Thursday, April 12, 2018

April 12, 2018

      You have to admit we are quite a handsome group of retired educators.  Considering what we have been through in our careers, we have emerged in very fine fettle.  I heard once that what you are inside is what you will resemble when you get older.  We were good people, so we look good now.  Agreed?
      We had 81 reservations for our March meeting.  There may have been more added later.  Our numbers are strong and we continue to grow and to prosper.  We enjoy coming to meetings and renewing old and new friendships.  We also see the need for remaining informed about the actions of the School Board in Tallahassee (the Legislature) as it affects not just us, but present educators and children.  We give back to the community with our scholarships, our volunteering in the schools, and our wealth of knowledge about education, which we are happy to share with those who ask for it. 
      As an example, Bruce Dietch, member and retired English teacher from Sugg Middle, was recently honored with two awards.  One is from the Manatee Schools for Senior Volunteer of the Year and the other from the State of Florida as one of five Senior Adult Volunteers of the Year. 
      Dr. Mona Jain, also a long-time member of MCREA, was honored by having a new Manatee County middle school named after her. 
      We have distributed 275 books to schools so far this year.  Oneco, Rogers Gardens, Samoset, Ballard, Tillman, and Sugg Middle were the schools so far to get books.  Connie Myers delivered books to Ballard.  Carol Champlain took some to Tillman, and Bruce Deitch took 25 middle school level books to Sugg.  We have enough now for 50 more to be distributed.  Prine has been suggested and I need someone who knows that school to volunteer to take them there.  We try to give them to the principal with the stipulation that they must be given to the kids, not to the library or to a classroom collection.  Let me know if you know Prine, and I will see that you get a box of books to deliver there.  Please continue gathering your books and shopping for some at the used book stores and your grandchildren's book shelves.  Bring them to the meetings.  FREA sends me some pretty bookplates to stick in each book that says they are from MCREA.
      At our last meeting, we voted to name one of our MCREA Scholarships, the Elaine Brown Scholarship.  Elaine was a tireless chair of the scholarship committee who believed that our help would create future teachers.  
      If you have received a notice from the State FREA that your membership is due, be aware that you should pay those dues through your local MCREA group so that you will receive membership in both groups.  I think FREA sends those out because some counties do not have active Retired Educator groups.  By the way, we are accepting membership dues for next year now and they can be paid at a meeting or by mail to your MCREA Treasurer, Judy Bodmer.
      At our last meeting, Adam Stockdale gave us an overview of the Robinson's Preserve as it now stands and as it will change in the future.  It covers 487 acres and has 6 miles of trails. The Valentine House, which was moved from Palmetto by water, offers art exhibits and other events.  There is a kayak launching area and storage for kayaks as well.  A salt marsh, a primitive trail with wild flowers and butterflies, marsh rabbits and fiddler crabs, an observation tower to overlook the Preserve, the Perico Boardwalk, a rubberized 1.5 mile running track, and a new education center were among the must-sees.  Oh, and they need volunteers.  Who better than educators to help?
      Our April 19 meeting at the IMG Golf Club will feature Dr. Diana Greene as our speaker. We have scheduled Dr. Greene before but because of last minute demands on her time, she could not be with us.  We hope she will be able to get away from what must be a very taxing position for a little while, to speak to us.  I have heard her speak at other occasions and she is very informed and surprisingly unruffled, calm, and friendly. How she is coping with the school board in disarray, the county balking at sharing the costs of policing the schools, and all the other items on her plate, I can only imagine.  Come and find out.
      If you do not hear from your caller, please call Mary Ann Jensen at 756-7603 or Phyllis Omilak at 723-1360 before April 15. 
      See you soon,

