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New neighbors make instant friendships

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APOLLO BEACH - Moving to a new neighborhood, having a sick spouse or child, or suddenly becoming widowed are experiences no one wants to face alone.

And what about that dreaded call in the middle of the night? After receiving it, how do you know who to call to help?  

The MiraBay Ladies have solved those problems with an organization that automatically takes in anyone who moves into their community as soon as they apply.

What’s more, the group also does things just for fun!

“It started six-and-a-half years ago with just three people,” said Renate Greenfield, who heads up the organization’s current leadership team. “We now have more than 90 women. When you ‘join’ you’re like family. It’s a wonderful thing, having so many real friends, especially when you first move to a new place and don’t know anyone.”

Penny Fletcher Photo
Karen Stone, Renate Greenfield, Jane Margulies and Mari Tyre form the current leadership team of the MiraBay Ladies, an organization of women living in the Apollo Beach community of MiraBay that does a lot more than just have fun.

The main group meets once a week but there are subgroups for people with specific common interests within the organization as well.

“We take turns planning a weekly event, and they’re all great because everybody wants to be original and have something really fun and unusual,” said leadership group member Mari Tyre. “We have a free event every week, except for the cost of the things we do, of course. We go to museums, movies, have dance classes and luncheons. Once we even had a pajama party.”

The subgroups include bowling and Bunka thread art, various kinds of music and dance, card groups and more.

The women’s husbands get a chance to meet at some of the events and make friends too, added Karen Stone. “The men come to an event, find someone they like or a group that plays their favorite sport and then they can get together or even form their own group.”  

So many of the women in MiraBay are gourmet cooks that meals are interesting, said Jane Margulies. “We’ve even put out a MiraBay Cookbook that’s being sold in Sweetbay,” she added, showing me a copy.

The profits from the cookbook go for community projects, they explained. Like two years ago, when they made enough to provide matching funds for the Apollo Beach Elementary School playground improvement. They also fill local food pantries, donate and volunteer at the Dress for Success program run by the Mary and Martha House shelter for women, and make quilts for the veteran’s hospital.

“We had a fashion show for Second Hand Rose last year. I was a model,” said Karen. Second Hand Rose is a store run by the Mary and Martha House where a better quality of used clothing suitable for office work and job interviews among other things may be purchased.

“Almost everybody who moves to this community comes from somewhere else,” Renate said. “They can have instant friends by becoming one of our group.”

The women perform tasks for each other; like watering plants and pet-sitting when another has to leave town. And they are always on hand for emergencies.

Mari Tyre Photo
Some of the MiraBay Ladies pose for a sunset photo on the beach at Little Harbor in Ruskin.

“We take food to people who have just come home from the hospital, and sometimes line up meals for several months for someone with a long illness or who is in recovery,” Mari said.

Most of the women range in age from their 40s to their 70s but some are younger and others are older than that, Renate said.

Karen said she was glad to be part of a group that is like family. “My husband likes going to plays and I don’t. So he went to a play with some of the others and I went fishing with a friend. We are all comfortable with that. Nobody is uncomfortable going places with members of the group.”

Next month the women have a wine making planned. “We may even create our own label,” Jane said. “The events are always original like that. One subgroup had a cruise for bridge players. And once there was a murder mystery dinner.”

They’re also collecting cell phones for soldiers and are always ready to help out in emergencies by hosting dinners or at least bringing food to memorial services or funerals.

“We put out all-points bulletins if someone needs to borrow something too, like if a grandchild is coming for a visit, we’ll ask who has a high chair or crib and everybody shares what the others need. One of our friend’s husbands had a stroke and was in the hospital for six months. When he was brought home, we had made dozens of ‘welcome home’ signs and posted them all over his front yard,” Karen said. “It made him feel missed, and welcome. It was a really great moment when he pulled up into the yard.”

Many communities have clubs and organizations, but MiraBay Ladies say they pride themselves on creating a second family.

They said they hope that by telling their story other communities might do the same.

For more information visit www.mymirabay.net.


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