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Energy pulsates through businesswomen's group

By LENNIE BENNETT

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 24, 2001


Quality time in the company of women best describes Thursday's lunch meeting of the Mid-Day Business and Professional Women's Club of St. Petersburg. What a lot of energy emanated from the group of 50 or so members and guests who gathered for their bimonthly lunch meeting at SoHo South Gallery.

One of the nice things they do, after calling the meeting to order, is to have each person stand and give her name and occupation. You get a sense of the range of interests and skills that are as expected as banking and law and as unusual as pilot training and balloon sculpting. They also list their volunteer jobs with the organization. Add to that the other stuff you know they have in their lives, and the exercise began to make me feel like a slug. But it was energizing.

The guest speaker was Lois Frankel, another accomplished woman, who has served for seven terms in the Florida House, which means she's learned a thing or two about making speeches and the one she delivered to us was charming.

The businesswomen also have fun; at their state conference in Palm Beach Gardens earlier in the month they had a karaoke night fundraiser, with Margo Fischer as DJ, and raised more than $20,000.

Co-presidents Paula Popovich and Luisa Perez-Harvey welcomed the crowd, which included Cory Adler; Tami Simms-Powel, recently named executive director of Suncoast Tiger Bay Club; Suzanne Fisher; Lawanda Walker; Beth Knowles; Stephanie Lyons Mucciano; Becky Duffy; Marcia Cohen; Terry Cunningham; Marilyn Armstrong; Suzanne Persons; Meg Hoffman; Cynthia Sinclair; and Carolyn Wiggins and Christine Lippard Weigle, who will represent the district at the national conference in Portland, Ore., in August.

The Mid-Day Club is part of BPW, a national organization of about 80,000 members. The local group raises money for the state-wide BPW Education Foundation (not to be confused with the Pinellas County Education Foundation, a totally separate organization). The foundation has built "scholarship houses" on the campuses of Florida State University, University of Central Florida and Florida Atlantic University.

Each houses 15-20 young women who demonstrate financial need and maintain at least a B average. Once the group builds the house, the university takes over its maintenance. Students live there almost rent-free. The state group is about to break ground on its fourth house at the University of North Florida.

Now let's talk about infrastructure.

SoHo Gallery, on Central Avenue at 21st Street in the Grand Central District, is a nice place for gatherings. Owner Marilyn Lowe set up half of it with tables and chairs for us, the other half was left open for congregating. (These days we call it networking.) It will get even better for group functions once Central Thyme opens in July.

Bret Trifler and Barry Jones are readying the space that adjoins the gallery for a catering business and lunch-time cafe. Trifler, who prepared pasta and salad for our lunch, said Central Thyme will serve soups, sandwiches and salads Monday through Saturday.

The Mid-Day Club meets twice monthly on the first and third Thursdays, usually at SoHo. For information, call 892-4694. There is also an evening group that meets on the fourth Monday each month. The contact phone number for that group is 327-9779.

Let us note, too, that you do not have to be female to join, just be supportive of the group's mission, which is to improve the professional, personal, economic and educational outlook for working women. Who could argue with that? I salute the lone, pioneering guy who joined the St. Petersburg Club, Larry Renda, owner of a local air-conditioning company.

* * *

Thanks for continuing to send in dates for the 2001-2002 Social Calendar, which will be published in late August or early September. It lists all the social events in our community from September through June. If you have an event, please send information to Lennie Bennett at St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg Florida 33731. Or e-mail it to lennie@sptimes.com. Please be specific about the e-mail subject matter. Please do not leave a telephone message. Include the name of the event, sponsoring organization, date, time, place, ticket price and a telephone number that may be printed.

Looking ahead

July 22

RACE FOR THE CURE KICK-OFF: The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is a powerful national organization that sponsors Race for the Cure, an annual 5K and one-mile run with about 100 communities participating. The Tampa Bay Race for the Cure is the fastest-growing one within the organization, said committee member Penny Wallace. Now in its third year, it doubled last year from 3,000 to 6,000 participants. This year they expect about 10,000 for the event, scheduled for Sept. 22, which begins at Straub Park in downtown St. Petersburg.

Last year's Tampa Bay race netted about $450,000, Wallace said, and 75 percent of those funds stayed within our community, funding mammography voucher programs and clinical assistance for low-income women.

The group hosts a kickoff for potential team captains on July 22, with members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attending. The event is for team captains and sponsors only, not individual participants. For information, call 734-7832 or go to the web site: www.komentampabay.com.

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