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Volunteer honored for herculean efforts at preserve

Oldsmar resident Catherine Foster won a Partners in Public Service award for environmental management at Brooker Creek Preserve. The awards were handed out by Pinellas County during National Volunteer Appreciation Week April 20-26.

"This year it was a trophy shaped like a globe because the volunteers make a world of difference," said Craig Huegel, manager of Brooker Creek Preserve.

Three years ago, Foster happened to read an article in the Times about the preserve. In it, Huegel was putting out the call for his most important resource: volunteers.

"We needed volunteers for Trash Removal Day," Huegel recalled. "One Saturday a month we'd go out in a big group of people _ we had lots of trash back then."

Not that the preserve is as trash-free and pristine as Huegel would like.

He is disgusted that some people _ especially small contractors _ still dump their waste along the fence line.

"Did you see the Dumpster outside?" Huegel asks his visitor. "It's full. It (represents) a month and a half of removing trash from the same place."

Foster still picks up trash when she sees it.

"People like Cathie are involved in all aspects (of running the preserve)," Huegel said. "She does things well. She doesn't cut corners and is very professional."

Foster's two sons, Justin, 19, and Travis, 15, also do their share for the preserve.

"Craig wanted to put on the nomination form, "She volunteered her two kids, too,' " Foster said. "It's become a family affair."

Since Trash Removal Day years ago, Foster, a teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School in Clearwater, has taken on a variety of tasks.

"She helps with fence line monitoring," Huegel said. "We have 20 miles of fence. (Sometimes) a tree has fallen on it or someone's cut it."

She also guides and organizes walking tours one Saturday a month, one of the reasons she won the award.

"The biggest thing she's done, and why I nominated her, was I had two big projects she was willing to work on," Huegel said.

One is managing the Saturday hikes. The other is getting the summer camp for kids off the ground.

"She listens to messages on our hike line, calls people back, registers them, tells them how to get here and communicates with the trail guides."

Huegel said he tried to take on the herculean task of arranging the hikes while managing the preserve, but it was just too much. Foster stepped in without being asked.

"She knew it was needed," he said. "It helps us immensely."

Foster said she loves taking people out on the trails.

"I feel good when I'm out there," she said. "It's kind of neat to get their (hikers') reaction. They say, "This is Pinellas County?' They hear the wind in the trees. When I started 2{ years ago I thought I'd get tired of it, but I haven't."

She also is working on the summer camp that will help introduce fifth-graders to the preserve and its beauty.

"This is our maiden voyage," said Huegel. "She's helped develop the curriculum and ads. It will be a cool summer this year because of her."

There are only three salaried people who work on the 8,500-acre Brooker Creek Preserve. That's why Huegel depends so heavily on his 60 to 70 active volunteers spanning all ages. Almost none have any experience running a nature preserve. They arrive green and learn on the job, which is just fine by Huegel.

"Every aspect (of the preserve) is driven by volunteers," Huegel said. "They research projects, collect data in the field, help us with our global positioning system, which helps create maps of things that are important to us, and (perform) office management (duties). Some are waist-deep in water with me."

On a recent summery day, Huegel, sitting on the screened-in porch among some hanging flowers he is growing, said the volunteers also do some seed counting.

"One of our on-going projects is studying a rare lily that grows here," he said. "Some of the volunteers count the seeds."

Huegel said it's vital that the preserve is supported by the public in all aspects, from keeping track of the tiniest seeds to helping out when the new education center is built on the land.

"It's important to our long-term health," he said.

Winterguard team hits

international competition

East Lake High School's Winterguard, a drill team, placed eighth at the Winterguard International 1998 World Championships competition in Dayton, Ohio, April 16 and 17.

"The girls themselves are talented," said Carrie Kelton, East Lake's Winterguard director. "They set themselves up real well."

The performance was called Canyon Sketches. Its southwestern flavor caught the judges' eyes.

"You can set whatever scene you want. The floor looked like the inside of a canyon," said Kelton. "We (had) music from Aaron Copeland, a classical composer; tumbleweed; wind sounds; and skirts that looked like Indian blankets."

