Two members of the Safety Harbor Fire Department were honored for their dedication, compassion and the many roles they perform as firefighters, educators, leaders and volunteers at an annual awards ceremony April 27 at Fire Station 53.
Capt. Ray Duke received the Fire Officer of the Year award. Duke is described as a leader who inspires by example. His crew members consider him a great mentor and his son, Steve, wants to follow in his father's footsteps. Duke promotes fire education and helps those less fortunate in the local communities and on mission trips to the Philippines.
When asked why he chose the firefighting profession, Duke said, "I was looking for a way to do my part for the community. I not only enjoy it, I live to do it."
Firefighter/paramedic Mark Bowne was recognized as Safety Harbor's Firefighter of the Year. Bowne, a newcomer to the department, is one of its key CPR instructors. He is considered a leader in his field due to aggressively pursuing a fire service education in a short period of time and because he expanded his role to include teaching others how to become a paramedic. He is a certified ACLS and American Heart Association instructor and helps college students in ride-alongs with local fire crews.
"He has excellent paramedic and customer service skills with patients that make him an asset to our shift," said Capt. Geri Pesci.
"I have a compassion for people and just like to help out," Bowne explained.
Both honorees stepped up to the podium individually to receive their awards from fire Chief Joe Accetta and to thank their fellow officers and firefighters.
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On May 7, the Pinellas Youth Symphony premiered Prelude to a Moment, the first orchestral composition by Philip Charos, a senior at Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg.
A trombone player with the Pinellas Youth Symphony and graduate of Sonny LaRosa's America's Youngest Jazz Band, the 18-year old also plays piano, upright bass, guitar and percussion. Other musical pursuits include drumming for the band Alexander & the Grapes.
"My goal is to compose classical music that is more relevant to my culture and make it more accessible to young people," said Philip, who is also working on a score for a local filmmaker and a full-length album.
He plans to attend the University of South Florida and major in music composition with the goal of writing and playing music as a career.
Philip lives in Dunedin with his parents, Socrates and Dru Charos.
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The first Oldsmar Cares International Wine & Food Gala took place Feb. 10 at East Lake Woodlands Country Club and was attended by more than 350 residents and civic leaders.
"We are pleased to see so many residents coming out to support Oldsmar Cares and their continued investment in our community," said Oldsmar Mayor Jim Ronecker. "I applaud the efforts of the hardworking volunteers and residents who have donated to help those who have fallen on hard times and are in need."
Oldsmar Cares raised $30,550 during the event, which featured live music, an international selection of food and wine by local restaurants, and silent and live auctions. Special guests included Bay News 9 reporter Virginia Johnson, who served as mistress of ceremonies, Oldsmar's Vice Mayor Doug Bevis, and students from Tampa Bay Ballet.
An Oldsmar family thanked the organization for its help following a house fire that destroyed everything they owned last December. "We are so very grateful for the support we received from Oldsmar Cares," said Kevin Fosbrook. "As active members of our community, we have always tried to give back, but never in our wildest dreams did we think it could happen to us and that we would be in need of assistance. The generosity of our friends and neighbors here in Oldsmar will never be forgotten."
Oldsmar Cares is an all-volunteer organization with a mission to provide rent and utility assistance, a food pantry and a clothes closet, all at no cost, to those in need in the greater Oldsmar area.