Thursday, September 11, 2014

Get your downward facing dog on: Yoga festival in East Manatee to benefit All Faiths Food Bank

Heartwood Retreat Center,  17507 Waterline Road, East Manatee, celebrates National Yoga Month with a fundraising yoga festival 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13.

Afterward there will be community music by Kirtan 5-7 p.m.

The festival features a full day of events, including eight  yoga classes in a variety of styles and levels, special interest workshops, Sutra lectures, a kid’s yoga zone from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., a yoga art gallery, yoga art activities, music entertainment, more than 30 healthy lifestyle and food vendors, dance performances, and more.

Several of the area’s leading yoga facilities, ReFlex Arts Yoga, Prana Yoga and Garden of the Heart Yoga are represented to support this celebration for a community cause. Tickets are $25 for the full day’s events and all money collected will be donated to the All Faith’s Food Bank.

 For more information or a schedule of activities, visit

Tickets are available online at Eventbrite,, ReFlex Arts, Prana Yoga or Garden of the Heart Yoga as well.

 For more information, call 941 359-9642.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Former Lakewood Ranch High School student Alisha Erozer wins state speech contest

Alisha Erozer, shown in November of 2013, at the Manatee Agriculture Hall of Fame annual luncheon, recently won a state speech contest. Herald file photo
Alisha Erozer, a former Lakewood Ranch High School student, recently won a state speech contest sponsored by the  Association of Florida Conservation Districts in Ocala.

The contest was designed to develop leadership through participation in public speaking activities and to stimulate interest in conserving natural resources,

Students in grades six through 12 gave six-eight minute speeches. The topic this year was “Dig Deeper -- What are the Mysteries in the Soil?”

Erozer, who competed against students representing other Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the state, placed first and was awarded a prize of $500.

Last school year at Lakewood Ranch High School, Erozer served as Junior Advisory Board president, was a student government member, and started a speech and debate club.

Shortly after winning the state contest, Erozer left for Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina where she will be attending the United World College for the next two years, as one of four Americans in the pre-university college accelerated International Baccalaureate program.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Parrish resident Carmine DeMilio specializes in keeping them safe and happy at Manatee parks, playgrounds and beaches

Carmine DeMillio tries out a swing at the county's G. T. Bray Park. Bradenton Herald photo by James A. Jones Jr.

You've got to like what Parrish resident Carmine DeMilio does for a living.

"My responsibility to all park patrons is to provide safe playgrounds and facilities as well as aesthetically pleasing parks and beaches," he said.

As property management grounds operations manager for Manatee County, those responsibilities include three beaches -- Anna Maria Bayfront Park, Coquina, and Manatee -- as well as 52 parks and playgrounds.

The New Jersey native had similar responsibilities in North Brunswick, N. J., during a 22.5 year career before moving to Manatee County about five years ago. Except that what he was doing in New Jersey was not quite as broad. There, he had responsibility for 23 parks and 17 playgrounds.

"This is a great state and there are great people here," he said.

The DeMilios rented when they first moved to Parrish, and ended up liking the community so much that they bought a home there.

Even though DeMilo has 27 years in the business, he says there is more to learn.

He recently earned national certification as a Park and Recreational Professional. All the better to help keep parks and beaches users safe and having a good time, he said.

DeMilio plans to next seek certification as a Park and Recreation Executive.

"The bar has been raised in the recreation and parks profession," he said.

He is particularly proud of the changing stations that are going up at Manatee beaches.

For more about that, see story by Amaris Castillo (@AmarisCastillo):

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Duette Elementary opens school year with 16 students and one teacher

Lipman Farms manager Larry Moss joins Duette Elementary School students with their new backpacks. Provided photo

Duette Elementary School, Florida's last one-room, one-teacher school house, reopened this week with 16 students, the same enrollment as last school year.

Founded in 1930, Duette Elementary  actually has more than one room, but since the school has only one teacher, the students are usually in one room together. The school serves kindergarten through fifth grade.

Duette Elementary started as a "strawberry school" to allow children of farm families help bring in crops.

Donna King, the executive director of  Duette Education Foundation, Inc., provided a photo of this year's students with Larry Moss, manager of Lipman Farms, which provided stuffed back packs.

