Our Community

Uplifting and inspiring stories from around the community.

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 […]

Gettin’ Jiggy with It – learning tips and tricks

Gettin’ Jiggy with It – learning tips and tricks

The Mudville Grille was the place to be if you’re a lure angler in the waterways of Northeast Florida. Captains

Spring break not only time to enjoy outdoor activities with the family

Spring break not only time to enjoy outdoor activities with the family

By Ted and Nathan Miller

Last month was spring break. With the kids out of school for a week and their sports activities put on hold, it was the perfect time to tell them to pack a bag and take off to a favorite destination for a much needed break.
Our great state of Florida offers many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. From fishing to hunting and camping to canoeing, it is virtually impossible to get bored around here. There are activities and destinations for everyone — and many spots are just a few hours away. Let’s take a quick tour from the northeast to the south and back up the west coast.
Amelia Island is a about a 2.5-hour boat run from Jacksonville. Free dockage at the city dock allows you and the family to jump off the boat for the one minute walk to the historic district of Fernandina Beach. Kids will enjoy window-shopping and catching a scoop or two of ice cream at one of the several parlors in the city center. There are many great places to grab lunch as well.

From Fernandina Beach, you can run south down the east coast of Florida to our nation’s oldest city — St. Augustine. At this historic waterfront stop, you can enjoy an inexpensive stay at one of several marina resorts. With a late afternoon walk along the docks, you will witness boats unloading the day’s catch and watch the sun set behind the tuna towers.
Next, we head further south through Crescent Beach, Matanzas Inlet, and Ponce Inlet and into Cape Canaveral. The fishing in this region can be the best in the Southeast. This time of year offers an incredible bull-red run off the coast where the sea turns red with thousands of redfish or you can chase packs of free-swimming cobia heading north for their annual migration.
Looking for a longer trip? Travel further south to Stuart, Vero and Palm Beach. These areas offer a wide range of lodging from 4-star resorts to quaint little fish camps and marina resorts with private dockage. With more than 100 inshore spoil islands in the ICW and the gulf stream being only minutes away from the inlet, this part of Florida offers some of the most accessible inshore and offshore fishing around.

Then there’s Miami and the Keys. With its gin-colored water and local restaurants and marinas, the area boasts some of the freshest fish tacos and cold beverages you can find. When you are through exploring the Gold Coast, travel up the west coast past the Everglades, 10,000 Islands, Naples and Ft. Myers. This gorgeous part of the state offers some of the most beautiful inshore angling in the world. Be sure to use the tracking devise on your GPS: with every canal and mangrove island (over 10,000 of them) looking the same, it can be difficult to find your way out of there.

Heading up the west coast, you will find one of the greatest cheeseburgers the state has to offer. Travel a little further north up the Cultural Coast past Sanibel and Captiva to Cabbage Key at mile marker 60 along the ICW. The dock masters are friendly and will work hard to squeeze your boat into a slip (and they do accept tips). After lunch, head northward to Boca Pass and spend a few hours watching the mayhem and the cluster of agitated anglers tarpon fishing jockeying for position over “The Hole”. This is an area in the pass where the depth goes from 35 down to 74 feet, holding hundreds of fish.

Next — it’s Boca Grande, an area a few miles north of the hole. There, you can leave your boat at the city dock and take a walk into Boca Grande for some ice cream. Golf carts are available for rent as well. Boca Grande is full of great places to eat. A little further north is Gasparilla Island. You can only access the island by boat and truly has one of the most beautiful inlets around.

Traveling further north we enter into the scallop capital of the world in Steinhatchee (STEEN-hat-chee) and Keaton Beach. This family activity has been referred to as ‘easter egg hunting for grown-ups’. I tend to agree. A few recommendations: Pay someone to clean your scallops. Eat dinner at Fiddler’s Restaurant. Buy a koozie at the Sea Hag Marina. Heading further north and west along the panhandle you reach Apalachicola, Port St. Joe, Panama City, Destin and Pensacola. These areas offers some of the whitest beaches, one of the best cobia fishing migrations and some of the best bottom fishing in close proximity to the inlets around. You can fill a fish box full of snapper and grouper (when it’s open) only a few miles offshore. And if you search hard enough, you may be able to find a local restaurant to prepare your catch for you.
Happy exploring.

Go-Giver: Mark Rosenberg

Go-Giver: Mark Rosenberg

By Julie Kerns

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.

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

Go-Giver: Dr. Dean Glassman

Go-Giver: Dr. Dean Glassman

By Julie Kerns

San Marco residents already know that their neighbor, 52-year-old plastic
surgeon Dr. Dean Glassman, has been a medical missionary for years. However,
not many people know the extent of his charitable work as a pediatric
reconstructive surgeon on volunteer trips to Mexico, Nicaragua, Philippines,
Grenada or Brazil — and in Jacksonville with Solace for the Children, a group
providing medical treatment for children from Afghanistan.

wife Lisa accompanied him on early trips to Grenada, and now daughter
Gabriella, 20, has followed in his footsteps. Gabriella joined her father on
his two most recent trips in 2009 and 2011 to Brazil.

first volunteer experience was as a young resident plastic surgeon in 1986. He
agreed to go to the Philippines and operate on children with cleft palates.
Later his friend Doug Campbell, founder of Jacksonville-based Children’s Health
Organization Relief & Educational Services (CHORES), invited him to operate
in Grenada. There he did some cleft palate surgeries and general surgery:
repaired old burns, birth defects, congenital abnormalities and some corrective
eyelid surgeries. In 2003, one of Glassman’s patients volunteered him for
medical mission work in Brazil.

started operating on children from Brazil when one of my patients volunteered
me, and eventually I ended up meeting John Mark Bellington, founder of The
Moses Project in Porto Velho, Brazil,” Glassman said. “The first child came
here to Jacksonville, an 11-year-old with cleft lip who I operated on at
Wolfson. The next year in 2004, she returned, and I operated on her palate.

said his first trip to Brazil was in 2007 and he has returned every two years
since then. Several local doctors, including Timothy Groover, Bruce Maddern
also have joined him.

Velho, capital of the Brazilian state of Rondonia, with a population of
approximately 460,000, is on the banks of the Madeira River in the upper Amazon
Basin, about 100 miles from Bolivia. Most patients are native Amazon Indians
from many tribes and cultures, although in Porto Velho and at Camp Moses
Portuguese is the most common language, according to the Glassmans.

the U.S., children born with cleft palates undergo surgery between six months
and one year of age, and lip surgeries are performed during the first year. In
poor countries, even those with hospitals, there is rarely a surgeon trained in
specialized cleft surgeries. Although the Jacksonville physicians typically see
children in Brazil, adult patients also have been treated. Glassman recalled
one patient who was 37.

“it is much more difficult to
operate on adults, but that patient was all smiles after his successful
surgery,” he said.

Glassman said his patients there
rarely complain about their condition.

are simply grateful. In some cases they must travel to the states for surgery,
but we can handle many operations there. Some procedures are re-doing surgeries
done elsewhere,” he said. “They usually spend one night in the hospital and
then move to The Moses Project Camp outside of town where they recover.”

John Mark Bellington started The Moses Project in 1996 after a medical mission
trip where along with the usual cuts, coughs and worms, a distraught mother
brought her 3-year-old son named Moses who suffered from a rare condition –
rectal atresia. The protrusion of his herniated intestines from his body set in
motion a plan for immediate, life-saving medical evacuation to the U.S. for
treatment, and The Moses Project was born. The project raises funds for medical
expenses, assembles the medical teams, and completes legal paperwork. They also
manage follow-up care for the patients; children from the poorest communities,
where lack of running water and dirt floors are the norm.

The Moses Project Camp the patients are prepped for their surgeries and also
receive after-care. There is a final check-up before we leave, stitches are
removed and instructions left for any follow-up care by plastic or general
surgeons,” Dr. Glassman said. “It’s always hard to leave. My daughter
Gabriella, now pre-med at the University of Florida, has a heart of gold and
she bonded with all the children we saw. On the last trip we also visited an
orphanage and I had to drag her out of there. She didn’t want to leave.”

is following in her father’s footsteps in more ways than one. On the mission
trips she volunteered as surgical assistant and helped wherever needed. After
her first trip she started a club at Bolles to raise funds for The Moses
Project and that has been just one of her many volunteer activities.

have been a volunteer at Shands Hospital-University of Florida assisting the
nurses in recovery, and now I am a volunteer at Shands Children’s Hospital
helping the pediatric immuno-compromised patients,” she said. I do have a soft
spot for surgery after watching what my dad has been able to do for so many. I
also do alot of charity work through my sorority, Kappa Delta, which supports
the Gainesville Child Advocacy Center and the local Girl Scout troop.”

is also a volunteer at Sidney Lanier School in Gainesville; a school for
children with disabilities. There she helps them to complete physical
exercises, participate in creative and social activities, including sports.

want to keep going back to volunteer in Brazil and I am looking for a mission
trip for this summer. Outside of school, I don’t have much free time, but I did
play volleyball in high school and still try to play intramurals, indoor and
sand volleyball for fun,” she said.

Glassman family, Dean, Lisa, daughters Sienna and Gabriella and sons Julian and
Jacob have lived in San Marco 15 years, since moving closer to Baptist Medical
Center and the water. Dea, who originally studied architecture, makes time for
a regular sculpture class, working out and basketball. Despite his busy
schedule and Gabriella’s college workload, both say they are already planning
their return trip to The Moses Project in Brazil. The disfigured children of
the Amazon have captured their hearts.

began this volunteer work because I just wanted to help and do whatever I
could, and I hope to continue going back as long as I can,” Dr. Glassman said.

GO GIVERS: Kayla Johnson

GO GIVERS: Kayla Johnson

Kayla Johnson,
22, is a Jacksonville native who lives right on the edge of San Marco where it
joins San Jose and has always felt part of both neighborhoods. She will soon
graduate with her degree in early childhood education and the goal of
continuing on to earn her master’s degree. Johnson’s volunteer work at DLC
(Developmental Learning Center) Nurse & Learn began as a fulfillment of her
degree requirement, but became much more. She believes it confirmed and
strengthened her desire to specialize in the field of special education.

I was a very little girl, I would pretend that I was teaching my dolls for
hours on end, according to my mother. I think I have always known that I would
teach children, but did not realize I would be so strongly drawn to those with
special needs. I just enjoy interacting with these special kids,” she said.

praised the DLC for its inclusion classes, which bring normally developing
children together with children who have disabilities or special needs. Playing
and learning together at such a young age is wonderful for both groups,
according to Johnson.

are not enough programs available that offer inclusion classes, nor are there
enough openings in those classes for all the children who could benefit. The
children play and learn alongside each other and accept their many differences
in such a natural way. It is a beautiful thing to see them all so happy to be
together and to know they will grow into more compassionate and understanding
adults as a result of their experience in such a diverse, inclusive school,”
Johnson said.

is only the latest community involvement for Johnson, who began to volunteer
during her teens. For three summers, ten hours a week, during high school,
Johnson helped children complete creative arts and crafts projects at Nemours
Children’s Clinic while they waited for their appointments.

not only has a heart for children with disabilities and chronic conditions, she
also is very aware of the many children who face separation that may be long-term
or permanent from one or both parents. She is a longtime supporter of
Angel Tree Christmas, a program of Prison Fellowship. The organization is a
non-profit, Christian charity that sponsors Angel Tree Christmas as a way to
help imprisoned parents maintain their bond with their children. The program
seeks to connect imprisoned parents with their families through the delivery of
Christmas gifts. More than 1.7 million children spend Christmas separated from
their mom or dad, according to the organization.

Fellowship also offers many other programs for inmates and their families,
according to Johnson. The children of inmates suffer during the separation and
can best be described as the invisible, often forgotten victims of their
parent’s mistakes. Prison Fellowship is the only national ministry to focus
attention on the children of inmates. Their research has shown that 1 in 3
prisoners is a parent and approximately 75% of women prisoners are mothers.

Fellowship is such a great organization because not only do they make sure a
parent in prison can give his or her child a gift at Christmas, but they work
to help the inmates and families in so many different ways. They also assist
inmates in the difficult task of assimilating back into their families and the
community when they are released,” Johnson said.

surprisingly, Johnson’s mother Myra Johnson is also a teacher. She instructs
Spanish at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and has been a volunteer in the
community. Mrs. Johnson coordinated the Dreams Come True group at Douglas
Anderson. Johnson’s brother Kyle, 19, and an FSCJ student, was an active
volunteer while in high school who was honored with a scholarship for his

sure that my mother’s volunteer and career activities helped instill in me the
interest in helping others, and also the love of learning and teaching
children. My passion is inspiring kids to want to learn more, whatever their
challenges may be,” she said. “I know that even when I finish school and begin
my career, I will still find time to volunteer in some capacity. I also love
animals and would like to help out at an animal shelter.”

her classes and internship, Johnson has little free time as she nears
graduation, and has had to give up most other activities for now. She is a
member of Lakewood United Methodist Church where she attends with her mother,
brother, and her father, Gene Johnson. Gene is the director of media for The
Dalton Agency. The fifth and furry member of the Johnson family is Teyton,
Kayla’s rescue mutt.

I finish my master’s degree and get settled into my career, I look forward to
taking up yoga classes, something I’ve always wanted to try. As far as looking
ahead farther into the future, some friends and I were just sitting talking
about how we would all like to own a business someday. I don’t know what it
might be yet, but that is definitely a dream in the back of my mind—something
to look forward to after I retire from teaching,” she said.

GO GIVERS: Jane Rogers

GO GIVERS: Jane Rogers

Jane Rogers, 50, retired from her military
career in human resources in 2007 and wasn’t at all sure about the next step in
her life – until she went onto the internet to research volunteer opportunities
in Jacksonville. HandsOn Jacksonville popped up and Rogers recalls her delight
at the one-stop smorgasbord of volunteer positions that appeared alphabetically
by agency.

“There were so many agencies in need of
volunteers I couldn’t believe it. I made full use of that website, going
carefully over all the entries whenever I had free time. You can find out what
the nonprofit does, who they serve and what volunteer jobs are available. It
also explains what each job involves and any other requirements, so before you
even contact them you have a pretty good idea if you’d like to try that
volunteer position. I learned a lot about what charities, service organizations
and nonprofits we have in Jacksonville,” she said.

knowing that she wanted to be productive and maintain a regular volunteer
schedule, so Rogers explored the opportunities until she clicked on DLC
(Developmental Learning Center) Nurse & Learn, Inc. DLC is a special
education school and daycare dedicated to caring for and teaching special needs
children, ages birth to 22, in a loving, Christian atmosphere. A ministry of
the Northeast Florida district of The United Methodist Church, the center is
located inside of Murray Hill United Methodist Church.

I remember of finding DLC was how I felt when I saw the beautiful photographs
of the precious children they help. I just melted. I contacted DLC, set up an
interview and took the tour,” she said. “After I passed the required background
check, I began helping with the infants and toddlers, basically just holding,
feeding and loving them. I always try to be there at the busiest times,
especially meals. The children come in all shapes and sizes with various

days each week, 40 hours a month, Rogers can be found with the kids at DLC. She
said that she loves each one and takes pride in helping them and cheering on
their progress. As they grow, develop and are able to leave for school and the
next steps in their education, Rogers feels torn.

know I’m making a difference in their lives. After I care for them for a couple
of months, when I walk in they will call ‘Miss Jane’, ‘Miss Jane’ and drop
whatever they’re doing and run to me to see who gets picked up first. I get
goose bumps just thinking about how they recognize and reach for me. If I take
a week or two off I can’t wait to get back to see them,” she said. “I’m so
proud of their achievements from small to large. It’s impossible not to become
attached. That bond is what keeps me going back. It is very hard to see them
leave the center, so I just give them all the love and attention I can while I
have them. It’s the most rewarding thing I do.”

and her husband David, a retired military meteorologist now working on
government contracts for aviation clients, moved to Jacksonville for career
reasons. The couple has lived, worked and traveled extensively in the U.S. and
overseas and enjoys planning major trips every year. Besides long walks and
good books, they have found that volunteer work can be as rewarding as a paid
position and the combination has enriched their personal lives, travel and
hobbies even more.

is an avid motorcyclist who began riding when he was just 14-years-old —probably
why Jane has a world of patience for his five motorcycles and 14 dirt bikes. He
is an active member of the BMW Motorcycle Club of Northeast Florida, repairs
his own bikes and enjoys local and regional road trips, or cross-country trips
to destinations like Mexico.

just try not to think about how risky it actually is. He always is dressed in
the full safety gear and helmet and is such a careful and experienced
motorcyclist. Of course traveling on a motorcycle makes the rider simply more
vulnerable in any accident, but he absolutely loves it,” she said.

plans to continue her volunteer work as long as she can and urges others to
take the time to find the perfect agency to help.

don’t think most nonprofits have enough help, and it adds so much to life. I
really enjoy working with the children and believe I am contributing. Anyone
can make a difference to someone in need, no matter what your age, background
or skills may be,” she said. “I realize that not everyone can handle working
with special needs children, but there are so many different ways to help in
the community.”