YOUR NEIGHBORSSome of the people you’ll meet in this issue: (Back row from left) Chris Lumsden, Greg Nelson, Sam Gendusa with his wife, Joy, Paul Rodeghero, Michael Pasquino, Shannon Seymour, Keanan Kintzel, Paris Morfopoulos, Ben Patrick. (Front row from left) Dr. Richard Wallace, Jen Nickerson, Kelly Morfopoulos, Julieta Santagostino, Teresa Riccardi, Chiara Zaniboni.

Cover Story

I Am a Citizen of Clearwater. I Am a Scientologist.

Meet the people who live, work and play in the city we all call home, Clearwater.

Doctor. Lawyer. Schoolteacher. Activist. Painter. Dentist. Musician. Vet. Optometrist. Store Owner. Mom. Entrepreneur. Stylist. Physical Therapist. Unicorn. Chiropractor. Boy Scout. Jazz Legend. Developer. Realtor. YouTuber. Sound Engineer. Neighbor.

They are citizens of Clearwater. They work. They run businesses. Their kids are in school, play baseball, join Scouts. They are civically engaged, participating in community affairs, patronizing local shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Many are active in nonprofit groups, making volunteerism an essential part of their families’ lives. They all have one thing in common: They are Scientologists.

Like most who have settled in Clearwater, it is first just a visit. Some for short stays. Some for long stays. They come from over 100 different countries annually, speaking scores of different languages, all different nationalities. Over the decades, many thousands stayed to call Clearwater their home. They have stayed for the warmth, the beach, the safe place to raise their children, the entrepreneurial spirit and business opportunities, the friends they’ve made and their Church.

You’ll see them in this article and on other pages in this edition of Freedom. Put all the photos together and it’s a snapshot of your neighbors, your friends, perhaps your doctor or dentist, your kid’s schoolteacher. Here’s a tiny sampling:

A famed jazz musician, winner of more than 20 Grammy Awards. A man the Tampa Bay Times called a “National Treasure.”

A refugee of the final days of the Vietnam War who became a U.S. Army nuclear biologic chemical specialist, served in Desert Storm and now owns her own hair salon, following her passion as a professional hairstylist.

A lady known in the Tampa Bay Area for many achievements—including being the creator of St. Petersburg’s Imagine Museum of glass art. She’s a philanthropist, artist and entrepreneur.

An electrician, known for fast and friendly service, who has personally serviced hundreds of homes throughout the county to get and keep the lights on.

The owner of a nationwide company that makes and markets aloe vera skin cream. More important for Clearwater is her building that houses the incredibly successful Starbucks at Cleveland Street and Fort Harrison Avenue.

Yet more include a day-care provider who strives for the highest quality service to parents and care for their children, a veteran U.S. Army officer and helicopter pilot, the owner of a local gym who trains pro athletes and a lawyer with a deep passion for human rights education. All of them, young, old, mothers, fathers, proud grandparents or young adults, have deep roots in Clearwater.

Many are involved in civic associations, charitable giving and volunteering. They build businesses, create artwork, fight the scourges of drugs and human trafficking, and much, much more. Combine all those threads with a population as diverse as Clearwater, and together you have the woof and warp of a truly great community.

They have stayed for the warmth, the beach, the safe place to raise their children, the entrepreneurial spirit and business opportunities, the friends they’ve made and their Church.

Inc. magazine’s 2019 report on the 5,000 fastest-growing privately owned businesses in America cites 16 firms based in Clearwater. Over half are owned or operated by Scientologists. They include consumer products, a lighting manufacturer, development firms, fitness, advertising and marketing, environmental services and financial advisers. Scientologists living in Clearwater span the gamut of professional life from coffee barista to CEO and everything in between. By another turn, there are three secular academic schools founded by Scientologists in the city.

But business is only one of the pillars needed to build a good community. One of the practical benefits of Scientology is that increased spiritual freedom unleashes creative talent. Scientologists who are renowned artists, writers, photographers, actors and musicians, reflecting this creativity, are longtime supporters of the cultural venues in the area.

People as varied as financier/philanthropist/statesman Bernard Baruch and civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. have cited a simple but powerful maxim that is very applicable to Clearwater: “We may have all come in different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

Charting a course that unites all people and groups in Clearwater with a shared vision is the way forward.