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East County Thursday, Mar. 28, 2019 3 years ago

Humanitarianism in Lakewood Ranch comes in many forms

Side of Ranch: Jay Heater
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

I was having a bit of an argument a few years ago with one of my readers.

He wasn't happy with a column I had written advising folks to make sure they give back to the community, and he basically told me I wasn't following my own advice.

"What have you ever done?" he snarled.

Well, I explained to him that I coached youth wrestling teams for years, I had delivered Meals on Wheels, and had worked for area churches delivering meals to shut-ins on holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Wanda Martinetto, Gretchen Bauer and Michelle Bianchi visit at Bauer's BSwanky of Sarasota. Martinetto and Bianchi are Sisterhood for Good members.

"Coaching doesn't count," he told me. "And the others, that's not much."

This was an argument I wasn't going to win, so I told him "Thanks so much for your input."

With that in mind, I am not trying to insult anyone because they have a busy life and they can't give 20 hours a week to a nonprofit. But this weekend had many examples of ways you can contribute to your community with your limited time, or perhaps on a higher level if you are bored and retired.

On Friday night, I attended the Hot Havana Nights fundraiser at the Grove in Lakewood Ranch to raise funds for Meals on Wheels PLUS. It was a lavish affair at $200 a pop, but the pricey ticket was necessary to raise funds for an organization that feeds those in our community who are homebound. Meals on Wheels also feeds children in need and, in Lakewood Ranch, provides the Daybreak Adult Day Center, which provides a safe, secure environment with social, recreational, and therapeutic activities designed for seniors. For all of its other services, you can go to

You can give back to your community just by attending such an event. Just watch the East County Observer's events page and you will see plenty of opportunities. First and foremost, all these groups need money to accomplish their goals.

Money was the theme all night at Hot Havana Nights, and that was fine. It's a big job. At the end of the fundraising session of the night, board member Bambi Forristall showed a video of Meals on Wheels PLUS at work, and it left many in the audience in tears.

Then, with no apologies, the crowd was asked to simply donate what they could. They weren't getting anything material for their money, such as the auction items earlier in the session, only the satisfaction of giving back. In five minutes, more than $43,000 was donated.

But giving money is just one way. If you don't have disposable income, your time is just as valuable. You might become a superwoman volunteer such as a Bambi Forristall or you might give a few hours of time to take a delivery route, or work the assembly line in the kitchen that prepares meals.

Plenty of other opportunities exist as well. I spent an hour with members of the Sisterhood for Good women's giving circle on Monday at their outing at BSwanky (custom handbags) in Sarasota. Now these ladies know how to have a great time, 

Even better, you can join Sisterhood for Good (provided you are female) for $200 a year or for a one-time payment of $1,000. The group now has 102 members, so you can see how those funds add up and then are redistributed to area nonprofits. You are working for the community while you are attending events and other fundraisers in which you have a martini in your hand, or you might be shopping for jewelry or designer handbags. You can check out more at or you can find other women's giving circles through the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund.

On Saturday, I attended the Paws for Patriots fundraiser hosted by the Lakewood Ranch Elks Lodge. This was a triple-dose of giving back. The Elks always are accepting members who want to raise money for organizations such as Southeastern Guide Dogs, which was the beneficiary on Saturday. At the same time, Southeastern Guide Dogs always needs volunteers to help train dogs that help those in the community who might be visually impaired or need a dog for emotional support.

Meanwhile, featured speaker Tommy Gregory, our state representative for District 73, took the podium and noted that you can give back to the community just by giving a veteran a chance, perhaps at a job, to ease his or her transition back into the community after service. No money out of pocket, no work hours invested.

I'm sure my former disgruntled reader would say that doesn't count.

But, believe me, it does.




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