senior living sarasotaPlymouth Harbor is a remarkable facility, and I hope to be able to contribute in some small way to promoting innovative and active living for its residents, their families and the wonderful staff. – Rebecca Levy-Sachs   Plymouth Harbor Foundation   Trustee, Community-at-Large Rebecca Levy-Sachs is a St. Petersburg-based attorney who has practiced in the area of first-party coverage and litigation for thirty-five years. Ms. Sachs is a regularly recognized lecturer and author of programs presented by the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel, the Property Loss Research Bureau, the Loss Executives Association, the ABA Property Insurance Committee and the Windstorm Association. She has been elected as a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, named to the Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers by Martindale-Hubbell™, named as one of Florida’s Super Lawyers in Insurance Coverage, and named to the Sarasota and Manatee Counties and the Tampa Bay Top Lawyers lists for the past three years. Rebecca and her husband Frank are avid boaters who live on Bird Key and are members of the Bird Key Yacht Club.  They have three sons, and six grandchildren ranging from 18 to 8.

donate a bicycleDo you remember when you bought a new bicycle for your daughter because she outgrew the old one?  But the old one wasn’t really that old, and there were so many good memories of it rolling down the hill as your daughter learned how to ride it.  Or remember when you went in search of THE BEST VIOLIN EVER for your son, only to find that he played it for one year and then decided to switch to band instead of orchestra?

What did you do with that old bicycle and violin?  I’ll bet you didn’t throw it away.  I’ll bet you gave it away to the next person that was searching for the BEST EVER.  Remember how good you felt when you knew you had made someone’s day?

Recently Plymouth Harbor helped make the day of many people by donating formerly used items that were being replaced during renovations and equipment upgrades.

The Boys & Girls Club was extremely happy to receive the ballet barres, exercise mats, and a treadmill from the former fitness room.

All Faiths Food Bank will receive the Dinex insulated tableware from the Smith Care Center when it is soon replaced.

Treviso Restaurant at The Ringling was grateful to receive an Alto-Shaam food warmer when we replaced it this year with new equipment.

Thanks to Chris Valuck, Rene Weder, and Danielle Menzies for identifying that these items had more life in them, finding them a new home, and making someone’s day!

Phil Starr“I very much enjoy serving on the Plymouth Harbor Foundation Board.  My mother lived to be 105 and she left all of her money to charity.  As Chair of the Trustees for her charitable trust, it is my hope that I can do as much good for her charitable interests as she did during her lifetime.”    — Phil Starr, Trustee and Plymouth Harbor Resident


Phil Starr served for 35 years in the insurance industry as a broker in Kansas City, where he earned his CLU designation.  He received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton and an MBA from Wharton.  His long list of volunteer service includes President of the Board of a local private school, the Senior Warden of a Kansas City Episcopal Church, and the President of the Board of the Kansas City Boy Scout Council.  His scouting activities are vast, having earned the Silver Beaver, Silver Antelope (for outstanding service to youth), Eagle Scout, and the God and Country award as a youth.

Phil and his wife Barry became Florida residents in 2003 and own a condo at Sands Point on Longboat Key.  They have been residents of Plymouth Harbor since 2011.  As his main hobby, Phil is a videographer, and has produced videos for two major Plymouth Harbor productions of late:  The Stash on the Seventeenth Floor and Broadway and Beyond.  He also produced a beautiful slideshow of the environs of Plymouth Harbor, which he donated to Plymouth Harbor; it now runs outside of the Marketing Department for all to enjoy.


There is a palpable sense of excitement in the air as the finishing touches are placed in Plymouth Harbor’s new Wellness Center.   The grand opening, scheduled for September 12th, will highlight the residents who envisioned this Center, the generosity of donors whose financial support made it possible, and the hard work of those who put their hearts, minds, and hands together to bring the vision to life.