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

March 6, 2018

Our second meeting at IMG Golf and Country Club was well attended.  82 signed up and I think there were even more there.
      These past weeks have been difficult ones for all of us in education, especially in Florida.  I know we were all very distressed by the events at Stoneham Douglas High School, so distressed that I have heard from several of you that sleeping has become difficult and that you are experiencing other forms of anxiety.  We know how important each one of those lost kids was, not just to their families and friends, but to the larger community.  Who knows what they might have become and what they might have contributed to the world? 
      The Florida Legislature has reacted in the ways we could have expected.  They dither and worry about their grades from the NRA.  Their most prominent plan is to arm teachers.  We the ones who encourage and elicit learning will now be asked to kill.  Madness, but cheaper than adding more mental health counselors and facilities.  Additional police on the school premises are also planned. 
      Today, in the Bradenton Herald, there was a photo of a new resource officer patrolling the fence line at Prine Elementary School.  Imagine the scenario: a shooter armed with an assault rifle waits until the policeman passes by, then shoots him with his rapid firing weapon designed to kill people.  Or, if the shooter misses, the officer draws his revolver and is shot head on.  I guess that is when the armed teachers would spring to the rescue and probably go down in the next rounds of gunfire from that highly efficient weapon. 
      Meanwhile in Tallahassee, the Legislature is about to pass a bill to get rid of FEA.  Heroic teachers do not require representation to negotiate their salaries or their working conditions.  If MEA would survive, there must be at least 50% of those eligible for membership in the county who have paid their dues.  When I was a member, we seldom had 50% membership, as surprising as that seemed.  I guess the others would have been willing to let the school board decide the salary and work conditions for the employees with no input from the employees.  And that is what will probably happen if the legislation passes.  Oh, also, kids who are bullied can apply for vouchers to private schools.  Private Schools!  No one ever bullies anyone there, I guess.  And what constitutes bullying?  Guide lines for receiving a voucher are not available.  They'll think of those later.
      Okay, rant is over. 
      Joel Hornes, Guardian Ad Litem, discussed his organization.  He asked us to consider volunteering for working with the children who have been removed from their families or who are being returned and must be monitored.  He felt that educators (heroes) like us would be most able to do the job. Perhaps it wasn't the best time to approach us for help, but some of you might consider doing this important service.  According to Hornes, Guardian Ad Litems get a lot of respect and are listened to in the court and in the community
    We have 50 more lovely books to send to Ballard Elementary School.  Connie Myers has volunteered to take them.  I believe I have 50 more for another school.  We will discuss the site at our board meeting.  If you have a school in mind and you would like to deliver a box of books there, please let any member of the board know.  In the meantime, keep those books coming in.  You have done a great job.
      The MCREA Board has decided to discontinue the drive for food items for the Food Bank.  It is very difficult to get them to the pickup point now that we are not at Renaissance.  We will still collect items like toiletries, socks, etc. for the homeless however.
      The time has come to pay your dues for 2018-19.  Bring a check, or cash, to our meeting this month. If we can get most everyone to renew before summer, we will not have to make as many phone calls to remind you, and we can get the Handbook out sooner.  Dues are $55.  Checks should be made out to MCREA. 
      I heard some sad news yesterday.  Elaine Brown passed away Monday morning.  It was very quick, and after transport to the hospital, she did not regain consciousness.  I know I will miss her and I am sure many of you will also.  She led the Scholarship Committee for many years.  The committee still uses her directions and information sheets.  As soon as I hear about her funeral, I will let you know via email.
      Our next meeting will be at 11a.m, on Thursday, March 15, at the IMG Country Club.  If you do not hear from your caller by Saturday, March 10, please call Mary Ann Jensen, 756-7603 to make a reservation.  Our speaker will be Aedan Stockdale who will tell us about opportunities at the Robinson Preserve.
See you there,

Thursday, February 8, 2018

February 8, 2018

    As you can see, we made the change to IMG Country Club in January.  I am happy to report that the lunch was very good, especially the cheesecake dessert.  It was served efficiently and the view was great as usual.  The only drawback, of course, was that we missed our friends at Renaissance who always took such good care of us.  I do like the light at IMG for photos.  They are much sharper, but they do tend to wash the subjects out a bit.  I will try to handle the light better next time.

    Our speaker was Susan Atherton, Director of Charitable Legacy Planning and Development at the Manatee Community Foundation.  She encouraged us to consider leaving funds in our wills for scholarships for students who pursue careers in education.  She also reported that there are scholarships available for such students right now.  If you know someone who is planning to enter or who is already a student at a college, encourage him or her to call the Manatee Community Foundation for information.

    Thanks to your continuing donations of books, we have 50 new ones to take to Samoset Elementary.  Judi Ussery, Diana Buell, and Judy Shostrum will see that they get there and are given to students.  Now we need a new destination for our books.  If you would like to volunteer to distribute some, let me know.  We are trying to choose schools where there is a an abundance of children who do not have ready access to books of their own.  So far, we have been to Oneco, Rogers Gardens, and now Samoset. 

