How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?
I moved to Spring Hill when I retired from the Collier County public school system in October 1999, and my husband, Harry, joined me in January 2000 when he retired from his "after-retirement job" of being a school bus driver for the Collier County schools. Only after many miles and searching for the perfect place to retire did we relocate from Naples, where we lived for almost 25 years, to Spring Hill.
Who are the members of your family?
I have two daughters and two sons from a previous marriage. Three of them choose to live in some of the coldest sections of the United States, including Massachusetts and Maine. One daughter lives here in Spring Hill. We have seven granddaughters, one great-granddaughter born in November and one great-grandson born Wednesday.
And there is our dog, Jake, a Boston terrier, who at 9 years of age acts like an active puppy.
Tell us about your career.
I hold a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in guidance and counseling and was certified to teach elementary to college levels in five states and at the Defense Language Institute.
Since teaching never paid much, as a single parent with four young children, I always worked a second job. I've owned a children's clothing store in San Antonio, Texas, was executive director of an early childhood center for migrant children in Immokalee and worked in the social services field as a counselor for several programs that deal with runaways, teen pregnancy, rape and domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and crisis intervention.
I have written grant proposals for nonprofit agencies throughout the United States and continue to teach grant writing workshops.
I strongly support Habitat for Humanity, so in retirement I joined AmeriCorps VISTA and was assigned to Habitat for Humanity here in Hernando County, where I serve as grant writer, thrift store manager and whatever else they ask me to do.
What other kinds of activities are you involved in now?
I serve on the board of directors of the Boys and Girls Club. I have had the joy of seeing Josh Kelly, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, open a second after-school site.
I also serve on the board of directors for the Hernando County Education Foundation, whose goals are to educate the community to the needs of local schools and students and to encourage business and community involvement in our public education system.
I'm a member of the General Federation of Women's Club Spring Hill Service League, which is not a social club, but rather a nonprofit organization whose members are on a mission to offer support and assistance.
The club was instrumental in getting the Children's Advocacy Center up and going, and I was fortunate to get a grant for them. This organization provides a safe child-friendly place where a child who has been abused can relate his/her story only once to caring individuals and law enforcement personnel, thus reducing the stress of the tragic event the child has suffered at the hands of others, and often a friend or other family member. The club also helps children at the Family Visitation Center of Hernando County each Christmas through its Angel Tree program.
After meeting Debbie Andrews, executive director of the Dawn Center, I agreed to research funding sources for their many needs and write grant proposals. The Dawn Center provides abused women and their children with a safe, clean and nurturing place to live.
I also write grants for organizations including the Point of Prevention, a nonprofit organization my daughter, Kathleen Kerr, and her friend, Jan McAlear, started a few years ago, and of which I served on the board. The two recently went to Tanzania to teach more than 750 para-professionals HIV/AIDS prevention classes. They even planned ahead and had the education materials translated into the native language.
I also support my daughter, Victoria Holbrook, who has had epilepsy since she was 13 months, but doesn't let it keep her from being a patient ambassador for Vegus Nerve Stimulator. Not only does she speak at conferences and workshops, but she was one of the first epileptics to have the Vegus Nerve Stimulator implanted in 1999 and encouraged Naples Community Hospital to videotape the procedure and broadcast it on health programs.
Do you have any special hobbies?
Knitting, reading and baby-sitting the two gifted children of my doctor who always challenged me to stay one step ahead of them in their musical and educational endeavors.
What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?
Being a terrible cook, my husband and I support the restaurants in Hernando County. We also like to go to events that the nonprofit agencies put on during the snowbird season, and watch the sunset at Hernando Beach.
What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?
I wish more people would volunteer to serve others who do not have the good fortune to be healthy, wealthy or wise (educated). I challenge others to join RSVP, GFWC, their place of worship or any one of the many social service organizations in Hernando County.
Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.
None of what I do would be possible without the help and support of my loving husband, Harry, who also is the first in our neighborhood to help others.
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 email@example.com or (352) 848-1438.