Out and About

Go-Givers: Stephanie Welchans

By Julie Kerns Garmendia Resident Community News Stephanie Welchans cheerfully recalls her mother Susan Sumner “volunteering” she and her two younger brothers from a very early age to help out at the local hospital when the women’s auxiliary would hold raffles or sell baked goods. “The idea my mother tried to instill in us was […]

Go-Givers: Mary Swart

Go-Givers: Mary Swart

By Julie Kerns Garmendia   After retirement from Bellsouth’s Human Resources department in 2003, Mary Swart’s years of volunteering meant that her charities just moved higher on her priority list. She refers to husband Michael, a retired colonel of the U.S. Army Reserves who also worked for the U.S. Department of Labor, as her dependable […]

Go-Givers: Kevin Kuzel

Go-Givers: Kevin Kuzel

By Julie Kerns Garmendia   In 2001 Kevin Kuzel, a former U.S. Navy Pilot who heartily calls himself a diehard Texan, moved to Jacksonville from Dallas. His roots in a Dallas historic district neighborhood meant that Commander Kuzel was immediately drawn to the Avondale Riverside area. The Kuzels are currently in the midst of a […]

Go-Giver: Melissa Bartley

Go-Giver: Melissa Bartley

By Julie Kerns Garmendia   Volunteers commit to charities for a variety of reasons. In Melissa Bartley’s case, it was her grandfather. Henry Solomon’s rapid diagnosis and death from brain cancer led Bartley to the Northeast Florida American Cancer Society. After a difficult experience with hospice and Bartley’s personal feelings of loss and grief, she […]

Go-Giver: Lanelle Phillmon

Go-Giver: Lanelle Phillmon

By Julie Kerns Garmendia   American Cancer Society volunteer Lanelle Phillmon credits the U.S. Navy’s  volunteer service program — and her mother’s example — for setting her on a course of helping nonprofit organizations. Chief Phillmon, who just completed a 27-year naval career, retired to the San Jose area in November 2010 and jumped right […]

Go Giver: Sander Moody

Go Giver: Sander Moody

By Julie Kerns Garmendia   Sander Moody is a devoted father, husband, attorney and volunteer who relocated to Jacksonville from a successful law practice in New York City in 1998 when he and his physician wife, Laura, were ready to start their family. The couple chose an Avondale Tudor style home that had been remodeled […]

Go Giver: George Foote

Go Giver: George Foote

By Julie Kerns Garmendia   George Foote is the kind of dad and volunteer who can motivate an extremely busy middle school principal to alert the community newspaper that he should be recognized for exceptional contributions to Julia Landon College Preparatory and Leadership Development School in San Marco. Foote and his wife Michele, a senior […]

Go-Giver: Mark Rosenberg

Go-Giver: Mark Rosenberg

By Julie Kerns
Garmendia

Mark
Rosenberg, a Jacksonville native and local attorney with a private law practice
in Riverside, lives with his wife Natalie, daughter Charlotte 10, and son
William 6 1/2, in Avondale. Several years ago Rosenberg first began supporting
the nonprofit The Sanctuary on Eighth Street through a friend’s involvement.
Later a chance personal encounter with the Sanctuary children introduced
Rosenberg to the group of underprivileged children and teens who would become
nearly a second family to the busy attorney.

“At
first I was just the typical check-writing supporter of The Sanctuary — then we
ran into the kids at Boone Park where they were enjoying an Easter egg hunt,
” Rosenberg said. He explained how he reconnected with Sanctuary director
and nearby resident, Vicky Watkins during the run-in. Rosenberg’s interest in
the Sanctuary was rekindled a year later in the same park. “I was at the
park again with my family when I saw a friend, Robert George, who was trying to
set up a ‘not-for-profit week’ at Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain, North Carolina
for kids who would never be able to attend summer camp otherwise. I knew I
could pull some people together and make something happen. I wanted to help
send Sanctuary children to the camp, and through that goal, my involvement with
the organization grew over time.”

Through
his connection with the summer camp, Rosenberg was able to arrange for the
first group of five Sanctuary children to attend Rockmont. For the past several
summers, more children have earned the trip through their behavior and academic
accomplishments in The Sanctuary’s enrichment and scholastic programs.

“I
got to know the children, the staff and their mission and began to spend alot
of time there personally, as well as working for them on my own,” he said. “I
was asked to join the board and served as president for the past two years.
Those kids are my little friends and they mean alot to me. What I do for them
pales in comparison to the blessings they have brought to my life.”

The
Sanctuary began as Urban Ministries of Springfield in 1992. The organization
changed its name to The Sanctuary on Eighth Street in 2001. The organization
will celebrate its 20th anniversary September 21, according to Rosenberg. It
has grown from an after-school program for a few children to serving more than
100 inner-city children and youth in after-school, summer school and a small,
but successful home school program taught entirely by volunteer teachers. Their
programs seek to encourage and empower youth and families in need by
ministering to their spiritual, physical, social and intellectual needs with
the goal of expanding opportunities through education, social services,
recreation and the arts.

“It’s
funny, but the Sanctuary Board is littered with my friends because not only did
I want to bring on more strong board members, but I know how my own involvement
has affected my life and I want to share that,” Rosenberg said. “A perfect
example of how we can encourage and help the kids, is their Sanctuary
basketball team practices and games. Sometimes I have been the only adult there
to cheer for their games, or it’s just me and my children, the staff, teachers
or other board members watching them play. It just means so much to them.”

Rosenberg
has already contributed successful ideas to help The Sanctuary kids and he has
more future plans and goals. His daughter Charlotte’s Brownie Troop painted the
computer lab. He came up with the idea for Party Partners, where a church or
other community group hosts a party for the Sanctuary children.

“When
I learned that many of the Sanctuary children never had parties given for them,
even birthday parties, all I could think of was how many parents and
grandparents of my childrens’ classmates attend the many parties and holiday
celebrations held at Riverside Presbyterian Day School. There is always an
abundance of families, food and fun and the comparison to these children was
heartbreaking to me. I just wanted to change that,” he said.

Now
several churches and organizations host parties for every holiday at The
Sanctuary, and many return each year. Rosenberg said the program has been a
wonderful success for the children and has simultaneously introduced many
people in the community to the Sanctuary children, their programs and needs.

Vicky
Watkins, executive director, says that Rosenberg transformed everything since
he came, through his personal involvement and commitment to the children. She
called him a blessing to the organization and a strong, committed leader with
vision, who gets things done and always follows through.

“Mark
strengthened the board tremendously and expanded our reach into the community.
He brought so much to us with his full involvement at every level,”
Watkins said. ” He personally gets to know the kids and loves them and his
commitment to their well being and futures is contagious.”

Rosenberg’s
goals for the future of The Sanctuary focus on funding and sustainability of
programs so that every child can improve behavior, school performance and
succeed in life. His concern when he speaks of their difficulties and
challenges at home and elsewhere is sincere. He said they have little
opportunity to meet their personal potential, that most are working below grade
level and some are in danger of dropping out of school. He proudly speaks of
The Sanctuary’s goal of helping children to attend KIPP Impact Middle School
(charter) or a public magnet school, and that three alumni entered college last
year. One deserving student received a full scholarship.

The
Rosenberg family moved to Avondale from San Marco when Natalie found her dream
Tudor style home, which they completely renovated. Later Mark relocated his
office to Riverside. Natalie is also an attorney, a fulltime mother and active
volunteer. She too can be found with the Sanctuary children, where she listens to
their individual reading. Natalie serves on the Women’s Board of Wolfson
Children’s Hospital. The Rosenbergs also support the Sulzbacher Center, the
Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, American Cancer Society, the Juvenile
Diabetes Research Foundation and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“I
just want to help these kids become all that they can be. I want to do for them
what I do for my own children,” he said.