Seventeen girls make up the Winterguard, known as the "sport of the arts" for its graceful combination of dance, drama and use of equipment. They are: Sarah Heffron, Courtney Jackson, Amanda Kachurak, Pam Harris, Jenni Gillingham, Amy Nettler, LeShayne Pinke, Jenni Nettler, Stacey Eitel, Shandra Pallenick, Michelle Carlson, Lindsay Winder, Summer Harms, Whitney Johns, Melissa Kennedy, Marcia Pascual and Christine Hayes.

The competition was made up of several divisions. The East Lake High Winterguard competed in the Scholastic A Intermediate skill level division along with more than 140 other teams from the United States, Canada and Europe.

Altogether, 500 teams participated.

Kelton is pleased the team placed in the top 15 for the second year in a row. Last year, it placed fifth.

Preparations for the April show were intense.

"We started the last week of November to prepare for this show," said Kelton, herself a former member of a Winterguard based in Tampa called The Company. "We had shows around the state to get ready. We went to six shows and won every one."

After practicing for 10 to 15 hours a week to get into top form, the team can relax for now and enjoy the summer. Kelton said some of the parents worked just as hard as the students and staff.

"Many thanks to all our parents," Kelton said. "They helped a lot this year."

Kelton is already thinking about next season, and said she's "already recruiting new students from middle school."

If you would like to find out more about the Winterguard, call East Lake High School at 942-5419 and ask for the band room.

Different grade levels

study language together

You can't do much if you can't read, said Marianne Wayne, community involvement assistant at Cypress Woods Elementary School. That's why teachers at the school have taken a good idea _ pairing up kindergarten students with fifth-graders to help the younger pupils learn to read and find their way around school _ and made it better.

It's the Reading and Writing Buddies program, and it helps children comprehend and write their own stories.

"Our big goal is reading," said Wayne. "It's our No. 1 school improvement (goal)."

Linda Gildemeister, a kindergarten teacher, said her class teamed up with Barbara DiLeo's fifth-grade class and started creating individual books.

"They were so engaged," said Gildemeister. "It's giving them practice using skills the kindergarteners (will need), and the fifth-graders, their writing and editing skills."

From October to February, fifth-grade students such as Steven Wayne met one-on-one, sometimes two-on-one, with their buddies once a week for a half-hour to work on the project.

"We started with The Gingerbread Man (story)," he said. "Then they would tell us what to write. We let them draw pictures."

Gildemeister thinks practicing with a mentor helps the children learn.

"All schools have reading," she said. "We just decided to add another dimension and focus on skills the children will be assessed on."

Did it work?

"Every one of the kids who did this mastered that section _ language arts," she said.

Gildemeister loves that "her children" can now re-tell a story.

"It's a difficult skill for some kindergarteners," she said.

Even though the books are now complete, the children remain close. Through an in-school postal service, they send mail to each other.

Don't forget _ workshop

can improve memory

Does your child forget what you tell her?

She won't have poor memory as an excuse if you take her to a three-hour practical memory improvement workshop for children being sponsored by Morton Plant Mease Health Care.

"We can help our children develop better memory skills," said Diana Goodwin, coordinator of the Morton Plant Mease Memory Clinic. "Children need opportunities to rehearse, group and organize information, make associations and create personal judgments."

The workshop, from 9 a.m. to noon May 9, will explore memory games, a variety of mnemonic devices and individual learning styles.

Parents are required to attend with their children. Children should bring a pencil and a number (such as a Social Security number) that they would like to commit to memory.

Participants must register in advance by calling 462-7500. The workshop is $15 for the first child and $5 for each additional child. The session will be held at the Palm Harbor Wellness Center, 32672 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor.

Sabetta selected to run

Arthur Rutenberg Homes

A Palm Harbor resident, John A. Sabetta, has been promoted to chief operating officer of Arthur Rutenberg Homes Inc. of Clearwater.

According to Chief Executive Officer Arthur Rutenberg, Sabetta will be responsible for all day-to-day operations of the corporation, which is a franchiser of home-building companies. In addition to supervising a corporate staff of about 50, Sabetta will interact with the company's 31 franchises in Florida, Alabama and Louisiana.

Sabetta previously owned and operated his own residential construction firm in New Jersey. He joined Arthur Rutenberg Homes in 1992.

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