    In my childhood in a remote area of Maine during the Great Depression, I still remember the excitement when our teacher opened the box of books that came from the state capitol of Augusta a few times a year.  We waited on the edge of our seats as she slowly pulled them out one at a time, describing the story in each.  When she finished, we were allowed to raise our hands and hope to be the one chosen to get a book.   Usually, there were enough to go around.  We were allowed to take a book home for a week and then return it for another.  I don't remember how long the box of books was ours, but I do remember hurrying to read one to get another, so it must have been a relatively short period.  Perhaps our books might have a similar effect. 

    Speaking of books, the elementary school book fairs serve much the same purpose.  We may quibble a bit about the high prices on the offerings, but the children that come with their classmates to shop for them have much the same anticipation that I had back in Maine.  The downside, of course, is that often the families cannot afford the prices, especially if there is more than one child in the family.  Helping out at a book fair, I have seen parents come in with a handful of dollars and change to purchase just one that their child had pleaded for, and then be crestfallen when they had not taken into account that there would be a sales tax on the book.  Fortunately, the librarian usually had a slush fund of some sort to help with that. Volunteers often chipped in to help buy a book or two also.

    Besides the books, please remember that we are collecting non-perishable food for the Manatee Food Bank and toiletries and other items for the Salvation Army to disperse to their clients. The winter has been rather harsh this year and it must have been miserable to be homeless. 

    Our speaker in February will be Aedan Stockdale of Guardian Ad Litem.  I hope to see you all there.  Remember the IMG Country Club is the old El Conquistador Country Club located on El Conquistador Avenue.  If you do not hear from your caller, call Mary Ann Jensen, 756-7603.


Monday, January 8, 2018

January 8, 2018

    It was a nostalgic December meeting at Renaissance on 9th.  We will really miss the wonderful lunches that Chef David Meador prepared for us every month.  We will also miss the accessible parking and the comfortable building,  After lunch, President Phyllis Omilak presented a lovely statue of a bird to Chef Meador and to Event Manager Julie Fodor to wish them well as they spread their wings in a new enterprise.  A special collection was taken up to add to the tips for the wait staff.  During our years there, we have become friends with them all.  We hope that Meador and Fodor find a new venue and that we can once again use their services in the fall.
    After lots of exploration, the MCREA Board has chosen the IMG Golf and Country Club as our new venue until our last meeting in May.  We will have a sit down lunch for the same price we were paying at Renaissance on 9th.  If you haven't been there, it is a scenic venue which overlooks Sarasota Bay.  There is an elevator to the second floor dining room.  Parking is plentiful.  This is the former El Conquistador Golf and Country Club. 
     Directions from the south, north, or east are to take either 14th St., 26th St., or 34th St. South to Bayshore Gardens Parkway which becomes El Conquistador Parkway after you cross 34th St.  The Club will be on your left.  Those coming from west Bradenton by way of 75th St., continue straight onto El Conquistador Parkway.  The Club is on your right.
    The meeting will begin at 11:30 as usual, with your arrival earlier to sign in, visit with friends, and find your seat. I know you will love the view.
    Our entertainment at the December meeting was provided by young Lauren Maclean of the Manatee School of the Arts.  She had a surprisingly strong voice and poise for her age.  Brenda Osborne has been of friend of her family since she was a child and was very proud of her.  And she sang Christmas music to put us all in the holiday mood.
    Handbooks are ready and were available at our December meeting.  If you have not picked yours up, they will be there for you at the January 18th meeting.  When you receive your handbook, please check your phone number and your email address to be sure they are correct.  If not, please let Elaine Waldron know.
    Thank you for your donations to the Salvation Army, the Food Bank, and the children's books collection.  I have just put our MCREA label in 48 great books which Deborah Thomas will deliver
to Rogers Gardens Elementary School this month.  We have not chosen a school for our next books, so if you have a suggestion of a school with students who need to have their own books to take home, and if you are familiar with the principal and staff at the school, please let me, Phyllis Omilak, Susan Roe, or Deborah Thomas know.  Now we must get some more books donated to fulfill that need.  Remember that we insist that the books are given directly to students.  They are not for the library or for a classroom library.  Getting a good book into a child's hands in our aim.
    The Legislature in going into session.  Whether that is bad news or good news depends on your interests.  Mostly, in the past years, it has been bad news for us, so we must pay close attention to their actions and be ready to email, write, or call them if we need to.  Susan Davorec, Legislative Chair, will keep us advised. I will also do my best to send out any alerts that we receive from FREA.  In numbers there is strength.
    If you do not hear from your caller by the 13th, our intrepid Phone Committee Chair, Mary Ann Jensen, needs to hear from you.  I say intrepid because she just made the most remarkable recovery from knee replacement surgery that I have ever seen.  You can't keep a good woman down.  Call her at 756-7603.
See you Thursday, January 18, at the IMG Country Club.

