Thursday, October 27, 2011

So, what's Alex Sink been up to?

Alex Sink was  talking up a way to chart the future with her new Florida Next Foundation. (Photo by James A. Jones Jr.)

Alex Sink, former president of Florida operations for Bank of America, said she tried to retire a decade ago.

It didn’t work out.

Since then she has served as Florida’s chief financial officer and narrowly lost a gubernatorial election to Rick Scott.

Thursday, she spoke to members of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance about her new think tank, Florida Next Foundation.

Or as Sink put it, Florida Next is a “think and do tank.”

Florida Next is dedicated to reinvigorating and re-envisioning Florida’s small business and quality of life, Sink, 63, told the audience at Polo Grill.

Sink, who now serves as a senior advisor with Tampa-based Hyde Park Capital, asked audience members to imagine a newspaper headline that said local area lands new company with 500 jobs.

An even better headline would be if 500 local small businesses announced they were each hiring one new employee, she said.

Sink said she liked the notion of trying to build on businesses already in the area, rather than trying to lure large corporations that may be chasing cheap labor, and could easily move on in a  few years.

“What can’t Florida be the start-up state? Why can’t Sarasota-Manatee be a startup region?” she asked.

Local communities should tap into the mentoring talents of retirees, but should also try to stem the brain drain of  local youth who go elsewhere for greater opportunity, she said.

For more, see Friday's Herald.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Help for those with Parkinson's

Many of us know someone with Parkinson's.

The disorder usually leads to shaking, difficulty moving, and problems with coordination. Most frequently, it appears in men and women older than 50. But I have a friend who has been diagnosed with Parkinson's, well before 50, and can no longer drive. He is looking at retirement.

For that reason, I am passing along this press release:

The Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Center, a member of the Manatee Healthcare System is now able to offer free land-based and aquatic Parkinson’s classes thanks to funding from the USF Parkinson’s Foundation.

 The funding will cover an instructor for two classes that will meet weekly starting Tuesday, Nov. 1, at The Rehabilitation and Sports Center, 6020 State Road 70 East, in Health Park East.

 The land based exercise class will meet 9:30-10:30 a.m. Tuesdays and the aquatic exercise class will meet 10-11 a.m. Thursdays.

 To register for either class, contact class instructor, Kathi Sims, RN, medical exercise specialist, at (941) 351-3040. For additional questions please call Rehabilitation and Sports Center at 941-745-7559.

Monday, October 24, 2011

'A Brush With Kindness'

Manatee County Habitat for Humanity’s announces the availability of funding  to assist qualified homeowners in East Manatee  with minor exterior home repairs as part of its new program called “A Brush with Kindness.”

Qualified recipients must own and live in the home and meet income and program guidelines.  Habitat volunteers partner with homeowners in small repair projects which include painting, minor repairs to roof or siding, building ramps and repairs to windows, doors and porches.

Funding is made possible through a grant from the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch.  Applications are available on line at or by calling (941) 748-9100, ext 101.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Corcuera women are notable achievers

Project Light of Manatee received a $1,356 grant for educational materials, including English in Action student and curriculum kits. Shown above are (from left) Jeff Burkee, Luz Corcuera and Lisa Ramirez. (Photo by Jim Jones)
I have long been an admirer of Luz Corcuera, president of the Project Light literacy center in Manatee County.

Luz has worked for years to constructively and compassionately address some of the problems of undocumented workers in our community, a part of a far larger issue nationwide.

I have often gone to Luz, as have many reporters at the Herald over the years, as we worked on one story or another to do with this complex issue.

But I had never met her in person until Friday at the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund grants award ceremony at Town Hall.

Luz, a gentle soul with a wonderful heart who has done much for the betterment of our community, was there to accept a $1,356 grant for Project Light. She more than lived up to my expectations. You can get to know a person very well over the phone.

During our discussion, I mentioned that I had  been in touch with Luz' daughter, Mariella Corcuera, a member of the Lakewood Ranch High School graduating class of 2001, which recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of its commencement.

