'Fabulous Latinas' light up Womens Resource Center of Manatee luncheon

BRADENTON -- They call themselves "The Fabulous Latinas."

They are the 20 to 25 Latina women of the Women's Resource Center of Manatee and they were out in force Tuesday for the Women's Resource Center's 2015 Impact Luncheon, which drew a crowd of 270 at Renaissance on 9th.

One of their own, Amalia Flore, was one of two guest speakers for WRC, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in September. Her speech seemed to symbolize what the WRC means to all women.

Flores shared guest speaker honors with Elaine Ackel, who also had a powerful story.

In February of 2012, Flores decided to end what she termed "16 years of domestic and psychological abuse against my children and me."

The divorce took two years and was draining and painful, Flores said.

One day, Flores' friend, Amy Mavis, invited her to have a cup of coffee at a restaurant.

"I was so desperate and she told me about a Latina group at the Women's Resource Center," Flores said. "So, I went there on a Monday night, not knowing anyone. To my surprise, I found a living room full of Latinas who were gathering in this place weekly in a support group with amazing activities, topics and meetings."

This weekly meeting of "The Latinas of the WRC," which Flores said changed her life, still meets from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays in the living room of the Women's Resource Center, 1926 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, said Jossie Zapata, who develops WRC programs to support the Latino community in Manatee County.

"We urge any woman who needs support to just come to one of our meetings," said Maria Zavala, the group's leader.

"We talk, we ask questions, we share stories," said Flores who has forged a new life for herself and her children, including what she terms "a wonderful job at Manatee Children's Services as a creative director and event planner."

Ackel told the crowd the reason she is standing before them is because of four special women.

"Jamie Carter for recommending WRC," Ackel said. "I met Jamie out in the community one day shortly after my mother's passing. She asked me how I was doing and I fell apart. Jamie recognized my grief and just wrote down the number of WRC and said to call them."

Ackel met Sue Mackey, a WRC counselor.

"Sue got me through the worst time of my life," Ackel said.

WRC offers individual and group counseling as well as career coaching and informational workshops on divorce, finance and wellness, said Ashley Brown, WRC's executive director. Counseling is offered on a sliding scale and all other programs are offered at a nominal fee, Brown said.

Ackel also named her physician, Dr. Kathy Cooper, and her boss, Ritchey Taylor of the Taylor Family Foundation Inc., as the other two most important women in her life.

Ackel drew appreciative applause when she showed off her White House/Black Market skirt and top, which she had purchased for $33 at Unique Boutique of the Women's Resource Center of Manatee, 417 12th St. W., Bradenton.

"The outfit would have cost well over $100 in the brand store," Ackel said.

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