The St. Petersburg Woman's Club celebrated more than a century of serving the community and a new effort to attract younger members at its annual Spring Bonnet Tea. The club recently started an evening group with meetings from 7 to 9 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month for women who work outside of the home or have small children and can't make weekday meetings.
"I love it. We've got all this new energy. We want to keep this going for a long time," said Joanne Walker, the longtime Woman's Club member who first connected with the new members.
"We love the history of the club and this beautiful building we pass all the time," said Marci Emerson, one of the new members, referring to the historic 1929 clubhouse on Snell Isle Boulevard. "Our kids all went to preschool together and now they are going off to 10 different schools. We thought this was a way we could stay connected and connect more with the community."
The evening group plans to have speakers to educate them on issues in St. Petersburg and focus on helping with education, conservation and female leadership. Anyone is welcome and there are no minimum volunteer hours required.
The Woman's Club's service projects that have been ongoing for decades include making handmade pillows for Hospice, quilts for veterans, bibs for nursing homes and backpacks loaded with stuffed animals and toiletries for Sallie House, Walker said.
The afternoon tea included a fashion show by Patchington and a delectable spread of homemade finger sandwiches and baked goods along with tea, of course, served from a silver service.
Hundreds of supporters of the Pinellas-Pasco Heart Gallery came together at Tropicana Field for the Flock to the Trop fundraiser to help foster children find "forever families." Portraits of smiling kids with the word "adopted" written on a green palm leaf attached to the frame stood on easels all around the silent auction tables. But as guests walked through the stands to the other side of the stadium for dinner they passed more portraits of solo children or siblings waiting for a family.
The Heart Gallery works to increase awareness of the need for adoption of foster children who are harder to place because they are pre-teens or teens, have medical or emotional issues or are a group of siblings. The nonprofit organization arranges for beautiful portraits of the kids to be displayed to audiences that might adopt, provides support services for adoptive parents, finds summer camp scholarships and internships for foster children and fills many other needs for these children who are often forgotten.
Bay News 9 senior anchor Al Ruechel received the Lifetime Service Award at the event for the 7,000 hours he has volunteered in Tampa Bay area schools, for emceeing many Heart Gallery events and for sharing his story of how adoption enhanced his own family.
"Usually they contact me in January or February to emcee this event and when I didn't hear from them this year I said to myself: 'What did I do wrong,' " he said as he accepted his award. "We need to showcase these children who do not have a forever family. Are they perfect? No, because none of us is perfect. … Lets do more to help these kids."
Yolanda Fernandez, community awareness manager for the St. Petersburg Police Department, emceed so that he could be honored. The event committee co-chairs were Andrea Wilson and Kathy Mandula. The Heart Gallery board is chaired by Jane Nunnelly and Jennifer Nance is the executive director.