Friday, November 29, 2013

Successful Bench Bar Conference Punctuated By Human Trafficking Survivor’s Harrowing Account Of Abuse

By John F. Kynes

The theme for the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s 17th Annual Bench Bar Conference held in November at the Hilton in downtown Tampa was “Stand Up For Justice.”  No one did a better job communicating that message than the courageous guest speaker at the event’s membership luncheon.

The speaker, a woman who did not provide her name because of personal safety concerns, shared her harrowing story of abuse as a survivor of human trafficking, and she encouraged the more than 450 HCBA members in attendance to become victim advocates.

Speaking publicly about her terrible ordeal for the first time, the woman described growing up in the Tampa Bay area in a “stable, loving family.”  She said she enjoyed ballet, attended the University of South Florida for a time, and eventually became a single mother to a premature baby.

Trying to make ends meet, she worked nights as a bartender and at area nightclubs. Targeted by a local human trafficker, she was lured away from a nightclub under false pretenses and with the promise of making more money. She said she was then taken and held against her will in a local warehouse where she was repeatedly beaten and raped.  “I thought I was dead when I heard my trafficker and other men talk about what to do with my body,” she said.

After that, all her belongings were taken, and she was regularly “sold” to men for sex.  “I was the product,” she said.

Any time she resisted instructions, she was “punched and strangled,” she said.  Her trafficker also used psychological manipulation to control her, which she said was often more powerful than physical violence.

Eventually, she was able to escape and is now trying to make a better life for herself.  Incredibly, she is now attending law school and is encouraging others to assist trafficking victims.  “We need every single attorney and judge to be trained on the [trafficking] issue,” she told the crowd, which gave her an extended standing ovation after she completed her remarks.

Jenay Iurato, a volunteer attorney with the West Florida Center for Trafficking Advocacy, provided some grim statistics about human trafficking before she introduced the trafficking survivor.  Florida ranks third in the country in the incidence of human trafficking, and overall the crime is estimated to be a $32 billion dollar industry, Iurato said.  Further, trafficking is the second-most common criminal act behind drug trafficking, she added.

“Human trafficking is alive and flourishing in the Tampa Bay area,” Iurato said.  “It’s modern-day slavery.”

Iurato encouraged those in attendance to get involved and help educate their colleagues and the public about the trafficking issue.  Iurato also highlighted a new statewide initiative championed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, “From Instant Message to Instant Nightmare,” to help parents protect children from sex trafficking.

However, she conceded there is much work to be done to help combat the problem.  “We need attorneys who are willing to invest in the restoration of survivors through time, relationships, and pro bono legal services,” Iurato said.


On another note, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn attended the membership luncheon and made a special presentation to U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich.  Buckhorn presented the judge with a door with her name inscribed on it that came from her former courtroom in the historic federal courthouse.  The door was salvaged from the 108-year-old courthouse, which has been closed for 15 years and is being transformed into a boutique hotel.


Circuit Judges Caroline J. Tesche and Samantha L. Ward were this year’s Bench Bar Conference co-chairs.  Both judges worked for months with other dedicated committee members, HCBA CLE Director Amanda Uliano, and other staff planning the conference.

“We firmly believe that our jurisdiction is unique; our Bench and Bar truly exemplify the best in the practice of law, and our annual conference grows in prominence and tradition each year,” Tesche said.

There were eight CLE breakout sessions in the morning that focused on a wide range of topics, as well as a morning plenary session that focused on key technology issues. In the afternoon, there were four more CLE breakout sessions, each with a “View Toward the Bench,” focusing on issues important to litigants.  Plus, there were two afternoon plenary sessions, including a panel discussion focusing on pro bono work that was moderated by Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Daniel Ruth.

At the end of the day, more than 400 HCBA members enjoyed the camaraderie provided at the annual Judicial Reception.

Special thanks to the many generous sponsors that helped make this year’s Bench Bar Conference possible, and especially the Diamond Sponsor, Steve Yerrid and The Yerrid Law Firm.

See you around the Chet.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Appellate Practice: Pleading Requirements For Fees In Original Proceedings

By Jared M. Krukar

Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.400(b) governs the procedure for seeking attorneys’ fees on appeal. It requires the party seeking fees to file a motion no later than the time for filing a reply brief. There is no rule that expressly states a different procedure for original proceedings, such as petitions for writ of certiorari. Consequently, many practitioners simply interpret Rule 9.400(b) to require a motion for fees to be filed no later than the due date for the reply to the response to the petition. However, in Advanced Chiropractic and Rehabilitation Center Corp. v. United Automobile Insurance Company, 103 So. 3d 869 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012), rev. granted, SC13-153 (Fla. June 4, 2013), the Fourth District Court of Appeal held that Rule 9.400 does not apply to original proceedings, and it imposed a “pleading requirement” for attorneys’ fees in original proceedings.

