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Side of Ranch

Lakewood Ranch Community Fund's Humanitarian of the Year nominations due

Waterside of Lakewood Ranch's Bob Smith was honored as Humanitarian of the Year by the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund in 2022.
Waterside of Lakewood Ranch's Bob Smith was honored as Humanitarian of the Year by the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund in 2022.
Photo by Jay Heater
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Because of their work to raise money for pediatric cancer research in support of the V Foundation, Dick and Lorraine Vitale could be given the C. John Clarke Humanitarian of the Year Award every year.

The same could be said of Pat Neal, and Col. John Saputo, and John Fain and Angela Massaro-Fain, and Don and Vanessa Baugh, and Joseph and Barbara Najmy.

In fact, every winner of the coveted Lakewood Ranch Community Fund award, which was awarded the first time in 2005, could have won the award multiple times, except that it is only presented to a person(s) one time.

It is just who they are. It is a lifestyle.

Checking with Merriam-Webster, humanitarianism is defined as a "devotion to human welfare."

I like it. Short, sweet, and to the point. The word doesn't need dissecting. Devotion to human welfare. Yeah, that's it.

It really is that simple when it comes to the C. John Clarke Humanitarian of the Year Award. This year's nominations have been extended to Sept. 30 so if you know someone who devotes himself or herself to human welfare, the time to act is now.

Those willing to devote their time and resources to human welfare often are not willing to take a bow. That's why the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund needs your input. Go to

While many of those mentioned above are local, and in some cases, national celebrities, the eventual winner could be someone who works behind the scenes but who shows up at every good cause. It's devotion to human welfare, in whatever form that takes.

The Lakewood Ranch Community Fund also is presenting a Junior Humanitarian of the Year Award for those students ages 8-19 who give back to the community. It could be working for a church or a non-profit, or perhaps a Boy Scout or a Girl Scout. Do you know a student who goes above and beyond to help the community? Fill out a nomination form. You have until Sept. 30.

It will be the first time for the Junior Humanitarian of the Year Award and the winning student will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

If you have more questions, contact Janjay Gehndyu at [email protected] about the Junior Humanitarian of the Year Award. More questions about the Humanitarian of the Year Award? Contact me at [email protected].

The awards will be presented at the Soiree at the Ranch event on Nov. 9 at the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club.

Buy the buffers

So we all knew when Manatee County commissioners in August voted 6-1 to to cut text in the Comprehensive Plan for currently existing wetlands protections to align with lesser state standards that the move was a done deal.

Sure, the change has to be approved by the state first and then come in front of the Commission again in October, but that, as they say, is a formality.

For the voters, this is a gut buster because they obviously have no voice when it comes to the wants of certain developers. A wave of opposition to cutting wetlands protections was ignored by their elected officials. 

So what to do?

The logical answer is to get out and vote for candidates who will back smart growth and development that won't cause permanent harm to the environment. Will such candidates surface or do we have some now? That is up to you and the rest of the citizens, who must organize groups and raise money to back their favorites.

But is there anything that can be done in the meantime?

Well, how about this for a silly idea? Buy the buffers.

It is safe to say that Manatee County residents understand that environmental protections don't come cheap. In 2020, voters approved a referendum which received 71.27% of the vote, to dedicate 0.15 mill ad valorem tax over the next 20 years toward the purchase of environmentally significant lands.

Certainly, it would seem that these additional buffers to wetlands provided by the county will go away when commissioners approved Comprehensive Plan changes to align with state standards. It is not a stretch to think developers/builders are behind such a move so they can have more land to develop.

So if this is, indeed, a money grab, why not pay them off?

Whatever that strip of land is, when the developers/builders put in a plan, make an offer to buy it. That way the developers/builders get their money, and county residents maintain their wetland protections.

I am sure there are all kinds of regulations about why this couldn't be done, but we are human beings, so let's find ways to make it work.

Interesting quotes

So if you live the rural lifestyle in eastern Manatee County and you have development coming to your doorstep, or if you live just off State Road 64 and have an auto lot being plopped next to your neighborhood, or if you live along Linger Lodge Road and you will have 1,000 new town homes down the street, you might have been interested in what Commissioner Amanda Ballard just had to say.

This East County Observer issue has an interesting story on Page 3 about how residents of Elwood Park in East County managed to get commissioners to turn down a town home project planned for their neighborhood. It comes at a time when few projects get a thumbs down in the Commission.

Ballard, whose district includes Elwood Park, said, "As we develop, we have to preserve these small pockets that make us unique, that make Manatee County a special place to live. If we can’t preserve Elwood Park, then we’re doing our community a disservice. This is the type of place that people all over Manatee County can come and enjoy this way of life that’s almost like going back in time.”

I am sure there are a lot of residents wondering why their "pockets" are not unique.



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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