Friday, December 8, 2017

December 8, 2017

        The bright and joyous season is upon us.  I have read that Christ was not born in December, but because of the long nights in that month, the date was chosen to bring some light and celebration to what otherwise was a gloomy time of year.  Imagine how dark December must have been when there was no electricity or even the gaslight of later years.  I don't know if that information is "fake news" or the truth, but it doesn't really matter to me.  I enjoy the season with its good thoughts, kindness to strangers, gleeful children, and colorful decorations.  And Christmas music gladdens my heart whether it be "Rudolph" with Gene Autry or the Choir of Westminster Abbey.  I wish you a Merry Christmas too and a respite from all the worries and fears prevalent in this December of 2017.

    We had turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy at our November lunch.  The turkey was moist and tender, like I can never achieve.  Although we are going to miss this wonderful facility with all its lovely parking and other amenities, we will not be losing the chef who will continue to cater our meals at our new location.  I don't know where that will be yet, but I know President Omilak will have some news on December 21.

    Yesterday's Bradenton Herald ran an obituary for Walter Kerce.  Many of us know Joyce, a longtime middle school science teacher, now retired.  His funeral is on Saturday.

    Our Handbooks will be available at this month's meeting.  I hope you will be there to pick yours up.  Otherwise, they will be available again in January. 

    Applications for the FREF Scholarships have been sent out to the high schools.  If you know a senior who is planning a career in education, please see Diana Buell, Scholarship Chair, to pick one up.  The MCREA Scholarship applications will be sent out later in the spring.  Again, please ask for one of them if you have a high school senior in mind.

    Michael Kovaks, a financial advisor who is prepared to help FREA members with their financial matters, spoke at the November meeting.  He has aided some of our members in choosing their Medicare Supplemental Insurance providers and their Medicare Part D Insurance if they are on Medicare and not with a Medicare Advantage provider. He has guided me in the last two years in choosing the Part D program which covers my prescriptions. 

    This year, Michael brought us information on a new Long Term Care Insurance Program.  This is a  hybrid of the old long term care insurance plan and this new plan.  Instead of paying out monthly premiums which a client may never use and will not be able to get back if he or she doesn't use the service, a client can reposition a portion of existing retirement funds.  A death benefit is paid out if the contract was never used.  Michael can be reached at 800-595-8891, or at Michael's company, FRA, is endorsed by FREA.

    Program Chair, Brenda Osborne, has arranged a Christmas program for us which features a young singer from Palmetto High School. 

    Remember the Food Bank, the Salvation Army with small items for their clients, and the children who need to read some great books which we donate to them.

    If you haven't heard from your caller by the 15th, call Phyllis Omilak at 723-1360 or me at 794-1646, and we will see that you are listed.

Merry Getting Ready for Christmas.


Monday, November 6, 2017

November, 2017

It is very difficult to stay upbeat in these days of dreadful events happening almost weekly.  Writing this blog seems unimportant when my thoughts keep turning to those devastated families in Texas who have lost their loved ones to a madman with a high powered assault weapon while they were attending church.  This is just the latest atrocious act against innocent people going about their lives with no idea that those lives would be to be abruptly changed or ended.  Can we all stand up and say, "Stop it!  Make some gun laws to control the sale of assault weapons or lose the next election.  We are coming for you and no gun lobby can change our votes!"  Let's get busy calling and emailing. The Congress must fix this!

Although there weren't as many costumes at our Halloween party this year, our members made up for the loss in numbers with exceptional creativity.
Cute witches.

