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Leadership Brandon Class of 2017 builds new Learning Center for Mary & Martha House

Published on: June 7, 2017

The finished Learning Center at Mary & Martha House was previously a garage used to store supplies for the shelter.

The Legacy Project converted a garage into a Learning Center

The Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce’s popular Leadership Brandon program took on a larger-than-usual service project this year with incredible results.

The entire class and community, including key members of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, came together to turn an old garage into a new Learning Center and enclosed storage area for the Mary & Martha House.

The shelter serves victims of domestic violence and homelessness in rural southeastern Hillsborough County. The Mary & Martha House has an incredible track record of transforming lives. The nonprofit will celebrate 35 years of unmasking domestic violence this year, with a gala in June.

“We are delighted with the results – it’s more than we could have ever asked for,” said Laurie Kepler, executive director of the Mary & Martha House.

Drawing on their connections, the members of the class raised nearly $13,000 to build the Learning Center. Title sponsors, Linda and Sam Manci, who own Allegra Marketing Print Mail, were drawn to the project because of their passion for helping children, and their desire to support strong families.

“We were driving down the road, and we were intrigued by a truck we saw with the Mary & Martha House logo on it. We felt compelled to look into that group. Remarkably, just a few days later, one of our clients, Dianna Vannatta, contacted us to print some flyers for the Leadership Brandon Legacy Project. We couldn’t believe the coincidence and felt it was meant to be,” said Linda Manci.

In addition to a $10,000 Title Sponsorship from the Sam & Linda Manci Family Fund, the project also benefited from several large in-kind donations from Brandon Chamber member businesses, including electrical work from Morningstar Electric, and air conditioning services from Ace Heating and Cooling.

Frank Lee’s Custom Painting heard about the project from class member Meghan Daniel and offered not only to paint the interior but the entire exterior.

The Class of 2017 Leadership Brandon team.

Additional sponsors included TECO Energy, Hill Ward Henderson Attorneys at Law, Panera Bread, Black Rock Restaurant, First Citrus Bank, Chuck and Debra Colwill, Waste Management, Commerce Connections and Office Depot’s Business Pro.

One class member, Brandon Regional Hospital Director Shaun Myrtle, is also a state-certified building contractor. He and his brother David Borling handled most of the hard labor, spending countless hours at the Mary & Martha House doing the demolition, framing, insulation, siding, flooring, and finishing trim work themselves.

“We are so proud of this year’s class, and the way they went above and beyond to help this integral community organization serve more women,” said Rick Lewis, who is the chair of the Chambers’ Leadership Program, and was just named the Greater Brandon Chamber’s CEO and president earlier this month.

The Mary & Martha House makes a deep commitment to the women they work with, guiding them through a journey that helps them reclaim their independence, gain employment skills, find work and ultimately find permanent housing. Amazingly, over 97 percent of the women who complete the program move on to successful employment and permanent housing.

For more information, call Peggy Wilson, the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce, 813-689-1221, or visit

To make a donation to help support the Mary and Martha House, call 813-645-7874, or visit

The team guts a garage at the Mary & Martha House shelter to redesign it as a Learning Center.

About the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce:

The Greater Brandon Chamber represents more than 800 businesses and nonprofits in the greater Brandon area. The Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce’s vision is to foster success for our members and the community. Our mission is to provide programs and services benefiting our members. We promote member interests and advocate a favorable business climate, quality of life, and the strategic growth and development of the region.

About Leadership Brandon:

Leadership Brandon connects people with the opportunity to grow as leaders, develop relationships with people of influence and inspires them to make a difference in their business and in the community. Leadership Brandon is a program of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce. 

About Mary & Martha House: 

Mary & Martha House was established in 1982 by three women in the Ruskin community who identified a growing need to provide temporary, emergency shelter and longer-term transitional housing for homeless and abused women and children living in unincorporated Hillsborough County. Mary & Martha House is a private nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation. Today it serves as the only residential shelter located in south Hillsborough County, which serves women with or without children who are homeless and /or victims of domestic violence. Mary & Martha House provides emergency shelter, transitional housing, and comprehensive support services in an environment of dignity, compassion and respect.