News of the Pinellas-Pasco Heart Gallery

Adoption Competency Training

As part of the Heart Gallery’s ongoing mission to support successful adoptions in our community, we are partnering with Adoption Related Services to facilitate Adoption Competency Training.   Participants will learn about the adoption triad, the core issues of adoption, and specialized theories and practices including attachment-based, family-focused, therapeutic interventions.  CEUs and recertification hours are available. Please RSVP by emailing me at Space is limited to twenty-five people so reserve your space quickly!

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Young Professionals Philanthropy Fair

Heart Gallery volunteer, Summer Bryan, talks to guests about the need for adoption in our community.


The St. Petersburg Chamber “Young Professionals” hosted a Philanthropy Fair on Thursday, October 3rd at the University Student Center, USFSP.  Over 50 non-profit organizations participated in this event.  The Heart Gallery was represented by one of our valuable student volunteers, Summer Bryan.  Summer created a tabletop display with beautiful portraits of our children.  She shared our mission with guests and answered their questions about steps for adopting.  Summer is a valuable volunteer who donates her time to help us create an awareness of the critical need for adoption in our community!

An Orphan Pleads His Case to Churchgoers

ST. PETERSBURG — As soon as they pulled into the church lot, Davion changed his mind.

“Miss! Hey, Miss!” he called to his caseworker, who was driving. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

In the back seat, he hugged the Bible someone had given him at the foster home. “You’re going to be great,” Connie Going said.
Outside St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church, she straightened his tie. Like his too-big black suit, the white tie had been donated. It zipped up around the neck, which helped. No one had ever taught Davion, 15, how to tie one.

“Are you ready?” Going asked. Hanging his head, he followed her into the sanctuary.

This had been his idea. He’d heard something about God helping people who help themselves. So here he was, on a Sunday in September, surrounded by strangers, taking his future into his sweaty hands.

• • •

Davion Navar Henry Only loves all of his names. He has memorized the meaning of each one: beloved, brown, ruler of the home, the one and only.

But he has never had a home or felt beloved. His name is the last thing his parents gave him.

He was born while his mom was in jail. He can’t count all of the places he has lived.

In June, Davion sat at a library computer, unfolded his birth certificate and, for the first time, searched for his mother’s name. Up came her mug shot: 6-foot-1, 270 pounds — tall, big and dark, like him. Petty theft, cocaine.

Next he saw the obituary: La-Dwina Ilene “Big Dust” McCloud, 55, of Clearwater, died June 5, 2013. Just a few weeks before.

• • •

In church, Davion scanned the crowd. More than 300 people packed the pews. Men in bright suits, grandmoms in sequined hats, moms hugging toddlers on their laps. Everyone seemed to have a family except him.

Davion sat beside Going, his caseworker from Eckerd, and struggled to follow the sermon: something about a letter Paul wrote. “He was in prison,” said the Rev. Brian Brown. “Awaiting an uncertain future . . .”

Sometimes Davion felt like that, holed up at Carlton Manor with 12 teenage boys, all with problems. All those rules, cameras recording everything.

Davion wants to play football, but there’s no one to drive him to practice. He wants to use the bathroom without having to ask someone to unlock the door.

More than anything, he wants someone to tell him he matters. To understand when he begs to leave the light on.

“You may be in a dark place,” said the preacher. “But look for the joyful moments when you can praise God.”

Picking at his fingers, Davion wondered what to say. And whether anyone would hear him.

• • •

Davion always longed for a family. His caseworker took him to picnics, put his portrait in the Heart Gallery. But he had thrown chairs, blown his grades, pushed people away.

When he learned his birth mother was dead, everything changed. He had to let go of the hope that she would come get him. Abandon his anger. Now he didn’t have anyone else to blame.

“He decided he wanted to control his behavior and show everyone who he could be,” Going said.

So someone would want him.

“I’ll take anyone,” Davion said. “Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be.”

All summer, he worked on swallowing his rage, dropping his defenses. He lost 40 pounds. So far in 10th grade, he has earned A’s — except in geometry.

“He’s come a long way,” said Floyd Watkins, program manager at Davion’s group home. “He’s starting to put himself out there, which is hard when you’ve been rejected so many times.”

Davion decided he couldn’t wait for someone to find him. In three years, he’ll be on his own.

“I know they’re out there,” he told his caseworker. Though he is shy, he said he wanted to talk at a church. “Maybe if someone hears my story . . .”

• • •

The preacher spoke about orphans, how Jesus lifted them up. He described an epidemic, “alarming numbers of African-American children who need us.”

Then he introduced Davion, who shuffled to the pulpit. Without looking up, Davion wiped his palms on his pants, cleared his throat, and said:

“My name is Davion and I’ve been in foster care since I was born. . . . I know God hasn’t given up on me. So I’m not giving up either.”

Lane DeGregory can be reached at or (727) 893-8825.

How to help

At publication time, two couples had asked about Davion, but no one had come forward to adopt him.

If you want more information about Davion — or any of the 120 foster children in Pinellas and Pasco who are waiting for families — call Eckerd at (866) 233-0790. If you can’t adopt but want to donate time or money, call Eckerd at (727) 456-0600. For information about children who are available for adoption in Hillsborough County, go to heartgallery

Heart Gallery Participates in the Raymond James Community Fair

Arlene Jackson, employee with Interstate Transport, volunteers to assist with our Heart Gallery display.

