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Links benefits Scouts at a true garden party

By LENNIE BENNETT

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 12, 2001


As long as the weather is on your side, no nicer place exists in St. Petersburg as a party venue than Sunken Gardens.

Since its purchase by the city in 1999, it has blossomed into a vibrant, well-tended public garden. On Sunday, after closing to the public, it was the scene of a fundraiser hosted by the Links, the exclusive black women's club with chapters throughout the United States. Locally, the Links is both a social group and an activist organization for causes benefitting underprivileged youth. This party was on behalf of local Boy Scout troops.

An afternoon downpour had committee members Joyce Thornton, Mozell Davis, Terri Scott, Yvonne Matt and Dr. Mendee Ligon watching the skies, but the storm blew over and a crowd of several hundred began arriving at 5 p.m.

Donna McRae handed out folding fans at the check-in table as Brandon Shorter, Jerel Valentine and Andell Puertas, Scouts with Troop 223, escorted us into the garden. As the women scurried around the trails attending to last-minute details, their husbands took the path of least resistance. Standing nearby until they were given their marching orders were Vyrle Davis, Dr. Reggie Ligon, Cedric Thornton and Clarence Scott.

An unexpected pleasure was seeing Vivian Rouson, a former St. Petersburg resident -- and French teacher at Lakewood High School when I was a student there -- who lives in Washington, D.C., now and is a member of the Capital City chapter of Links. She came with her friends Nathaniel and Ida Surey and Lewis and Mary Clowers, a volunteer with the American Cancer Society for 25 years and busy with her own project, the Minority Ball on Saturday at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.

Also nice to see were Drs. Kenneth and Nancy Bryant, Anna Walker, Bernard and Yvonne King and Herb Snitzer, who opens a photography exhibit Friday at the Arts Center.

The distant sounds of jazz drew us to the grassy area at the back of the gardens where Jazz Swing Featuring Da'Rel performed as people settled at tables. A monarch butterfly floated by and tropical birds sent up a kind of syncopated cacophony to Da'Rel's scat, seeming to enjoy, for once, being backup singers and not the stars of the show.

* * *

Raymond James executives hosted my kind of football party on Sunday for the Bucs-Cowboys game, taking over the Regatta Room at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club where we could watch the game (or not) on big-screen TVs in comfortable chairs and air-conditioning.

Jeff and Donna Hearn greeted arriving guests, along with a contingent from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleading squad.

"Is it a full-time job?" I asked several of the young women.

"It's almost like a full-time second job," said Amy Fleck, who is a meeting planner with Capital One. "Most of us have grown up in some kind of dancing and we're huge football fans, so this is the best of both."

The party was for fun, of course, but it was also a fundraiser for All Children's Hospital. (Every field goal by Martin Gramatica earned a $500 donation by Raymond James. For this occasion, that would be one.)

The group included Sylvia Ameen, who came solo while husband Ed stayed home to tend house guests; John and Barbie Tuft; Gary Davis; Hugh and Pat Evans; John and Myra Shipman; Rob and Tricia Rodocker; Helen DeWalt; and Kristin Guenthardt. New to town are Ed and Jeanne Mansfield, formerly of Denver, who have settled into a Vinoy Place condominium. The Mansfields could have lived anywhere, and seriously considered North Carolina and Washington.

"But the quality of life here was what we loved," Ed Mansfield said. "The museums, shopping, the waterfront. And you have a very good newspaper here, too."

I am not about to disagree.

Looking ahead

Friday

FALL TEA PARTY: The St. Petersburg Woman's Club welcomes members back after the summer hiatus. Guests are asked to bring new teddy bears for the Florida Highway Patrol program that distributes them to children who have been in an accident or victims of abuse. 1 p.m. 40 Snell Isle Blvd. 525-2914.

ANGELS AFTER DARK: A holiday open house at First United Methodist Church with dozens of vendors selling arts, crafts, holiday gifts and customized items. 5-9 p.m. The sale continues Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. 212 Third St. N. 894-4661.

Saturday

MINORITY BALL: The 13th annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society to underwrite screening and awareness programs for African-Americans. 6 p.m. St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Ave. $35. 867-7702.

Sept. 21

ACT ONE: American Stage opens its mainstage season with a party in three acts. Patrons meet at the St. Petersburg Times auditorium, transformed to a bistro, for dinner and silent auction, then walk a block to the theater for the premier of Zora Neale Thurston's Spunk and return to the Times for dessert, champagne and cabaret performances. Black tie encouraged. $100. Fourth Street and Second Ave. S. 823-1600, ext. 210.

Sept. 28

BAY BASH BALL: An island theme and a relaxed dress code of elegant island attire mark the 10th annual benefit for Bayfront Health System, hosted by the Bayfront Medical Center Auxiliary and Bayfront Health Foundation. 7 p.m. Renaissance Vinoy Resort, 501 Fifth Ave. NE. $150. 893-6148.

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