Taking back the community in Anna Maria Island

acastillo@bradenton.comJuly 14, 2014 

ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- Life on the island isn't the same as it was 22 years ago for Sissy Quinn. From her charming peach cottage along North Bay Boulevard in the city of Anna Maria, the 73-year-old remembered the bonds she once had with neighbors when she first settled here. There were more people living on the island full-time.

The gradual rise of houses-turned-rental units and influx of vacationers on the island have changed the atmosphere, she said.

"When you live on the island for more than 20 years, you lose a lot of friends in that period. You realize how important they are as you get older," Quinn said. "I'm thinking 'Holy mackerel! What would I do if I needed a friend to do something?' A lot of people (on the island) are thinking the same way."

To help bring a sense of community back to the island, Quinn recently began a group called the Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust Community Connections.

"We have a right to feel

that our community is valuable," said Quinn, who lives on the island with her husband, Tom. "We're people and we matter."

Since its launch in May, AMIPT Community Connections has had two organizational meetings and one gathering, which Quinn calls soirees because she said they sound "more fun."

On June 9, the soiree sponsored by Anna Maria Commissioner Carol Carter and her husband, Bob Carter, was held at the Key Royale Clubhouse at 700 Key Royale Drive in Holmes Beach. Attendees were asked to find three people they didn't know and make it a point to spend time with each person before the next planned gathering.

Marianne Can, AMIPT secretary, said she is also passionate about the group.

"I think it's essential for this island," the Holmes Beach resident said. "Being a part of it gives me an opportunity to play a very small role in preserving some of the unique features of this island, which frankly is its residents."

Both women sat inside Quinn's tidy parlor on a recent Thursday afternoon. In Quinn's hand was a white card made of posterboard with AMIPT's logo and an introduction to Community Connections. The card read: "An Island Social Group with a Purpose: Friendship, Support, Needs" and included Quinn's contact information.

Building a connection

The group is something she's wanted to do for the past few years. Can called it Quinn's brainchild.

"We've frequently talked about saving historical properties, but then her (Quinn's) wheels were turning and she realized that the people are more important than the buildings," Can said.

Can, 52, said she wants the sense of community to be there when she's older -- and beyond.

"I'm a little apprehensive that it might be deteriorating," she said. "Before that goes too far, let's start weaving a net to make sure that we don't lose that vital uniqueness."

The next AMIPT Community Connections soiree takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Anna Maria Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave. Those interested in attending can email Sissy Quinn at sqonami@tampabay.rr.com.

"We need people to help out and to be a part of our family in a sense," Quinn said. "Neighbors doing for neighbors is as good as it gets."

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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