Mariella is working in Europe, and was unable to attend the reunion. But she wanted to share with her classmates some of what she has been doing.

I'm pleased to offer an excerpt about the impressive young woman in Mariella's own words. I know Luz is very proud.

"I arrived at LRHS in 1999 (after everyone had been there for 1 year already) from Toronto, Canada.

"LRHS placed me into Honors classes from the beginning after reviewing my Canadian course work which was a good fit and later allowed me to take AP classes and get university credit.  

"Specifically, Mrs. Carole Sicard was a great calculus teacher and I even skipped my first math course class in engineering school because I had taken her honors/AP class.  She would even host tutoring sessions to better prepare us and taught us that hard math was possible to conquer.  LRHS also welcomed my French and science interests with open arms allowing me to win senior awards in both subjects.

"After LRHS, I decided to go to USF in Tampa since I had moved just recently; I wasn’t ready to go anywhere too far.  I got great scholarships to enroll in their Engineering School, where I majored in electrical engineering.

"I did a lot of research in the biomedical devices field and was accepted to do a REU (research experience for undergraduates) at Boston University for a summer.  I was then accepted into Duke University for my master’s in engineering management on a full corporate scholarship and decided it was the perfect fit for me.

Mariella Corcuera
"The MEM degree is a mix of the sciences along with MBA and some patent law classes.  It allowed me to obtain my first job in 2006, a Rotational Leadership Development program in a satellite company that was looking for someone from the technical arena who was business savvy. 

"The Rotational Program allowed me to rotate through various departments within the company and provided me with the opportunity to complete one international rotation in Europe.  After my rotation in Europe, it was clear to me and my company that the Product Management team was the best fit for me.

"I’ve been working in this team since 2008 and focus on Reception System Technology.  It’s a combination of technical and business which goes along what I always wanted to do.

"Living in Europe is amazing and I hope that I’ll be lucky enough to live here and experience its beauty forever.  I’ll always hold Bradenton/Sarasota close to my heart because it’s where my family resides and it is a great place to go on vacation to a couple of times a year - the beaches are beautiful!"

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bob and Billie Delaney named Humanitarians of the Year

Bob and Billie Delaney with the John A. Clarke Humanitarian of the Year  Award. (Photo by James A. Jones Jr.)

Bob and Billie Delaney became the second couple to be named John A. Clarke Humanitarians of the Year by the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund on Friday.

Bob Delaney, former undercover police investigator, NBA referee, and author, may be the famous one, but he said he couldn’t do what he does without the full participation and support of his wife Billie.

In accepting the award, named after the first recipient, the former president and CEO of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, Bob Delaney talked about the service and sacrifice of members of the American armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has visited those troops several times in the war zones and in the military hospital in Germany where many go to recover from wounds.

The willingness of those Americans to serve their country offers an example in how to serve and sacrifice for others, he said.

Check out our gallery of photos:

For more see Saturday's Herald.


Ranch looking for emergency volunteers

A training session for emergency volunteers at Lakewood Ranch.. (provided photo)

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Knock on wood, our community has been fortunate the last few hurricane season.

We've not seen anything recently like the menace of 2004-2005.

That said, the Lakewood Ranch Community Emergency Response Team is seeking members to join neighborhood search and rescue teams.

There is a new 4-session training class is set for Nov. 3 at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall. The class will cover emergency first aid, family disaster protection, fire safety and search and rescue skills. The training will be conducted by instructors from East Manatee Fire Rescue, Manatee County Paramedics, and Lakewood Ranch CERT trainers.

The organization currently has 185 trained volunteers on 27 teams, but needs additional members to reach its goal of a team in every Lakewood Ranch neighborhood.

 Membership is open to Lakewood Ranch residents who are interested in learning valuable skills to help their families and their neighbors in times of emergencies.  The training and emergency equipment are provided at no cost.

