In past weeks, many have asked how to focus on positive dialogue that moves our nation forward. A great answer lies in our own communities, and local charitable giving is a unifying force.
The spirit of Manatee is one that emanates genuineness. People give with sincere caring. They radiate pride for Bradenton as a place that matters. And they know the importance of staying the course to ensure positive movement for nonprofit causes.
A group of noteworthy people and businesses has been selected for recognition this year by other community leaders. They give us space to ask how each of us can be more like them, remaining steadfast in doing good and persuading others to join us.
Dr. Peter Mattina, well-recognized in the philanthropic and medical community, came to Bradenton in 1973 and has never stopped donating services as a dermatologist to patients who are unable to afford it. He was instrumental in founding We Care Manatee and is a volunteer physician in Turning Points medical clinic. For many years, he served on the boards of both organizations, recruited colleagues to join the cause and gave money as well as countless hours to ensure the success of these vital organizations.
All of the unique contributors will be honored on Feb. 28 at the Spirit of Manatee awards luncheon for the examples they have set leading progress in our city and county. What a powerful answer to the question of how we can work together.
Many know LeMoyne and Darlene Johnson from the worlds of art and photography. Their financial and volunteer contributions have cast a wide net. They believe in impactful programs that allow students and seniors alike to grow from their experiences in the arts and sciences and have been quiet but unfaltering in their support of the South Florida Museum, Art Center Manatee, the Manatee Performing Arts Center and Bradenton Kiwanis Club.
A lifelong resident of our community and a 20-year contributor to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Manatee County, Marti King is described as “an energizer bunny” in the world of volunteer fundraising – a distinction not many earn (or want). Her success in recruiting peers to help vulnerable children has inspired new levels of giving by others. As a dedicated fundraiser, board member and former employee of the Clubs, she has lived and given all levels of service.
Anna Maria Oyster Bar, led by John and Amanda Horne, uses its popularity as a restaurant to involve people in unique ways. Its significant impact has been felt for more than 20 years by a host of organizations focused on children and education, including PACE Center for Girls, Manatee Education Foundation and countless others. Many do not know that students visit the restaurants to learn about the industry and employment opportunities. Kitchen managers teach students how to make healthy, affordable meals to feed themselves and their families.
In recent years, the United Way of Manatee County has re-emerged as an outspoken funder and a thought leader in programs that coalesce around the education, economic prosperity and health of our citizens. As the lead in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, it is convening a complex and large-scale effort to ensure that children can read on grade level by the end of third grade, a key predictor in life success. This work requires an ability to build new systems based on collaboration. It’s messy, difficult work, but they are making enormous progress and have helped to make “grade level reading” a household phrase.
Jordan Ripka Dailey, a student at the State College of Florida, is distinctive in his ability to engage students in service. Jordan raises money for a scholarship fund supporting single parents so that they are better able to take care of their families while pursing a better life through education. As the president of the Student Government Association, he is breathing new life into student involvement in important causes while raising the bar for what they accomplish together.
Each of these unique contributors will be honored on Feb. 28 at the Spirit of Manatee awards luncheon for the examples they have set leading progress in our city and county. What a powerful answer to the question of how we can work together.
Susie Bowie is executive director of the Manatee Community Foundation, a $36 million organization that works with donors in our community connecting them with charitable needs. To learn more, email SBowie@ManateeCF.org.