg City Hall to honor the known transgender lives lost in 2018.

Attendees met at the city’s Sunshine Senior Center for a candlelight processional that ended at the steps of City Hall for the memorial. The 2018 vigil, organized by 6S Boutique owner Andrew Citino and gender therapist Tristan Byrnes, featured a wide array of speakers that included Mayor Rick Kriseman. The mayor read from the city’s proclamation naming Nov. 20 TDoR.

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Positive Living: Without oppression, who are we?

By : Greg Stemm
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When I moved to St. Petersburg in the summer of 1983 I couldn’t serve openly in the military. It was unlikely that I could be hired as a teacher. I couldn’t adopt children. There were no local and huge gay pride celebrations. Most of the bars weren’t in great areas of Tampa and marriage was a pipe dream no one ever seriously thought we’d see. Such was gay life in 1983.

Flash forward to now. Men introduce their husbands; women introduce their wives, and they may introduce you to their children. We can serve our country. St. Petersburg hosts an LGBTQ pride celebration that draws well over 200,000 people. The library in my little town of Gulfport has an LGBTQ Resource Center that has brought us national acclaim. Gay characters and role models for our young people abound on TV and in mainstream society we are mostly seen as upstanding citizens, not mentally ill patients or sexual deviants who should be pitied or shunned.

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Two inspiring individuals prove leaving the corporate world can really pay off

By : Holly Kapherr Alejos
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When I called Victor Bokas for an interview, he was in the middle of working on a five-foot-square commissioned painting for an art collector in Spain. “I could have never done this had I stayed in the corporate world,” he said to me with an incredulous half-laugh. Since being let go from his position as a senior graphic designer at Tupperware Brands in 2015, he has devoted his full energy to his craft, and it’s made all the difference.

Mandy Keyes, owner of Community Cafe in the Grand Central District of St. Petersburg, also left her corporate position as an interior designer to open a storefront on Central Avenue, the area’s main thoroughfare. When I walked into the cafe for our interview, she was in the thick of taking orders, clearing tables, fielding questions – all the things you’d expect from a small-business owner – popping up at intervals during our conversation to tend to her customers. At 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday, the place was packed. It’s working.

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EPIC Generations coalition forms to support aging LGBTQ community

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Empath Partners in Care (EPIC), a member of Empath Health, has formed EPIC Generations—a new coalition dedicated to serving LGBTQ elders throughout Pinellas County.

EPIC Generations stems from the nonprofit’s partnership with the St. Petersburg-based Project Generations Coalition, an alliance of over a dozen elder care advocates. It was formed by area resident Chris Almvig, one of the founding members of SAGE, the country’s oldest and largest nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ elders.

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PHOTOS: Metro raises funds, celebrates at the PeaCocktail Party

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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GULFPORT | Metro Wellness & Community Centers held its annual fundraiser Nov. 10, benefiting the organization’s diverse lineup of LGBTQ programming and honoring community leaders.

The celebration took place at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport from 7-11 p.m. It honored three outstanding individuals for their excellence in leadership – St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin, Christina Burke and Todd Richardson. Metro CEO Lorraine Langlois was also celebrated for her 25 years of service and dedication to the Tampa Bay community.

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Free Kombucha Tasting & Home Brewing Contest

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact Name: Joshua D. Rumschlag                   
Organization: Mother Kombucha
Phone Number: 727-688-5901
Email: Josh@motherkombucha.com

Florida’s 2nd Annual Kombucha Home Brewing Contest
and Public Kombucha Tasting to Benefit Sail Future

St Petersburg, FL: Locally-based Mother Kombucha and Vertical Ventures St. Pete are teaming up on Nov. 7 at 7:00pm to again host Florida’s 2nd Annual Kombucha Home Brewing Contest. This year Keep St. Pete Local, Grassroots, Thank You Mama, Squeeze and St. Pete Ferments are joining them as sponsors and judges, as well as local chefs.

Kombucha enthusiasts from all over Florida again will bring in their unique home brewed Kombucha to Vertical Ventures for an epic show of flavor, fermentation, and Florida culture. In addition to contest participants bringing their own home brews to share, the public is invited to the largest Public Kombucha Tasting in Florida History trying home-brewed marvels as well as Mother Kombucha employee inspired flavor combinations.

This year proceeds go to SailFuture, for more info:
https://sailfuture.org/

Schedule
6:45-7pm Competitor check in.
7-7:30 Judging by local brewers, chefs, and other folks we love…
7:45 Public Tasting Opens
8:30 Winners Announced.

Contest Details
$20 Entrance Fee per flavor (max. of 2)
Register at Vertical Ventures
Blind Judging (Judges will only know identification numbers)
Please only label ingredients and flavor (keep in mind some judges may be vegan)
Cash Prize for 1st Place, Prices for 2nd and 3rd place as well as most creative and most Florida.
Contestants please bring at least 32 oz., one gallon is ideal.

Facebook event link:
https://www.facebook.com/events/294628931136258/

St. Petersburg to hold ‘We Won’t Be Erased’ transgender support rally

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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LGBTQ community leaders and advocates will gather Nov. 4 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at St. Petersburg’s Williams Park for the area’s “We Won’t Be Erased” transgender support rally.

Nathan Bruemmer organized the rally following reports that the Trump administration may attempt to define gender as an immutable condition determined at birth. Partner organizations include Equality Florida, TransAction Florida, Metro Wellness & Community Centers, St. Pete Pride and Project No Labels.

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Metro Wellness & Community Centers announces annual benefit, honorees

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Metro Wellness & Community Centers will hold its annual fundraiser on Nov. 10, benefitting the organization’s diverse lineup of LGBTQ programming and honoring community leaders.

This year’s celebration, presented by Mail Meds pharmacy for the sixth consecutive year, will be a “PeaCocktail Party” held at the Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport from 7-11 p.m. The organization describes the gathering as a bold and colorful party, celebrating the beauty of Tampa Bay’s diversity.

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