Sue, the jelly fish

Phantom of the Opera,

Royal garden party hat

Red Hot Mama

Dr. Pumpkin

Red Riding Hood meets Wolf
Once again, Sandra Stephenson entertained us with Halloween Bingo, and the prizes were astounding.  Best of all, the MCREA Scholarship Fund benefitted from your donations of quarters.
Phyllis Omilak, President, reported on the District FREA meeting which was held in Sarasota on Oct. 10th.  MCREA won several awards again this year:  Mac Aldrich is the FREA 2017 Unit Volunteer; our unit received the FREA 2017 Volunteer Services Activity Award; we also received the FREA 2017 Unit Membership Award.
Elaine Waldron, Chair of Membership and the Handbook expects to hand out our new handbooks at the Nov. meeting.  Come and pick yours up fresh off the press.  You can't tell the players without a program. (Yes, I have attended at lot of baseball games.)
At our Nov.15th meeting, Michael Kovacs will speak to us about Medicare and RMD at age 70 and a half.  Please note that the date has been changed to Wednesday, Nov. 15th due to a previous event at Renaissance. 
Because Feeding Empty Little Tummies (FELT) has taken on so many more tummies, they aren't able to store and distribute our books this year.  So, the board has decided to continue distributing books ourselves.  The first group of 50 were taken out to Samoset Elementary by Sue Roe.  She taught and substituted there so she knew the school and its faculty which helped get the books to the kids who would most benefit from them.  As soon as we have another bunch of books, we will see that they get distributed to another school.  If you have a school in mind where you are known and you would like to take some books there, please tell me or any other board member, and we will set you up with books. Now, of course, everything depends on members still donating new or lightly used books.  The central library has them on sale  in their book store.  In addition to the Goodwill Book Store at Tara, there is a new one open on Manatee Ave. W. in the old Goodwill location.  Some of you are still sentimental about those books you loved from your teaching days, but perhaps this is the time to send them on to kids who would love them too.
If you do not hear from your caller for some reason, please call Mary Ann Jensen, 756-7603 or Phyllis Omilak, 723-1360.
See you on Wednesday, Nov. 15th,

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

October, 2017

      Ah, October at last.  Soon I will open our windows and enjoy the autumn breezes as they sweep the dog hair, cat hair, and dust into the corners so that I can catch them better.  If I feel like it.  The older I get, the less I am interested in housework, yard work, and just work in general.  There are so many other interesting things to do.  Although I don't dwell on my demise, I am aware that it can't be too far away, or at least my ability to be active will be curtailed, so I have to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment out of my days.  Now that doesn't mean that I am on the road all the time.  Just reading and watching television take up a lot of my time.  I have to admit that it does take longer to cook dinner now, but I love going to Bay Chorale once a week, even though my pipes are not as agile as they once were.  It's the friends I see there and at AAUW and at MCREA who keep me going. Considering my long life so far, it has always been my family and my friends that were the most important part.  All the achievements, prestige, education, and possessions which once seemed important are like the dust in the corners now.  I can't be bothered wasting time on them.
    Our September meeting was eventful as usual.  We came for the fellowship, the great lunch, and the program, in that order.  Each item met my criteria. We welcomed some new members and I hope more are considering joining us.  Our speakers from Take Stock in Children asked for volunteers to mentor students one day a week through 8-12th grade.  Another new volunteering opportunity that they presented was to become a mentor to a college student who has graduated from the program and may need help managing his or her initial college experience.  As an example, she mentioned one mentor who helped a student who was being overcharged for car repair.  Yes, practical things that we learned from our families, which may not be available to a student who is the first to attend college in his or her family, or who no longer lives at home. 
    Our October meeting is always a highlight of the year.  Come in costume if you can.  We will have a costume parade and prizes for the best.  Through the years, we have seen some highly original ones.  Sandra Stephenson will again lead us in Halloween Bingo with great (well, interesting)  prizes for the winners.  Remember to bring 20 quarters to play.  The money will go to our local MCREA Scholarship. 
    We are still collecting food for the Manatee Food Bank, toiletries and other items for the Salvation Army, and children's books for distribution at as yet undecided venue. FELT is so overwhelmed with children's food distribution that they have little time and no storage space for our books.  Also, they were gifted with a books from an on-line retailer who retired.  Those books are currently being stored by the Kiwanis Club.  If you have a suggestion for a school or other place that would welcome our books, let me know.  The Board will be deciding the venue at our Oct. meeting.
     I hope to see you on Wednesday, Oct. 18.  We cannot meet on our usual Thursday because of an event previously engaged at Renaissance on 9th.  If your caller has not gotten in touch before Oct. 14, please call Mary Ann Jensen at 792-4127 or Phyllis Omilak at 723-1360.