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SRQ DAILY Jul 16, 2016

"And it wasn't simply splash time out of the classroom—although it was a blast for the students."

- Mark Pritchett, Gulf Coast Community Foundation

[Gulf Coast]  Pool School
Mark Pritchett, mpritchett@gulfcoastcf.org

Summertime, and the swimming is easy. If you know how.

Believe it or not, many kids in our pool-filled, Gulf-side community don’t get the opportunity to properly learn how to swim. That means they lack basic water-safety skills and understanding: What do you do if you fall into a pool? Or get too deep while wading in the Gulf?

These children may also lack the confidence that comes with that knowledge. Just think how many children’s parties these days involve a swimming pool, splash park or beach visit. Now think about that seven-year-old who can’t swim, watching the rest of his friends from the pool deck. Or worse, who ignores that fact and jumps in anyway.

Thanks to some generous philanthropists, including Keith and Linda Monda and the Gould Family Foundation, over 3,000 second graders in Sarasota and Charlotte counties participated in a week’s worth of free swimming lessons this past school year. And it wasn’t simply splash time out of the classroom—although it was a blast for the students (especially the ones who made their teachers get into the pool on the final day). These children received daily lessons over five straight days from a certified swim instructor.

The program is called Kids SWIM, which stands for Safe Water Instruction Matters. Gulf Coast helped launch it in 2013 with funding from the Mondas, who had learned about the imminent closure of a long time swim-lesson program for kids in north Sarasota. They said, “We want to help save this program, but we’d like to see it go countywide.” So we—really, Veronica Brady—connected the dots: school district, local nonprofits that serve children and YMCAs with pools and swim instructors.

The Mondas seeded a fund at Gulf Coast to pay for student transportation to partner pool sites and for pool and instructor time. Several community members, including organizations like the Florida Swimming Pool Association, contributed, too. And the school district and other partners leaped in (safely of course), seeing a wonderful opportunity to leverage this philanthropy for the good of our local youth.

Since then, the program has taught more than 6,000 youngsters how to handle themselves in and around the water. It has flowed from five to more than 20 Sarasota County elementary schools, and this year expanded to Charlotte County public elementary schools as well (thanks to the Gould Family Foundation). As one Charlotte second grader said with childlike candor before her first session, “I am not a good swimmer and I don’t want to be left behind.” Now she won’t be.

Recently, we also heard from another young swimmer named Gavin. He sent us a wonderful handwritten thank-you note, complete with drawings of three happy stick children swimming confidently amid colorful sea life. Gavin’s note said, “You people are awesome!!!! I love you very, very, very, very much! I learned how to go under the water without holding my nose!!” Reading it gave me goosebumps faster than a January dip in the Gulf.

The only thing I’d add to Gavin’s sweet note is that the truly “awesome” people are the donors who fund opportunities like this and the hardworking nonprofit staffers who execute them. They’re the ones who deserve our thanks. And we love them very, very, very, very much too.

Mark Pritchett is president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation used to swim two miles during his lunch break five days a week while working at the University of Kentucky. 

[Argus]  Helping One Neighbor at a Time
Christine Robinson, Christine@argusfoundation.org

Thankfully, we live in a community that believes that with freedom and success comes responsibility; responsibilities to our less fortunate neighbors and to do our small part to help everyone experience an enhanced quality of life. We are fortunate to have many companies and business owners who take this to heart.

Argus Foundation former president and current board member Mike Quillen co-owns Gecko's Hospitality Group with business partner Mike Gowan. Gecko’s community support starts at the company’s roots and with a corporate culture that holds among its essential tenets a teaching from Mother Teresa: “Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

From community schools and Operation Second Chance to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Charitable Foundation, Gecko’s has supported charities, philanthropies, nonprofits and local causes—through monetary donations and for Mike Quillen, the greatest gift of all—his time.

In our Sarasota County and Manatee County schools, Gecko’s provides free meals for students. This year alone, over 20,000 elementary students received the Super Student award. These cards provide a free meal to Gecko’s Restaurants as incentive for exemplary scholastic achievement, school attendance, good citizenship and other exemplary performance. Gecko’s has participated in this program for over a decade. These award cards and other requests for fundraising donations, staff appreciation and pre-game meals for dozens of athletic teams represent over $100,000 of in-kind donations.

Mike Quillen also spearheaded a partnership with Operation Second Chance, which provides help to American combat veterans through housing assistance and organized events. Last fall, Mike helped alongside others to form the nonprofit Keeping the Faith, whose mission is to promote the resurrection of the tradition of wearing of blood-red memorial poppies in November in exchange for suggested donation to Operation Second Chance. 

Gecko’s Hospitality Group restaurants placed hundreds of poppies and gifted them to guests for the whole month of November. Any donations from guests benefited Operation Second Chance. All over Gecko’s, S’macks and Dry Dock restaurants, the blood-red poppy made a comeback, and it is because Mike led the way. To walk in to any of Gecko’s Hospitality restaurants and see the staff wearing the memorial poppy is a moving testimonial to Mike’s commitment, leadership and vision. 

In 2015, Mike joined other concerned community leaders, including Argus board member Kelly Caldwell of Caldwell Trust, to launch the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Charitable Foundation, a not-for-profit organization. The mission of the organization is to assist individual employees of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office who are experiencing catastrophe. The complete focus is on those employees of the Sheriff's Office who are going through individual or family crises.

Like Mike Quillen, Argus Foundation members have a huge impact on the community in so many different ways and collaborate together to make our quality of life better through their philanthropy, volunteering and expertise. As our community continues to grow, we will keep the compass tilted in the direction of being good community partners, dependable business partners and citizens who contribute to the wellbeing of our community and to helping others. #ArgusImpact

Christine Robinson is executive director of the Argus Foundation. 

[SCOOP]  Gecko's Iron Challenge is Back

Celebrate the culinary creativity of your favorite Gecko’s chefs during the annual Gecko’s Iron Chef Challenge. For five weeks from July 11 through August 14, each of the six Gecko’s will participate in a weekly special Iron Chef Menu, with several chefs designing delectable and inventive fare, plus some tried and true Gecko’s favorites with a creative twist. This is a competitive week to sample what the Gecko’s kitchen pros have up their chef jacket sleeves. Whichever Iron Chef special menu is the favorite of our Gecko’s guests for the week wins the Iron Chef title for that week and a cash prize. Enjoy as Gecko's chef’s fire up their stoves, and as always, offer you their award-winning Gecko’s hospitality. 


Gecko's Grill & Pub

[SCOOP]  Music Compound New Location Grand Opening

Music Compound has expanded to a much larger location two doors down from the original one. To celebrate, Music Compound is hosting a grand opening at their new location on September 9 from 4:30pm–8pm. Enjoy live entertainment, including Music Compound’s first band, The People as well as performances from students and teachers along with local favorites. Jenny Alday Townsend, president and owner of Music Compound says, “Since opening Music Compound in January we’ve had such an amazing response from the community! Our staff and students enrolled has grown tremendously and it was clear to me that it was time to expand the business in order to provide more room to carry out our mission to inspire, collaborate and educate.” 

Music Compound

[SCOOP]  Lionfish Derby Fights Invasive Species

Divers removed 429 invasive lionfish from the Gulf of Mexico during the third annual Sarasota Lionfish Derby, which drew more than 300 visitors to its culminating event at Mote Marine Laboratory. The Sarasota-based derby was a partnership effort among Mote Marin, Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), which helps study and address the lionfish invasion and sanctions official lionfish derbies and ZooKeeper, the leader in lionfish containment throughout invaded areas. During the derby six teams of 19 Florida divers vied to catch the most lionfish, the largest lionfish and the smallest lionfish in Gulf of Mexico waters ranging from Collier to Escambia counties. 

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

[SCOOP]  Batiks Bot�nicos

Angela María Isaza’s latest exhibit of Batik artwork at the Payne Mansion’s Museum of Botany & the Arts celebrates the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens with a variety of hues from azure to vermillion. Isaza’s large works and representations of color at Selby Gardens are done in the technique of Batik. This is a very laborious process using cloth, dyes and a paraffin wax resist, achieving an original and mysterious work of art. Walking through the Gardens, Isaza draws upon memories of visits past and present to inform her work. 

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

[KUDOS]  Goodwill Awarded Grant to Help Homeless Veterans

In response to the growing needs of the homeless veteran community, Goodwill’s Veterans Services Program expanded to include three facets: the Veterans and Their Families Program (VFP), the Special Emergency Resources for Veterans (SERV) Fund and the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP). The focus of the latter program is solely homeless veterans and is funded directly through grants from the US Department of Labor. Goodwill received the grant from the Department of Labor to fund the HVRP last year, and has been awarded a second year grant. The focus of this grant is to find stable employment for more than 100 homeless veterans. 


Goodwill Manasota

[SCOOP]  Anti-Bullying Education

160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying. The Child Protection Center’s Personal Safety and Community Awareness (PSCA) team talks to children in the community of all ages about identifying and reporting bullying situations. This past year, PSCA has been able to add a new iPad component to their curriculum. Each child is given their own tablet and the students can participate in polls, answer multiple-choice questions and answer free-response questions. As their identities are kept confidential from their peers, this technology gives kids the ability to give feedback honestly without the fear of being made fun of. It also provides PSCA with real-time data to better address the issues students may be facing with bullying. 


Child Protection Center

[KUDOS]  The Players Announces 2016 New Play Winner

The Player Centre’s New Plays Festival has announced this year’s winner of the 2016 Players New Play Festival. Five local playwrights had the opportunity to see and hear their work on stage with a brief talk back to give the playwrights additional input. This year’s winner is Connie Schindewolf with her play Mammoth Bones. The play centers on Robert, who is suffering from anxiety and depression. He starts hearing the sounds of ancient mammoths after unearthing a strange bone in his backyard. Mammoth Bones will be fully produced next August in the Backstage Studio of The Players Centre. 


The Players Centre for Performing Arts

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SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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