The Heart Gallery was invited to participate in a Raymond James Community Fair hosted by the Women’s Interactive Network on September 6th. The objective of the event was to provide a forum for all Raymond James associates to become familiar with community organizations and learn about volunteer opportunities available.   Information regarding our mission to provide an emotionally safe way to promote local adoptions was available to several hundred Raymond James associates who attended.

Raymond James VP of Investments, David Ramsey, visits our display and reads about our Heart Gallery mission.




General Fetais visits with Heart Gallery Children

In partnership with the Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco and Eckerd Community Alternatives, Senior National Representative Brigadier General Rashid Fetais from the Country of Qatar hosted a fun-filled experience for about 30 local foster children at Great Explorations Children’s Museum on Saturday, July 14th.  The opportunity came about when Brigadier General Fatais approached US Naval Officer LCDR Anthony Dill from Headquarters Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base.  LCDR Dill serves as a liaison to foreign military representatives stationed at MacDill, and General Fetais came to him expressing that he would like to do something to give back to the Tampa Bay community.  General Fetais is a very honorable man with a large family at home, and he expressed the desire to create goodwill while in the United States by bringing some joy to local foster children who are less fortunate than his own.  Together, all parties involved planned a party for about 30 children who are in foster care with Eckerd Community Alternatives and featured on the Heart Gallery awaiting adoptive homes.  The General visited the children at Great Explorations to deliver gifts and share in their joy as they are given the opportunity to just be kids. 

Photo compliments of

Big Heart – Big Family!

Empty nesters with five biological children and four grandchildren, Chris and Esther Berry started a school for exceptional students known simply as “Esther’s School”. They discovered that several students attending their school were living in foster care, featured on the Heart Gallery and waiting to be adopted. They knew they weren’t finished being parents, so the Berrys took steps to adopt.

First to join the Berry family was the sibling group of Melissa (age 16) and Willie (age 17). They were adopted in 2011. This Thursday, the couple will adopt their SECOND brother-sister pair from Eckerd’s foster care system – Stephan (age 17) and Dajah (age 10). The Berrys also plan to adopt another foster teen living in their home, 17-year-old Christopher, later this year.

Esther Berry celebrates with newly adopted children, Stephan and Dajah,
along with Heart Gallery photographer, Michelle Nault.

The Berry family: Stephan, Chris, Willie, Dajah, Esther, Melissa and Robert

Also, here are a few links to related news stories:
Bay News 9
ABC Action News

Today was an example of the Eckerd/Heart Gallery partnership working at its very best.

The finalization hearing of Stephan and Dajah, took place this afternoon in Judge Day’s courtroom. The new parents, Esther and Chris Berry, are actually very seasoned parents. They are almost empty nesters with 5 grown biological children and four grandchildren.

Now, consider that the Berrys also adopted Willie and Melissa (featured on the Heart Gallery in 2011) last year.

If that hasn’t completely bowled you over, then know too, that they have yet a fifth child, Christopher, who is currently visiting, and there are plans to adopt him as well.

As the (attached) press release that April drafted will attest to, the Berry’s truly are an exceptional family.

April worked tirelessly on drafting the release, getting it send to media outlets, and sending personal messages to some of her contacts. Tina also sent the release to some of her valuable media connections. The results are nothing short of amazing.

Stories will run on the evening news on Bay News 9, Channel 10, ABC Action News (Channel 28/11) and Fox 13, as well as being published in the Tampa Bay Times and a variety of community newspapers via Tampa Bay Newspapers – and we will be certain to share some of these stories as they air or are published. Attached is a copy of the family’s story and a few photos from today’s event, with our wonderful photographer, Michelle Nault, who took the HG portrait.

Many of their reports will air on the 5 or 6 o’clock news. The Bay news 9 segment is likely to air tomorrow.

This is fabulous publicity to help bring awareness about the huge need for adoptive families, like the Berry’s, to open their homes and their hearts to children in care.

It’s days like this when we don’t doubt for a minute why we support this organization and I’m so happy to share this wonderful news!

Many thanks to April for working so professionally and diligently to make this happen.


P.S. the Berry family will also be featured during the July 1st Heart Gallery day at the Rays. More information to come!

BGJC Rededication

Heart Gallery and Eckerd were recognized along with the Shields for the
rededication of the Big Game James Club suite on Sunday, June 3rd. Pictured,
from Left to right are April Putzulu, Eckerd, Kristin Brett, Heart Gallery,
the Bartles family, the Dunne family, Judith Warren, Eckerd, Alicia Bryan,
Heart Gallery and daughter, Summer Bryan.

On field recognition: Pictured are the Bartles family, James Shields, the
Dunne family, Judith Warren, Eckerd, Alicia Bryan, Heart Gallery

Judith Warren, Eckerd and Alicia Bryan, Heart Gallery, wave to the crowd
during rededication ceremony.

Event guests view the latest Heart Gallery portraits of foster children awaiting adoptive home during the “Celebrate Me Home” event May 3, 3012. The HG of PP raised more than $36,000 that night to assist children in foster care find Forever Families

Recently adopted Emily Titus cuts the ribbon on the newest portraits with Ryane Shields and her husband, Rays pitcher James


James and Ryane

James and Ryane Shields represented the Heart Gallery at the Mayor’s Breakfast in Safety Harbor on December 9th.