Tarpon Springs hair stylist perseveres despite health woes, car crashing into salon

After having a car crash through the wall of her salon, a Tarpon Springs woman has been able to keep her business afloat.

In July 2009, two teenagers were evading police after refusing a routine traffic stop, authorities said.

After they sped off, the car slid and crashed through the walls of CK & Company Hair Designs, authorities said.

The teens then fled the scene but were apprehended by police at 2 that morning, authorities said.

Catherine Koursiotis, a stylist for over 30, had to deal with a 10-foot hole in the wall of her salon in the wake of a cardiac catheterization gone wrong earlier that year.

“It was an interesting year, but I’m a survivor. I just keep plugging on, baby,” Koursiotis said.

She improvised, walled up the hole with plywood and was ready to cut hair the next morning.

Koursiotis continues to cut hair and plans to open an advanced beauty education center to teach the next generation of stylists and to help them with their careers.

“(Koursiotis is) not a teacher, (she is) a mentor,” said Pedro Rodriguez, a barber working in her salon. “(She is) someone who’s going to help you and guide you through whatever you’re going through and teach you about ups and downs.”

Video: Community of Tarpon Springs gathers to commemorate Greek independence with day of celebration

TARPON SPRINGS — A sea of blue and white engulfed the streets March 22 as hundreds gathered to celebrate Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire.

The event commemorated the 194th anniversary of the Greek Independence Day and Greek War of Independence, which took place from 1821-1832.

Tarpon Springs has the largest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the U.S. But the festivities draw visitors from all over the state to the downtown sponge docks.

“We’re going to prosper, Tarpon, with our great heritage and our love and care for the community,” said Manoli Stavrakis, president of the Young Adult League from the St. George Greek Orthodox Church.

Although the official date for Greek Independence is March 25, many large cities around the U.S. celebrate it the weekend before.

And celebrate Tarpon Springs did, showcasing Greek songs, dances and food while as revelers paraded through downtown to greet spectators.

Dimitri Kalogiannis, who retrieved the Epiphany cross from the chilly waters of Spring Bayou in 2010,  enjoys the event.

“It’s a beautiful day out here in Tarpon Springs,” Kalogiannis said. “We all come out here to celebrate our Greek heritage and have a good time.”

Brooksville Woman Purchases Lifelong Dream House Despite Rumors of It Being Haunted

Donna Maine Smith has always dreamed of owning an older house. Last May she made that dream come true when she closed on a 133-year-old house in Brooksville.

“We saw (the house) first online and almost didn’t come and see it because it’s supposedly haunted,’” Smith said.

Despite the unkempt state of the home and the neighborhood rumors of the house being haunted, Smith was unwavering in her decision to buy the home.

“Within a week, I decided I was going to buy it,” Smith said. “If you find them online, especially foreclosed houses, you have to be pretty fast.”

Smith’s daughter, Claire Smith, was all in on the idea of buying a house that required some fixing up. She even offered up some of her own time to make sure the house was somewhere she and her mother could live comfortably.

“It was really tough at first,” Claire said. “It felt like things took a really, really long time, and then finally you would see a result and it would feel gratifying. That was like the biggest thing, probably. Just the work on it and how long it took, it’s crazy it’s finally livable. “

Fixing up this old house hasn’t been a quick process, but Donna and Claire are enjoying every minute of it, especially since they are now living in their dream home.

Former MLB hopeful Christopher Reynoso pursues career as a firefighter


RIVERVIEW — Christopher Reynoso is far from  your average 22-year-old. He can’t remember the first time he played baseball, but many of  his fondest memories revolve around the sport. He often spent his afternoons playing baseball with his friends and going to Yankee games with his grandfather.

‪Reynoso played for school baseball teams for years and was offered a full scholarship to Wabash Valley College in Illinois. After a year in school, he received a call from the Diamondbacks organization. They were interested in recruiting him to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and a scout came to see a few of his games.

“He came up to me and asked if I was interested in becoming part of the organization,” Reynoso said.

‪Becoming a Major League Baseball player was Reynoso’s lifelong dream. Unfortunately, his dreams were dashed.

‪“After a few months of strenuous activities and overuse, my shoulder decided to give out on me” Reynoso said.

Reynoso sought medical assistance, but no one could figure out what was wrong with his shoulder. His professional baseball career vanished.

‪Reynoso decided to pursue a different dream–becoming a firefighter. He is an EMT and is going to fire school, where he has learned many new and interesting things.

