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Longtime supporters of Abilities of Florida were treated to a celebration of the charity's 50th anniversary at an invitation-only buffet reception at Island Way Grill in Clearwater Beach.

President and chief executive officer Frank De Lucia, who has worked with Abilities for 28 years, recounted numerous major achievements of the Pinellas nonprofit, which offers jobs, housing and other help to persons with disabilities.

The late Henry Viscardi Jr. established Abilities Inc. in Albertson, N.Y., in 1952, hoping to prove that the disabled can be capable, productive workers. In Pinellas County, then-Florida Power executive J. Shirley Gracy learned of the project; the Committee of 100 incorporated the nonprofit in 1959.

Notables such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Bob Dole, Lee Roy Selmon, Derrick Brooks, Vince Naimoli and George Jenkins have worked on behalf of Abilities throughout its history, as have numerous volunteers and financial contributors. In a program note, De Lucia said the Tampa Bay area is home to the highest concentration of people with disabilities in the nation.

Executive chef Tom Pritchard oversaw the menu for the event, where attendees included longtime Abilities supporters Janet Samuelson, Bob and Marcy Shuck, Barbara Sealund, Richard and Diane Winning, Jim and Denise Degnan.

De Lucia presented the President's Award for exemplary support to restaurateur Nick Pappas and the Lifetime Achievement Award to legal counsel Joseph J. Sorota.


More than 50 guests got a preview of the new St. Petersburg Clothes to Kids outlet, designed to offer wardrobes of new and quality used garments to low-income schoolchildren. Jode Eye and Marie McClung opened the first store in Dunedin in 2003 and moved to retail space in Clearwater in 2005. The south Pinellas store is set to open in St. Petersburg before year's end.

Hosts were event co-chair Jan Miller and her husband, Jay; Jan and Craig Sher; Helen and Peter Wallace; and Sally and Bob Willis. Co-chair and board member Bruce Barnes also attended, along with board member Chloe Firebaugh, community advisory board member Dick Crippen, Mary Wyatt Allen, Janet and Mike Carroll, Sherry and Mark Ferguson, David Fischer, Thelma Rothman, Ann Soble and Sonia and Irwin Miller.


Makeovers are so much fun. Four winners in a benefit for Resurrection House received freshened appearances with the help of staffers from J.CON, Marion's, Stein Mart and In Search of Balance.

Showing off their new looks on the runway at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club were Michelle Brean, LeAnne Bargamin, Sue Hanna and Nancy Henricksen.

The Makeover Magic brunch event raised about $24,000 for Resurrection House, the St. Petersburg nonprofit, faith-based self-sufficiency program for homeless and working-poor families who have minor children.

Co-chairs for the event were Debbie Connell, Victoria Dickhaus and Dawn Fisher. Attendees included Resurrection House president and chief executive Cynthia Sinclair, auxiliary co-presidents Betty Shamas and Jane Beam, Judy Stanton, Lyn Greene, Carol Holland, Dorothy Raver, Beverly Yepes, Denise Degnan and Joann Barger.

On the Town 11/07/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 7, 2009 3:31am]
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