Throughout Plymouth Harbor’s history, its residents have played a huge role in its development and success. Without them, our story would look very different and we have them to thank for many of our achievements. Tom Towler, a resident since 2009, was instrumental in the creation of The Plymouth Harbor Foundation.

In order to ensure the proper stewardship of the many gifts and funds contributed to Plymouth Harbor by donors, The Plymouth Harbor Foundation was established in 2012. An outside firm, Richter and Richter, was brought in to perform a feasibility study and determine how the board would be formed and how it would function.

When The Plymouth Harbor Foundation was founded 7 years ago, Tom Towler was one of the first members of the board along with Phil Starr and Bruce Crawford. “When we started, we didn’t know what direction we were going to go, and Tom was very much a founder,” said Harry Hobson, CEO. During his time on the Board, Tom has played an active role in each of the capital campaigns, helping to raise funds for large-scale improvements to our campus and services.

The first project taken on by The Foundation was the renovation of the Wellness Center. By 2013, a capital campaign was begun and before long the $1.1 million dollars needed was raised. By September of 2014, the 10,000-square-foot project was complete.

On August 20, 2014, The Plymouth Harbor, Inc. Board of Trustees approved the Northwest Garden Building Project, our largest capital campaign to date, and in December 2015 the project broke ground. When this large addition to the campus was completed in late 2017, Plymouth Harbor was able to not only increase the capacity of our current services but also bring a new level of care to our residents: memory care.

While in between these two large projects, Tom knew how important it would be to keep the philanthropic spirit alive. With the support of the rest of the Board, Tom helped find a new project to focus on. The rejuvenation of Pilgrim Hall was selected, and our internal theater was given increased audio and video capabilities as well as a sleek, modern interior.

Change is scary, and many of these capital projects have been monstrous undertakings, but Tom always sees the potential for success and knows the importance of continually improving our community for our residents. “Tom is the kind of person that gives people confidence, that makes us believe we can do it,” Harry said.

In addition to being a member of our Foundation Board, Tom has also served on the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Board for nine years and was the chairman of the hospital foundation for the last six.

After seven years, Tom has decided to retire from The Plymouth Harbor Foundation Board. We are eternally grateful for the time, love and attention he has given during his tenure. He has made a lasting impact on both our campus and our community. In honor of all he has done for The Foundation, Harry Hobson, CEO, presented Tom with an award for “his dedicated service and leadership. “I’m not sure what The Foundation Board’s next project will be, but there’s no doubt that it’ll be worthwhile,” Tom said.

On June 4, 2019, The Rev. Dr. Jack A. Smith passed away in the very building that was named after him: The Smith Care Center.

He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in finance and then went on to attend the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology and Vanderbilt University where he earned his doctorate degree. Before coming
to Plymouth Harbor, he was a business owner.

The Rev. Dr. Smith became the second Administrator of
Plymouth Harbor in 1972. A former minister in the Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ, The Rev. Dr. Smith also had a business degree and administrative experience. During that time, Plymouth Harbor was struggling to keep pace with rising costs of operation and existing resident contracts contained clauses restricting increases in fees. In an impressive show of devotion, The Rev. Dr. Smith, trustees, and residents raised enough money to save Plymouth Harbor and get it back on solid financial footing. If it weren’t for him, Plymouth Harbor very well may not have made it to the present day.

Prior to the Smith Care Center, Plymouth Harbor had a small infirmary located on the second floor of the Tower, where the Callahan Center is now, with 43 beds in 14 rooms. In 1988, the North Garden was built and the infirmary was moved into the new, improved space and renamed the Health Center. It was later renamed again the Plymouth Harbor Health and Rehabilitation Center to more fully describe its capabilities. At its 40th anniversary celebration, the center underwent a final name change in recognition of the former Executive Director and became The Jack A. Smith Care Center.

In 1989, The Rev. Dr. Smith retired after 18 years as Administrator, however he returned as interim CEO in 2004 during the year before Harry Hobson came aboard. The Rev. Dr. Smith has left his legacy at Plymouth Harbor, and we are grateful to have had him as part of our story.

In the doorway of each of the 30 resident rooms in the Starr Memory Care Residences is a large, glass box, commonly called shadow boxes. Within these boxes are all sorts of memorabilia, from newspaper clippings and photos to small glass sculptures and artwork. Each box gives a peak into the life and interests of the resident it belongs to, and is an important way to help those in memory care retain their identity.

Each memory box tells a story, highlighting the things most important to each resident. Bob Johnson’s box contains a few toy model cars, a newspaper clipping, and some other memorabilia from his time as a successful car dealership owner. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Bob joined the U.S. Air Force at age 17. He served for four years before being honorably discharged. After earning a degree in business management and accounting, Bob went on to own three General Motors dealerships and one Ford dealership, all in western New York. During this time, his companies were listed among Black Enterprise Magazine’s “Top 100 Auto Dealers.” After retiring and moving to Sarasota, Bob established a Robert Johnson scholarship fund at Ringling College and Empire State College and has also donated to the Sarasota City Parks Foundation.

It is common practice to have shadow boxes in Memory Care residences as markers for an individual’s room. Often, it is the staff that put these boxes together for the residents, but we invite our residents and their family members to fill them. When the Northwest Garden Building was being designed, “we wanted to expand the concept of these shadow boxes,” said Brandi Burgess, Administrator of Assisted Living and Memory Care. While front “porches” would not have been a practical use of space or materials, these boxes serve as a way for each resident to have an individualized entry to their abode. The boxes were made bigger and deeper and were illuminated from within to make the contents easier to see.

“They became beacons for each resident room, and are amazing conversation starters between residents, staff, and family members,” Brandi said. Next time you visit a loved one in the Starr Memory Care Residence, take some time to look inside these boxes and learn a little more about the people that live there.

Sarah and George Pappas met through an art class as Penn State University. At the time, George was an art professor and Sarah was one of his students. “After I took the first class with him, I made sure I took every other class he offered,” Sarah said.

After she graduated, Sarah wrote George a letter thanking him for his enjoyable classes and inviting him to look her up if he was ever in New York City. “I didn’t remember her at first, but I took out my grade book, saw I had noted “tall girl” next to her name, and remembered, “said George. When he was in the city for a conference, he called her up, and they then dated for six years before marrying. He taught at Penn State for 10 years before moving to Tampa where he taught at USF for another 27 years before retiring in 1993.

George’s family is of Greek heritage – his father was a Greek Orthodox Priest- and his work is largely influenced by icons and mythology, but with a modern, abstract twist.

George dropped out of Norwich College after two years, or rather was asked to leave due to an excess of demerits, and transferred to MASS College of Art to pursue a formal art education. “Once I entered art school, I had straight As,” George said. “He was finally studying his passion,” Sarah added in. He then went off to Harvard to earn a master’s in teaching and a doctorate from Penn state after that.

Sarah’s youth was also colorful, although by cultures not paints. Her father worked for U.S. Steel and his work took them to Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico. Growing up in these countries shaped Sarah’s world view and is where she developed her love of bright colors. When she and her family moved back to the U.S., Sarah envisioned herself finishing school, marrying her high-school boyfriend, and having kids. “I was a typical girl growing up in the ‘50s, when women weren’t supposed to have aspirations,” Sarah said. “Even while I was attending Penn State, my dream job was working at Revlon as a secretary because they wore red jackets.”

Instead, her first job was at an insurance company. Although not quite the job she had been dreaming of, it turned out to be the beginning of her path towards a career in education, something she hadn’t even begun to dream up. Her company, Mutual of New York, offered tuition reimbursement to employees who pursued and passed graduate courses. “I got my master’s in social science education for free,” Sarah said.

Sarah had never imagined herself being an educator, rejecting the notion because she didn’t want to do the same thing as her mother. She also never thought of herself as smart until one of her master’s program professors gave her a glowing review. After that, she slowly became more ambitious in her plans for her life, eventually becoming a University President a few decades down the road. “It’s amazing how you can change when you have mentors,” she said.

George still paints every day in his home studio, often times with a Red Sox, Patriots, or Celtics game on in the background. Their home is full of his large, colorful pieces, and the influence of Greek icons can be seen in each work. Sarah, the more social of the two, maintains her heavy community involvement. She is on the Ringling Board of Trustees and Tiger Bay Board, volunteers at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, and is a member of a few women’s groups around town. They both stay active using the Plymouth Harbor’s Wellness Center, and Sarah attends Zumba every week at the YMCA.

So, where do they find their continued zest for life? In the activities they have always loved. “Look at me, I’m 90 years old and never thought I would be this old,” George said. “Just keep up your creativity.”

