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Why Attendance Matters…

Why Attendance Matters…

WORDS: Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Strong communities thrive in the face of adversity and work together to achieve shared aspirations. Our region is strong, and we are not alone. We are one of 390 Grade-Level Reading (GLR) communities embracing the journey to address common obstacles impacting a child’s reading ability.  

Attendance Works, an ally helping the GLR Network jump the hurdle of chronic absenteeism, is helping communities like ours

Keep Kids Happy & Healthy 

Keep Kids Happy & Healthy 

WORDS: Children’s Health

A new school year is the perfect time to get back into a healthy routine. Kara Gann, Clinical Dietitian at Children’s Health℠, shares simple ways to make sure students are fueling properly for the school day. 

Make breakfast a priority 

Eating a healthy breakfast is the best way to start the day for children and adults alike. To encourage your kids to eat a good breakfast before

A Humble Power Duo… 

A Humble Power Duo… 

WORDS & PICTURES: Gabrielle Versmessen

Being known as “Pillars of the Community” and a “true philanthropic power couple” by the Manatee Community Foundation isn’t anything to be taken lightly. Yet, Joe and Barbara Najmy have rightfully earned those titles. This Manatee County husband and wife duo have been active in giving back to our community for as long as they’ve been residents here. 

Barbara and Joe were born in New

Soaring High…

Soaring High…

WORDS & PICTURES: Gabrielle Versmessen

A career in the Air Force, specializing in nuclear weapons, isn’t exactly the background you’d expect a prestigious hospital’s President and Chief Executive Officer to have. But it was precisely that background that made HCA Florida Blake Hospital’s Steve Nierman so passionate about serving others. 

Originally from Indiana, Steve attended the Air Force Academy and went into active duty until 1997. From there, he went

Providing Hope to Even the Smallest Victims… 

Providing Hope to Even the Smallest Victims… 

WORDS & PICTURES: Gabrielle Versmessen

While HOPE Family Services has been around since 1979, their new Children’s Counseling Center will bring about a new dimension to their counseling services. Hoping to have construction completed by the end of this year, the new space will have four counseling offices and a lobby with various children’s toys and be able to help children aged four to 18 years old. 

According to Dr.

Diving Into Our Children’s Future

Diving Into Our Children’s Future

WORDS & PICTURES: Gabrielle Versmessen

With humble beginnings just six years ago at only 76 students, 36 mentors, and one location, Dive Into Reading has grown to over 500 participants and six locations across Manatee, Sarasota, and DeSoto counties. Dive Into Reading is a five-week summer program that helps first, second, and third-grade students who are behind in their reading comprehension. Along with reading, the program incorporates sight words and

Fostering More Than Just Homes… 

Fostering More Than Just Homes… 

WORDS & PICTURES: Gabrielle Versmessen

Standing in a plot of uncleared land off Ellenton-Gillette Road in Palmetto, Bobbie and Floyd Price envisioned a community where foster kids could live with their biological siblings in a safe, Christ-centered foster home. A place where healing and growth could occur for the children and the biological families on their path to reunification. Nine years later, that vision has become beyond immeasurably more of

More Than Your Average Sisterhood…

More Than Your Average Sisterhood…

WORDS & PICTURES: Gabrielle Versmessen

Many good things can come from pairing a little wine and some good Italian food together. However, one of the better things to emerge must be the birth of Sisterhood for Good (SFG) at Angela Massaro-Fain’s home 11 years ago.

In 2011, Angela, President of SFG, had been a Board Member of Lakewood Ranch Community Fund (LWRCF) for five years. The LWRCF Board President spoke …

Teens Tackle Tough Topics… 

Teens Tackle Tough Topics… 

WORDS: Merab Favorite
PICTURES: Gabrielle Versmessen

Health education for high schoolers. Could there be a more frustrating topic? For parents, it invokes visions of awkward conversations filled with bad analogies like birds and bees, an egg sizzling in a frying pan, and of course, that oversimplified slogan, “Just Say No.”  

For teens, it’s even worse. The gut wrench that comes when the teacher asks them to answer an embarrassing question.

Time For Tech Breaks! 

Time For Tech Breaks! 

WORDS: Christa Hardin, MA

Not taking tech breaks is one surefire way that summer will come and go in the blink of an eye. This isn’t news to you, of course. We all KNOW we need them.  

We’ve seen the stats as well. Too much screen time poses several potential negative consequences, including vision impairment, sleeplessness, anxiety, and even addiction to the device itself (regiscollege.edu). 

And yet virtually everyone uses

Sharing a Love of Learning…

Sharing a Love of Learning…

WORDS: Carlee Colonneso
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

Speak to Dr. Kristina DeWitt of SCF’s Education Department, and you will immediately recognize the commitment she has to helping those in Early Education. Whether mentoring aspiring teachers in the classroom, volunteering to promote literacy, or reaching out to the community, Dr. DeWitt’s love of learning is positively impacting Manatee County. 

Her Journey into Education 

Long before Dr. DeWitt started working in education, she

Talent From The Heart… 

Talent From The Heart… 

WORDS: Sheri Roca
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

Talent appears in many varieties, styles, and proportions. There are those that can lift our emotions with music and brilliant scientists that help shape the world. We recognize talented painters and artists from decades and centuries past, and we pay to watch athletes, gymnasts, and dancers perform and compete. But it seems to me that true kindness and a giving spirit are completely undervalued

Paul Sharff and His Lasting Impression on the Community

Paul Sharff and His Lasting Impression on the Community

WORDS: Gabrielle Versmessen

A VISIONARY AND FEARLESS ADVOCATE…

How two long-standing ELC board members and child care providers remember Paul Sharff 

When the devasting news started to emerge on January 12th of this year that Paul Sharff, Chief Executive Officer at the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County, had suddenly passed away, there was an outpouring of profound grief. It hit hard. It was very hard for two ladies

Wading His Way In Agricultural Conservation… 

Wading His Way In Agricultural Conservation… 

WORDS: Merab Favorite
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

Just as the crest of the sun started to spill over the horizon, he placed his bicycle on the rack, hurled his bag of equipment over his shoulder, and headed down the familiar trail at Robinson Preserve. 

Once he arrived at the perfect spot, Mac Carraway assembled his camera. He waded into the shallow water looking to the mangroves for his most sought-after subject,

The Path To Philanthropy… 

The Path To Philanthropy… 

WORDS: Carlee Colonneso
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

Philanthropic Building Blocks 

Carol Butera’s path to philanthropy began with an interest in helping others. Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Carol received her undergraduate degree in Sociology from Northern Arizona University. After graduating, she moved to Kentucky and started working as a Crisis Intervention Counselor from midnight until 8:00 in the morning. This experience of seeing the pain and struggles that families have