CLEARWATER, Fla. — Valiant Peterson has a lot of loved ones on his Christmas list. With 11 grandkids and eight children, the list seemed insurmountable in 2019. His knee replacement surgery prevented him from working.

In stepped a heaven-sent donor.

“She’s an angel,” said Peterson from the front entrance of Pinellas Hope Tuesday morning. “It was marvelous. I don’t know what else to say. I was overwhelmed.”

Peterson’s grandchildren range from four months to 12 years old. They received clothes, toys and bikes for his family from Diane Marks and her friends at the American Legion Auxiliary. Marks helped organized gift purchases for people living at Pinellas Hope.

“It’s just wonderful,” Marks said. “We look at it when all the gifts come in and it’s just so heartwarming.”

The two shared a giant hug. It was the latest exampled of giving at Pinellas Hope.

“Probably about 75 to 80 percent of the budget here comes out of donations,” said Danielle Husband, the Director of Homeless and Veterans Services at Pinellas Hope.

She drove through the back lot where dozens of $100 tents lined the street. A $1,000 donation helped provide a few by a donor this past year. Other donors drop off food and blankets. Before Christmas, one man gave Pinellas Hope two vans, a refrigerator and four washers and dryers so residents could do laundry.

“Pinellas Hope came out of a need in the community and only continues today because the community continues to love and support us,” Husband said.

Pinellas Hope’s website says it “started out as a temporary emergency shelter for over 250 homeless men and women, located in Clearwater on 20 acres provided by Bishop Robert N. Lynch and the Diocese of St. Petersburg. It opened its doors on December 1, 2007”.

The shelter houses many veterans as well.

“I know that it was very important to the veterans. There was a lot of emotion the day we raised the flag,” Sophia Renee said. Her mother-in-law donated a flag pole to Pinellas Hope to allow them to fly Old Glory back in 2018.

Edwin Burns smiles at it each time he drives past.

“There’s a lot of veterans here. The United States of America,” said the US Marines veteran who has lived in Pinellas Hope for two years. “We need the community’s help and they do a great job helping us.”

That’s why people like Marks keep giving.

“It means a lot to us that we’re helping,” she said.

“In 2015 Pinellas Hope added 5 apartment buildings providing 76 efficiency apartments subsidized to be affordable for low income adults who had “graduated” from Pinellas Hope,” continues the Pinellas Hope website. “Eighty more units were added in 2017, bringing the total number of efficiency apartments to 156”.

“I think that hope is a wonderful word to describe what a lot of people find here,” said Renee. “These are the forgotten people.”

Pinellas Hope is located at 5726 126th Ave N, Clearwater, FL 33760.

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