‪”He called me one day and he told me basically that he had to try and resuscitate an already deceased person,” Reynoso’s best friend Josh Fernandez said.

‪Reynoso is satisfied with the turn his life has taken and is determined to reach his new goal.

Family-owned Spirou’s Cookhouse serves up traditional Greek food in Tarpon Springs

Angela Spirou and Katerina Spirou are working with the rest of their family to run a new Greek restaurant, Spirou’s Cookhouse and Desserts in Tarpon Springs. Katerina moved from Greece years ago and opened the business here.

“It’s different here,” Katerina said. “I try to bring the Greek tradition here with my family and keep it up. I met my husband while he was on vacation in my country, and it was sort of like an arranged-marriage kind of thing.”

Katerina’s mother-in-law, Angela, helps run the business and says there are many benefits of working with family members. She could not think of any negatives when working with each other. The business runs successfully because the family works as a team.

“I have been blessed to work with everyone,” Angela said. “Each family member has something to offer the restaurant, whether it is cooking or serving tables. It is all about communication. If there is some sort of problem that occurs, then we discuss it with one another.”

Spirou’s Cookhouse and Desserts is open seven days a week and focuses on preparing food from scratch. They serve a bit of everything from traditional Greek dishes to homemade pastries and desserts.

NOMAD Art Bus Paints Smiles on Faces of Tampa Bay Children

Carrie Boucher’s mouth moves and syllables pirouette out. Sometimes they’re punctuated by smiles. Sometimes they’re not.

When she talks about the way she started her project — an interactive mobile art machine — you can see the enthusiasm swell in her eyes and pool to her feet in a colorful swirl.

Every so often, she tucks a piece of brown hair behind her ear with paint-stained hands: mermaid blue, ballerina pink and Fruit Gushers green. She continues talking, but the hands tell her story as the former teacher who refused to let art be treated trivially. In fact, Boucher grew up flouting the rules.

“In art class I quietly broke the rules and used tools and materials in any way I imagined might lead me to a new discovery,” Boucher wrote on her blog.

Beneath the dried tempera, her hands are worn. She spent a year teaching art to children in schools before she became “Lead Nomad” in her new venture: an art bus that travels to festivals and occasionally serves as an after-school program.

How could she expect to teach children to create, to express themselves and to love art if they kept getting pulled for FCAT tutoring?

“There will always be children who won’t be good at reading or math,” Boucher said. “But to not give them exposure to other things they might be good at and feel good about that could lead to a career for them is really limiting, and that’s frustrating to me.”

Instead of complaining about the school system, Boucher set out to create.

The art teacher wanted to create a program in St. Petersburg that would offer kids the resources to express themselves through art. She wanted everyone to have access, even if they couldn’t afford it or didn’t have the transportation. As her non-profit’s creed says, she wanted to bring the art-making experience to the people.

The NOMAD Art Bus was born.

From the inside, the bus is a shabby slice of an art classroom. The art lesson changes with the scene, but on one recent day, red Solo cups hugged Crayolas on a long plank where children, parents, and a few hipster strays escape from the mayhem of Localtopia 2015 to fold origami squares into hearts. Volunteers offer their heart-folding guidance and LEDs to nestle in the squares to make their hearts shine.

From the outside, the bus is an art-making temple. It’s hard to imagine the brightly splattered machine as its naked predecessor. The sherbet-colored brushstrokes on its exterior offer excerpts from hundreds of children and families: “Bikes for Life,” “Recycle,” “Love your planet,” “R hearts K,” “Follow me on Instagram,” “Aliens Exist,” and “To Shelby.” Beneath the paint lies ghosts of brushstrokes from thousands more. Although this time the bus is dipped in complementary hues of pinks and oranges, the bus was once a calamity of crayon.

Originally, the nomadic bus was doctor’s-coat-white. You wouldn’t have known the difference between the NOMAD Art Bus and a greasy moving van. Boucher knew something would eventually be painted on the outside of the bus — maybe a mural, she thought.

The monotone mobile made its way to the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts in 2014. The line to get inside the bus was snaking infinitely, and guests were getting bored and leaving. In attempts to keep her guests entertained long enough to stay in line and experience the inside of the bus, Boucher unveiled the crayons, and the iconic colorful exterior of the art bus was born.

Although the team switched to tempera, little has changed since.

When Carina Giuffre, 8, was asked outside about her favorite part of the bus, she held up her dripping pink art wand, appearing lost in introspection.

“Painting,” Carina said.

Washing it is another story.

Strong Dogs wheelchair basketball’s youngest player prepares for national championship game

Adrian Powell is the Tampa Bay Strong Dogs wheelchair basketball team’s youngest player. Powell joined the team in 2010, a year after he was injured.

Powell had never played basketball and relied heavily on his older, more experienced teammates to teach him the sport and provide him with support.

“Everything I learned is from them,” Powell said.

In his first year on the team, the Tampa Bay Strong Dogs played in the wheelchair basketball national championship game. Powell received first-team tournament for that game, and this put him on the recruiting radar.

Powell was recently offered a full scholarship to play basketball at the University of Texas. He is taking classes at Hillsborough Community College to get the credits he needs to start at the University of Texas by next year.

Powell and the Strong Dogs have been practicing every Tuesday and Friday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in preparation for this year’s national championship tournament in April.

Jose Rodriguez, who has been with the team since it began in 2008, feels confident that the team’s practice will pay off this year.

“With the same heart, same intensity, and hopefully we can get it done again,” Rodriguez said.

Before leaving for Kentucky to play in the national championship tournament, the Strong Dogs will get national exposure in their hometown. The team will play a scrimmage game at the halftime of the NCAA Women’s Final Four Championship at the Amalie Arena on April 5.

Tampa radio host shares secret of keeping long-distance marriage thriving

Every love story is different, and those that end like a fairy tale are worth telling.

Ex-reggaeton artist Valerie Morales was at the peak of her career when she met the man of her dreams, Gunny Juan Carlos Morales. He was a fan of her music, and he reached out to her and stole her heart via Myspace.

After realizing the love they shared was like none she had ever experienced, Valerie left her career as an artist to be with the man she loves. AfterJuan returned from Iraq, the couple moved in together and exchanged vows shortly after.

One day, Juan said he was looking online and thought maybe they should get married on a Thursday, Valerie said.

“Yeah, let’s do it,” Valerie said.

Valerie’s love for music never faded, and after she landed a job as a radio host in Tampa, the couple decided to buy a house in the area. Juan is stationed in Boston but plans to retire in five years and settle down in Tampa with his wife and 5-year-old daughter, Dianne.

After a Facetime session with her husband,Valerie revealed the secret to their successful long-distance relationship.

“You have to have a lot of patience and a lot of love,”Valerie said.

Is it true that love always conquers distance? That seems to be the case forJuan and Valerie.

Photo Gallery: Formula Kart Racing brings families together at the Florida Winter Tour Race

Formula Kart Racing is rooted in  family, friendship and competition. From all over the world, competitors and their families join to compete in a safe, yet competitive racing environment. To succeed in this sport, drivers must show high dedication and motivation, as they commonly spend 12 hours at the track daily to prepare for a race. Formula Kart Racing remains one of the few sports where parents and children work together toward a common goal. At the end of a day at the track, even if they were unsuccessful, drivers and their families take away an unforgettable experience. Photos by Kristina Vorndran.

Photo gallery: Colby Parrish and Dunedin’s Enchanted Earth represent the softer side of witchcraft

Going to Enchanted Earth and talking with Colby Parrish was unlike any experience I’ve ever had. Though I’m Christian, and this way of life has never fallen under my beliefs, I find it interesting in getting to know people and trying to understand their mindset on spiritual matters. Colby said his clients are wide-ranging, and many seek out his services if only for an opinion or advice. From a Mormon family, he said nothing has ever spiritually and emotionally connected with him as his current beliefs and practices do. Meeting the owner of the shop, a Stevie Nicks with red hair, as well as some of the other “witches”, I was surprised at how content they seemed. They say they believe there was a Jesus, which shocked me, but that he was just one of the many gods and goddesses that make up the universe. It was clear to me by the end of the conversation that all people, no matter beliefs and practices, simply want to find some kind of comfort in something and the people that share in the same ideologies. Believing is truth in the minds of us all.


Going to Enchanted Earth in Dunedin and talking to Colby Parrish was unlike any experience I have ever had.

Though I believe in Christianity — and this way of life has never fallen under my beliefs — I found it interesting getting to know these people and trying to understand their mindset on spiritual matters.

Parrish said his clients are wide-ranging, and that many seek out his services only for his opinion or advice.

Born into a Mormon family, Parrish said nothing has ever spiritually or emotionally connected with him like his current beliefs and practices.

Meeting the owner of the shop — a Stevie Nicks lookalike but with red hair — as well as others that identify themselves as, “witches,” I was surprised at how content they all seemed.

The witches said they believe there was once a Jesus, which shocked me. But they believe that he was just one of the many gods and goddesses that make up the universe.

It was clear to me by the end of our conversation, that all people — no matter beliefs and practices — simply just want to find some kind of comfort in something, and the people that share in the same ideologies.

To me, believing is truth in the minds of us all.

Photo Gallery: Sisters Celebrate Holi Festival at Riverfront Park in Tampa with Flying Colors

Two sisters experienced the Holi Festival of Colors together for the first time. The Holi Festival is a Hindu religious event that involves wearing white and decorating people with colorful dust and water.  It is the festival of color and love, so everyone is encouraged to decorate one another as well as eat, dance and play.

Sheranjeet Dhillon mentally prepares herslef as her and her sister Teranjeet walk towards growing crowd of participants. "Lets stay together because It's going to be hard to find you considering every other person here is also wearing white."
Sisters Sheranjeet and Tarenjeet Dhillon mentally prepare themselves as they walk toward the growing crowd of Holi festival participants at Riverfront Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 14, 2015. “Lets stay together because It’s going to be hard to find you, considering every other person here is also wearing white,” said one sister to the other. (Photo Credit: Briana Solan) 
Without hesitation Sheran and Teran throw themselves into the event by redecorating each other with as many colors they could find.
Without hesitation Sheran and Teran throw themselves into the Holi festival at Riverfront Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 14, 2015, by redecorating each other with as many colors as they could find. (Photo Credit: Briana Solan)
Packet after packet each try to find the most creative way to decorate the other.
Teran blows color powder into the air at Riverfront Park in Tampa to celebrate the Holi festival on Saturday, March 14, 2015. Packet after packet, each sister tries to find the most creative way to decorate the other.  (Photo Credit: Briana Solan)



Dust stained feet and flip-flops remind Sheran  why she was advised against wearing sneakers to the festival.  "Real shoes would have been a bad idea."
Sheran’s dust-stained feet and flip-flops show why she was advised against wearing sneakers to the Holi festival at Riverfront Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 14, 2015. “Real shoes would have been a bad idea,” said Sheran. (Photo Credit: Briana Solan)


Each empty packet is immediately followed by laughter.
Each empty packet is immediately followed by laughter at the Holi festival at Riverfront Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 14, 2015. (Photo Credit: Briana Solan)


"Why isn't my hair always this beautiful shade of purple?" Sheran admires the beauty of something as simple as dust kissed hair.
Sheran admires the beauty of her dust-kissed hair after the Holi festival at Riverfront Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 14, 2015. Sheran asks, “Why isn’t my hair always this beautiful shade of purple?”  (Photo Credit: Briana Solan)


Sheran takes a moment to watch others try to coat themselves and others around them in colorful dust.
Sheran watches others try to coat themselves and the people around them in colorful dust at the Holi festival at Riverfront Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 14, 2015.  (Photo Credit: Briana Solan)


"Now we eat and reflect." Sheran and Teran each take the time to enjoy food prepared for the festival.  They take this time to enjoy the music and the atmosphere as they reflect on the memorable experience that they shared together.
Sheran and Teran enjoy food prepared for the Holi festival at Riverfront Park in Tampa on Saturday, March 14, 2015. They enjoy the music and the atmosphere as they reflect on the memorable experience they shared.  (Photo Credit: Briana Solan)


Photo gallery: New Bakers Ranch venue mixes the best of elegant and modern decor

Bakers Ranch opened their doors to vendors in the Tampa Bay area to help put their new location on the map. Vendors enjoyed dancing the night away and viewing the numerous set up options available at the ranch to use later for their clients. From a starry night scene outdoors to aerial artists performing above, the night was enjoyed by all.


Bakers Ranch opened its doors to vendors in the Tampa Bay area to help put its new location on the map. Vendors enjoyed dancing and viewing the myriad options available at the ranch for their clients’ events. From a starry night scene to aerial artists performing above guests, Bakers Ranch hosted a memorable evening.

Photo gallery: Tabanero Cigars craftsmen keep art of handmade cigars alive

Tabanero Cigars in historic Ybor City produces some of the finest handmade cigars. Cigar manufacturers originally founded Ybor City, making cigar production an important aspect of the city’s history. The highly skilled Cuban artisans who work at Tabanero Cigars keep the almost-lost art alive.

Photo Gallery: Florida Lottery, Florida Aquarium unveil new scratch-off tickets

On March 12, the Florida Lottery and the Florida Aquarium unveiled their collaboration for the new $25 scratch-off ticket. The Secretary of the Lottery, along with the Aquarium’s president and CEO, put on the event to showcase the new commercial that they filmed in the coral reef exhibit. The event consisted of 10 minutes  of speeches followed by a private tour of the Aquarium’s new learning facilities.

Photo Gallery: Florida City community lays beloved member of the community, Veronica Ann Mills, to rest

Veronica Ann Mills, affectionately known as Ann, was the neighborhood mom in Florida City. After she retired, her family discovered she was chronically ill with hypertension. Mills passed away after a stroke that left her with a failing heart and severe brain damage. This is the story of a community and family who came together to give Ann the goodbye ceremony she deserved.

Founder of Tampa Bay Advocates Against Human Trafficking to speak at USF in April

Pamela Woody rolled down her window as she drove through the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks.

“This restaurant is one of Rachael Ray’s favorite places,” said Woody, pointing to a crowded Greek restaurant. “And that building up ahead, that’s where my friend was sold to different men by her own father.”

Woody is the founder of the Tampa Bay Advocates Against Human Trafficking, a non-profit organization that seeks to prevent human-trafficking movements and assist survivors in the Tampa Bay area.

Woody was exposed to human trafficking in 2007 when a law enforcement officer visited her church. He was hoping to find support and encouragement for a 12-year-old girl who was impregnated by her trafficker.

“We had a shower for her and she didn’t attend — but we didn’t expect her to,” Woody said. “Other churches that were asked to help were putting restraints on her. They would say, ‘If she did this, we will help her,’ which is really no different than what the traffickers were doing to her.”

In 2010, Woody went on to work with World Relief Tampa, an anti-trafficking organization, as a mission mobilizer and helped raise local awareness about human trafficking.

“When I worked with World Relief Tampa, I saw a lot of organizations that were fighting against the same thing, but they weren’t coming together and funneling their efforts together,” Woody said.

Tampa Bay Advocates Against Human Trafficking works to connect volunteers, churches and organizations such as the No More Foundation and Be a Voice Outreach.

“I hope we’re able to raise awareness to the devastation of human trafficking and change laws so they’ll protect the victims and prosecute the offenders,” said Deedee Larreau, a volunteer with Tampa Bay Advocates Against Human Trafficking. “We want to help all of the agencies of the Tampa Bay area work together to end this travesty.”

Woody: “In the community, we are contacted to do presentations. We’ve gone with survivors and had the opportunity to speak at a high school all the way in St. Augustine.”

Woody manages Tampa Bay Advocates Against Human Trafficking’s social media accounts. She uses them to encourage and support other organizations while also posting updates on important legislation.

“There is a bill before the senate right now that will require businesses to post human-trafficking posters in all businesses,” Woody said. “It’s similar to the Workers’ Compensation posters you see, which would be an amazing accomplishment.”

HB 369 is currently before Florida state legislators. The bill will require the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline number to be posted in public areas such as schools and airports.

According to the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Public Affairs, people can be taken into trafficking by many means, including physical force, marriage and false job opportunities.

“When you go to parties, take your own drink that has a lid, and when you go to the bathroom, take it with you,” Woody said. “It seems gross, taking a drink to the bathroom, but someone could put something in there, with or without a lid.”

College-age students, male and female, are at a high risk of being trafficked, according to Woody.

“If you have a roommate, keep track of each other. Keep common sense because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Woody will speak at USF Tampa on Monday, April 13, at 6 p.m. in the  MSC Oval Theater. The event will be hosted by Sigma Delta Tau and Pi Kappa Phi.

Entrepreneur’s healthy Let’s Date Bars fly off shelves of Tampa-area health food stores

More people are becoming health-conscious and concerned about what foods they are putting into their bodies.

Monique Frisco has been busy in the kitchen since her organic, GMO-free and natural date bars are selling in health food stores around Tampa. Let’s Date Bars have been flying off of the shelves.

“When you are consuming products that are genetically modified, our bodies are not necessarily made to adapt to that,” said Frisco. “We are wonderfully made, but our bodies are can only handle so much chemicals and those kinds of things. Today, it’s more straight-cut to the table and there’s a lack of preparation in our food that tears up our intestinal tracts, thus leading to things like fibromyalgia and gout that people come across.”

Adults and children alike enjoy the tasty flavor of Let’s Date Bars over typical processed foods, Frisco says.

“I have one friend that gets a bar every weekend and tears it up in less than a minute, then it’s completely gone,” said Frisco’s son, Everett. “He thinks they are delicious.”

Let’s Date Bars can be found at Abby’s Health & Nutrition, Nutrition Smart, and Jem’s Natural Living.

Video: For Thelma Thompson, family is top priority

Thelma Thompson has demonstrated during the past three decades that family is the most important thing in her life.

Without hesitation, the Temple Terrace resident has seemingly always put her needs aside to help the ones she loves.

It started, Thompson said, after realizing her two grandchildren were not being cared for properly. Thompson — along with her late husband — decided to take on the challenging task of raising them.

But it wasn’t easy.

In 1985, when her husband became paralyzed from the neck down, Thompson faced the difficult reality that she would have to be the sole provider for the family in addition to raising the two children and caring for her husband.

“A lot of worry went through my mind,” Thompson recalled. “How was I going to take care of him? How was I going to meet my bills, since his pay was no longer there? How was I going to take of these two babies? But it all seemed to work out.”

Despite the struggles she faced, Thompson continued to help those in need. Her loving demeanor also drew in several troubled children outside her family.

Thompson received financial and physical aid from her daughter and son-in-law.

“I’ve always taken in kids who seemed to have problems. … ” Thompson said. “I guess it turned out to be between five and 10 kids that I have taken care of that were not mine in any shape or form.”

Nikki James, Thompson’s granddaughter, said she and her younger brother could have potentially lived drastically different lives if it weren’t for Thompson’s generosity.

“They (Thompson and her husband) were always there, and they took me in when the younger parents couldn’t handle the responsibility, and they have made a huge difference in my life,” James said.

Though there were plenty of hardships along the way, Thompson, now 80, said she always remained upbeat.

“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” she said.

Keiser student and nurse balances school with passion for weaponry

One wonders just how much Louis Garcia knows about firearms. His vast knowledge does not cover just guns — it covers all weapons, right down to the primitive bow and arrow.

“The first time I was introduced to a gun, actually, was around 10 years old,” Garcia said. “It was when I went with my father hunting, which has also been a favorite pastime and hobby of mine.”

Garcia, an outdoorsy guy, has honed his skills and developed an impressive vocabulary when speaking about weapons big and small.

“I look at weapons the same way I look at tools,” Garcia said. “They’re lethal, but they’re still tools, mechanisms. And since my father introduced me to them, I’ve been very careful with them.”

Garcia is also a full-time college student and a nurse. He loves what he does and invites the challenges that arise with the rigorous curriculum.

“As a full-time student, I do have to focus more on, of course, studies and put all of my hobbies on the back burner,” he said.

But what attracts him to nursing, a profession that requires patience, love for people and compassion?

“It’s strange to me that he can hunt and fish, but at the same time love people and really care about them and (help) them out,” said his mother, Kathy Zackal.

Garcia said: “It is a job that is not only rewarding, but I also get to be a scientist. We are scientists as much as we are caregivers.”

He plans to graduate this spring from Keiser University.

Goodwill Manasota Vice President Makes Impact in Manatee/Sarasota Area


Veronica Miller is many things. She is a vice president, philanthropist and graphic designer.  She is now the vice president of the foundation for Goodwill Manasota in the Manatee/Sarasota area. She has been working in the nonprofit sector for 25 years , four of which she has spent with Goodwill.

“I have the best job. I get to help promote the mission. That could be through talking to donors, talking to companies and getting them to want to become our partners and sponsor us,” Miller said.

For her, something crazy is always happening. Most recently, it was the Mardi Gras event held annually by the foundation.

“It was actually the 10th anniversary for Goodwill’s Mardi Gras. The former CEO’s sister runs the Goodwill in Louisiana, and after Hurricane Katrina, they lost a lot,” Miller said.

Since then, the foundation holds this event every year to raise money to help Goodwill in Louisiana, raising nearly $150,000 just this year.

When Miller is not working, she enjoys traveling and bike riding.  She and her husband have traveled around the world to places such as the city of Budapest.

Miller’s employees have nothing but good things to say about her.

“I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the short time that I’ve been here. And that’s because of Veronica,”said Kelly Strausbaugh, the marketing and PR coordinator.” Everbody loves her in the community. She’s very philanthropic. She’s good at cultivating people and getting them involved in something and making them feel a part of what we’re involved in.”