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Brooksville foster mom is honored by governor

(ran PC edition of Pasco Times)

Jeb Bush's first Points of Light Award goes to a volunteer whose "love and compassion are boundless." She has taken in 13 special-needs kids.

Vertyle Moss of Brooksville, a foster mother of 13, was named on Tuesday as the first to receive a Points of Light Award from Gov. Jeb Bush.

The award is intended to recognize exemplary community volunteers in hopes of encouraging volunteerism.

"I really think we need to reach out and make sure we include the people that are truly the unsung heros," Bush said during the announcement Tuesday in Tallahassee.

The governor's program is his latest effort to foster a spirit of volunteerism in the state. It is modeled after a program his father started nationwide. Bush has also called upon people to donate their time to mentor a child.

Volunteers will be honored weekly with the Points of Light Award, starting on April 9 during National Volunteer Week. The winners will alternate between volunteers age 21 and older and those younger than 21.

Moss caught Bush's attention in December, when 12 of her foster children sang at a "Summit of Faith" in Tallahassee attended by Bush and many of the state's highest-ranking politicians.

On Tuesday, Bush described Moss as a woman whose "love and compassion are boundless."

After seeing a television ad on foster parents, Moss took in her first child in 1988. She now has 13, ranging in age from 1 to 13. She has adopted five of them. Five of the children have HIV.

A former GTE employee, Moss took early retirement in 1992 after one of her foster children became so sick that the doctors thought he would not make it. He is now 7.

Moss, a 54-year-old woman who is unmarried and has no biological children of her own, lives in a mobile home near Brooksville. As her family has grown, she has added a room to the double-wide mobile home, added a single-wide to that and added on a family room.

She said she hopes to build a house on land she bought in Hernando. Now, Moss has to pack up the children whenever there is a serious storm. Bush said he hopes recognition from the award will inspire someone to come forward to help Moss realize her dream.

"Think of yourselves as a PR agent," Bush told members of the media gathered at Tuesday's news conference, "and tell the story so Vertyle's dream will come true."

Moss said the local community has helped her in numerous ways. A contractor has promised to help build the house. Moss pays for piano lessons for five of her kids, and the piano teacher donates lessons for the rest. Five of the children attend a magnet school.

Moss said she hopes her example will encourage others to become foster parents. The Tampa Bay area, and the state, faces chronic shortages of people willing to care for foster kids.

"It's been so rewarding," she said. "There's this stigma associated with foster care, but these kids are defying all that. I want people to see that there is no difference with these children."

Nominees for the Points of Light Award will be evaluated by a panel of leaders in the fields of volunteerism and community service. The panel will then submit its recommendations to the governor. Nominations may be submitted to the panel on a continuing basis.

The award carries no financial incentive, but two corporations _ Royal Caribbean Cruises of Miami and Intermedia Communications of Tampa _ are sponsoring the program to cover the costs of administering it.

Nomination forms will be available by calling the Florida Commission on Community Service at (850) 921-5172 or by accessing its Web site at www.fccs.org.

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