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Community Heros
The Way to Inspire and Give… 

The Way to Inspire and Give… 

WORDS: Amy Treis
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

“You don’t have to be a foster parent to do foster care. Use your voice for those who can’t speak up for themselves.” Tori Hope Petersen, FFY (Former Foster Youth), spoke these words in the hope of raising awareness for the beauty of becoming a foster parent.  

It is a vital role that will aid in the success of children who are in the

Hero on the Streets… 

Hero on the Streets… 

WORDS: Bre Jones Mulock
PICTURES: Whitney Patton 

It’s just after sunrise, and Pastor Jerry Parrish curves down a familiar road in east Bradenton, easing his black Impala into the driveway of a dilapidated house that seems to sigh into the Earth with walls harboring heartache. Thirteen siblings inhabit the home where a mom roams in and out of a jail cell and a dad – illiterate and a gang member

What Would Barbara Say?

What Would Barbara Say?

WORDS: Bre Jones Mulock

When a dusting of stars illuminated the night sky, and most of Manatee County slipped into a peaceful slumber, a predictable rumble hummed from Robby’s driveway. Turning the ignition of his mother’s borrowed car, Robby rolled out each evening to work overnights at a fast-food restaurant and prove a commitment to carving out a successful life.

Stoic work ethic and drive powered Robby, despite vast adversities …

Looking For Guardian Angels…

Looking For Guardian Angels…

WORDS:  Svetlana Ivashchenko

You may be familiar with the term Guardian ad Litem (GAL). But do you know how crucial the role is that GALs play in our local community? And can you help meet the need for more of these special people who do so much for children who find themselves in such desperate situations?

Sadly, over 100 Manatee County foster children do not have a GAL volunteer to …

Festival is off the Hook!

Festival is off the Hook!

WORDS: Amy Treis
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

It is often said that fire and water are the Yin and Yang of the existing world. They create the requisite nature of rising and falling, ebbing and flowing, and remaining stoic and wilting. If you ask East Manatee Firefighter Erik Nicholson, he will say that fire and water are essential elements that have contributed to his success and passions in life.

Since becoming …

The Man with a Golden Heart…

The Man with a Golden Heart…

WORDS: Bre Jones Mulock
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

Like an inevitable Tsunami swirling dark, angry waves in the ocean, perilous influences, and risky behavior nearly drowned Russell Serreia in the mid-1990s. Plagued with alcohol addiction and a fractured home, 15-year-old Serreia navigated the cold shadows of Bradenton neighborhoods, rolling in and out of street fights and jail cells.

Hardened, lost, and flirting with danger, Serreia happened to land in a recovery …

Leaving a Legacy…

Leaving a Legacy…

WORDS: Bre Jones Mulock
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

A single word unexpectedly and beautifully burst from the mouth of a non-verbal teenage girl in a class for students with profound special needs, igniting a surge of joy and excitement through the heart of Pam Parmenter in the early 1980s.

The sound, “Vickypoo,” floated out assertively and purposely into the busy classroom and commanded attention like a surprise visit from a four-star …

Ace In The Pack!

Ace In The Pack!

WORDS: Bre Jones Mulock

A clock ticks just shy of 4:30 p.m., and a dozen round, hopeful young faces pressed against a glass window smudged with handprints and reflecting an army of sparkling gold trophies standing guard across the room. Squirmy anticipation rolls through the roster of six to 12-year-olds like a case of contagious wiggles. The children, sporting gym shorts and T-shirts and a few crumbs from an after-school …

Foster Angel…

Foster Angel…

WORDS: Amy Bell
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

If you ever have a chance to meet Virginia (Gini) White, you might assume she’s an angel on earth. Over the last 39 years, Gini has fostered more than 300 children, most with severe medical needs. She has adopted three of her foster children and is in the process of adopting a fourth. Gini is also the proud mother of three biological adult sons.…

An Island Treasure!

An Island Treasure!

WORDS: Amy Bell
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

Way back in 1971, a gang of pirates invaded Anna Maria Island, and they’ve been making waves across Manatee County ever since. But these aren’t your typical swashbucklers. Known as the AMI Privateers, this krewe is on a quest to help kids in the community.

The organization’s official mission is to have a positive impact on the area through community service and activities and …

Awash with Kindness…

Awash with Kindness…

WORDS: Bre Jones Mulock
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

To a symphony of humming vacuums, strawberry, leather, and jasmine air freshener scents floated among the soap bubbles at American Car Center, an iconic car wash perched along the main artery of West Bradenton and luring in A-list residents like former Florida State Senator Bill Galvano, Bradenton Mayor Gene Brown and Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells since the mid-90s.

Many loyal customers would …

A Wild Thing…

A Wild Thing…

WORDS: Bre Jones Mulock
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

To the heart-tugging rhythm of his mother sobbing, Dr. Charles Tomeo – stoic and stone-faced – listened to searing words drop in painful slow motion from the frowning mouth of his high school senior guidance counselor. Tucked in a tiny office inside the school, the counselor’s opinion slammed down as final as a guillotine: You will never amount to anything in life.

The …

Carl The Crusader…

Carl The Crusader…

WORDS: Bre Jones Mulock
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

The requests rolled in rapid-fire, pinging Carl Reynolds’ inbox like unexpected raindrops on a tin roof with tearful, heart-grabbing messages. The words laced together despairing narratives: A single mom juggling four kids – one with special needs – all sharing a cell phone for online school.

A dad furloughed with no means to buy a computer for his third grader to tap into …

The Caring Callaghans…

The Caring Callaghans…

WORDS: Amy Bell

PICTURES: Whitney Patton

Dan and Betty Callaghan may be retired from their business, but they have no plans to retire from philanthropy. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Callaghan Tire has been a mainstay in the Bradenton area for more than four decades. 

Dan and Betty, both Chicago area natives, moved to Florida from Iowa in the late 70s when their daughters were teenagers. On February …

A Real Driving Force…

A Real Driving Force…

WORDS: Bre Jones Mulock

PICTURES: Whitney Patton

Sun-drenched and coated in sand, a young kid with wobbly legs and a warm smile stands upon a donated surfboard, bobbing in the beach’s rolling waves on White Avenue on Anna Maria Island for the first time at Eternal Summer Surf Camp. Pure joy radiates as Kris Cox – a Bradenton native who helped found the non-profit Christian surf camp in 2008 – …