In Advanced, the petitioner was awarded certiorari relief, then moved for fees three days later. The Fourth District denied the motion as untimely, citing cases applying Rule 9.400(b). The petitioner moved for rehearing, arguing that Rule 9.400(b) applied only to “a standard appeal with respect to a series of briefs,” not to original proceedings. The Fourth District agreed. Rule 9.400(b)’s plain language refers only to a “reply brief,” so the rule does not apply to original proceedings that have only a “petition,” a “response,” and a “reply.”

However, the Fourth District reaffirmed that the petitioner’s request was untimely. The court ruled, “Nothing in the appellate rules sets forth the procedure for requesting attorneys’ fees in a Rule 9.100 proceeding.” The court relied upon Stockman v. Down. 573 So. 2d 835, 837 (Fla. 1991). In Stockman, the supreme court held “a claim for attorney’s fees ... must be pled.” The supreme court was concerned about notice to the opposing party. The Fourth District recognized the same concern applies to original proceedings. Therefore, the Fourth District held the petitioner was required to “plead” its entitlement to attorneys’ fees in its petition or reply, just as a trial practitioner would plead entitlement in a complaint, answer, or counterclaim. See Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.100(a). The petitioner’s failure to do so was fatal to his claim for fees.

The Advanced opinion creates two uncertainties. First, it does not detail the level of specificity necessary in the “pleading.” It is unclear whether one must establish a full legal and factual basis for fees in the pleading or simply make a request to establish notice. Second, the opinion does not establish the time within which a motion for fees — if any — should follow the pleading. Stockman said, “Proof of attorney’s fees may be presented after final judgment, upon motion within a reasonable time.” 573 So. 2d at 838. But in an original proceeding, there is no “judgment” from which to determine a “reasonable time.”

In the wake of Advanced, appellate practitioners should plead entitlement to fees in original proceedings and proceed cautiously thereafter.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Clerk Of The Circuit Court's Message: A Paperless Office

By Pat Frank

When I first took office as clerk of the circuit court in January 2005, I pledged to make it my goal to transition from mounds of paper to a paperless system.  We have been moving steadily toward attaining that goal, and now, it truly is in sight.

This is a monumental achievement for our paper-filled office.  To put it in perspective, if you ever visited the Empire State Building in New York City and were awestruck by its height, it’s nothing compared to our paper piles here.  If we took all of the paper court records from the clerk’s office and placed them in a stack – they would not only exceed the height of the Empire State Building – you would actually need to stack 57 more Empire State Buildings on top of one another to surpass the height of all of our paper court records!  And the Empire State Building reaches 1,454 feet into the sky.

Our transition to e-Filing is the natural transition to a paperless system.  The paper that comes in is digitized within our Odyssey Case Maintenance System.  Thus, the official court record will be in electronic form, with only select paper documents retained in compliance with court rules of procedure.

Our big jump in that direction came when we instituted a new system known as CRIBS – Clerks Reactive Intelligent Back Scanning System.  The software for CRIBS was actually developed in-house by our own IT shop.  The software permits the automated examination of the Odyssey case progress docket for case events that do not have an electronic image associated to them. 

This is how CRIBS works: The software generates an intelligent separator sheet, which contains a barcode for each document that must be imaged.  This intelligent separator sheet is placed on top of the document to be imaged.  Once the document is scanned, it is passed through OCR processing in order to create a text-searchable document and is placed sequentially through multiple layers of quality control.  Once completed, the image is then automatically linked to the appropriate case and case event.    

CRIBS software is being piloted in the Circuit Civil Division – Mortgage Foreclosure Division M.  The judge in that division will use only electronic case files through the Thirteenth Judicial Automated Workflow System (JAWS) and alleviate the need for the department to provide a paper court file.  Once the CRIBS software passes through the pilot test, we will work closely with the court administrator to identify other opportunities for the deployment of this software.  Together, we will identify the divisions that provide the greatest opportunities for the overall back scanning of paper court files.

The good news about CRIBS is that it is scalable and can be applied to other areas in our court system. Paper is definitely an endangered species in the clerk’s office.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Peculiarities Of Agricultural Law In Florida

By Jacob T. Cremer

Did you know that this year, the Florida Legislature prevented local governments from adopting new laws or policies that regulate or restrict agritourism? See § 570.96(1), Fla. Stat. Or that owners of most cattle-dipping vats are exempt from state pollution-control laws? See § 376.306, Fla. Stat. Did you know local governments in Florida cannot regulate apiculture? (Or that apiculture is the science of beekeeping?) See § 586.10, Fla. Stat.

