PUBLISHED AUG. 11, 2016
By LOIS KINDLE
More than 150 incoming teachers and their principals from a dozen South Shore schools were treated to breakfast, goodies and lots of accolades Aug. 5, courtesy of the SouthShore Chamber of Commerce.
“This event is for the teachers who are new to South Shore and new to the teaching profession,” said Melanie Morrison, the chamber’s executive director. “And it gives us the opportunity to tell them how lucky they are to be here.”
The annual breakfast took place at Southshore Falls in Apollo Beach and was financially supported by five major sponsors: Mosaic; Hillsborough Community College SouthShore Campus; South Bay Hospital; Weichert Realtors Yates & Associates; and Michelle Herndon, of Keller Williams.
Other cash donations came from St. Anne Catholic Church, Suncoast Federal Credit Union, Kids ’R’ Kids Southshore; Rachel’s Family Salon, Tampa Electric Co. and Optical Outfitters; Nova Southeastern University, Sam’s Club — Riverview; Suncoast Community Health Centers, BMO Harris Bank, Nick and Dolores Gagliardi and Tom Grimm.
Six in-kind donors provided food, table linens and door prizes for the event. These included the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI), Firehouse Cultural Center, U.S. Army Recruiters in Brandon, Snap Fitness in Apollo Beach, Ana Banana Fishing Co. and John and Penny Smith, of H&R Block, Apollo Beach and Sun City Center.
Carrie Elwell, chairwoman of the SouthShore Chamber Educational Partnership Committee, welcomed the crowd of educators and gave a brief rundown of how the group supports South Shore’s teachers.
Through a number of initiatives, the 40-member committee — the chamber’s largest — supports the teaching community throughout the school year.
“It meets at a different South Shore school each month and also hosts evening mixers in May during Teacher Appreciation Week,” said Morrison. “Teachers and faculty at these schools know us and make us aware of their ongoing needs. Then, acting as liaison, the committee lets our chamber members know how they can help.
“At more than 400 members, you’d be surprised at how many requests we’re able to fill,” Morrison continued. “Over the past two years, they’ve given $12,000 in (supplies or equipment) donations to fill teacher requests.”
Maribeth Brooks, deputy director of Hillsborough County Public Schools Area 8, represented Area Superintendent Shaylia McRae. Brooks, whose mother, Betty Jo Council, was part of the final graduating class of Wimauma High School and a decades-long Ruskin resident, said she had a special connection to the area.
Welcoming the teachers in attendance, she spoke about the future, how as educators they would have “unique opportunities to make a difference” in the lives of their students and play an important role in “preparing them for life.” She also expressed appreciation for the strong partnership between the chamber and school district.
“We are all here for one reason and that’s to ensure the success of our students,” she said. “We need to engage our students, get them excited to come to school, mentor (and) create leadership opportunities for them and promote and model great character. We need to meet our students where they are and be advocates for them.”
Hillsborough County School Board member Sally Harris also attended the event to welcome the new teachers.
Each received a goody bag filled with supplies, gifts, a Target gift card and one-month free membership to Snaps Fitness. Many also received one of 40 raffle giveaways, which included more supplies and gift cards, plus some big-ticket items like a romantic getaway to Little Harbor, local fishing charter, Fred Rothenbush print and annual MOSI family pass for two.
For information on how you can help fill a teacher’s unbudgeted requests this year, call the chamber at 813-645-1366 or 813-645-3808.