HOLMES BEACH -- Eight people sat in a snug conference room Wednesday afternoon at Holmes Beach City Hall. All were core members of a new grassroots organization called Anna Maria Island: Home, Sweet Home.
Led by Anna Maria Commissioner Carol Carter, Holmes Beach Commission Vice Chairwoman Jean Peelen and Bradenton Beach Commissioner Jane Robertson, the organization states it's "committed to attracting and welcoming permanent residents to come home to Anna Maria Island and inspiring them to love living here."
During the planning meeting, the group spoke at length of a highly anticipated islandwide meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 at Saint Bernard Catholic Church in Holmes Beach. The meeting, which the core members hope will bring together island residents and representatives from the island real estate industry and other businesses, will be facilitated by Jerry Murphy of University of Florida's Florida Resilient Communities Initiative.
According to FRCI's website, the initiative assists local jurisdictions in Florida with best practices for anticipating and responding to the challenges posed by the natural and built environments.
"We want people to join in the effort to bring residents to the island," Peelen said. "That's the outcome that we want -- people involved."
The organization is trying to attract young people who could live on the island and raise children here.
Peelen said the meeting will focus on three "effort areas" -- activity geared toward drawing people to the island.
"One is connection -- so that's going to be anything that's people to people," said Kelly Smith, the youngest Home Sweet Home core member at 34. "I'm going to be connecting with Realtors, connecting with chambers of commerce, connecting with any corporations that have businesses that might have employees that would be able to live here."
Promotion of the group's goal and spreading the word via social media are the other two areas of focus.
"The main thing is to try and encourage people to look as this place to live -- instead of just a vacation," said Pam Leckie, who has lived in Holmes Beach with her husband, Major Leckie, for a decade.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.