What's Happening, Hillsborough?

The Hillsborough Transit Authority electric autonomous vehicle started on new route this past week. The free shuttle will now operate along the Tampa Riverwalk.

HART launches autonomous vehicle near Riverwalk

TAMPA — The Hillsborough Transit Authority launched a new route for HART SMART AV, Tampa Bay's first, fully electric autonomous vehicle, on Friday, Nov. 19

The free shuttle, operated by HART and BEEP Inc., an Orlando-based autonomous solutions provider, will now operate along the Tampa Riverwalk, following a looping route on city of Tampa streets, originating at Armature Works in Tampa Heights, running south near the Tampa Riverwalk, to the Barrymore Hotel and the David A. Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

HART SMART AV will serve riders at three stops: Armature Works, Water Works Park and the Straz Center, operating Monday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

City to hold tree-lighting, Christmas parade

TAMPA — Tampa is kicking off the holiday season with the city’s Official Tree Lighting Ceremony, 40th annual Santa Fest and Christmas Parade on Saturday, Dec. 4.

Festivities begin at 1:30 p.m. as the Christmas Parade rolls through Downtown Tampa. Colorful floats, three marching bands and Santa Claus will be on hand. There will be beads, candy and other goodies tossed to onlookers.

The parade begins at Madison and Pierce streets. Parade viewers are encouraged to arrive by noon to avoid road closures and to get a good spot along the parade route. For parking options, visit the city of Tampa Parking Division for a list and map of parking lots/garages.

After the parade, head to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park for Santa Fest from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Bring the children for a free keepsake photo with Santa.

The Junior League MILO (Mobile Interactive Literacy Opportunity) will be handing out free books, and there will be continuous holiday entertainment on stage, face painters, make-n-take crafts, interactive games, bounce houses, a rock wall, and a Candy Cane Scavenger Hunt.

At 6 p.m., WFLA’s Jennifer Leigh and Old Saint Nick will join Mayor Jane Castor on stage to light the seven Christmas Trees transforming Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park into an illuminated winter wonderland.

For more information, visit the Friends of Tampa Recreation on the web at www.friendsoftamparec.org or on Facebook.

Overman selected as County Commission chair

The Hillsborough County Commission selected Commissioner Kimberly Overman as chair, and Commissioner Mariella Smith as vice chair on Nov. 18 during its annual organizational meeting. Commissioner Stacy R. White will continue to serve as chaplain. Overman represents countywide District 7 and was elected in 2018. She has a long history of public service, volunteerism, and community involvement. Overman is a Certified Financial Planner and former CEO of a fee-only registered investment advisory firm and owner of The Heights Exchange, LLC, a commercial space in Seminole Heights. She also re-created a business chamber of commerce for the Tampa urban core. Overman is a longtime advocate of smart planning, economic growth, strong families, sustainable communities, and the importance of education.

Rep. Bilirakis seeks to honor Nuremberg prosecutor

Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL012), Lois Frankel (D-FL-21), Joe Wilson (R-SC-02), Ted Deutch (D-FL-22) and Jim McGovern (D-MA-02) introduced a bipartisan bill to award Benjamin Ferencz — the last living Nuremberg prosecutor — with a Congressional Gold Medal on the anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials.

During World War II, Ferencz served in the U.S. Army and helped collect evidence of Nazi war crimes. After the war, he was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant of Infantry and was awarded five medals for his service. Over the course of his life, the centenarian has been a tireless advocate for the rule of law and international justice.

“The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions,” Bilirakis said in a news release. “Certainly Ben Ferencz, who has spent more than 50 years prosecuting war crimes and genocide, qualifies for this prestigious honor. He has spent his entire, distinguished career pursuing justice for victims of horrific, unthinkable crimes against humanity. And he has succeeded, over and over again. In one instance, he secured justice for 20 Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) officers responsible for killing more than 1 million people in towns and villages across Eastern Europe.”

FWC evaluates trapping rules, seeks input

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is seeking public feedback as staff begins to evaluate rules addressing regulated wildlife trapping. Staff is exploring possible changes to modernize trapping rules to align with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ best management practices in support of species-specific and humane trapping methods.

The FWC is actively seeking public comment throughout this process, including hosting multiple online webinars where participants will have an opportunity to ask questions. Public feedback can be provided via an online commenting tool. Webinars are scheduled for the following dates and will cover the same information during each session:

• Tuesday, Nov. 30, 1-4 p.m.

• Wednesday, Dec. 1, 1-4 p.m.

• Saturday, Dec. 4, 9 a.m.-noon

• Monday, Dec. 6, 9 a.m.-noon

• Thursday, Dec. 9, 6-9 p.m.

Space is limited to the first 200 people to join each webinar. To learn more about possible rule changes, how to attend the webinars or to access the online commenting tool, visit: MyFWC.com/TrappingRules.

