Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Manatee's women have a lot of heart

History buffs, Manatee County is your kind of place. And June Hartlieb, docent for the Gamble Plantation, can walk you through time here since the 1800s better than most.

While she typically will tout Major Robert Gamble and his namesake mansion that is the oldest structure in Manatee County –- and apparently the only surviving plantation house in South Florida –- Hartlieb focused on women tonight.

Hartlieb was the keynote speaker at the Heart to Heart Celebration by the Women’s Leadership Initiative of Manatee County, taking place during Women’s History Month. The event, to honor women “who strive to make a difference and contribute their leadership, time and financial resources to the community,” was fittingly held at another historic gem in our community, the Crosley Mansion.

She could have talked for hours. That’s how rich our county’s history of influential, successful women really is. I can’t begin to capture Hartlieb’s highlights here –- I have a lot more to learn about our history, that much became clear as she talked of women pioneers in the 1800s who made brave, daring decisions that gave birth to this community. She later told me she draws from dozens of history books and documentaries –- there’s that much out there.

Marianne Moyer, chair of Women’s Leadership Initiative, guided us through the evening from the podium. As she stressed the mission of this group -– investing in the youth of our community –- I heard the same goals that the Bradenton Herald has stressed in one of the newsroom’s key focus groups this year: Our Children First.

And then Moyer sealed a partnership that the Herald shares in helping lead this community:

“We are creating history as we go.”

That’s a helluva responsibility. As this community’s newspaper, we have been here for decades to record that history; to herald successes that can be built on; to challenge failures and shortcomings as the watchdog for a better future; and to bring together citizens who care about that future. The community not only deserves this –- citizens must demand this from us. And help us make sure that such journalism survives.

Tonight’s highlight of “Heart to Heart” was the recognition of four amazing women, nominated for all they do in the community in these four categories: time, talent, treasure and tomorrow:

Stacey Laidlaw, a trained mentor at Booker Middle School, for all the time she generously donates to youth.

Lisa Morrison (an added bonus – Happy Birthday!), a leader with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, who puts her talents to use in recruiting and inspiring so many others to volunteer.

Beverly Beall, who with her husband founded scholarships for Manatee students in a program now helping almost 70 kids, honored for being a treasure and sharing unselfishly – and for perpetuating giving, because she insists the students give back to the community.

“Charlie” Brunson, a volunteer with SMART (Sarasota-Manatee Association for Riding Therapy), who is tomorrow’s face of leadership among women. This teen volunteers at 6 a.m. every Saturday, donates all her babysitting money to SMART, and is training to be a certified member.

You all truly are the heart of this community. Congratulations.


No comments: