Jolly Old Saint Nick has been working hard on his nice list this holiday season, and we decided to help him out. His nice list is longer than ours, for sure. Now, we know we can’t fit every nice Sarasotan on this list, but here are some that are worth mentioning.
Agencies team up for Shop with a Cop
The Sarasota Housing Authority, Sarasota Police Department, Target, and Sarasota County Area Transit teamed up to provide 150 underprivileged children with the opportunity to literally 'Shop with a Cop' for holiday gifts in Sarasota.
The event took place Dec. 10 at Target on Fruitville Road. "This special event showcases SHA's commitment to providing positive, uplifting experiences for our youth while promoting mutual respect with our Sarasota Police partner," said Sarasota Housing Authority CEO William Russell. "Many of our kids who have participated in past events reminisce about what a positive experience it was to shop with and get to know SPD officers."
"Shop with a Cop is an annual event both sworn and civilian members of our agency are humbled to volunteer at," said Chief Rex Troche, Sarasota Police Department. "We've partnered with the Sarasota Housing Authority for more than a decade to foster strong relationships with children in our community. We're looking forward to another year of building relationships with local children and their families, especially during the holidays at this special shopping event."
A bright surprise for a Sarasota marine veteran
Florida Power and Light Company and University of South Florida teamed up with Denis V. Cooper Foundation to decorate the home of Sarasota veteran Carlos Moreira and his family.
This annual holiday tradition of giving back to local heroes has been going on for 15 consecutive years, which gives back to local heroes for their commitment to the nation and the community.
The Moreira family's home was decorated with thousands of LED lights, solar-powered decorations and other energy-efficient decor. Since retiring from military service, Moreira has continued to give back as a veteran services administrator at USF’s Military and Veterans' Success Center.
The bright winter wonderland was to show appreciation for Moreira’s dedication and commitment to the nation, local veterans and the community.
A warm crochet hat made with love
Ginny Hoenig, a volunteer who helped at this year’s Sarasota Ministerial Association Thanksgiving luncheon, crocheted a special hat in advance for every special guest.
The luncheon was held at First Sarasota The Downtown Baptist Church to give those who are experiencing homelessness a proper sit-down holiday meal.
Ginny went the extra step to make a handmade beanie for every chair that would be filled by the special guests. When asked why she went the extra step, she said, “I love the homeless.”
Southeastern Guide Dogs
Dogs can get on the nice list, too!
Guide dog recipients had a moment to reflect on how their dogs changed their lives. Southeastern Guide Dogs held a Tails of Hope luncheon at the Hyatt Regency. This intimate event created a safe environment to let emotions run freely without judgment.
Keni, an ambassador dog, helps guide Vicky Cox due to her vision. Keni also attends functions to help educate people of what the organization does.
Blue, a service dog, helps Bob MacPherson with his PTSD. Blue keeps Bob grounded and like to follow him around the house.
Merlot, a Kids Companion Dog, gives Junie a companion to be a kid. He even joins Junie to jump on the trampoline.
Buddy, a guide dog, helps Kenneth E. Hughes navigate through the world. Buddy also sits next to Kenneth while he does stand up comedy.
Women empowerment Christmas trees
Have you spotted a LaRocca Christmas tree in Sarasota yet?
If you have then there’s a message to each of those trees. The LaRocca trees are offered for rent to women-owned businesses and businesses who support women empowerment and the theme of motivating women to be strong and confident despite their dark experiences.
Cheryl and Alexis LaRocca are mother and daughter who teamed up to create these one-of-a-kind trees with detailed designs. With these trees, they hope it will inspire women of all ages to tap into their ability to overcome all obstacles and emerge with dignity.
Alexis LaRocca is also the digital marketing advocate for Selah Freedom, a nonprofit anti-sex trafficking organization. Selah Freedom is based in Sarasota, FL and Chicago Ridge, IL.
Their mission is to end sex trafficking and bring freedom to the exploited through their five programs: awareness, prevention, outreach, residential and organization consulting.
There are only 1,644 beds in residential programs dedicated to sex survivors, yet 10,836 victims were identified in 2020 alone. To this day, Selah Freedom has served over 6,000 survivors.
Over 40 girls and women are in the Selah’s residential program right now and will all receive gifts this holiday season thanks to local church members.
Thank-you cards to the Sarasota Police Department
The Sarasota Police Department received a lot of thank-you cards this holiday season.
Riverview High School students and staff wrote handwritten thank-you letters to the Sarasota Police Department as a gesture of appreciation in regards to the October swatting.
Rock the Preserve fundraiser
Greg Huffman made a promise to his late wife, Mary Terese Finnegan.
“Before she passed away, she told me to hold her memorial at this location, the Bay Preserve,” said Huffman. However, when Huffman went to schedule her memorial the day after she died, they said that they were fully booked until after six months.
“We ended up holding her memorial at The Point Restaurant. However, my friend Roy Peter Clark brought up the idea to do a charity in her honor. So, we are doing this event for the benefit of the Conservation Foundation. This idea of doing this charity event, even though I’ve never played guitar professionally by trade, was to honor her.”
On November 13th, Huffman was able to organize a fundraiser at The Bay Preserve in honor of Mary Terese Finnegan.
“I want to showcase what a wonderful person she was,” Huffman said. “I want to honor her wishes. I want to do something at the Bay Preserve because I couldn’t do her memorial there.”
Huffman was one of the event producers of Rock the Preserve fundraiser and a guitarist and singer in the Second Nature Band that performed at the fundraiser.
Encore of Sarasota
Santa is going to have a full sleigh thanks to the generosity of Encore of Sarasota members.
Lee Scipta and Jeanette Bailey, Community Outreach Co-Chairs, looked over a table full of member donated items.
These items will be gifted to aged-out foster youth who are sponsored by Springboard/Everyday Blessings or Harvest House.
In addition to the table donations, $1500 total in gift cards and money has been received and two anonymous donations were received from the members. One for $500 for Springboard plus another for $400 to Harvest House.
Dariela is the Sarasota community reporter for the Observer. After graduating from Florida State University with degrees in English and education, she’s been a writer and an editor for publications in Tallahassee and Sarasota. In her free time she gives violin lessons.