Selby Gardens; CPC; Children first; Boys and Girls Clubs Award


A voice for young people

Selby Botanical Gardens
elects three new directors

The Board of Directors of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens elected three new members. Lawyer Morgan Bentley, journalist Mary Braxton-Joseph and philanthropist Audrey Robbins will each serve three-year terms, which began July 1.

Morgan Bentley has been elected to the board of Selby Gardens.

Bentley is managing partner of the law firm Bentley Goodrich Kison. He focuses his practice on commercial and real estate litigation. Bentley is a past president of the Sarasota County Bar Association, a past member of the Board of Governors of the Florida Bar, and a past chairman of the Florida Commission on Ethics.

Mary Braxton-Joseph was elected to the board of Selby Gardens.

Braxton-Joseph is an Emmy Award-winning television journalist and media consultant. From 1990 to 1995, she was Senior Advisor for Media Relations for the Council on Foundations. Braxton-Joseph also served as Community Affairs and Editorials Manager for WJLA-TV 7, an ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C.

Audrey Robbins has been elected to the board of Selby Gardens.

Marianne D. McComb and Joel Morganroth were re-elected president and vice-president. Former Trustees J. Allison Archbold and Michael J. Wilson each completed nine years of service on the Selby Gardens Board at the end of June.

child protection center
appointed board member

The Child Protection Center has named Mark Kowalski, a longtime community advocate, as its newest member of its board of directors.

Mark Kowalski has been appointed to the Board of Directors of the Center for Child Protection.

“Mark is a dedicated member of the community for many important causes and is passionate about strengthening our world for children,” said CPC Executive Director Doug Staley. “Mark’s addition to our board comes at the perfect time as our needs continue to grow.”

Kowalski has been involved in the greater Sarasota community for several years, serving on the board of directors of the Humane Society of Sarasota County and spending time serving on the Human Services Advisory Council. “I wanted to get more involved in the CPC mission,” Kowalski said. “The work they do is so important, and I felt called to play a bigger role in the community, especially for the kids.”

CPC has served Sarasota and DeSoto counties for over 40 years. Visit or call 941-365-1277.

VIPA appoints new
director of education

The Venice Institute of Performing Arts has appointed Derek Blankenship as Director of Education, overseeing the learning program, coordinating volunteers, reception management and hospitality, and other aspects of the production.

The Venice Institute of Performing Arts has appointed Derek Blankenship Director of Education.

Blankenship comes from a diverse career, including experience in education, hospitality, stage and facility management, lighting/sound and performance. He has worked in several genres and styles, such as studio recording, orchestral, jazz, rock/pop and musical theater in the United States and Europe.

Blankenship previously worked as a professor at the University of Tampa and an instructor at Berkeley Preparatory School and has presented clinics and masterclasses at schools and universities across the country.

Children first get BOA
grant to expand services

Children First received a $20,000 grant to expand its family-strengthening services from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. Bank of America supports Sarasota-Manatee nonprofits by partnering with organizations focused on workforce development and education.

“This funding will allow Children First to expand its ability to help families achieve their financial, educational and career goals to create positive and lasting change at home,” said Bank of America Sarasota-Manatee’s Jamie Kahns.

Founded in 1961, Children First empowers children and families by improving the quality of their lives through a holistic approach to development, education, health and well-being at 15 Sarasota County sites. Call 941-953-3877 or visit

The family promise receives
Paddock Foundation Scholarship

Family Promise of South Sarasota County received a $20,000 grant from the Jerome & Mildred Paddock Foundation.

The Paddock Foundation has supported FPSSC since 2019 with annual grants to support the Open Doors and Bridge Housing programs. The most recent funds will be used for both programs to ensure families find stable housing.

“The grants we receive are an integral part of our mission to provide housing assistance to minor children and their families,” said Executive Director Jennifer Fagenbaum. “We are seeing a greater need than ever to help working families stay in stable housing.”

Around and around…

The Sarasota Literacy Council offers online English lessons for beginners, intermediate and advanced starting in August. Classes will meet via Zoom two evenings a week for 10-week cycles. Practical help is available before classes start. Pre-registration is required by August 5 by calling LCS Program Associate Sandra Beltran at 941-955-0421 or [email protected]

Gulf Cove United Methodist Church (1100 S. McCall Road, Port Charlotte), which offers free dine-in or take-out on the first Monday of each month, postponed the July dinner a week due to the holidays. The July 11 menu, served from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., consists of chicken, baked beans, roll and dessert. Visit or call 941-697-1747 for reservations and/or donations.

Compiled from press releases and community submissions.


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