It was four years ago that we began to strategically re-define ‘Wellness’ at Plymouth Harbor.  To describe this phase of the journey, we tip our hats with respect and gratitude to residents Lois Droege and Paul Groen.  Lois, with a background in fitness education, taught a popular resident exercise class at Plymouth Harbor for many years.  She and “Dr. Paul,” a retired orthopedic surgeon, were instrumental in helping to develop the plan that would take Plymouth Harbor’s fitness program to a whole new level.

Two things were non-negotiable.  First, the program must meet the highest possible standard for senior fitness programming and, second, the program must be led by someone with the credentials and expertise to develop and maintain it.  Enter Chris Valuck, who was recruited to join the Plymouth Harbor staff as Wellness Director in September 2011.

Chris Valuck and Amanda KirkChris holds a master’s degree in Exercise Science and has spent her career working with a wide range of individuals, mostly seniors, with chronic diseases and disabilities.  She is certified as a Clinical Exercise Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CES) and a Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist (CWWS) through the National Wellness Institute (NWI).  She also is a Certified Personal Trainer through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and an Aquatic Fitness Professional, Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA).

In addition to excellent credentials, Chris has experience in cardiac rehabilitation at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan.  She has also worked in high-end, exclusive health clubs, and operated her own personal training business for 16 years.  Many of Chris’s clients were referrals from physicians familiar with her success in working with persons with chronic diseases and disabilities.

As soon as she arrived, Chris set to work establishing protocols, developing a variety of new classes, and establishing the framework for future program expansion.   Within 18 months, the fitness program had grown to the point that a second staff member was warranted and Amanda Kirk joined the department as Wellness Program Assistant.

Amanda earned her bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science at Coastal Carolina University.  Prior to accepting the position at Plymouth Harbor, Amanda worked at The Lakes at Litchfield, a premier retirement community on Pawleys Island, South Carolina, where she regularly taught a variety of classes to all levels of care, including IL, AL, Skilled and Memory Care.  In addition to teaching classes at Plymouth Harbor, Amanda assists with administrative duties and in the development of the employee wellness program.

Another memorable event was a visit in July 2013 by Jan Montague, an internationally recognized expert in the field, who explored the concept of “Whole-Person Wellness” with residents and staff.  In thought-provoking presentations, Jan shared, “Life is a constant journey for balance to stay well, and staying well is really an inside-out endeavor.”  She emphasized that negativity is actually dangerous, and urged all of us to be careful with the words we use when describing our health, as they tend to be self-fulfilling.  In other words, we get what we focus on. 

As the new vision for Wellness and fitness programming was progressing smoothly, a serendipitous visit by resident Joanne Hastings to President/CEO Harry Hobson sparked the next step in this Wellness journey, a beautiful new 10,000 square foot Wellness Center, now completed.

You’ll see as you enter the Wellness Center the Activity Alcove, a lively space in which to exercise, play, and socialize.  It features a ping pong table and a large flat screen TV with an xBox 360 Kinect gaming system for residents to ‘virtually’ play tennis and golf, bowl, dance and engage in other sports.

Continuing down the corridor, you’ll find the Therapy Pool with a freshly refurbished deck.  The pool, frequently used by residents for therapy and mild exercise, has a brand new hydraulic chair lift to assist when entering and exiting the pool.  An added convenience are the bathing suit spinners located in the restrooms across from the Therapy Pool; no need to wear or carry a wet bathing suit back to your apartment!

Next to the Therapy Pool is the re-configured and updated Wood Shop that now includes an exterior door for easy access and delivery of wood and materials. There’s also an adjacent Hobby Shop for residents who enjoy craft work.

You’ll notice along the flowing corridor two perfectly lighted display walls designed to feature resident art work on a rotating basis.  A bit further and you’ll discover The Commons, a beautifully appointed social area with comfortable furnishings, perfect for chatting with friends or taking a break after your workout.  The nearby Creative Wellness Studio provides a private room for health/fitness assessments and confidential consultations with Wellness Center staff.