To register for the course, or for more information, email

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New county parks set to open in East Manatee

 Four generations Tom Bennett's family are shown in this 2005 photo: (from left) Rick Bennett, Andrew Bennett, Tom Bennett and Richard Bennett. (provided photo)

 In the next few months, two long anticipated county parks in East Manatee are set to open to the public.

The first phase of the 175-acre Tom Bennett regional park at Interstate 75 and Kay Road is scheduled to open 9 a.m. Nov. 12, Cindy Turner, director of Manatee County Parks and Recreation, said Tuesday.

About two months later, a 25-acre park at 7110 44th Ave. E., north of Creekwood, is expected to open, Turner said.

Tom Bennett and Creekwood will be the most significant parks to open in East Manatee since Jiggs Landing, 6106 63rd St. E., last December.

For more, see Wednesday's Herald.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Visiting with the lemurs at Myakka

Baby lemur hitches a ride with mother. (Herald photo)
 We were recently invited to visit the Myakka Lemur Preserve and brought this photo back.

Want to know more? Check out our story from April:


Harvest Methodist pitches in to fight child hunger

 Nancy Reed, Misty Pope, Ron Reed and Pat Smucker of Harvest United Methodist Church fill grocery sacks with nutritious snacks for their pack-a-sack ministry to help children in need at Samoset Elementary School.
 Harvest United Methodist Church and Samoset Elementary School are nearly 14 miles apart.

The church, with its 1,200 members, is located at 14305 Covenant Way, next door to Lakewood Ranch Country Club.

The school is at 3300 19th St. E., in a  struggling neighborhood, where 95 percent of the children are on free or reduced lunch.

You could say they are worlds apart.

Late last year, Harvest members learned that too many of the Samoset students arrive at school hungry. Some are technically homeless.

Volunteers pitched in to start a pack-a-sack ministry to slip a little extra food discretely into the backpacks of 60 to 80 children on Friday to help tide them over on weekends.

For more, see Saturday's Herald.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Wine tasting to benefit fight against breast cancer

Winestyles Lakewood Ranch staff member Kathy Jones, a Breast Cancer survivor, and her husband Bucky, a member of "Team Inspiration." (provided photo)

LAKEWOOD RANCH —  WineStyles, 8225 Nature’s Way, Suite 111, in Lakewood Ranch’s San Marco Plaza, is set to hold a special Komen fundraising wine tasting event 6-8 p.m. Oct. 14.

The cost to attend the event is $10 at the door and includes the wine tasting, appetizers, a $5 off purchase from WineStyles, and one raffle ticket to win various prizes.

Proceeds from the event will support “Team Inspiration” that is participating in the 3-day walk for the cure of breast cancer in Tampa. For more information or to purchase your ticket: (941) 306-5804.

Are you ready for a little youth football (and a blood drive)?

LAKEWOOD RANCH — The Manatee Bulls Youth Sports Association is having a blood drive 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Saturday at the Lakewood Ranch High School football stadium, 5500 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.

Donors will receive a free Bulls T-shirt, cholesterol screening, a buy-one get-one voucher to the Museum of Science and Industry, and a hot dog.

 Admission and all activities are free.  Football  games begin at 9 a.m.

Activities include a bounce house, dunk tank, face painting,  concessions and raffles throughout the day. 

Information:  Korey Waters at (941) 302-0474, or

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Upscale mall project on University Parkway gets back on track

Benderson Development Co. has turned bullish on prospects for its proposed upscale mall on the Manatee-Sarasota county line. Shown above is the Benderson buffalo, outside its headquarters in southern Manatee County. (Photo James A. Jones Jr.)

Benderson Development Co. plans to restart its upscale University Town Center mall project as early as spring.

The proposed two-level mall was originally conceived to include companies such as Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s at the southeast corner of Interstate 75 and University Parkway.

Benderson had all its approvals in hand and was anticipating a 2010 opening when the national economy tanked.

