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Women’s Leadership Initiative put their best feet forward

The dynamic ladies of the Women’s Leadership Initiative celebrated the end of their year with a mix-and-mingle party last Thursday afternoon.

But their celebration was different from the usual ones. They did not spend any of their money on it — they never do. Instead, they used all of the funds raised throughout the year to give grants to six different organizations to support programs that benefit local youth.

Of course, they did not let their frugality dampen the fun. Jim Gillespie and Margie Fey hosted the gathering at the Water’s Edge retirement community and it was a lovely place. Nancy Thibault provided part of the yummy goodies and others were donated by John Horne and the Anna Maria Oyster Bar.

Attendees were encouraged to wear their most unique shoes and there were plenty of fun entries. They ranged from Carole Zoellner’s embellished high-tops to WLI Chair Lisa Morrison’s tropical sandals. But the clear winner was Marianne Moyer, who not only wore flip-flops decorated with grapes, but dyed her feet purple to match.

Representatives from each organization receiving funds attended to explain a little about their programs. One speaker was Jim Comkowycz from Manatee’s Operation Troop Support, which provides help for deployed soldiers and their families. He was accompanied by Meagan Honberger, a teen volunteer who helps with the programs and also mentors younger children about what it means to have a parent leave for military duty.

The Women’s Leadership Initiative is part of the United Way of Manatee County and is open to any women who want to join. In addition to their community grants, they host regular networking events and present the annual Heart-to-Heart awards.

Susan Wilcox, a Florida native, has lived in Bradenton for more than 20 years.