To the north of The Commons is the spacious Art Studio featuring 20 artist stations, each equipped with a new table and taboret. Enhanced track lighting, studio lighting for artist models, a teaching area, and a dark room complete this creative new space.

Just south of The Commons is the Group Fitness & Dance Studio.  Natural light pours through floor-to-ceiling windows along the entire south wall, offering a spectacular view of Sarasota Bay.  With a cushioned floor, mirrored walls, and an audio system, this handsome studio is the dedicated space for group fitness and dance classes.  With ample space to move, residents will enjoy Line Dancing, Tai Chi, Sit Fit, Functional Fitness, Total Body Challenge, Better Balance, Body Moves, Yoga, Meditation, Feldenkrais Method®, and more.  The more includes Zumba Gold® and ballroom dancing with professional instructor Jim Helmich.

More floor-to-ceiling windows wrap around the southwest corner of the Wellness Center, allowing that beautiful bay view to serve as a backdrop for the Fitness Room.  Here you’ll find a wide range of brand new cardiovascular equipment such as treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, and Nu-Steps.  Also in this space are two special pieces of equipment by Biodex, a UBE (upper body ergometer) suitable for individuals with limited use of their legs, and the Biodex Balance System for individual balance testing and training.  Keiser pneumatic strength training equipment is in place as well. These special (and easy to use) machines are safer and gentler on the joints than traditional weight machines, making them ideal for a senior population.  Many of the exercise pieces are equipped with televisions and ports for tablets, cell phones, MP3 players, readers and other electronic devices to make workouts enjoyable.  Add mirrored walls to help you monitor proper form during workouts, and, we think you’ll agree—this is beyond compare.

The Plymouth Harbor Wellness Center is a physical embodiment of an entire culture of wellness that has taken root and will continue to evolve at Plymouth Harbor. In fact, there’s more in store with VoyAges, an exciting new, wellness-related program – more to come in the near future!

Tom Hopkins“Plymouth Harbor is an important Sarasota gem that I am proud to serve.  Its distinguishing quality is its interesting and active residents who continue doing significant things.  I have been enriched by knowing them.”

Tom Hopkins
Trustee, Plymouth Harbor Foundation
Chair, Plymouth Harbor, Inc. Board of Trustees

In addition to being a Trustee of the Foundation, Tom is also Chair of the Plymouth Harbor, Inc. Board of Trustees, and has served in that role for four years.  A shareholder and former President of the Icard Merrill law firm, Tom has practiced with the firm since 1977 and has concentrated in real estate, probate, estate planning, and business law. His professional affiliations and positions have included serving as President of the Sarasota County Bar Association and the Bar Association Legal Aid Society, Inc. Tom also has served as President and board member of the Sarasota County Civic League and President of the Ivy League Club. A graduate with an AB from Dartmouth College, Tom also earned an MS from the University of Southern California and his law degree from the University of Florida. He and his wife Wendy live in Sarasota and have three children and three grandchildren.

On behalf of the Plymouth Harbor Foundation, we are delighted to award scholarships this 2014-2015 academic year to four worthy individuals.

Carol Bello and MotherCarol Bello has been awarded the Bea Davis Memorial Scholarship.  Carol is the daughter of Martha Chavez, a member of our housekeeping department.  She is enrolled at Florida State University this fall, working toward her bachelor’s degree, double majoring in Criminology and Political Science.  Her longer term plans are to attend law school.  While her eligibility for the scholarship was due to her mother’s employment at Plymouth Harbor, Carol herself is employed as a dietary aide in the Smith Care Center for a few more weeks, as she prepares to return to school in Tallahassee this month.

Bea Davis was a 38-year employee of Plymouth Harbor who passed away in 2013.  Her Memorial Scholarship is awarded annually to a housekeeping employee or their immediate family member.


