Manatee organizations among first to get on board with campaign

vmannix@bradenton.comApril 6, 2013 

SARASOTA -- Manatee County Habitat for Humanity is on board.

So is the Junior League of Manatee.

Patterson Foundation president/chief executive officer Debra Jacobs hopes more nonprofits from Manatee will follow suit.

The cause is the Legacy of Valor, a yearlong campaign honoring veterans and their families via community partnership-driven events culminating with the dedication of Patriot Plaza, a new amphitheater at Sarasota National Cemetery, in 2014.

"We've got a year to educate and encourage the community to understand what it is to have served, is serving now and will perhaps serve," Patterson said before Friday's campaign kickoff luncheon at the Girl Scout Gulfcoast Event and Conference Center. "We hope every person in our community can find opportunities to participate through their time, talent and treasure."

Count on Habitat for Humanity.

The regional nonprofit, one of 17 organizations so far staging Legacy of Valor events, will coordinate various veterans' repair projects beginning this month through next April.

"It's going to be a mix," Habitat President Jim Frame said. "We're looking for veterans we can help with handicap access ramps, maybe projects inside or outside their houses. We're open to anything.

"If we can establish relationships with veterans groups who would like to help themselves and veterans like them and want to participate, that's the optimum for us. Partnership is what we're all about."

That's why Frame likes the collaboration within the Legacy of Valor campaign.

"We're the housing people, but a lot of times it's about more than that," he said. "Trying to get involved with other groups, seeing how we fit and understanding

what they do. Maybe generate some synergy between the organizations and bring them to bear on helping out veterans."

The Junior League of Manatee will join its Sarasota counterpart in hosting a Nov. 7 luncheon at Dolphin Aviation with all proceeds benefiting support for veterans. It will showcase and celebrate the service of all veterans.

"It's a new venture and I think it will raise awareness, help us get out and meet other organizations that support veterans," said the Junior League's Kora Zoller.

"We aren't tapped into those organizations and this is an opportunity to do that."

The Patterson Foundation is partnering with the National Cemetery Foundation to build Patriot Plaza.

"By having the amphitheater, it's an opportunity to have a ceremony on any major patriotic holiday," Debra Jacobs said. "It will be free and open to the public to respect, honor and embrace."

John O'Brien is enthused by the idea.

"It's not Arlington, but it's ours and this will be a huge addition," said the former Navy medic.

"It will make Sarasota National extremely unique among our state cemeteries."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix.

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