Program that changes lives, collapsing, in need of funds – Bay News 9


The Clearwater Civil Air Patrol unit headquarters is doomed, and without help, the program might be too.

The cadets must come up with nearly $50,000 to save the building. About 62 cadets currently train at the Clearwater facility on N. Hercules Ave. in Building A. They learn about aerospace, leadership, fitness, and train to assist the Air Force with inland search and rescue.

The volunteer program helps kids as young as 12 years old. It has changed Elizabeth Wright’s life.

“I didn’t have the necessary skills and motivation as well as I would like to have. By becoming a Cadet, I took action in what I was doing. I made my life better. I graduated top of my class, even though at first I wasn’t doing well. I’m now in college. I have extremely good grades and I have a really good life set for me now thanks to everything I learned in this program,” said Wright.

Wright’s future might be secure, but the future of the building that houses the program is anything but stable.

“We recently had it inspected and the water damage has caused an infestation of termites. Our floors are collapsing, our ceiling is collapsing. The structure is just not really that strong,” said Yvonne Rodriguez, who commands the Clearwater Composite Squadron. Captain Rodriguez is a retired New York police officer who volunteers her time at the Civil Air Patrol. In her office, the ceiling has collapsed and smells like mold.

“The truth of the matter is, it’s just a matter of time before it needs to be torn down and replaced by another facility,” said Capt. Rodriguez.

St. Pete College donated three modular buildings, but it will take at least $45,000 to make them usable at the Clearwater location.

“Once the buildings are brought over, they are kind of like an empty shell. We’ll need to build offices and classrooms, certainly a bathroom, handicap accessible as well, so all that’s going to entail some sort of expense and we just don’t have that kind of money,” said Capt. Rodriguez.

They are working to raise the funds to continue to make a difference in lives like Wright’s.

“I wasn’t doing as well as I should have been. By learning the responsibility and everything I had here was allowing me to bring those grades up and reach my full potential,” said Wright.

This Squadron has been in the community for more than 20 years. Now, these cadets must fight to keep it there for another 20 and beyond.

The Clearwater Composite Squadron will share the new facility with the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance.

For more information on how you can help visit their website.