Tara MitchellTara Mitchell has been awarded the Jane T. Smiley Scholarship.  Enrolled at State College of Florida, Tara is working toward her RN degree.  She is currently a Charge Nurse in the Smith Care Center and has been an employee for over eight years.  She is completing her final pre-requisites to the RN program and will be able to begin that program this 2014-2015 academic year.  She plans to go on to earn her BSN after obtaining her RN certification.

Jane Smiley is a beloved resident of Plymouth Harbor who established this scholarship in support of our employees who wish to increase their education. 



Lucy Guzman

Amy RiceAmy Rice has been awarded the Evelin Corsey Scholarship. Amy is a Charge Nurse in the Smith Care Center and is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).  She will use her scholarship to obtain a special certification in wound care that is available to LPNs.  Amy has been an employee of Plymouth Harbor for over one year.

The Evelin Corsey Scholarship was established through a bequest from Evelin Corsey, a resident at Plymouth Harbor who passed away in 2013.  Ms. Corsey loved the employees of Plymouth Harbor.

Lucy Guzman has been awarded a General Education Scholarship.  Lucy has been employed at Plymouth Harbor as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in the Smith Care Center for nearly four years.  She is enrolled in and currently attending classes at the Sarasota School of Massage Therapy to obtain her license as a Massage Therapist.  Lucy is also a Certified Phlebotomy Technician.

General Education Scholarships are funded through the Plymouth Harbor Foundation by generous donors who wish to show their support for the employees of Plymouth Harbor.  

William_JohnstonWilliam (Bill) Johnston, member of The Plymouth Harbor Board of Trustees and Chairperson of the Plymouth Harbor Foundation Board, was recognized as LeadingAge Florida’s 2014 Trustee of the Year at their annual conference earlier this month at the Hyatt Regency Orlando.

This very distinguished honor is presented annually to an exceptional LeadingAge Florida member Trustee.  LeadingAge is a professional association composed of over 6,000 not-for-profit organizations (over 400 Florida communities) dedicated to making America a better place to grow old.  At both the national and state level, the organization advocates, educates, and serves its members admirably.

At the July 30th luncheon ceremony with several hundred in attendance, Johnston spoke passionately about Plymouth Harbor and its mission toward older adults.  He also thanked all of those in attendance for the efforts they put forth in their respective organizations. Bill Johnston Award Acceptance

Bill Johnston is Past President of the New York Stock Exchange and is currently retired. However, he has transitioned to a new calling as a community leader and volunteer. As a highly effective trustee he leads by example and is a founding member of The Plymouth Harbor Foundation.

His parents were residents at Plymouth Harbor, as were two aunts and an uncle. With hopes of someday moving with his wife Betsy to Plymouth Harbor, Johnston serves as a strong advocate of continuing care retirement communities (CCRC).

Summing up the reasons why Johnston deserved the award, Plymouth Harbor CEO Harry Hobson stated, “Plymouth Harbor is a better CCRC today than it was prior to Bill Johnston becoming a Trustee. His leadership and passion for services to older adults is obvious in all aspects of his life. He had a reputation for being an ideal son to his parents regardless of his busy schedule on Wall Street. He never forgot his parents. He looks at this aspect of his life as paying back.”

Bill Johnston and PH group 2

PHOTO CAPTION: Those pictured at the awards presentation are:  (l to r)  Joe Devore, Vice President of Health Services, Harry Hobston, President and CEO, Liz Clark, Director of Assisted Living and Home Care, Karen Novak, Director of Health Services, Bill Johnston, Becky Pazkowski, Vice President of Philanthropy, and Gordon Okawa, Vice President of Marketing and Community Affairs.


Did you ever wonder what role Philanthropy plays in the whole scheme of things across the country?  We hear about the mega gifts from the Gates Foundation to end polio, or Warren Buffett’s bracket challenge, or how Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan were the top philanthropists in 2013, having made a gift valued at $970 million to a Silicon Valley charity…because this magnitude of giving makes the headline news.  But, important to know, and even surprising to discover, is how much is really donated to charities annually, where those donations go, and who made the gifts.

