Realize Bradenton, Galvano, Walters named 'Ambassadors' by Goodwill

SARASOTA -- Longtime Bradenton attorney Cliff Walters was introduced by Veronica Brandon Miller of Manasota Goodwill Thursday night as "a pillar" in the Sarasota and Manatee communities.

She was talking about his ability to get things done, but as he took the stage to be honored at the 2014 Goodwill Ambassador of the Year Awards Dinner, Walters actually looked like a pillar.

He stands about 6-foot-9.

Brandon Miller also had a pithy way of introducing the next award winner, Johnette Isham, who walked on stage to accept an Ambassador award on behalf of Realize Bradenton.

"She put Bradenton on the map," Brandon Miller said of Isham.

Her comment got applause and some nodding heads.

Isham said she couldn't have done it without a terrific board, speaking of Georgia Brown, Mimi Tran, Bridgette Halliburton and Bill Webster.

Ambassador award-winner Jo Rita Stevens of Sarasota was described as one of the most-energetic volunteers in the region. Stevens is 82 but she works at her volunteer jobs like a 20-year-old on a race car pit crew, her friends said.

These three, along with Sen. Bill Galvano (who couldn't attend because he was out of town), were named 2014 honorees before a crowd of 700 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota Thursday.

A beaming Bob Roskinsky, president and CEO of Goodwill Manasota, was busy hugging everyone on stage.

"Every year, we are proud to honor a few select ambassadors who truly go above and beyond in showcasing their support and dedication to Goodwill's mission of changing lives through the power of work," Rosinsky said.

Isham stole the show. She told the crowd that the stylish jacket she was wearing she had purchased at Goodwill.

"I feel like a star," said Isham, referring to the jacket and the fact that Goodwill and Realize Bradenton have been successful in their similar missions, to create a cycle of giving and getting that energizes the local economy.

Walters, 65, of Blalock Walters P.A., 802 11th St. W., is the former president or chair of the following: Goodwill Industries' Manasota Foundation; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Foundation; Kiwanis Club of Bradenton; Manatee County Chamber of Commerce; Manatee County Economic Development Council; Manatee United Way; University of South Florida; and Sarasota/Manatee and USF Property Corp. He has served as board chair of Goodwill Manasota at least three times.

"I think if you hang around long enough this kind of thing happens to you," Walters said with a laugh of his award. "Seriously, when I look at what I have done, everything was achieved because I worked with people with a common goal."

Walters helped structure the accord that resolved conflicts between Manatee County, its cities and constitutional officers.

"The accord is one of the things I have worked on that makes me the most proud," Walters said. "I am also proud of my work with Goodwill because Goodwill's focus is helping people by removing the barriers to employment."

Stevens has been a volunteer for Goodwill for more than 40 years. She has won Sarasota's Real Estate Board's Humanitarian Award. While still actively volunteering for Goodwill, Stevens supported other organizations, including Kiwanis, where she had numerous roles, such as past president, secretary, lieutenant governor and was named Kiwanian of the Year 2001, 2004 and 2006. She also currently serves on the boards of Healthy Families, Community Haven, Sarasota Historical Society and advises the Sarasota Key High School Key Club and Kiwanis Aktion Club.

Galvano, a member of the Florida Senate, is a member of Bradenton Kiwanis, the Manatee County Sheriff's Advisory Council, the Manatee County Gold Star Club, and the Manatee County Bar Association.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.