Earth day originated on April 22, 1970 and is considered to be the birth of the modern environmental movement. Ideated by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day was meant to serve as a “national teach-in on the environment” that would educate the masses about the effects our actions have on the health of our planet. While most of America remained largely unaware of growing environmental concerns prior to April 22, 1970, the first celebration of Earth Day brought these concerns to center stage.

Drawing from the energy of the anti-war protest movement, the first Earth Day saw 20 million Americans participate in rallies and demonstrations highlighting the need for greener practices. By the end of 1970, the United States Environmental Protection Agency had been created, and the Clear Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts had all been passed. In 1990, Earth Day became globally recognized, with 200 million people in over 140 nations participating, according to the Earth Day Network (EDN), a nonprofit organization that coordinates Earth Day activities. It has since grown into an internationally celebrated holiday that focuses on how to live a more eco-friendly life. The EDN estimates that more than 1 billion people are involved in Earth Day activities every year, making it “the largest secular civic event in the world.”

Thirteen years ago, a group of environmentally-minded residents came together to find ways to bring the movement to Plymouth Harbor. This was the beginning of the Conservation Committee, which then became a formal committee three years later. Now, members of the committee share a common mission: to promote conservation of resources within Plymouth Harbor, including recycling, water, and electricity usage, and other appropriate conservation measures. The committee also researches and makes recommendations on ways in which Plymouth Harbor may become more environmentally responsible.

“Our biggest job is to educate residents on simple ways to conserve resources,” said Isabel Pedersen. Tips and tricks can be found in the weekly flyer, and residents are encouraged to try to incorporate these small changes into their daily routines. “Although independently they don’t sound like much, lots of little things can add up and make a big change,” Isabel said.
If you want to learn more about the Conservation Committee, contact Isabel at ext. 561. There are also Conservation Committee liaisons in each colony. Although new committee members won’t be chosen until next year, you can still act as a role model for others by putting into place environmentally friendly practices.

While turning off lights and recycling are what you initially think of when you think about conserving resources, those aren’t the only ways. Conserving resources also means finding new uses or new homes for things you already have. Instead of throwing away old clothing, household items, and furniture, donate them to the Resident Fund Shop or the donation collection bins located on the Ground Floor of the Tower. These four organizations (All Faiths Food Bank, Resurrection House, Sarasota County Animal Services, and Meals on Wheels) and our Fund shop put our reusable items to good use and prevents the need for someone to buy something new that they can get used.

To celebrate Earth Day this year, the Conservation Committee will have a table set up in the lobby where you can get reusable cloth grocery bags, reusable water bottles, and information about what Plymouth Harbor is doing to reduce our footprint. Someone will be at the table throughout the day to answer questions, so make sure you stop by!

Sources: www.earthday.org, www.history.com

Ann has been an artist all her life, but she isn’t “a person who paints wide-eyed children and hibiscus.” To her, art is meant to challenge us. “It should create a reaction within people, challenge their beliefs, and stir our emotions,” Ann said. To do this, Ann’s work often references politics, environmental issues, animal rights, and overpopulation, just to name a few. Through her art, she expresses her ideals and opinions on the world around her.

The mediums she works with are just as varied as her subject matter. Ann has worked with oils, prints, textiles, and most recently (albeit 30 years ago) metal. As a metalsmith, Ann uses gold, silver, copper, and bronze to create all sorts of rings, bracelets, and necklaces. Using a torch, hammer, and a wide variety of pliers, Ann sculpts flat pieces of
metal into her desired shape, sometimes using chemicals to distort the metal’s color or adding various stones.

No matter the medium, Ann works in layers, allowing her works to claim a life of their own. When she begins her process, she has a good idea of what she wants to do technically, but it never turns out that way. “I find when a work is too controlled, too harmonized, and too predictable, it’s boring,” she said. She often turns an idea into a series so that she can “explore and develop all aspects of it and bring it to maturity.” Her collections typically consist of 10 to 20 pieces, each piece a unique part of a whole.

Ann comes by her artistic talent naturally, but she has also had extensive academic experience in the field. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in interior architecture, and over the years continued her technical education at six other art institutions. She continues her education by attending workshops, mostly for metalworking. “It challenges me,” she said. “There is always something new to learn.”

Ann has studied with many master artists and has shown her work both locally at the Ringling Museum of Art and internationally.