2013 By recipient Org

2013 Contributions by Source

Giving USA is published, researched, and written by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.  It is the annual report on philanthropy for giving across the country.  Giving USA 2014 has just been published, and we are pleased to share with you some of the highlights from the report.  As noted above, some of this information may be surprising to you…we indeed have an incredibly philanthropic country!  If you would like to see more data related to this report, please contact me at ext. 398 at the Plymouth Harbor Foundation office.


Total 2013 contributions to charitable organizations: 


2013 Increase in Total Giving over 2012:  4.4%

2013 Increase in Individual Giving over 2012:  4.2%

2013 Increase in Bequest Giving over 2012:  8.7%

Giving by Foundations increased by 5.7%

Giving by Corporations decreased by 1.9%

Tom-Towler“When the time came for us to consider our next move, it was unanimously Plymouth Harbor.  When they asked me to consider a seat on the Plymouth Harbor Foundation Board, it was also unanimous.  The Foundation is doing great things for life at Plymouth Harbor, today and into the future.  I am honored to be part of it!”

– Tom Towler, Trustee
Plymouth Harbor Foundation
Plymouth Harbor Resident since October 2009

Tom graduated from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and joined Mobil Oil Company for several years. He subsequently chaired the grocery non-food company for the Kroger Company, Top Value Trading Stamp Company, TV Travel, and served as an officer of the Baldwin United Financial Services Company in Cincinnati. He arranged the purchase of the S&H Green Stamp Company, taking them private from the NYSE public listing. Tom retired, moved to Siesta Key in 1984 with his late wife Sue, and then spent 5 years working as a property assessor with Goodnow Associates. He has a passion for volunteering, which includes Board positions with Sarasota Memorial Hospital Healthcare Foundation Board (chair), New College Foundation Board, Field Club Board, and Bay Plaza Board, and he was Chair of Siesta Key Utility Authority for six years. He is currently an elected trustee of Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Tom has four children and has encouraged each of them to be active volunteers. He and his significant other Nancy Lyon have a beautiful view of Sarasota from their 16th Colony apartment.  They are both “legacy residents,” as Tom’s sister is a current resident, and his late aunt and Nancy’s late mother were both residents of Plymouth Harbor.

Scholarship recipients Yaima Comas, the eldest of four siblings who moved to Sarasota from Cuba with their father in 2005, advises her younger brother and sisters to “take things seriously and pay attention to  your studies.”  Having escaped Cuba’s political oppression, and potential imprisonment for his beliefs, Yaima’s father values the freedom that education offers.  She is motivated to learn as much as she can, to achieve her goals and make her father proud.

Daphne Weeks also faced many obstacles in her younger years, but she is determined not let her past define who she is.  Her goals clearly developed and she has plotted her course to success.

Thanks to the foresight and generosity of former Plymouth Harbor residents Mildred and Bernard Doyle, both Yaima and Daphne will receive the financial support needed to help them achieve their educational goals.

The Mildred and Bernard Doyle Charitable Trust was established as a means to provide ongoing educational assistance to “a worthy and needy child of an employee of Plymouth Harbor” or “a worthy and needy employee seeking to increase their skills or to obtain a higher education.”  This was the result of their great affection for the employees they had come to know so well during their residency at Plymouth Harbor.

Twenty-five scholarships have been awarded to Plymouth Harbor employees and their children since 1999.  Each year a scholarship committee at Northern Trust Bank, which includes former Plymouth Harbor executive director Jack Smith who knew the Doyle’s well, selects two recipients of the $5,000 scholarship.

The two recipients this year could not have been more surprised or elated.  Each had put considerable effort into the application, but they knew the competition for this honor is stiff.