It doesn’t take long for the environmental and land-use practitioner to realize that agriculture is different in Florida. Many people are surprised by these peculiarities. For good reason: We are less connected to agriculture today than we were in the past. Because of the phenomenal increase in agricultural output over the past 100 years, we have gone from 80 percent of our population working in agriculture to only 2.5 percent. Yet agriculture is still Florida’s second-largest industry. Perhaps we should not be surprised by these peculiarities when such a large industry is understood by so few.

Practitioners should be aware of these differences precisely because they do not affect other land uses or types of activities. These peculiarities usually take the form of pre-emptions and exemptions. In the land-use arena, nonresidential farm buildings, farm signs, and even farm fences are exempt from the Florida Building Code as well as local government codes and fees. § 604.50, Fla. Stat.

Another land-use pre-emption is the Agricultural Lands and Practices Act, which since 2003 has prevented counties from adopting any law or policy “to prohibit, restrict, regulate, or otherwise limit an activity of a bona fide farm operation on land classified as agricultural land” if the activity is regulated by any one of a number of state and federal regulatory agencies. § 163.3162(3), Fla. Stat. See also § 823.14, Fla. Stat. (Florida Right to Farm Act, providing for similar pre-emption along with protections for farms against public and private nuisance suits). Later, the Agricultural Lands and Practices Act was strengthened to prohibit the enforcement of many existing laws and policies related to agriculture. This year, Senate Bill 203 extended the act beyond counties to virtually all local and regional governmental entities.

Beyond land use, agriculture is subject to numerous exemptions to state environmental laws and permitting regimes. See, e.g., § 373.406, Fla. Stat. (certain agricultural activities exempt from state permitting of activities altering surface water flows); § 403.7045, Fla. Stat. (agricultural byproduct material and process waste generally not hazardous waste); and § 403.927 (exempts agricultural activities and agricultural water management systems from typical dredge and fill permit requirements).

Keep in mind that almost all of the pre-emptions and exemptions discussed above require that the agricultural operation be “bona fide” — that is, be used in good faith for commercial agriculture. The standards for making this determination are found in § 193.461, Fla. Stat, the agricultural tax classification (which is not really an “exemption,” even though it is commonly called one).

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Florida Bar Foundation Provides Leadership And Funding For Justice

By Gregory P. Brown

As lawyers, we share a commitment to justice.  The Florida Bar Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity, turns that commitment into action through its funding of programs that provide access to justice for Floridians living in poverty.  Through our support of The Florida Bar Foundation, we can demonstrate our belief that the justice system works best when it works for everyone ― regardless of economic status.

Locally, The Florida Bar Foundation is an important funding source for Bay Area Legal Services.  Through its Administration of Justice (AOJ) Grant Program, the foundation also helps fund special projects and initiatives across the state such as the Innocence Project of Florida, which has succeeded in exonerating 13 wrongfully imprisoned Floridians using DNA evidence since 2003, as well as the Florida Law Related Education Association, which teaches Florida students about democracy and the American legal system.  Several years ago, another AOJ grant went to Bay Area Legal Services for a highly successful and widely emulated Bankruptcy Pro Se Assistance Project that involved a collaboration with several other legal services organizations and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District.

If you visit the foundation’s website, you will be impressed with the number and diversity of the grantees assisted by the foundation.

Since 1981, the primary source of funding for The Florida Bar Foundation has been Florida’s Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) Program, which has enabled the foundation to provide about one-third of the total funding for civil legal aid organizations in Florida.  Over the past 32 years, Florida’s IOTA Program has distributed more than $425 million to help hundreds of thousands of poor people receive critically needed free civil legal assistance throughout Florida.

The Foundation also funds initiatives such as salary supplementation and loan repayment programs that help attract and retain legal aid attorneys.  The salary supplementation grant for Bay Area Legal Services was $403,260 in 2012-13.

In recent years, due to the impact of extremely low interest rates on IOTA revenue, the foundation has had to drastically reduce its funding to legal aid agencies.  Whereas in 2010, Bay Area Legal Services received a foundation general support grant of $396,467 to provide legal services, as well as a $164,800 foundation grant specifically for Children’s Legal Services, in 2013 those grant amounts were $180,393 and $71,957, respectively.  Overall, foundation funding is now about a quarter of legal aid funding statewide.