Gift of $1 million will benefit USF honors students

TAMPA — The University of South Florida recently announced that the Student Leadership Center in the new Judy Genshaft Honors College building will be named in recognition of Claudia McCorkle, a passionate supporter of the college who donated $1 million to the USF Foundation in support of the facility’s construction.

Comprised of a study lounge and conference room dedicated specifically for honors students, the Claudia McCorkle Student Leadership Center will serve as a collaborative space for the college’s student leaders.

“Claudia is an incredible champion of the university, as exemplified by her latest gift to enhance student success at the Judy Genshaft Honors College,” said USF President Rhea Law. “Her passion for giving comes straight from the heart. We are so thankful for her support.”

Nearly a decade ago, McCorkle established an Honors College study abroad scholarship and an academic scholarship. For the long-time donor, the link to this group is significant.

“I am so inspired by the drive of these students, and I wanted to provide a place where they can connect and exchange ideas in a special space designed just for them,” McCorkle said. “Being able to support these humble, high-achieving students has been my greatest joy as a philanthropist.”

The total cost of the project is $54 million and fundraising efforts will continue. 

Florida Humanities awards relief funding to nonprofits

TAMPA — The Ybor City Museum Society, like most cultural organizations, has struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, with a $24,500 grant from Florida Humanities, the citizens support group that owns the recently opened Tampa Baseball Museum at the Al Lopez House, is in better shape for the future.

“This is a game changer. We’ll be able to get the staff and technology we need and help secure contract work, which have all been sorely needed for a very long time,” said Chantal Hevia, president and chief executive officer of the Ybor City Museum Society. “We’ve grown, in spite of the fact that we’ve been through 18 months of COVID, and with these funds, we will be able to move ahead with all the things we are trying to re-energize.”

Florida Humanities, the statewide, nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, has awarded 129 organizations across the state with a total of $1.88 million. The funds are part of the $135 million received by the NEH from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, approved by Congress this past spring. The state humanities councils,

including Florida Humanities, each received a portion of the NEH award to support museums, archives, historic sites and other humanities-focused nonprofits that continue to experience financial hardship as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Partnership between USF, McKibbon Hospitality creates hospitality teaching lab

TAMPA — The University of South Florida Muma College of Business and McKibbon Hospitality recently announced a new partnership that will turn some premier hotel brands into intensive student training grounds.

The new affiliation creates an innovative hospitality teaching lab program designed to give School of Hospitality and Tourism Management students first-hand experience in hospitality management at some of the world’s largest hotel brands, including Marriott and Hilton.

“Student success is our top priority. This partnership between USF and McKibbon Hospitality opens up an important training opportunity and gives our graduates a competitive advantage,” said Moez Limayem, the Lynn Pippenger Dean at the USF Muma College of Business, which is comprised of six schools, including the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. “We value this new partnership. Educating the next generation of hotel managers requires teaming up with the top brands to teach the latest in hospitality management.”

Students will have access to nearly 100 teaching hotels across the country that are managed by McKibbon.

The new program will offer USF hospitality management students a one-of-a-kind training advantage — the chance to gain valuable insight and hands-on experience at a variety of hotel brand concepts that cater to differing clients. For example, students will have the opportunity to learn management techniques at the select-service Courtyard by Marriott Tampa Downtown or the boutique, full-service Kimpton Hotel Arras in Asheville, North Carolina.

Jingle Bell Run to raise funds for Arthritis Foundation

TAMPA — The 2021 Jingle Bell Run for arthritis is back and bringing holiday cheer to Tampa Bay on Saturday, Dec. 11, with the goal of raising $105,000 this year.

As more than 800 people gather at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa to join the movement to conquer arthritis, this annual, holiday-themed 5K fun run and one-mile walk encourages participants to dress in festive costumes and get moving to raise awareness and funds to cure America’s No. 1 cause of disability.

Taking place in more than 100 cities nationwide, the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run benefits the more than 54 million Americans, including 300,000 children living with arthritis every day. In Florida, nearly 4.5 million have arthritis, accounting for 8% of the nation's total. Arthritis affects residents of all ages including those with rheumatic diseases, as well as the more commonly known osteoarthritis.

From funding cutting-edge research for new treatments and ultimately a cure, to advocating for health care access, the Arthritis Foundation helps those living with arthritis score everyday victories, one step at a time.

The following people and partners will be honored at the event:

• Steven Chew, Jingle Bell Run corporate chair, Tampa General Hospital

• Dr. Kevin Cronin, Jingle Bell Run honoree, Florida Orthopaedic Institute

• Sherry Duquet, Jingle Bell Run adult honoree

• Lily Robles, Jingle Bell Run youth honoree

The Jingle Bell Run is nationally sponsored by AbbVie, Janssen and Novartis and locally by Tampa General Hospital, Sagicor Life Insurance Company and AARP. All participants receive an official Jingle Bell Run T-Shirt, finisher medal and jingle bells. There is an in-person and virtual participation option. To learn more and register for the Tampa event, visit JBR.org/Tampa or email Florida@arthritis.org.