When Daphne and Yaima were invited to join a gathering of Plymouth Harbor’s management team on May 30, Daphne may have suspected the reason.  Before President/CEO Harry Hobson could even announce this year’s Doyle scholarship winners, tears were spilling down her cheeks. “I was speechless and overwhelmed when I heard the news,” exclaimed Daphne.  Daphne’s heartfelt emotion was contagious and before Harry finished his congratulatory speech, there were few dry eyes in the room.

Yaima added, “I couldn’t believe it at first.  I thought I was dreaming.  It took me a few hours to realize it was really happening!”

Currently serving as a certified nursing assistant (C.N.A.) in the Smith Care Center, Daphne says she has always dreamed of pursuing a career in nursing.  She began early with dual enrollment at Sarasota High School and Sarasota County Technical Institute, earning her C.N.A. when she was just 17 years old.  She wanted to immediately earn an LPN, but there were hurdles and obstacles to conquer before this would be possible.

Daphne has served the residents of Plymouth Harbor for four years, first in the Callahan Center.  Now she feels her way is clear and she is laser-focused on attaining her end goal of earning a master’s in nursing.  The past is not something that Daphne wishes to dwell on.  Having paid attention to the devastating impact of human trafficking and domestic violence in the community around her, she hopes to eventually work with young women in these situations and help to set them on a positive path.

This past month Daphne completed her AA in Arts, a prerequisite for State College of Florida’s nursing program.  It will take four more years to complete her undergraduate degree and then, with the good grades she intends to earn, it will be on to the graduate nursing program at Florida State University. “I keep a positive attitude and just concentrate on my studies,” Daphne shares.  “I know it will be challenging, but I have prepared myself for this journey.”  In the end, who knows, she may well change the world, one confident young woman at a time.

“I’m a numbers person, not science,” divulges Yaima.  Although she is an excellent C.N.A. providing Home Care and Home Health Agency support, it is clear her rewards come from helping people in ways beyond the clinical aspects of nursing.  “I feel I can help more people in medical administration,” she adds explaining her choice to earn her bachelor’s degree in health care administration, which will take another two years of study at State College of Florida.

During her 3-1/2 years on staff at Plymouth Harbor, Yaima has thoroughly enjoyed working with her coworkers.  The fact that the team has kept the same members throughout this period is evidence of the dedication and commitment of Plymouth Harbor employee service.

In Home Care, Yaima appreciates the flexibility she has to serve and speak with residents on an individual basis.  Sharing their lives is a most rewarding aspect of her work and reminds her of the extended family she left back in Cuba.  Working full-time at Plymouth Harbor and attending classes part-time, she is motivated to succeed academically.  Where will Yaima be ten years from now?  She plans on being a manager in a public or private medical facility or hospital and continue to realize the dream of freedom that led her father to escape to the U.S. with his family.

While Yaima and Daphne are just beginning their educational journey, they would do well to look to another early Doyle Scholarship recipient for inspiration.

Dr. Crystal ChapmanCrystal Chapman, daughter of Home Care LPN Bridget Chapman, was first awarded the Doyle Scholarship in 2002 and received it for four subsequent years.  As a single mother raising two children at the time, Bridget recently shared with a Foundation Forum audience the impact the scholarship had on Crystal’s life and her ability to achieve her goals.

This was certainly money well spent, an investment in every sense of the word.  In 2006 Crystal received her bachelor’s degree in nursing, and in 2009, her master’s degree in nursing.  In 2013 Crystal earned a Ph.D.

Dr. Crystal Chapman Lambert is now an Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

As Plymouth Harbor Foundation scholarship benefactor Jane Smiley so aptly stated recently, “The most important thing you can give a child, besides love, is an education.”

Mildred and Bernard Doyle were touched by the staff who made their lives at Plymouth Harbor abundantly better.  Their generous gift in return, expressed through the Doyle Scholarship, is truly changing lives.