I urge you to take a few minutes to learn more about The Florida Bar Foundation, an organization in which all of us, as Florida attorneys, can take tremendous pride, and one that brings critical resources back to our community.  If you have questions about the foundation, feel free to ask me or my fellow Florida Bar Foundation board members from Hillsborough County, Hala Sandridge and Judge Jim Barton.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

State Attorney's Message: Revoking Bond

By Mark A. Ober

Unless charged with a capital offense or an offense punishable by life imprisonment and the proof of guilt is evident or the presumption is great, every person charged with a crime or violation of municipal or county ordinance shall be entitled to pretrial release on reasonable conditions. If no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to persons, assure the presence of the accused at trial, or assure the integrity of the judicial process, the accused may be detained. Art. I, § 14, Fla. Const.

The custody status of a defendant pending trial is a balance between the defendant’s presumption of innocence and the need to keep the community safe.  Under Florida law, there is a presumption in favor of nonmonetary conditions of release for defendants who are not charged with dangerous crimes. See § 907.041(3), Fla. Stat. In most cases, a criminal defendant is entitled to release on bond while awaiting trial.  In Florida, the terms “bail,” “bond,” and “pretrial release” are usually interchangeable. See § 903.011, Fla. Stat. 

By statute, the defendant must comply with certain conditions of release. See § 903.047, Fla. Stat. While out on bond, a defendant cannot engage in criminal activity or contact the victim in the case. See § 903.047, Fla. Stat. The court may also set other special conditions of release if those special conditions are reasonable. See Hernandez v. Roth, 890 So. 2d 1173 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2004).  When determining the amount of bail or other conditions of release, the court has to consider such factors as the nature of the charges, the weight of the evidence, the prior record and individual circumstances of the defendant, and the potential danger to any victims. See § 903.046, Fla. Stat. 

What happens when a defendant violates the conditions of release? Florida law allows a defendant who has violated the conditions of pretrial release to be held without bond under certain circumstances.   

If there is probable cause to believe that the defendant has committed a new crime, the court may revoke bond on its own. See § 903.0471, Fla. Stat. This frequently occurs when the defendant is at first appearance on a new charge.  The probable cause affidavit prepared for the new charge can be sufficient to revoke bond on the initial case. See Perry v. State, 842 So. 2d 301 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003). 

The court may also order pretrial detention if a defendant violates a condition of release and the court finds that “no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to persons or assure the presence of the accused at trial.” § 907.041(4)(c)(7), Fla. Stat. The state must file a motion for pretrial detention, and the state carries the burden at the motion hearing. See § 907.041, Fla. Stat; Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.132.

My office protects the community, not just by seeking convictions, but also by seeking to revoke bond before trial where it is necessary to keep our community safe.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Criminal Law Section Call For Nominations: 2014 Bubba Huerta Award

By Matt Luka

In March 2009, local defense counsel Marcelino “Bubba” Huerta III passed away at the too-young age of 56.  For his professionalism, good heart, and friendly personality, Bubba was universally respected throughout the Tampa Bay area by defense counsel, prosecutors, and judges alike.  His quiet commitment to pro bono service was not known to many, but it was appreciated and admired by those who knew him best.  With his passing, the Hillsborough County Bar Association lost a friend, and the criminal justice system lost a great lawyer and public servant.

In Bubba’s memory, the Criminal Law Section of the Hillsborough County Bar Association created the Marcelino “Bubba” Huerta III Award for Professionalism and Pro Bono Service.  This award is presented to an attorney who exhibits the professional practice, dedication to pro bono service, and diligent work in the pursuit of equal justice that made Bubba a remarkable lawyer.  The recipient of the award is selected by a committee consisting of local, state, and federal criminal practitioners. In 2009, the first Bubba Huerta Award was presented to James Felman of Kynes, Markman & Felman.

The process has begun to select the recipient of the 2013-2014 Bubba Huerta Award.  The award will be presented at our section’s luncheon meeting on February 27, 2014.  Please nominate an attorney who exemplifies the professionalism and pro bono spirit that made Bubba Huerta exceptional. Your nomination can be submitted by emailing me at or Mark Rankin at

Friday, November 8, 2013

Construction Law: Reading Commercial General Liability Policies: Exclusions, Exceptions, and Exasperation

By Bennett Acuff

Reading Commercial General Liability (CGL) policies can feel a lot like tracking a flow chart or solving an LSAT logic game.  There are covered claims, exclusions to coverage, and then exceptions to those exclusions.  Not to mention endorsements.

One of the more common provisions is the “Your Work” exclusion.  A typical CGL policy will exclude damages if the work is defective.  Policies will not cover costs to replace defective work.  However, such policies normally include an exception to the “Your Work” exclusion if the work was performed by a subcontractor.  Beware, however, of the oft-dreaded endorsement that can negate a policy term.

