On the town: Pinellas Equality Florida and PARC

Guest speaker Sheldon Harnik, left, with awardee Lisa Wheeler Brown and film critic Jeffrey Lyons at the Florida Holocaust Museum benefit.
Guest speaker Sheldon Harnik, left, with awardee Lisa Wheeler Brown and film critic Jeffrey Lyons at the Florida Holocaust Museum benefit.
Published Apr. 26, 2013


More than 500 guests made for a sold-out "Many Voices, One Goal" gala for Pinellas Equality Florida, where attendees entered the Dalí Museum on a red carpet and bid on experiences such as Centre Court seats at the Wimbledon tennis finals. The evening featured a performance by Freefall Theatre's Matt McGee.

Pinellas development officer Todd Richardson said the event set a couple of records: for attendance at an Equality Florida benefit statewide, and for money raised at a Pinellas Equality Florida event — "$223,000 and counting," he said.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster welcomed guests, along with Equality Florida executive director Nadine Smith. Also attending were former Florida chief financial officer Alex Sink, St. Petersburg City Council members Leslie Curran, Jeff Danner and Steve Kornell, Largo Mayor Pat Girard and Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith.

Katee Tully was chairwoman of the benefit's steering committee, which included Brian Bailey, Larry Biddle, Linda Breen, Joel Briskman, Tim Cain, Robert Danielson, David Downing, Lori Givens, Karen Goforth, Lisa Grattan, Sheree Graves, Gary Hess, Annie Hiotis, Carol Hixson, Jeffrey Jew, Jacqueline MacNeil, Douglas L. McElhaney, Nora Reavis, Darden Rice, Chris Rudisill and Toni Russell.


Several hundred longtime PARC supporters filled the Grand Ballroom in St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Arts to celebrate the organization's 60th anniversary.

There were lots of familiar faces in the room, including past and present board of directors members and other supporters. Curt Thomas, who led PARC as president and chief executive for 13 years before retiring to the Villages in 2006, drove south with his wife, Peggy, for the festivities.

The evening included presentations from current president and chief executive officer Karen Higgins, Mayor Bill Foster, board chairman Dr. Frank Farkas, master of ceremonies and board member Dick Crippen, Jean Muller and daughter Michelle Muller Detweiler, Tiffany Chaple and past chairwoman Carol Holland.

St. Petersburg native and keynote speaker Doug Ibold, a film and Emmy-winning TV editor whose credits include Magnum, P.I.; Miami Vice; Law & Order and Law & Order SVU, talked about PARC's origins.

In 1952, his mother, Edythe Ibold, placed a small notice in the Evening Independent inviting other parents of children with developmental disabilities to a meeting in St. Petersburg's City Hall. (Daughter Midge was born with Down syndrome.) Because of the response, PARC was chartered in 1953 and serves more than 800 clients per year.


Somewhere, some troupe is performing Fiddler on the Roof right now, film critic Jeffrey Lyons asserted at "To Life: the Power of Stories," the annual benefit for the Florida Holocaust Museum, held in the Mahaffey Theater. Film clips prompted Lyons' questions for his cousin Sheldon Harnick, 89, lyricist of the beloved musical.

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Museum director Beth Gelman and president Marty Borell welcomed 500 guests to an international buffet — corned beef and matzo ball soup to Chinese stir fry — amid an auction of artwork.

Sandy Mermelstein presented the 2013 Loebenberg Humanitarian Award to Lisa Wheeler-Brown, who "learned the meaning of bystander" when her son was murdered "and no one spoke up due to St. Petersburg's no-snitching culture." She applies lessons of the Holocaust to the museum's "Speak Up Speak Now!" program, she said, which the Department of Justice noted when presenting her a National Crime Victims' Special Courage Award on April 21.

Harnick's iconic song, Sunrise, Sunset, reverberated through the hall as the 500 guests headed home, filled with Tradition, Tradition!

Times staff writer Amy Scherzer contributed to this report.