Articles

Community Heros
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

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 …

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

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

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

The Glasgow Tree…

The Glasgow Tree…

WORDS: Emma Taylor
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

The USA Fence main office on East Cortez Road is a humble building that one may easily pass by without knowing what a bustling company operates within. The offices line one main hallway and all of the doors are open—an environment that seems to reflect the Glasgow approach to business and service. 

On the wall that flanks CEO and founder Butch Glasgow’s office and

A Pathway to Promise…

A Pathway to Promise…

WORDS: Merab-Michal Favorite
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

With a great appreciation of books instilled in her as a child, Bronwyn Beightol recognized the power of literacy early on. She still remembers her father’s reading voice, the sound of him turning the pages of their latest mystery novel, and even the smell of a new book opened for the first time. It was the love of the written word she carried with

Hooves with HEART… 

Hooves with HEART… 

WORDS: Bre Jones Mulock
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

Autumn skies cloaked in shadow and misty rain hovered above an emerald green pasture, as 12-year-old Mason Kramer – donning a tucked-in black T-shirt, red plaid button-down, jeans, boots, and a curved-rim, suede cowboy hat – sauntered proudly into a dim-lit barn clutching a rope that led his beloved Donkey across the damp, brick pavers. 

As a drafty breeze whistled through the barn,

One More Child… 

One More Child… 

WORDS: Bre Jones Mulock
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

Dappled late afternoon sunlight filtered through a sprawling leaf canopy that seemed to gingerly hug a sleepy northwest Bradenton street as nine-year-old Madeline Pye zipped down the asphalt on a scooter, her auburn ponytail trailing behind. 

Pausing to say hello, a dog walker smiled, and a neighbor busily trimmed a hedge to manicured perfection. The Pye family had just eased into their driveway,

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 …