Alice Jones and Dee Webber run the nonprofit Brothers and Sisters Doing the Right Thing.
Sometimes two people meet and know they’re destined to do big things together. That was the gut feeling Alice Jones and Dee Webber had when meeting 22 years ago.
Jones is the founder and CEO of Brothers and Sisters Doing the Right Thing, a nonprofit that helps the children of the Newtown area.
Since 2002, the nonprofit has grown from a once-a-week Saturday program to an after-school tutoring program.
Jones, 53, and Webber, 73, ebb and flow through each other’s thoughts and often finish each other’s sentences. They met in the late 1990s while volunteering at a backpack giveaway at the Roy McBean Boys and Girls Club.
“Dee, being the person that she is [who] always strikes up a conversation with everybody, struck a conversation with me,” Jones said of the organization’s assistant director.
The two women first talked about Jones’ tutoring program that she held at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex, then the Newtown Community Center, and Webber was instantly interested. She stopped by one afternoon to volunteer and to pass out gifts to the children. That experience kept her coming back.
“And since then, Dee and I have never been apart,” Jones said.
Brothers and Sisters Doing the Right Thing is a broad umbrella organization for several charitable initiatives in which Jones and Webber take part.
The nonprofit’s focus is still tutoring students before and after school. Webber takes the morning shift at the Booker Middle School math department, and Jones spends her afternoons tutoring students at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex.
But the pair has branched out into other areas of community help.
Throughout the year, the organization works with the Sarasota Police Department and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in youth outreach, holds summer camps and volunteers in soup kitchens and shelters.
The work is split down the middle: Webber works with law enforcement officers to create candy bags and nap pillows for officers to pass out to local schools, and Jones focuses on the afternoon and summer camp programs.
Beginning as a once-a-week tutoring program in 2004, the nonprofit volunteers used to spend Saturday mornings at the North Sarasota Public Library.
Every Saturday, kids from around the area looking for help with their studies were invited to join Brothers and Sisters Doing the Right Thing for three hours of tutoring and a free lunch.
In 2011, the nonprofit switched from a Saturday program to a Monday through Thursday program at the Robert L. Taylor Community Center.
Webber most recently worked with the Sarasota Police Department to pass out handmade nap pillows to the students at New Horizons Academy in Newtown. Jones is fresh off a summer spent with teens ages 14-17 at Widen Our World: Camp On Wheels.
The eight-week camp, which started in 2005, focuses on education, recreation and service. The camp is set on wheels to allow the 14 campers to move around Florida to go on college tours, learn about health and fitness, and volunteer for communities in need.
This summer the campers took their service mission to Immokalee with the Church of the Palms, where they helped pass out bags of food, clothes and children’s supplies, such as diapers.
Next to service, one of the main legs of the summer camp is visiting colleges.
Jones takes her campers on tours of colleges around Sarasota, the Tampa Bay area and as far as Miami and Philadelphia, financed by donors.
Visiting colleges has given Jones’ students a sense of excitement about their future — something Jones said she expects from her girls but is extra enlightening to hear from her boys.
“It’s not just a camp; it’s a camp for teenagers,” Jones said. “Teenagers [are] interacting with one another and doing things that are wowing them. Instead of staying home on the computer, [they’re] outside being physical, meeting people [and] doing things.
“[Their] whole world opens up.”
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.