In 2009,  the Manatee School District decided it could not justify keeping the school open. Ever since, the Duette Education Foundation Inc. has been responsible for footing the bills to keep the school operating.

The community of Duette has more than 16 students, but many of them attend  conventional schools around Manatee County.

For more on the opening of  the 2014-2015 school year in Manatee County, see Meghin Delaney's story

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Going the extra mile to get the job done at Tara Community Development District meeting

Tara CDD chair John Schmidt, center, was flanked by district manager Matthew Huber on the left and district counsel John Vericker on the right. Herald photo by James A. Jones Jr.
John Schmidt, chairman of  Tara Community Development District 1, was  hands-on during the district meeting Tuesday, July 29.

Not only did he offer audience members coffee before the meeting, he also sat down at a computer and opened the Skype connection to allow supervisor Michael Dyer to participate long-distance.

Also participating long-distance was supervisor Beth Bond, on a conference call, while watching the proceedings through a security camera in the community center.

During the meeting, two residents complained about the quality of lawn maintenance near their home. Schmidt promised that after the meeting he would stop by to check out the mowing for himself.

You had to admire the way Schmidt juggled having two long-distance supervisors taking part in the meeting, along with vice chair Joe Mojica, and supervisor  Dan Powers who were sitting around the dais.

By the way, those in the audience were sitting in chairs just as plush and comfortable as the supervisors. That's a rarity for audiences who at some meetings have a hard bench or folding chair for a seat.

For the business of the Tara CDD, see the Wednesday, July 30, Bradenton Herald/Lakewood Ranch Herald.
Tara CDD audience members watched the meeting from the comfort of executive chairs.  Herald photo by James A. Jones Jr.
Michael Dyer participated  in the Tara Community Development District meeting via Skype. His image was shown on a flat-screen TV at right. Herald photo by James A. Jones Jr.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

SWAT Networking Lakewood Ranch chapter honors new, returning members

Honorees at the July meeting of the SWAT Networking Lakewood Ranch Chapter. PHOTO PROVIDED
Six women were recognized as new and returning members at the July meeting of the SWAT Networking Lakewood Ranch Chapter.

Recognized were Shelly Gutowsky, of Boutique Out East; Debbie Lee, of Debbie’s Loving Pet Care; Laurel Rund, of Essence of Laurel; Kathleen Feeney, of Skin NV; Beth Prichard, of Planet Stone Marble and Granite; and Adrian Griffin, of Longboat Title.

SWAT, which stands for Successful Women Aligning Together, meets at four different locations around Manatee and Sarasota - Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton, Manasota and Nokomis. All women in business are welcome to attend.

Each month, a woman from each of the four chapters is honored for dedication and hard work, positive spirit and willingness to enhance themselves and their career. This month's Woman of the Month from the Lakewood Ranch Chapter is Tonya Merrill of Jennette Properties.

For more information, visit or contact Dr. Robyn Spirtas at 941-962-0884 or

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nolan Middle School FFA students make summer trips

Nolan Middle School FFA students recently returned from two summer trips.

The first was to the Florida Outdoor Adventures camp in Haines City, a four-day exploration into nature, sporting events wildlife management, firearm safety and hunter safety certification, challenge courses and leadership development.

The second was to the 86th Florida FFA State Convention & Expo, held in Orlando. FFA members and guests experienced motivational speakers, award presentations, exciting exhibits, challenging career development events, and plenty of entertaining activities. Many Nolan FFA students participated in state final career development events, which they qualified for throughout the school year. Kate Cranos, Shelby Parks, Jalyn Thompson, J. T. Girman, Hunter Martin and Savannah Freitag took part in the parliamentary procedure. Luke Cornwall also participated in extemporaneous speaking, and J.T. Girman was awarded fifth place in the state for his ornamental horticulture career development event.

Students also attended “A Day of Service” and visited a food bank in the Orlando area, where they sorted, boxed, weighed and labeled over 1,000 pounds of food. Along with attending general session meetings, students attended leadership workshops, working with state FFA officers from many states.

Here are some more photos of the students' trips, provided by Stefani Heidenthal, agriculture teacher at Nolan Middle School: