Blog

Mote’s Next-Generation Scientists

Bright Minds Shed Light on Protecting Earth’s Oceans

By Sue Cullen

One of the key pillars of Mote Marine Laboratory’s vision for its future is securing the next generation of marine scientists dedicated to responsible stewardship of the world’s oceans. Supporting these young scientists is a major goal of Mote’s 2020 Vision and Strategic Plan and is key to helping protect ocean habitats and sustain fisheries of vital importance both worldwide and much closer to home.

“At Mote, we continue to strengthen our focus on the next generation of world-class scientists who are finding solutions to the grand challenges facing our oceans today,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, Mote President and CEO. “Our Mote Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program is an innovative initiative to recruit, nurture and keep the next generation of the best and brightest minds in marine science, and it is funded entirely through philanthropy.”

ACHIEVING ANOTHER 2020 GOAL

Already these bright minds are finding ways to support native fisheries and save the world’s coral reefs from disease and the stresses of climate change. The work of four of these marine scientists highlights the profound worldwide effects possible if they can help Mote achieve another 2020 goal, which is to ensure its science and technology make a positive impact on society and the environment. Three of these young scientists are in Mote’s postdoctoral research program.

It is no exaggeration to say as the oceans go, so goes the world. Three billion people worldwide rely on seafood as their primary source of protein, according to the World Wildlife Fund, and as populations rise, so will demand. The impact on Florida’s economic health is also substantial. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries data shows the economic impact in Florida of commercial and recreational fishing in the Gulf of Mexico alone to be $25.8 billion in sales, 172,000 jobs, and $11 billion in value added impacts.

SCIENTISTS SAVING SNOOK

Mote postdoctoral scientist Dr. Ryan Schloesser’s main projects aim to make an impact on snook, a key fishery that is under stress. Schloesser’s work is important because snook populations have been drastically reduced by two extreme cold events in 2001 and 2010 and by red tide. Commercial snook fishing is prohibited and recreational fishing is strictly limited. He wants to understand the habitat preferences of juvenile snook and determine how to restore depleted snook populations responsibly.

“We use passive integrated transponder tags to monitor the habitat use of the juvenile fish we release in Phillippi Creek to determine what are quality habitats for this recreationally and commercially important fish,” he says. “We use the latest technology available to get all the information we can to improve release strategies and develop responsible guidelines.” Eight arrays set up along Phillippi Creek identify where juvenile fish prefer to spend their time, comparing natural shoreline with mangrove and marsh habitat, clear areas of seawall, and seawall with aquatic plants.

“We are using these juvenile fish as an ecological probe to find what habitat is used most commonly so we can support that,” Schloesser says. “One of the key findings is that vegetation with shoreline, hardened or not, provides the best survival. If people are concerned about the impact of coastal development and wonder what they can do, promoting vegetation along hardened shorelines can help.”

OCEAN ACIDIFICATION AND CLIMATE CHANGE  

Another postdoctoral scientist, Dr. Philip Gravinese, is studying the effects of climate change, ocean acidification and low oxygen levels on another crucial Florida fishery–stone crabs. Gravinese’s doctoral work focused on how stone crab larvae are affected by climate change, which elevates ocean temperatures and increases acidification because more atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed into seawater. His work with Mote builds on that by looking at how those stressors impact post-larval and juvenile stone crabs.

“Fishermen are interested because they are seeing changes; less catch and they know temperatures are going up. We should be able to shed some light on what will be impacting future yields,” Gravinese says. “The ultimate goal is to identify the tolerances of the different life stages to these changing variables and find ways that reduce the impact of some of these stressors. That might give stone crabs better chances and the opportunity for stability in the future.”

RESTORING CORAL REEFS 

Dr. Erinn Muller, who was hired as the first Mote Postdoctoral Fellow in 2011, is now a Staff Scientist and Coral Health and Disease Research Program Manager, and has received two National Science Foundation grants that support her work to understand coral health and responses to disease. One five-year grant of more than $575,000 allows Muller to study the effects of major environmental stressors on threatened staghorn coral such as disease, high water temperatures and ocean acidification. She focuses on genetic varieties that may be more resistant to, or more able to recover from, those stressors.

The second grant is aimed at better predicting how corals react to disease exposure and how that will influence the coral community of the future. The study is based on immune response and disease resistance and will quantify how susceptible coral species are to disease by examining their immunity through a series of novel experiments and approaches.

“Reefs are worth $6 billion to Florida’s economy.”

Muller’s work builds upon the game-changing discovery at Mote’s Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration on Summerland Key that coral can be repopulated more quickly than thought possible by a process of micro-fragmentation and re-skinning. To further that work, the lab is home to about 60 different coral genotypes. “I see how these different strains respond to major stressors that they will continue to be affected by in the future, which are high water temperature, global climate changes, diseases and ocean acidification,” she says. Understanding which genotypes better survive changing conditions will help scientists worldwide restore coral reefs more effectively.

“If we lose coral reefs, we lose the biodiversity of our ocean environment. Reefs protect shorelines and are a great source of new pharmaceuticals to fight antibiotic resistant bacteria, and they impact our economy as well. Reefs are worth $6 billion to Florida’s economy and support 70,000 jobs,” Muller says. “We need to take bold steps in research and restoration to be sure we have coral reefs 10 years from now.”

STUDYING COMPLEX RELATIONSHIPS

Postdoctoral scientist Dr. Rob Nowicki studies the intricate relationships at play between the living creatures and the environment within an ecosystem. “My focus is what happens when you lose it all, and my research is on what makes a system resilient when bad things happen,” Nowicki says. “That fits with Mote’s focus on restoring coral because we want to make sure the biological interactions of healthy reefs are there.”

Nowicki currently is setting up a study to determine the impact of “halos” of bare sand separating reefs from seagrass beds where many reef fish spawn. He aims to discover whether these barren stretches present barriers to returning to the reef where many of these fish perform important functions such as eating algae that can outcompete coral. Nowicki is establishing artificial seagrass corridors across bare patches to determine whether – by offering them shelter from predators – more fish will return to the reef.

“The big picture goal is to get reefs back to how they looked in the 1960s before everything started to look terrible. If we find reef connectivity is important, it means maybe we should choose reefs that are already connected to restore. It adds a restoration tool to our toolkit,” Nowicki says. “Even if not, it’s still important because we’ll know it’s not a factor in deciding where to restore corals.”

One thing is clear. With dedication, devotion and enthusiasm for their work, these young marine scientists are already making significant contributions to their field, to the local area, and to the world.

USF-Sarasota Manatee: A Great Choice For Long-Term Success

By Ryan G. Van Cleave

In the fall of 2013, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee enrolled its first freshman class of four-year students. Prior to that, USFSM served primarily as a two-year finishing school, meaning only juniors and seniors attended, mostly coming from State College of Florida and other state colleges. success

Dr. Terry A. Osborn, Interim Regional Chancellor, says, “Our decision to add freshmen and sophomores came about after lengthy discussions and feedback from community leaders. It was important for our community to have a university where local students could earn their degree and a place that the community could look to for increasing their highly-skilled workforce in areas of strategic emphasis. Our four-year offerings also keep bright students local — they learn here, they live here, and hopefully they stay right here in our community after graduation. Our transition helped us meet the needs of the community.”

Close to home

One of the most surprising effects of the transition is how the campus has changed. Before this shift, USFSM was known as a commuter school for working professionals who sought to earn their degree at night, course by course. They’d come to campus for class and then go home. These days, the level of campus life and student engagement is constantly high. It’s a lot more like other traditional four-year schools — students are having fun at the beach volleyball court, they’re sipping coffee outside the Sudakoff Pavilion, and they’re studying in the newly renovated Student Commons. success

“Who wouldn’t want to live here while they earn their degree?”

The students on campus have changed as well. They’re no longer a standard type. “This is another thing that makes our campus great — there is no typical student,” Osborn says. “We have students who join us straight from high school and we have students entering USFSM with credits from dual enrollment. A large portion of our students came to us as transfers from State College of Florida and we also have working professionals and non-traditional students who earn their degrees at night or online. We have a terrific blend of all types of students, but what unites them is their thirst for knowledge and their love for this area. Who wouldn’t want to live here while they earn their degree?”

Generousity as a key to success

Part of what made the first four-year class a success was the generosity of donors such as Drs. Richard Wharton and Lou Bertha McKenzie-Wharton, who funded a freshman scholarship to cover all the unmet needs of the first 100 freshmen from local high schools. About that commitment, they say, “When we were asked a little more than four years ago to make a contribution toward providing scholarships to the first freshman class at USF Sarasota-Manatee, we did so because we, as educators, recognized the important relationship between education and such factors as socio-economic success. Perhaps, more importantly, we looked at our contribution toward providing scholarships to the first freshman class at USFSM as an investment in persons who will hopefully make a difference in our society by contributing their talents to what is often called ‘the greater good.’”

Sarah Bradtmueller, a USFSM student who is part of the May 2017 graduating class, is an elementary education major whose goal is to teach at a local elementary school, preferably kindergarten through fifth grade, she notes. “The scholarship I received played a significant role in my choosing USFSM. However, I also loved the idea of going to a university and not having to uproot myself. Staying in my hometown has been wonderful, as I’ve been able to save money as well as spend a lot of time with my family.”

She explains that the average 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio at USFSM is wonderful. “It allows relationships to grow between professors and students. It creates a comfort level where you feel ok with asking a professor for help. I also loved that I could walk down the hallway and have professors, the dean, and even the regional chancellor walk past me and address me by name. You just don’t get that at big universities.”

Osborn wants more local students to enjoy similar experiences. “We want to provide access to higher education to our entire area and are excited to see how large that number becomes,” he said. “We would like to have quality growth over time while we ensure that each of our students will be successful. We hope that everyone considers USFSM as an option.” Student demand has already created a good problem for the school — it’s in need of additional space. Osborn explains, “We have plans to add a new academic building, specifically for our STEM programs, but in order to meet the current demands we will need the support of everyone in the community. We hope their desire to keep students in this area will translate to the type of support we need to build that facility.”

“17,000 USF alumni live or work in our area.”

A community endeavor

That support might be easier to find than one might expect. Why? Walk into any business or organization in this community and ask how many employees graduated from a USF campus. The response might surprise you: 17,000 USF alumni live or work in our area, and that number is growing each year. As USFSM’s first freshman class graduates and enters the workforce, those alumni will put down roots in this area. “That’s what we hope for,” Osborn admits. “We want to keep our most talented students here, so they can become the next wave of business and community leaders. Our transition allows them to do that.”

He adds, “I’d like everyone to encourage young people to consider USFSM for their higher education. Come visit us at an open house. Give us a call. Come walk around our beautiful campus by the bay, or visit our Culinary Innovation Lab in Lakewood Ranch or our laboratory facilities at Mote Marine. Once people hear about our terrific programs and world-class faculty, we know that they will realize how much money they can save by staying local as they fall in love with their university. Our campus is the best place for your long-term success, and we welcome the opportunity to tell you why.”

For more information about the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, please visit www.usfsm.edu or call 941.359.4200.

Sarasota Ballet Expands Its Educational Reach

By Steven J. Smith
Raising the barre

Sarasota Ballet has “raised the barre” over the last year in its educational efforts by bringing in former dancer Christopher Hird, who trained at the Royal Ballet School in England and toured Europe with internationally acclaimed ballerina, Sylvie Guillem.

Hird now serves as Sarasota Ballet’s director of education, overseeing all of its programs. Among them are the Margaret Barbieri Conservatory — a full-time, pre-professional program designed to prepare 11- to -18-year-old students for a performing career in classical ballet and the Sarasota Ballet School, which provides professional instruction to students between the ages of 3 and 18.

“Our ballet school now includes adults as well,” Hird said. “I’ve added some extra classes for our adult students to get them engaged with the organization.”

Those classes, he added, include Intro to Ballet, a five-week course designed for beginners or those who are returning to ballet after a break; Adult Open Classes, offering those with some previous ballet experience several levels of technique to choose from and the flexibility to drop in whenever they like; and Weekend Workshops, providing special opportunities for adult students to dance over a long weekend and including a ticket to see the Sarasota Ballet perform. educational
“We also have our Dance — The Next Generation program, which is set up for those who are most at risk of dropping out of school to participate in a 10-year, full-scholarship program in dance,” Hird said. “I also oversee all outreach work, which entails going into schools to perform or having school groups come to us for matinees.”

Hird added the main purpose of Sarasota Ballet’s educational programs is to train future dancers for its company as well as to give anyone the opportunity to experience the joy of dance. This includes mastering not only the range of skills needed to perform ballet, building a work ethic that serves students in life outside the classroom. “Our classes help students in their academic work as well, because it gets them to develop time management skills,” Hird said.

He added another aspect of the ballet’s education expansion lies in recruiting new talent at dance competitions.

“We need to continue to build on the quality of the work that we have already,” he said. “I want to increase the quality and accessibility of what we offer. When a school is attached to a professional company, it can often be intimidating to a potential student. For our school, you don’t have to have any experience or dance training. Our expert faculty will develop you into whatever kind of dancer you want to be, whether it’s aspiring to be a professional or someone who just wants to enjoy dance for the rest of their life.”

To that end, Hird has also brought in guest artists — a member of the Paul Taylor company, former principal dancers with the Martha Graham company and the New York City Ballet and a teacher from the Boston Ballet School, for example — to give students opportunities they might never have had before to listen to and work with some of the best dancers and teachers in the business.

“We have about 350-400 students studying with us now,” he said. “Tuition fees can range up to about $5,000 a year, but if you compare that with schools like the IMG Academy in Bradenton, for example, which charges $30,000-$40,000, it’s not very much. We also offer scholarships and financial aid to those with merit who are struggling financially. We don’t want a lack of money to be a reason for not coming to us, so we’re always trying to find a way to support anyone who needs our help.”

Unprecedented Educational Collaboration

The Sarasota Ballet will offer two children’s programs this summer — Step Into Ballet, a one-week camp for kids 4-6 years of age from 9 a.m. to noon, June 12-16 and the Children’s Summer Workshop for 7-10-year-olds from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 12-23. The Ballet’s International Intensive will run from June 25 to July 29, during which students will have an opportunity to study with guest teachers from Birmingham Royal Ballet, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Elmhurst Ballet School and The Sarasota Ballet. This collaboration of four major dance organizations is the first of its kind in America and offers an unprecedented opportunity for talented young dancers.

“If anybody wants to try ballet with us for the first time, a summer course is the best way of trying that.” – Christopher Hird 

For more information on classes and registration fees, call 941-225-6520 or visit sarasotaballet.org.

The Circus Arts Conservatory at the 50th Anniversary Smithsonian Folklife Festival

By Ryan G. Van Cleave

I lived in Washington, D.C. when I was working as the Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington at George Washington University, and while there, I used to visit the nearly endless attractions like the museums, theaters, historical sites, and events. Who doesn’t love the National Cherry Blossom Festival, or seeing a Bosch (or Degas, Picasso, Rembrandt, or Seurat!) up close at the National Gallery of Art, or witnessing “Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story” at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum? Smithsonian

Yet, one of my fondest memories of my short time there (alas, it was a one-year opportunity) was attending the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This summer is the 50th anniversary of the two-week “international exposition of living cultural heritage” that takes place on the National Mall, and imagine my surprise and joy to learn that our very own Circus Arts Conservatory of Sarasota is one of the major partners for this year’s Circus Arts theme.

A solid background

The Circus Arts Conservatory was founded under a different name in 1997, but the spirit of the organization has stayed the same — preserve and promote the circus arts. Its stated mission today is “to engage and educate students using unique and innovative learning programs; to measurably improve the quality of life for individuals in care facilities; and to advance the extraordinary legacy and heritage of the circus.” It’s no wonder that they’re a major player in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival! The Circus Arts Conservatory (CAC) appeared on the Smithsonian’s radar in a big way when co-founder Dolly Jacobs — daughter of famed circus clown Lou Jacobs and former New York fashion model-turned-circus-performer Jean Rockwell Jacobs — won both a Florida Folk Heritage Award in 2012 and then a 2015 Folklife Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Jennifer Mitchell, Managing Director of The Circus Arts Conservatory, says, “That pair of awards for Jacobs spurred a lot of opportunities. It was the first NEA ever given to a circus artist!” She notes that the NEA is affiliated with the Smithsonian largely through the cross-programming they do, and that’s largely how this partnership came to be. They’ve been in the planning stages since November 2015. “A lot of circus entities are coming together for this, but no one is working as closely with the Smithsonian as we are,” she adds. They’ll be bringing their own big top — the main venue for the entire festival — to the National Mall. That’s the very same big top you see January through March at Nathan Benderson Park behind the Mall at UTC. They’ll also be bringing along nearly 80 attendees, which include students from the Sailor Circus and other circus artists from southwest Florida.

“The festival will have five million spectators.”

The festival takes place from June 29 to July 4, then it’s dark on July 5 before closing with a final four days from July 6 through 9. It’s a world-class opportunity to bring the circus arts to a national stage, reports Mitchell. “The festival averages 100,000 visitors per day, so that’s a million on-site visitors. They’ll also live stream it and have other media coverage. In total, the expectation is that the festival will have five million spectators.”

Networking on a national stage

Why is all of this important? Because it’ll allow a national and international audience as well as legislators to see firsthand what the circus arts are about. “We’re one of the oldest forms of entertainment,” Mitchell adds. “Circus goes back to the time of the pharaohs and the pyramids.” But having the circus arts showcased in this festival also powerfully reveals how organizations like the CAC are continuing to keep the circus relevant as well as serving to preserve its storied past. Plus it’s a great way for the various groups and organizations to network and discover ways to work together.

Well-rounded experiences

One of the main things that The Circus Arts Conservatory will show at the festival is the successes of their local and regional programming. For example, there’s the Education program, which has evolved into a partnership with the University of South Florida, for which teaching artists go into Sarasota and Manatee County schools to teach key academic lessons in science, language arts, and theater — all developed specifically with the New Florida Standards in mind. Circus acts like the trapeze and tightrope walking are a great meld of athletics and performing arts, and it’s fundamentally about science, too. How do you rig a wire? How high does a performer go in the air? How does one’s weight play into the motion? Where does balance come into play? The Circus Science Machine will be presented at the festival for attendees to see first-hand how a circus themed Rube Goldberg contraption can teach students physics, engineering and science.

Where else can you impact so many generations at once?

One of the things Mitchell loves most about the circus is that it’s still relevant in everyday life. Where else can you impact so many generations at once? It’s one of the few things with which her 92-year-old father and 7-year-old son both connect equally.

If you’re concerned that the closing of the Ringling Brothers circus is the death toll for circuses, don’t be. Yes, the circus industry is changing, she admits, but adapting and growing is a healthy option. “If Ford motor company stopped making cars tomorrow,” explains Mitchell, “there’d still be cars on the road.” And similarly, there will continue to be circuses, too. Yet people want a different type of circus — they don’t want to sit and watch but rather they want to engage. That’s what the future of the circus looks like. They’ll be interactive, exciting, and entertaining.

Check out the Smithsonian Folklife Festival this summer and you’ll see just what she means.

For more information on The Circus Arts Conservatory, please visit CircusArts.org  or call 941.355.9335. For more information on the Smithsonian Folklore Festival, please visit festival.si.edu.

Beatsville

A Unique Musical Style Meets 1959 Greenwich Village

By Steven J. Smith  |  Photos by John Revisky

Asolo Repertory Theatre’s much-anticipated world premiere of the musical “Beatsville” features a distinctive jazz form called “vocalise,” according to book writer Glenn Slater, who developed the project with his wife, composer and lyricist Wendy Leigh Wilf.

“Wendy and I met at a musical theater writing workshop,” Slater said. “Soon after that, though, she decided to leave the world of theater and go back to her first love, which is jazz. But she quickly realized she missed the theater and told me she wanted to find a way that combines the two in a way that hadn’t been done before.”

Musical savants

Slater, 49, is a three-time Tony nominee for the international hit musicals “The Little Mermaid,” “Sister Act” and “School of Rock” and is a co-creator of Disney’s worldwide smash “Tangled.” Wilf holds a Masters in Jazz Piano from the Manhattan School of Music, and Slater said she had discovered a certain style in jazz language called “vocalise,” which was popular in the late 1950s and served as their way into “Beatsville.”

“Musicians would take an existing jazz track, such as a saxophone solo,” Slater said. “Then they’d set lyrics to it, so it would have the freshness, inventiveness and the extemporaneous feel of actual jazz, but have words and carry meaning.”

That style, he added, runs through the couple’s new musical, which is set in Greenwich Village, circa 1959 — a world of subterranean coffee shops, goateed artists, turtle-necked poets and bongo-playing jazzbos. Tragically square busboy Walter Paisley wants nothing more than to be one of the beatniks, but he has no artistic talent whatsoever. When he accidentally kills a cat and hides it in a lump of clay, “Dead Cat” is declared a masterpiece and Walter a genius. More “sculptures” bring more acclaim — but will the world discover Walter’s secret?

Slater said “Beatsville” is based on the 1959 Roger Corman film “A Bucket of Blood.” It satirizes the hipster lifestyle and resonates with our own time.

“It was a lot of fun to draw those parallels,” he said. “We realized we had the perfect ingredients for a musical — a musical style that’s fun and fresh, a historical era that’s so ripe for dance, movement and drama and a story that says so much about our own times.”

Slater added it is “an unbelievably joyful” experience collaborating on this musical with his wife.

“We share a very similar sensibility, so there is almost no friction whatsoever between us,” he said. “We finish each other’s thoughts.”

Ongoing projects

“Beatsville” has been a work in progress for several years now and is directed by Bill Berry, producing artistic director of Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, which is co-producing the show with Asolo Rep. Berry said the goal is to eventually polish the show to the point that it can make the move to Broadway.

“I think the hardest part of a film to stage musical adaptation is having room for the story to sing,” Berry said. “Glenn and Wendy found a vehicle that allows for that. Working on it here at Asolo Rep has given us an opportunity to find out what’s working and not working and I anticipate we’ll be making changes on it right up through opening night, depending on what we get in audience reaction.”

Berry added there is a maxim in the musical theater world that musicals are not written so much as they’re rewritten. Slater agreed.

“It was a lot of fun to draw those parallels.”

“You never finish writing a musical,” Slater said. “You just abandon it. But you’re never really done. There’s always more work to be done.”

Slater added at this moment in time “Beatsville” has the right cast and creative team around it, including Asolo Producing Artistic Director Michael Donald Edwards, who continues to help shape the show in a positive way.

“Michael has such a worldly and smart theatrical mind,” he said. “He found the show’s weaknesses very quickly and asked all the right questions. He invited us to Asolo Rep as a place to work the piece, do rewrites, find the flaws and make the fixes. It was an invitation we felt we couldn’t turn down. And it’s turned out to be exactly what we hoped it would be.”

“Beatsville” plays from April 28-May 28 in Asolo’s Mertz Theatre, located in the FSU Center for the Performing Arts at 5555 North Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. Ticket prices range from $16-$91 depending on date, time and seat location.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 941-351-8000 or visit asolorep.org.

Extraordinary

Southeastern Guide Dogs’ New Puppy Academy

by Leslie Rowe

Magic is make-believe and superheroes are the stuff of comic books, but the fresh new Grant and Shirle Herron Puppy Academy mixes in a bit of both. This is no ordinary building, and these are no ordinary puppies.

“This is a magical place,” says Southeastern Guide Dogs CEO Titus Herman of the brand-new facility, which opened April 12, 2017. “This is our school for our tiniest superheroes, a place where our newborns, moms, and growing puppies flourish from birth to kindergarten graduation. Our puppies form the foundation for our guide dogs and service dogs, and we take their early education very seriously.”

Special puppy, special home

Located on the nonprofit’s 33-acre campus in Palmetto, the new Puppy Academy facility is remarkable. But let’s focus on the fun stuff – puppies. About 250 Labradors, golden retrievers, and a mix called a goldador will pass through these halls each year. What makes these puppies so special, and why did the school build a 15,094-square-foot building to house them?

“We outgrew our old, outdated puppy kennel,” explains Herman. “It was costly to maintain, had no climate controls, and could not accommodate growth.”

The evolution of superhero puppy training

The old puppy kennel served the school well for over three decades, but its age, size, and condition were not conducive to the quality of work happening here. “Our guide dogs and service dogs are like Olympic athletes,” Herman says. “We’ve developed a data-driven genetics and reproduction program to create elite dogs, bred with specific characteristics for a specific purpose. We’re creating healthier dogs, with excellent hips and elbows, strong hearts, high intelligence, and eager-to-please, willing-to-work temperaments. Their socialization and early education begins when they are literally three days old.”

And it all starts here in the Puppy Academy, named for lead donor Shirle Herron and her late husband, Grant. Let’s take a tour, but rather than focus on gleaming tiles in a soothing waterfall pattern, light wood tones, natural lighting from 28 Solatube skylights, hurricane-ready walls to withstand up to 150 mile-an-hour winds, commercial washers and dryers for all those puppy bath towels, and oh-so-much more, we’ll look at the facility based on what’s really important: the chronology of a Southeastern Guide Dogs puppy.

“Our guide dogs and service dogs are like Olympic athletes.”

First things first

The new Puppy Academy houses the Genetics and Reproduction Department and its innovative technology such as SpermVision® for semen viability testing. The magic happens here, too, with natural breeding and artificial insemination. The quiet breeder boarding area welcomes male and female breeders to 14 individual runs with indoor/outdoor access. This is where they’ll arrive and stay for “dates” before returning home to volunteer breeder hosts.

Mommy and baby

In the whelping and neonatal care areas, 12 whelping bays with indoor/outdoor access offer privacy and serenity for puppies’ birth and moms’ well-being. Moms and litters stay here together until weaning at six to seven weeks, when moms return to their hosts’ homes.

Preschool play with purpose

Days-old puppies receive handling and stimulation here in the preschool area, and puppies up to six weeks receive multisensory activities — and plenty of playtime — in sunlit indoor and outdoor classrooms. Staff and volunteers use these spaces to expose puppies to people, sights, sounds, textures, motion, and more.

Puppy kindergarten adventures

Puppies six to ten weeks old stay in 18 individual runs with access to the kindergarten classroom, where staff, volunteers, and the public conduct daily enrichment activities in the Puppy Kindergarten Adventure program. Weather permitting, kindergarten also takes place in an enclosed outdoor classroom, an interior courtyard with blue skies above. In the kindergarten complex, siblings live, learn, and play together, with plenty of time for naps in between.

Making a splash

An outdoor splash park, funded solely by volunteer puppy raisers, offers puppies a multisensory water experience — and fun! Puppies love to frolic here, and visitors enjoy seeing the silliness only found in puppy play.

Kindergarten graduation

The school’s Puppy Raising Services Department, housed in the Academy, matches ten-week-old puppies with volunteer puppy raisers for their next phase of training. A special “graduation” room serves as a private space to introduce puppies to their new families, sign contracts, and say goodbyes.

The doctor is in

Here in the Academy clinic, puppies receive vaccinations and other minor procedures; moms receive X-rays prior to whelping; and Genetics and Reproduction staff perform lab work and reproductive procedures such as insemination and cryopreservation. Two campus veterinarians oversee the health of all campus dogs from the school’s on-site Veterinary Center as well as in this new puppy clinic. Locating this clinic within the Academy means that puppies don’t have to be transported to another building for checkups and preventative care.

Something for everyone

The Southeastern Guide Dogs campus Gift Shop occupies a front corner of the new Puppy Academy, where visitors stop in for a gift for themselves, two for the dog, and three for the grandkids. Pet-friendly toys, stuffed animals, tee shirts, hats, dog treats, and plenty of other merchandise makes for a fruitful shopping stop.

Into the future

For this growing nonprofit, the new Puppy Academy is part of a multi-year, multi-building capital improvement program taking the campus into the future. “Our Puppy Academy is a one-of-a-kind facility built with a heavy emphasis on ‘frugal quality’ — a building that reflects our commitment to both superb stewardship and exceptional quality,” Herman explains. “In an environment enhanced by warm sunlight, privacy, and serenity, our staff and volunteers perform cutting-edge work, while future superheroes learn and grow into their very special destinies.”

And what destinies they are. Guide dogs for people with visual impairments, service dogs for veterans who bear invisible scars of PTSD, facility therapy dogs offering comfort in veterans’ healthcare facilities; they all begin their journeys here at the new Southeastern Guide Dogs Puppy Academy. Because superheroes must start somewhere, and in this case, they start right here in our own backyard.

Now that is magical!

Scenes from an Interview – A.G. Lafley

Living a Fresh and Clean Life
By Gus Mollasis

He’s a small-town boy who has done a lot of good in his life. And while his mother never washed his mouth out with soap, A. G. Lafley would develop quite a taste for soap over the years – helping to sell and market it, that is, as he climbed to the top of Proctor and Gamble (P & G) to become CEO not once, but twice. Under his guidance, the iconic company flourished, as his team developed brands like Febreze® and Swiffer®, which helped make the air a little fresher and life a little easier for millions of people in homes throughout the world. Instilled with a strong work ethic, this Harvard Business graduate learned the importance of listening, and has lived by the mantra to always put the customer first, both of which he’s never forgotten. The result is a life well-lived – a life in which he’s made a positive difference in many lives. Regarding his failures as a gift, he’s parlayed them into learning valuable lessons that have made him better. “Playing to win” is a choice that he says we all have and something he’s mastered in his life. Now retired in Sarasota, he’s naturally involved in trying to make his community a better place by giving something back to his new home. As I sat down with A.G. Lafley, I couldn’t wait to get a look at some winning scenes from an interview of his life. clean

Where were you born?

I was born in Keene, New Hampshire that was then a very small town, but I grew up in small, semi-rural town called Burnt Hills, New York.

What is your greatest childhood memory?

As soon as the newspapers were delivered, we had breakfast and the four of us kids were out the back door. If you wanted lunch, you came home. If you didn’t want lunch, my mother needed to know where you were having lunch, and you had to be home by dinner because my dad would be home by six and we would have dinner as a family. It was a time that cars, garages and houses were unlocked. It seems like a long time ago, but I think there are few places still like that, but not enough. I only had one decision I had to make. Was I going to walk or run to where I was going, or was I going to jump on my bike? Simple things. Back then if you wanted to play baseball, you showed up at the playground and you picked sides in pick-up games in which the oldest kids ran the show. I remember showing up when I was seven years old and I didn’t care if I was put in right field. I just wanted to play. I knew if I played well, then they would move me to second base or left field. As I kid I was a bit of trailblazer and all the rules were established for me. (Laughs) I had a fabulous childhood.  clean

What was your first job?

Delivering newspapers. After that I was a stock boy at the local grocery store. My father worked for GE. After 10 years of growing up in this world that doesn’t exist anymore, we moved to Chicago. I always wanted to be independent so at 16, I loaded freight cars during the 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift. I wasn’t the kind of kid that was going to sit around. After that, we moved every three or four years because of my dad’s job with GE.

So your father worked for Jack Welch?

My father worked for Mr. Welch and I actually worked with Mr. Welch and it was a riot. This is diversion, but I’ll come back. The day after I was elected and appointed chief executive of P&G, I get a phone call late in the evening at the office. I’m working late. I’m drinking through a fire hose, running like crazy trying to figure out the job, and my associate turns to me and says, “There’s some guy on the phone and he says he is Jack Welch.” I said to her, ‘Does he have a gravelly voice kind of like this?’  She said, “Yeah.” I told her to put him through. I pick up the phone and he doesn’t say hi, hello or how are you? He says, “Are you Al Lafley’s kid?”  I said, ‘I am.’ He says, “Your father was the only honest son of a bitch in corporate when I was running the plastics business.” What do you say? So I said, ‘Thank you.’ (Laughs) Then he said, “Get your ass into New York as soon as you can. I got to talk to you.” That’s how I met Jack Welch. And then we worked together when I retired the first time from P&G in 2010 and when I joined Clayton, Dubilier and Rice, which is a private equity firm. Jack and I were kind of senior advisors. He is a great man.  clean

Did your mother ever have to wash your mouth with soap?

My mom never had to wash my mouth out with soap, but she chased me around the house with a hairbrush or with whatever she was cooking with. I was a pretty good kid, but even good kids need to be disciplined. I was extremely active. Today they would probably want to medicate me. Back then the teachers and parents knew I was active and they figured out a way to deal with my energy. My father would run me non-stop and after I would eat dinner I would collapse. He figured it out.

Were you always interested in business?

I wasn’t. When we went to Chicago, my parents put me in this Dominican All Boys School to help me focus on academics. Then I went to a small liberal arts college in upstate New York, Hamilton College, because I thought I could play basketball. Not a good reason to pick, but it was a good school academically. My freshman year I majored in math; my sophomore year I majored in English Literature; my third year I went to France and majored in French and French History; my senior year I realized I had to graduate and graduated in history. I considered law school, but instead I went into the PhD program at the University of Virginia. I won this thing called the Presidential Fellowship. My whole education was paid for and I was able to study Medieval and Renaissance history at the University of Virginia, which was my interest. In November or the first semester, the first draft of the Vietnam War was held and I won the lottery. I got a 69, which meant that I had to report for active duty in March. I enlisted in the Navy in which I spent five years and three months. I started in Snowden’s Naval Security Group (Lt. Col. Benjamin Snowden). We are in the middle of the Vietnam War and I spent 47 weeks learning Modern Hebrew. I went through Supply Corps School and they sent me to Japan, where I spent three years running sort of all of the PX and club services for a big air base there. The aircraft that were on the carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin came in and out of our air base. clean

What was your great lesson from your Vietnam experience?

My great lesson is two-fold. They give both men and women a lot of responsibility at an early age and I like that. And the other thing is that at least with the Navy, it’s a relatively small unit. It’s a ship’s crew, or an air base support team, or an air group. So you have friends for life. I don’t see them all the time. You shared the same experiences. I never saw combat, just support, but we served people who went into combat.

What was your big break?

A couple of things. I was very lucky to end up with one serendipitous decision at a time, involved with something that was a good fit with my values and aspirations, and something I enjoyed and learned and grew from. Whether it was going to that all boys’ school – or whatever – I had the attitude that okay, I’ll give it a shot. It was totally different to what I was used to, going from t-shirts to a more formal jacket and tie environment. The guy that got the best grade in the class is sitting right there. Everybody else is sitting in alphabetical order. They post all your test and SAT scores and how many push-ups you can do. It’s intended to be totally transparent and based on merit. Would I have rather had 300 when the Vietnam lottery took place? Yes. Not because I didn’t want to serve my country, but because I was interested in getting my Ph.D. The Navy changed that and when that ended it was kind of interesting. I was married by then and my first son was born. I’ll never forget this decision. I was 28 years old. That’s when I applied to business school at Harvard. I had business-like jobs in the Navy and thought to myself I can do that. I also applied to law school. But I thought law school is three years. What do you do if you’re not Perry Mason and you’re a lawyer? Business school seemed a lot more interesting to me and I wanted to get on with life. It’s a series of choices that worked out. I can’t tell you it was any life plan. When I was nine or ten years old and jumped on my Schwinn bike there was no plan.

Finish the following sentences:

My best quality is…

I’m a great listener and I’m objective. clean

I wish I could be more like…

Mahatma Gandhi.

A good business always…

Puts the customer first.

A good product is one that…

Delivers on its function so it does what it says it is going to do. High quality, high service and a fair price. A good value.

The key to success in business is…

Serving the customer better than anyone else can serve the customer so the customer keeps coming back and buying the product and services.

A great leader will always…

Listen.

 

Was there a mentor along the way who showed you the ropes?

There was never any one person. But Jack Welch kind of inserted himself and said, “I want to be your mentor.” He was helpful, but that was in my last job. Early on, one of my coaches in public school was very supportive. I was undersized. Skinny. But I worked hard to make my way on to the first team. I was made captain of the team and I wasn’t even a starter yet. I thought that if they’re going to make me captain, then I’m really going to have to work hard so I made myself good defensive player. And Digger Graves, the head of the history department at Hamilton, inspired me and was one of the big reasons I decided to major in history.   clean

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?

I think the things that always got me most excited were to be part of the team that created, designed, and developed a new product and especially one that was really successful. I was on the team, and this sounds so mundane, that worked on liquid Tide® detergent. There were other liquid detergents out there, but they actually didn’t clean that well. The challenge was putting all this chemistry into liquid. I spent a lot of time on some of the hair care products that we did. With Pantene, we actually put conditioner and treatment in a shampoo and had them stay together to work on your hair. I was part of the Febreze® and Swiffer® teams. That excited me the most. The other thing that I can’t help but feel good about is that I was the “Accidental CEO.” The only reason I was elected was because we were failing in 2000. We had lost half of our market value and our stock price dropped in half. For the next seven years or so, we more than doubled the sales of the company and tripled profits. All of our established brands were growing again and then we made some acquisitions that turned out to be pretty good, one of which was Gillette®. It was a great seven or eight years and a huge team effort that was a lot of fun. We were running so fast.

Proctor and Gamble. What does that brand mean to you?

I do think that we are iconic in the sense that our brands and products are part of everyday Americana lives and now lives around the world. Ninety-nine percent of US homes have one or more P&G products. A lot of people don’t know it is P&G. They know Crest® or Pampers®. We weren’t saving lives and we weren’t curing cancer, but we were creating and manufacturing these everyday household products that make your life a little bit better. So I got a kick out of that. And I got a kick out of working with 10,000 scientists and chemists. People don’t think of that, but somebody has to create all that.

What are some of the greatest challenge you encountered in your stints at P&G?

The greatest challenge to P&G, GE or General Motors is their sheer size – the scale and global scope of these companies. When I joined P&G, it was probably $5 billion in sales in the mid 70’s with 80 or 90% of products sold in the United States.  Today, it’s $65 or $70 billion in sales and they’re probably selling products in over 100 countries. P&G’s China business is bigger than the entire business when I joined the company.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say the “consumer is boss?”

For most companies it’s the customer. If you’re business to business, it’s the customer. For a lot of retail companies where we shop, it’s the customer. We always distinguish between the consumer who buys and uses our product and our customer – the retailer or distributor who sells it to you – because we don’t sell anything directly. What comes to my mind, and I’m going to paraphrase, is Peter Drucker, an important mentor to me. I cold-called him when he was 87 years old. I read half of his books when I was in Asia and I went out to see him three to four times a year. His simple view of the world was no consumer, no customer. The purpose of a business is to create a customer and serve that customer better than anyone else can. Hopefully keeping them coming back and buying your product for life. The companies that are successful think about their customers. Apple had a very successful run because they made products that we love and wanted.

Play the role of the ad man for a moment and tell me a tagline for the following well-known brands that you helped revitalize.

Crest:

The two best tag lines for me are For healthy, beautiful smiles for life, and Look ma, no cavities. That was fabulous for kids and put the brand on the map.

Tide:

Tide’s in, dirt’s out and If it’s got to be clean, it’s got to be Tide.

Pampers:

Pampers keeps babies dryer and allows them to sleep overnight. That’s good for their health and development. 

Swiffer:

The ultimate in quick, convenient cleaning of any surface in your home.

Febreze:

Amazing. It’s a breath of fresh air. It actually makes the bad odor go away and replaces it with a breath of fresh air. 

 

What is your definition of success in life?

Right now for me, a guy that’s about to turn 70, it’s health, happiness, friends and being able to do what you like to do with people you like a lot.

As you have written, do you really regard failures as a gift?

I’ve written several articles for the Harvard Business Review and what I’ve often heard feedback about is the one: “I Think of My Failures as a Gift.” I’ve always felt that I’ve learned ten times as much from a mistake I made, from a setback I had, from a failure than I ever did from a success. People say study the successes of great people. Okay.  Sure there are lessons, principles and concepts to be learned. But I just found that these gut-wrenching, emotional and personal stakes that you have in something that turns into a failure or mistake adds a whole different dimension. And I viewed it as a gift. There are a lot of things that you fail a lot of times at before you get it right. I took up tennis at 63 and I’m not a very good tennis player but I’m bound and determined that I’m going to play two to three times a week.

Tell me about another concept you’ve written about – “Playing to Win.”

It’s interesting because “winning” or “playing to win” takes on prerogative sense for some people and we purposely chose that collection of words for that book because we feel what’s the choice? Playing to play? Playing to lose? Playing to tie? Or playing to win? And you know my view is playing to win. So in business you have to think what is winning?  I think winning is when the customer wins. The business product and service provider wins. The shareowner and shareholder wins. The employees win. So playing to win for us meant it’s a win, win, win, win situation. It’s not win-lose. It’s not management wins and the shareholders lose. It’s not pitted against each other. We believe that if you just make five choices they make a difference. And the first choice is what is winning? What is the goal? If you don’t know what the goal is, any direction will do.

How did you discover Sarasota?

My grandmother used to drive her ‘52 Chevy down from New Hampshire in the late 50’s with her cousin to watch the Boston Red Sox play during spring training at Payne Park. She was a huge Ted Williams fan. That’s when I found out and first became aware of Sarasota from looking at all these pictures. As a youth, I was both a Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds fan from living in all these places. The first time I moved here was in 2004.

Tell me about your community involvement and how you plan to help shape Sarasota’s future?

One of the things that I truly believe in is that when you choose to live in a community, you should choose to give back to the community that you live and or work in, which we did a lot in Cincinnati. My wife Diana and I are still thinking through on how we are going to get involved and give back to Sarasota. We’re in the process of building our own foundation. I definitely believe in what Warren Buffet, who was our biggest shareholder for a long time, believed, and what Bill Gates also believes and that is if you’re fortunate in life, you give back during your life and at the end of your life. We’ve been dabbling at what we were going to get involved in from various arts organizations to an array of social causes. And that’s how I got involved with the Sarasota 20/20 Bayfront project. They called me and asked me to do the planning board. And I said that I would give it a try. I didn’t know a lot about it. It was nine volunteers, all citizens, not representing any interest or stakeholders. About a two-year assignment working with private and professional planners, and getting the city a master plan for civic space in which the city owns all the land. I had done a major private-public partnership in Cincinnati and had good experience there. It’s now in its 14th year of operation. So I’ve seen it happen and work well. I’m not interested in development. I don’t invest in development or in real estate. I’m not an architect. I’m looking for the greater good of the community and finding that right thing that needs to be there on that land.  I read lot of comments from people on the Bayfront 20/20 master plan and it sounds like people want some combination of bay and waterfront activity, park and recreation activity and arts and culture. Mixed use. And they want it to be open to everybody, which makes it a true civic space. What we’ve done in Cincinnati is that it’s open and nothing is ticketed. When there is an event, you pay for parking and your food and drink. And that’s how you get a great mix for the community.

Hopefully many years from now, what do you hope people think about when they remember you?

This is going to sound simple and clichéd, but I would hope people would say that he made a difference with his wife Diana and with his family; that he made a difference with vocations and avocations; and, that life was just a little bit better for those he touched as result of him being there. If I can accomplish that, then there will be a smile on my face when the end of the world comes.

 

School of Thought

The Hershorin Schiff Community Day School Evolves Education

by Steven J. Smith

It’s fair to say the relationship Dr. Laura Hershorin has with the Hershorin Schiff Community Day School is very much a family affair, as the two people for whom the school is named — Irving Hershorin and Herbert Schiff — are her paternal and maternal grandfathers. education

Hershorin chairs the school’s board of trustees and her father, Richard, is also a board member and serves on the facility committee. According to Richard, his father, Irving, and father-in-law, Herbert,  “were the pillars of the school, bringing the values of philanthropy and a quest for knowledge to its current foundation.”

“Make the world one grain of sand better than what you found.” – Herbert Schiff

Hershorin was a catalyst for the family’s $1 million gift to the school in keeping with her grandfather Schiff’s mantra “to just make the world one grain of sand better than what you found.”

Forward-thinking

Formerly the Goldie Feldman Academy, the school is located at 1050 S. Tuttle Ave. and was renamed last August. It developed locally out of a strong desire for an inclusive, progressive, pluralistic Jewish day school that meets the needs of today’s young families.

“The family fund for philanthropy that my grandfather (Schiff) envisioned was coming to fruition last year,” Hershorin said. “The timing was right and we stepped forward to help take the school into the future. And it just so happened that the philosophy and strengths of the school were exactly what my grandfathers represented and loved.”

All-encompassing education

Today, head of school Dan Ceaser oversees 50 teachers instructing 225 students ranging from early childhood to grade 8. Tuition costs range from $5,000 to $16,000 a year, depending on the grade level. The preschool student/teacher ratio is 4 to 1, elementary school ratio is 8 to 1 and the middle school ratio is 12 to 1.

Hershorin said the school embraces two important tenets espoused by her grandfathers. First, it provides a unique educational model that combines a global vision, religious and cultural diversity, project-based learning, small class sizes, service learning and community partnership. Second, by exposing young non-Jews to Judaism, it demystifies the religion and discourages the spread of anti-Semitism.

“My grandfather Hershorin was self-taught,” she said. “He was self-made. He loved learning, took responsibility for his education and was a very well read man. He represents that aspect of the school. My other grandfather Schiff represents philanthropy. He believed in supporting the community at large. Not just the Jewish community, but other religious and even secular institutions as well.”

Hershorin added what sets the Hershorin Schiff Community Day School apart from others of its kind is the absence of hierarchy.

“Every teacher knows every student,” she said. “The older students know, love and embrace all of the younger students. Their day starts out with Advisory, which is a social and emotional learning curriculum that is specifically put together to teach the values. As they break out into classes, it’s not uncommon to see mixed grades learning together at an appropriate level.”

Level playing field

Hershorin maintains no one is labeled as “gifted” or “needing remediation.” Kids are simply placed where they need to be in terms of their learning and socialization capabilities. education

“For example, Math is held at pretty much the same time for every grade in the school,” she said. “So kids can go where it is that they should be learning. And as they’re exploring a particular concept, it’s done in a project-based way.”

That starts with a driving question of interest to the students, who are divided into groups where the question is researched and developed into a project, which can be on any subject from climate change and historic world figures to recycling or battling disease. The goal is not just to learn about what surrounds a driving question, but how to apply that knowledge to solve it. education

“Kids can go where it is that they should be learning.”

“They put together a project that can be presented as a group, so they’re teaching themselves under the teacher’s watchful guidance,” Hershorin said. “They’re taking ownership of what’s happening. This process encourages them to collaborate, which is a very important skill as you go into the work force. When they make their presentation to the other students, everyone is learning together.”

This activity culminates in Learning On Display nights, which occur throughout the year to provide an opportunity for students to showcase the process of learning for parents and the larger community.

Hershorin hopes the school will become a model for other schools.

tikkun olam

“We are living in a world right now that is extremely divisive,” she said. “We want to be a force for change, for people to get along and to collaborate and figure out their problems. The Hebrew expression is ‘tikkun olam,’ which translates into ‘repair the world.’ That’s what we’re here for.”

 

For more information about the school, visit its website at CommunityDay.org or call 941-552-2770.

Giving Powers

by Steven J. Smith

Although Peter and Joanne Powers have lived in Sarasota for only a short time, they fully embrace the concept that charity begins at home. Wanting to contribute in a meaningful way to their new community, the couple recently turned to the Gulf Coast Community Foundation at the behest of a contact they met during a local social event.

“We were told they would help us make a good entrée into philanthropic options in town,” Peter said. “Before we knew it, we had (senior vice president for philanthropy) Veronica Brady introducing us to Sarasota.”

Close to the heart

That introduction led them to financially support local organizations with which they felt a special connection — Asolo Rep, Children First, Reading Recovery, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs and All Faiths Food Bank, among others.

“Before we knew it, we had Veronica Brady introducing us to Sarasota.”

“Veronica exposed us to probably dozens of deserving organizations, arranging day visits, tours and talks with the people running things,” Peter said. “The organizations we chose made a good impression on us. We thought they were accomplishing things.”

A wise decision

Peter was born and raised in upstate New York, while Joanne grew up in Orlando. The two met in Atlanta in 2000 and have been married almost 13 years. She’s a former elementary school teacher and he headed a plastic bottle and jar manufacturing company called Clearplass Containers, which he later sold to a competitor. Now retired, they moved to Sarasota two years ago after deciding they needed a change of scenery.

“We were looking at various places in Florida and concluded we were never going to make the decision if we didn’t just pick somewhere and move,” Peter said. “Sarasota turned out to be a great choice for us.”

The Powers obviously turned out to be a great philanthropic choice for Sarasota as well. Joanne said an important goal of the couple’s patronage is keeping updated on the success they bring to organizations they support.

“Sarasota turned out to be a great choice for us.”

“For example, with All Faiths Food Bank, we stay in touch with them and know the kinds of programs they offer to help the community,” she said. “The Campaign Against Summer Hunger is one we particularly contribute to.”

That program was necessitated in part by the fact that food donations for Sarasota County’s tens of thousands of needy kids dwindle in the summer, due to the fact that many donors — who spend just the winter here — head back up north. Thanks to donations from benefactors like Peter and Joanne, almost 50 distribution sites remain open around the county each summer.

Literacy Matters

Another effort near and dear to the Powers is the Reading Recovery program, which brings struggling elementary school kids up to speed with their reading skills through short term, intensive one-on-one lessons with trained literacy teachers.

“I was a first grade teacher in a Title I school,” Joanne said. “Some of the children in my class went through the Reading Recovery program every day and I know it helped them.”

“We pick organizations and programs in which specific results can be achieved,” Peter added. “For example, with Children First we made a donation to them that funded a crib to help a family with a newborn. It’s more satisfying when we see results coming from our philanthropy.”

Looking ahead

The couple’s donations to the Boys & Girls Club have helped create a vocational training center that aids kids in selecting a profession, he said.

“For the most part, the organizations we pick are about children and families,” Joanne said. “That’s really important to us, along with the arts, which so often suffer budget cuts. Asolo Rep also brings children in at times during its season to see plays, as does the Van Wezel.”

“It’s more satisfying when we see results coming from our philanthropy.”

The Powers recommend Gulf Coast Community Foundation as an ideal resource for anyone moving into the Sarasota area with a desire to give back to the community.

“One of the most important things about GCCF is their initiatives,” Joanne said. “Veronica Brady in particular has been amazing in giving us information so we can select the causes that are most meaningful to us. They have a wealth of information.”

“If you’re like us, you don’t know the neighborhood,” Peter added. “GCCF had the ability over a very short time to expose us to Sarasota and get us acclimated into the community. They’re about researching and identifying problems even more than giving money away. They’re out there doing their homework to help people like us determine what’s worthwhile.”

To learn more about the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, visit www.gulfcoastcf.org.