Spend five minutes with these five and see where these social butterflies land. Rave or rant, they're first to spread the word of Tampa's latest triumph or trial. They can't wait to tell you what they ate at a new restaurant, enjoyed at the theater, overheard at the gym. They all have agendas - social agendas that include making Tampa artsy, philanthropic, entertaining, green and safe.
Ian Beckles, 42
Sphere of influence: Beckles, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman, is a radio host on 620 WDAE-AM. He also co-owns the AS*I*BE clothing line and two projects that will launch soon: Fly Jewelry, a retail line of "edgy" pieces for men and women, and AS*I*BE magazine, which will feature stories on sports, nutrition, fashion, trends and events in Tampa.
Social activities:Beckles will host the sixth annual Blue and White Party on Nov. 21 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The poolside party benefits the Children's Cancer Center. To persuade people to dip into their pockets and buy tickets in a year when many are pulling back, he pledges, "we're throwing the best party at the best venue," said Beckles. "The money's staying here and it's definitely for a great cause."
Perspective:The Hard Rock keeps impressing Beckles with its seemingly constant expansion and its ability to attract "big-time" business people. "I just think it's running Tampa right now," he said. The West Shore area resident loves the new boutiques moving into the SoHo area as well as established restaurants such as Donatello and Ocean Prime.
- Justin George, Times Staff Writer
Myah Moore, 28
Sphere of influence: For almost a year, Moore has served as director of development for Global Initiatives at the University of South Florida after holding a similar position at Columbia University in New York. She oversees fundraising for international programming and scholarships at USF. While the recession has taken its toll on charitable giving, Moore urges people to give their time, if not their money. The one-time Miss Oregon volunteers for the Ophelia Project of Tampa Bay, which links girls with mentors and groups that develop leaders and build self-esteem.
Social activities:She hosts monthly networking events for young professional women in Tampa. (You can join the happy hour events by e-mailing email@example.com.) "I really feel like I gain a lot by helping people feel empowered and have a voice," said Moore, who lives on Bayshore Boulevard in South Tampa.
Perspective:After living in New York, Moore said she hates having to drive to social functions and restaurants spread around the area. Still, she likes it here. "The weather is always incredible and you can always do so many outdoor activities."
- Justin George, Times Staff Writer
Molly James, 42
Sphere of Influence: James took over as director of development duties at Tampa Art Museum in February. A childhood steeped in culture - her mother reviewed dance companies - exposed her to a range of arts.
"I was dragged to every event and show," said James, who lives in Tampa's Beach Park neighborhood with husband Hunt James and their two children.
Social activities:Tampa's new museum opens Feb. 5 with a major exhibition of Henri Matisse prints, paintings and sculpture. James is planning a gala grand opening, but first will fete patron members at a cocktail party at Neiman Marcus on Sept. 24. Beyond the black-tie crowd, her outreach expands to students, young families and minorities.
"There are amazing opportunities in our new museum," James said. "We plan to engage the community at a new level."
Perspective:These days, she hears people say they are picking and choosing where to spend their dollars. "Everyone is prioritizing. I'm finding out what those priorities are."
- Elisabeth Parker, Times Staff Writer
Aakash Patel, 25
Sphere of influence: The man-about-town handles public relations and entertainment for Westin Tampa Bay and its hip bar, Aquaknox. In 2008, the Tampa Bay Business Journal named him an Up and Comer in its 30 under 30 category.
You'll hear Patel promoting Voices for Children, the fundraising arm of the Guardian ad Litem program, as a board member and volunteer. And on Sept. 25, look for him behind the blender as a celebrity bartender at 717 South, with tips going to the Indo-US Chamber of Commerce. The Sickles High grad also raises money for Florida State as a Seminole Torchbearer board member.
Social activities:He hates to miss a party and hopes the economy doesn't doom Tampa's social scene or fundraising efforts for local charities. So far, "people are getting creative in the way they do events and how they contribute," said Patel. "The big thing is staying persistent and everyone is staying positive."
Perspective:There's not much new in Tampa this year, with the lagging economy, but budget-shrinking mindsets cause people to get back to their roots. "People are going back to where they used to hang out, so other businesses are doing well," he said.
- Amy Mariani, Times Staff Writer
Jim Henning, 48
Sphere of influence:Got e-vites? Henning blasts his vast e-mail base to shout out where to be seen on the scene. Henning's grandfather was a Lutheran minister who was active in the community. His mother was the same way, and now so is he.
"It just seems right," said Henning, a Realtor. "Having the ability to make money is having the ability and responsibility to give back."
Social activities:Numerous charities have benefitted from his philanthropic itch, such as University Community Hospital Foundation. As last year's Rock the Cradle party co-chair he raised thousands of dollars for the neonatal unit. He will show off his dance moves Sept. 26 for Dancing with the Stars Tampa Bay. The event enables Heartbeat International to provide life-saving cardiac pacemakers, defibrillators and other implantable cardiac devices to patients in developing countries.
Perspective:Despite the economy, Henning says Tampa's social scene is adapting. The big galas with high numbers are dwindling out with the exception of a few. Smaller gatherings seem to be the trend with less black-tie and more jackets. Organizations will lower prices for more guests to attend and enjoy.
- Stephanie Bolling, Times Staff Writer