How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?
I've lived in Spring Hill for 71/2 years. Before that, I lived in New York City, Long Island and Albany, N.Y.
Who are the members of your family?
My family lives on Long Island in New York, including my sister, Beverly Gray, her three adult children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They are the joy of my life.
Tell us about your career.
My professional career was in the field of social work, specializing in school social work. My doctorate is in social welfare with a focus on educational planning and evaluation. For many years, I was a school social worker with the New York City school system. Later, I was a consultant specialist in school social work for the New York State Education Department and taught at the graduate level.
I retired and started another career as an executive director for a small upstate New York African-American art center. I developed after-school and summer programs in the arts for children, as well as a Saturday program in African dance for children. One of my joys was the gallery, which featured the work of artists of color from the United States, the Caribbean and Africa. We sponsored an annual Kwanzaa celebration and supported community music festivals. It was a culturally busy time.
What kinds of activities are you involved in now?
Currently, I am president of the Hernando County Democratic Women's Club and a member of the Hernando County Catholic Charities advisory board, the Diocese of St. Petersburg Catholic Charities board of trustees, the Diocese of St. Petersburg Pastoral Council and St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church.
Tell me more about those organizations.
The Democratic Women's Club is an action network of women who pool their talents and resources for a strong political base. In 2008, during Women's History Month in March, we celebrated special Hernando County women who have devoted their time and talent to the community. We plan to repeat the event in March 2009.
Hernando County Catholic Charities is in the process of a capital campaign to build a service center in Hernando County. We need more space to serve the people of Hernando County. This effort is my current passion. We hope to build on Winter Street, off Cortez Boulevard. It will be a humble, beautiful center named after our late diocesan Catholic Charities executive director, Arnold Andrews.
The pastoral council is a new commitment, and I serve on behalf of Catholic Charities Ministries of Mercy. It is an advisory group to the bishop on major topics for the life of the diocese.
My parish service at St. Joan of Arc is also dear to me. I am privileged to serve on the parish council of Catholic women as secretary, and I'm involved in other parish ministries.
Do you have any special hobbies?
I thrive on creating art. For the past seven years, I have taken classes at Your Arts Desire Studio and Gallery. I recently returned to another love: the piano. I take lessons with a gifted teacher, Joanne Caltabiano. I also sing with the Nature Coast Singers. These are my special times.
What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?
I love the accessibility of the parks to walk or to relax at the beach. The art festivals are fabulous and not to be missed.
What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?
The county's commitment to the arts could be increased. We are blessed to have art organizations that support the visual arts, music, voice and theater. However, wouldn't it be nice to have a first-class Hernando County Museum of Arts, where the works of local, regional and national artists could be shown?
Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.
There's a book inside me — the story of early 20th century Caribbean immigrants like my parents, John and Gwendolyn Nelson. The memoir would speak to their tenacity and love of this country.
Hernando Neighbors is an occasional feature of the Hernando Times. Do you know someone who would make a good profile? We'd like to hear from you. Contact Jean Hayes, community news coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1438.