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Familiar Faces
Black Tie Wednesday, Apr. 8, 2015 5 years ago

People with Purpose: Janet Hunter

Janet Hunter, a longtime volunteer in Sarasota, discusses where her passions lie after 24 years of involvement in the community — as well as why she feels a personal obligation to pay it back.
by: Heather Merriman Saba Black Tie Editor

Janet Hunter, a longtime volunteer in Sarasota, discusses where her passions lie after 24 years of involvement in the community — as well as why she feels a personal obligation to pay it back. 

I moved here in 1991. I’m from London, England, now married to a U.S. Marine and here I am. I moved to Cincinnati in 1956. I’ll always remember. I came over on a troop ship, the General Butner, on the backlash of a hurricane. The waves were monstrous. I was the only one who turned up for breakfast.

Over a period of time, I’ve been involved in just about all of the organizations in Sarasota. Right now I’m with InStride Therapy, the therapy horses; the Lemur Conservation Foundation; La Musica; the Florida Poodle Rescue and I work on CANDance. Over the years I’ve worked with the ballet, Sarasota Opera, and the human services. I was introduced to La Musica about 10 years ago. I love the music. I’ve been a volunteer and been on the board for about five years now.

The circus is another one of my loves. I’m on the committee for the gala, but Dolly and Pedro are some of my best friends. We go way back. I did their very first fundraiser. Sammy Johns called me one day and said “Janet, please come to lunch I have some people I want you to meet.” It was Dolly and Pedro. That first fundraiser, we had 15 tables, so basically 150 people. We raised $32,000 and we thought we had died and gone to heaven. It’s a fun organization.

I’m a breast cancer survivor. In 1998 I had breast cancer and I found that this community was so generous and so helpful. I wasn’t even well known by people back then but it didn’t matter — everyone was so much help. We had food brought in and people checking up on us; we had everything. It really was an eye opener for me and a lot of what I do is paying it back. It’s my way of contributing back to the community who helped me so much when I needed them.

I still have much passion for the human services, but in my old age, I’ve come to the conclusion that so many wonderful people are taking care of the kids and the adults, so I’m going to care for the animals who can’t help themselves. I do things for numerous organizations, but to be able to help the animals in any way is just wonderful. I love it. It’s so pleasing to see what can be done with the efforts of a community.

Last year was the first year I’ve been involved with the Florida Poodle Rescue. I heard about it through a friend and we’ve been together ever since. I love it. I love the organization and the volunteers — they are just so into it. They are so enthusiastic about what they do. It’s fantastic. They rescue as many as 15 dogs in a weekend, and not only poodles. They will rescue all dogs, but they specialize in poodles.

We have one poodle now, his name is Behta, meaning “my son” in Indian. We rescued him five years ago, but we’ve always had poodles. Behta is a royal standard poodle, as big as they come. We’ve had two sets of black standards and a black miniature (who was a horror). They are such loyal and loving dogs.

InStride Therapy is another thing that is new to me. To see the adults and children ride these horses, it’s just so wonderful to see the good that it is doing.

I feel the same about the poodles. I know that with the poodles, they are in sad shape when they are found, but when you see them coming up, going into foster care and then getting adopted, everything is different. You wouldn’t know it was the same dog. It’s just a beautiful thing to see.

We never thought we would end up in Sarasota, but my husband, John’s, job moved us down here and we never left. Now, I think how lucky we are to be here. It’s just such a great community to get involved in — and the most fascinating. I’m made some wonderful friends doing it, met some wonderful people and animals.

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