The organization Hands on Gainesville takes science education out of the classroom and brings it into the world.
Using a map highlighting the multitude of local places to do that – museums, natural areas, libraries, locations related to astronomy and so on, Hands On Gainesville does just that.
“We’re educators and scientists, and we didn’t have the skills to create the map,” said Adrienne Thieke, the group’s president and founding member.
Hands On Gainesville is getting the expertise it needs – thanks to a business startup grant from SCORE of North Central Florida.
SCORE, formerly the Service Corps of Retired Executives, is a national network of volunteers with strong business backgrounds that helps businesses grow, in partnership with the Small Business Administration. The North Central Florida chapter has 28 volunteers.
Hands On Gainesville is using its $1,500 grant to pay Daniel Durante to design and program an interactive map of science education opportunities.
“People don’t realize that science is in the world around them,” said Thieke.
“They don’t know about the rock garden and the planetarium at Santa Fe College or what the significance of Devils Millhopper is,” she said.
“We’ll keep building on the map online with questions to discuss before going [to] sites, what to look for when you’re there and what to talk about afterward.”
Being a mentor for Hands On Gainesville was a natural fit for Jorge Vera-DuBois, who has extensive experience in non-profits and environmental education, including with the Ministry of the Environment in Peru and the American Red Cross.
“I coached Hands On Gainesville by helping it look at its strengths, weakness and opportunities, and develop a business plan,” he said.
Tabreshia Bloodworth also received the grant, and she’s using it to equip her new business, Care Cuts & Styles Mobile Hair Care.
Bloodworth, who now works as a nursing assistant at a rehabilitation hospital, realized that her clients needed hair and nail services on site.
After completing cosmetology school, she started doing trims and providing other services while working as a CNA.
“What I’m doing is a big help for people who can’t get out for appointments,” she said. “They love me there.”
With her new business, she is providing cosmetology services to elderly, disabled and special needs residents at their home or at the group housing facility in which they live.
Her $1,500 grant helped her buy a portable shampooing bowl that raises and lowers to the height of a chair and has a five-gallon reservoir. She also secured her permits, licenses and insurance.
Her SCORE mentor, Jeff Greenspan, helped her with email messaging and a brochure
promoting her business.
“Jeff is awesome,” Bloodworth said. “I didn’t know anything about business. I go out and do what he says.”
Greenspan is proud of Bloodworth.
“The biggest impediment to a small business succeeding is being undercapitalized,” he said. “Tabreshia is used to not having a lot, and the grant is helping her get traction.”
Greenspan started mentoring SCORE clients after he moved to Gainesville two years ago.
“I sold my IT consulting business in Northern Virginia, and SCORE seemed like a place where I could make a significant and positive impact,” he said.
SCORE mentors can make an impact by teaching business skills, but the clients are responsible for their own success.
“Tabreshia does all the hard work,” Greenspan said.
More mentors are needed, said Greenspan, who is incoming vice chairman of the North Central Florida SCORE chapter, which serves six counties.
“We especially need people with experience in running restaurants and food trucks,” he said.
“We welcome anyone with a strong background in general business practices. We get more than three calls every day, but we only have eight active mentors.”
Bloodworth hopes that more mentors volunteer.
She’s sure that other people will seize opportunities like she has.
For her, helping hands have also come from Florida’s foster care system. After she aged out of foster care at age 18, she received some services from the system for five years – under a relatively new program.
“I use everything I’ve been given,” she said.
In addition to mentoring, the local SCORE chapter offers workshops on topics such as writing a business plan, legal concerns, marketing, accounting and social media.
To contact SCORE, go to northcentralflorida.score.org or call 352-375-8278.
CHRIS EVERSOLE has been a keen observer of business, government and culture in the Greater Gainesville Area while living here over the past two decades. His experience includes work with the University of Florida and Alachua County Government. He also has been a journalist and public relations professional in the Tampa Bay and Sarasota- Bradenton areas, as well as in Michigan, Ohio and New York.