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Question for Labor Day: Is your job a labor of love?

Lakewood Ranch-area workers share what they love about their jobs in honor of Labor Day.

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Not every job involves the potential of helping to save a life.

Paul Wren, the deputy chief of East Manatee Fire Rescue, said he is fortunate because his job does.

With Labor Day upon us Sept. 4, the East County Observer asked East County workers what they loved about their job.

Wren joined 11 others in talking about things that make their job special.

The annual holiday, which is observed on the first Monday in September, stems from the late 19th century when labor activists urged for a federal holiday to recognize workers’ contributions to the country’s strength, prosperity and wellbeing. 

Here is a look at the answers.

Paul Wren, deputy chief at East Manatee Fire Rescue

“What I love best about the job is being able to meet new people and to help affect positive change in a meaningful way into their lives. You can’t buy experiences like that. It’s the feeling you get when you’re able to save a life, maybe change the course of the person. You never know how cascading that effect can be. It’s about service to others. Still to this day, my favorite is when we go to respond. It’s the excitement of being able to go out to respond to a call, not necessarily knowing exactly what you’re going into. There’s that level of surprise that comes along with every response.”

Bethany Lynch, senior development manager for the American Cancer Society

I love my job because it’s making a bigger impact on the community and the world. I feel like what I’m doing is helping a lot of people, not just helping myself and my family. I like that the money I raise, the work I do goes to help the mission of the American Cancer Society, which I believe in. Everybody has been touched by cancer in some way, shape or form. By doing what I do, I feel like I can help remove some of that burden when people are going through a diagnosis or cancer journey.

Alex Fernandez, emergency room physician at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center

“I picked emergency medicine, specifically for the reason that I love the variety of patients who come in. You have to know a little bit about every specialty. What I really love most about my job is the adrenaline that comes along with it. You can see everything from infants, the beginning of life, to people who are older in the geriatric population, the end of life, and everything in between. Serving the community and helping those who need help immediately is what makes me enjoy the job the most.”

Jonathan Garcia, nurse at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center

“I love the (emergency room) because you’re there for them on their worst day to help them get back to normal life and get back to their family, kids and grandparents. Nobody wants to be in the ER, so I feel like if you have an excellent nurse, it makes your time there just a little bit better. It’s so important when you have a human-to-human connection with someone you know. A lot of times their family isn't here and you have to be their family, so being able to create that rapport with someone that you don’t know, I feel that is what makes nurses nurses.”

Liz Naughton, manager of Three Dog Bakery 

“I love that we get to see all the dogs. The customers are great, too. We love them because then they bring their puppies in with them. Everybody’s just so happy when they come in, even for grooming. They’re coming in to get treats or their dog’s birthday cakes. You definitely can’t mess up because most dogs will eat just about anything, but it’s the look that makes it look like human food.”

Jean Christophe Nebra, owner and head chef at Paris Bistrot

“I love the ability to make people smile. Some of the most beautiful things are the tastebuds. As the owner, I spend most of the time on the floor. I love to be able to communicate with people and share experiences. As a French restaurant, the best compliment I’ve had is when people tell me the food reminds them of when they were in Paris 15, 20 years ago or last month because of the flavors and the atmosphere.”

Courtni Darpino, student support specialist at Robert E. Willis Elementary School

“I love it because I get to form meaningful relationships with our students, our families, teachers and our whole staff. I get to have a positive impact on the future of our world and to help the kids be whatever they want to be in life. I’m their cheerleader. One of my favorite things I get to do is tours because it gives me the opportunity to show off our school and share something I am grateful to be a part of. A lot of my job is helping students feel comfortable and welcome, and their little hugs and smiles every morning makes my day.”

Ashley Hayden, head golf professional at University Park Country Club 

“Every week, every day is different. There’s never a boring day. My favorite part is the people. I like hearing the stories they have, the lives they’ve led. Most of the people we deal with are retired, so they’ve lived some very different lives and then come in here and play golf.”

Rebecca Zimmerman, Realtor for Premier Sotheby’s International Realty

“I like to sell nice homes to nice people who can nicely afford them. It’s fulfilling when I hand over the keys after we’ve been working together for so long.”

Stephanie Maleno, owner of Izzy and Gab Boutique

“I’ve loved clothes and fashion since I was a child. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to be a boutique owner. It’s been a joy to be on Lakewood Main Street because the community here is so welcoming, loving and supportive. I love the community here that also appreciates fun fashion that’s upscale.”

Annie Begley, employee at Fantasy Flowers

“I like the atmosphere, the women I work, with and I’m surrounded by beautiful things all day long. It’s a fun place, and we get to bring our dogs in.”



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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