Those plans, and construction, were put on hold in December 2008.

Benderson now hopes to complete construction of the mall by 2014, said Paul Blackketter, the company’s executive director of planning.

A key component of the mall will be neighboring Nathan Benderson Park and its rowing facility. Benderson is working with Manatee and Sarasota county governments to bring national and international rowing events to the area, hosting thousands of visitors and athletes.

For more, see Thursday's Herald.

Tickets go on sale for a really good time to benefit charity

Wine and food fest
Herald file photo - Ashley Wagner (left) of Johnson Brothers Liquor Co. pours wine for Renee Flansburg during the 9th Annual Suncoast Food & Wine Fest at Lakewood Ranch last year. The annual event raised more than $100,000 for charity
LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The ninth annual SunCoast Food & Wine Fest, sponsored by the Lakewood Ranch Rotary Club, is set for the Sarasota Polo Grounds from 1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 12.

This event will feature more than 300 American and international wines for tasting, specialty foods from more than 35 of the area’s finest restaurants, cooking demonstrations by well-known area chefs, live entertainment by two bands, a silent auction that includes a seven-day catamaran cruise for two to the eastern Caribbean, a six-day African safari for two, seven days in the Bahamas in an executive house and more.

Tickets are $60 a person and must be purchased in advance. Everyone will receive a goodie bag filled with all sorts of items, including a signature wine glass. Parking is free.
All net proceeds will be distributed to local charities through a grant process. To date, the Lakewood Ranch Rotary Club has donated $800,000 to nonprofit organizations in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Information: or (941) 870-0002.

For more photos from last year's event, visit:


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It'll be Rangeland Parkway

A sign soon to change. (Herald photo)

There was high drama for a few years about the proposed ice hockey rink and multipurpose entertainment complex at Lakewood Ranch.

DVA Sports, the developer,  moved the franchise here from Columbus, Ga., and spent millions before running out of money.

After plenty of legal wrangling, developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch reclaimed the land and knocked down the unsafe walls of the stillborn arena.

When it was all over, there remained a Center Ice Parkway. It might seemed strange to someone who didn't know the history of the place to see such a name out in the middle of what had been farmland.

This week it was announced that Taylor Morrison's Esplanade, a active lifestyle community, is going into the area at Pope Road and Center Ice Parkway.

The old name obviously no longer works and it will become Rangeland Parkway.

In case you missed the story, follow this link:


More to say about Lakewood Ranch's first grads

Ten years ago, the first  class at Lakewood Ranch High School graduated. (Herald file photo)
 Congratulations to the very first class at Lakewood Ranch High School which is celebrating the 10th anniversary of  their graduation with a reunion this week.

A heart-warming aspect of this story is how the class has maintained its bonds of friendship with Southeast High School students. Before there was a Lakewood Ranch High School, most of the students from East Manatee attended Southeast. Many of the students were friends from elementary school on, and only split off as 10th graders.

After the story was published Sunday, we heard from several notables. With their permission are their comments:

Roy Larson, the first principal of Lakewood Ranch, now retired, emailed to say:

"You captured the essence of LRHS and accurately conveyed that 'pioneer spirit' to your audience. Both the exceptional staff and student body embraced the challenge of 'opening' a new school. We are all stronger because of that experience and meeting those challenges; the spirit of that staff and those students flourishes at Lakewood Ranch High School today."

We also heard from  Mariella Corcuera now working in Europe. While Mariella won't be able to attend the reunion, she says her experiences at Lakewood Ranch prepared her to take her place in the modern and turbulent world.

"After LRHS, I went to USF for electrical engineering on a full scholarship, then did my Master's degree at Duke University (again on a full ride).  I currently work for the biggest European satellite company in the world within the Reception Systems group.  I transferred over to Europe (from Princeton, N.J.) when the recession hit in the U.S. as it would be a more secure job, and also because you can never go wrong with some international experience."

If you missed the story, take a look: