Thanks to the generosity of readers, Creative Loafing's online holiday auction has raised close to $50,000 over three years for The Children's Home, a vital Tampa Bay resource with 120 years' history of protecting abused and neglected children and supporting healthy families. And each year, through interactions with the Home's staff, kids and families, we've had the chance to see first-hand the good work the organization does.
That was the case again last Thursday, when the popular Palm Harbor restaurant Lucky Dill welcomed a crew from CL and The Children's Home to a luncheon celebrating the successful conclusion of this year's auction (estimated tally $17,000 and counting). Guests included the Home's new CEO, Irene Rickus; board member David Eischeid; kinship program manager Karrie Roller; and two clients of that program, Chris Sauger and Keya Davis, young grandmothers who've had to take over the role of parent for their grandchildren. Davis moved to Florida from South Carolina in March and was joined by her 17-month old grandson Keyaree in April; she says the kinship program was invaluable in helping her acclimate to a new place and take on the unexpected responsibilities of caring for a toddler. (Judging by the sterling behavior of Keyaree, who was also a guest at the luncheon, she's doing an excellent job.)
Merrill Stewart was also in attendance; as the Home's communications and community giving director, she has managed to remain unflappable through way too many raucous auction planning meetings in CL's conference room, and for that alone deserves some kind of award. Many thanks as well to Lucky Dill owner Jason Mitow, his mother Kimberly Mitow and GM Tim Jones for the fabulous lunch (the sliders, the salads, the fried green tomatoes!) in the restaurant's gorgeous new digs on Rte. 19. Smartly decorated with a Big Apple theme, it was packed with happy diners, including ourselves.
Most of all, thanks again to all of you who bid so generously. We know you got some cool gifts in the bargain, but you should also know that your bids are helping children like Keyaree grow up healthy and happy.
Last week's cover story, "The Best Book I Read This Year," won praise for providing a eclectic and useful end-of-year reading list, but one contingent of the CL audience felt distinctly dissed: librarians. As they have pointed out on Facebook and Twitter, the story included recommendations from musicians, politicians, booksellers, CL staffers — everyone but the people who are professionally dedicated to recommending good books. It probably doesn't help, but even before I read the feedback, I realized I'd made this shameful omission. I mean, I love librarians! And even envy them a little — what could be cooler than fostering the love of reading? So, it may be too late, but librarians, what were the best books you read this year? Let me know on CL's Facebook page.
And speaking of matters literary, by the time you read this, the deadline for submitting a story to CL's Fiction Contest — Thurs. Dec. 22 at 5 p.m. — will probably have passed. But you can still play a role. The judges — Jeff Parker of the University of Tampa's masters program in creative writing; CL columnist and e-novelist Catherine Durkin Robinson; and myself — will select the top 10 stories and post them at cltampa.com/fictioncontest at noon on Friday, Dec. 23. You can vote on your favorite at that site until Fri. Dec. 30 at noon, and on Jan. 5, we'll publish the judges' and readers' top choices in print and online. Winners and judges will read from their work at CL Space, 1911 N. 13th St. in Ybor City, on Sun. Jan. 8 at 7:30 p.m.
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