Similar to the “Your Work” exclusion, many CGL policies contain a “Your Product” exclusion that operates in a related manner.  For instance, a CGL policy for a door supplier would not cover the cost to replace a defective door.  One of the questions that arises but has not been thoroughly addressed by Florida courts is how to define “Your Work,” when the product has been installed and altered in the process.

Recently, the Second District Court of Appeals in Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. MI Windows & Doors, Inc., 2013 WL 4734045*2 (Fla. 2d DCA Sept. 4, 2013), held that the standard for determining whether the “Your Work” exclusion applies is whether the nature and function of the product has been changed.

In MI Windows, MI manufactured and sold sliding glass doors to a contractor who agreed to install the windows in five condominium projects along the Alabama coast. The contractor then subcontracted out the installation to third parties. Id. at *1. In two out of the five projects, the doors were installed with no change. However, in the other three projects, installers used transoms along the top of the doors. This apparently weakened the structural integrity of the doors. MI had to pay more than $3 million to settle defective-product lawsuits. Id.

MI sought coverage under its CGL policy, but its carrier, Liberty, cited the “Your Product” exclusion and denied the claim.  The lower court granted summary judgment in MI’s favor, ruling that the “Your Product” exclusion did not apply because the addition of the transoms significantly changed the doors.

The Second District Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision and held that the “Your Product” exclusion applied because there was no “alchemy” that changed the original product.  Put simply, because the sliding doors were installed for their intended purpose, and operated as sliding doors, the “Your Product” exclusion applied, thereby precluding coverage.

Every CGL policy is different, and it is unclear how the courts will enforce the multitude of exclusions, exceptions, and endorsements, so it is very important to read and re-read the entire CGL policy to best inform clients on what coverage may be available.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Community Services Committee: Relish The Privilege To Serve Those In Need

By Lara M. LaVoie

As attorneys, we all know that law can be a very stressful profession, and it is easy to get caught up in the cycle of complaining about the unhappiness that we often feel about our jobs and our lives.  What we do not often take the time to realize, though, is just how lucky we really are when we compare ourselves to the rest of the population in this country (and the world, for that matter).  We are fortunate to have been able to develop invaluable skills and accomplish incredible goals in our lives that we so easily take for granted.  We also often forget that we did not make it to where we are on our own.  Whether it was with the blessing of loving and giving parents, true friends, or inspiring teachers, most (if not all) of us have had the love and support of others to help and guide us along the way. 

Others’ lives have not been as fortunate.  There are some people who were simply dealt a different hand and may never have the opportunity to enjoy or accomplish what we have.  Some children have suffered abuse that we could never imagine and have to fight a battle that many of us would not have the strength to fight.  Imagine how different our lives would be if we had started out that way.  We should really feel lucky to have what we do and to have the privilege to help those less fortunate.

When I first volunteered for the Community Services Committee (CSC), I gave a few hours of my time to help with the Dining with Dignity event, which provides the homeless with a lovely, sit-down meal. I was touched by how the members of this committee are willing to take time out of their busy lives and give so generously to those in need. 

This committee is about more than making a monetary donation. It is about spending valuable time to truly touch the lives of others.  You may not think you have the time, or you may think an hour of your time will not change the world. However, just an ounce of caring and compassion may be enough to change one person’s world. 

I was honored when Lisa Esposito asked me to serve as co-chair of the CSC. I hope that we can really make an impact on the community with the amazing volunteer events we have planned for this year.

Being involved in the CSC is your opportunity to make your mark on humanity and on this profession.  Who knows, you may even find more happiness in your life as a result.  After all, as Booker T. Washington said, “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”

Please contact Lara LaVoie ( or Lisa Esposito ( for information on joining the CSC or volunteering for an event.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pro Bono Opportunities: Giving Back Collaboratively

By Joryn Jenkins and Jeremy Gluckman

As collaborative dispute resolution (CDR) grows in Hillsborough County and throughout Florida, several professionals have perceived a need to give back to the community, educate the public, and provide newly trained professionals with opportunities to work in CDR.  Thus was born a joint project of the Collaborative Law Section, Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce Group, and Bay Area Legal Services to provide divorcing couples of limited means the benefits of this interdisciplinary process.

For those who are not familiar with CDR, it is a private alternative to courtroom divorces.  Each client retains a separate attorney for the limited purpose of helping to reach a settlement without adjudication by the court.  A neutral facilitator guides the parties through the emotional process of dissolution.  A joint accountant or financial planner gathers the necessary financial information and provides financial guidance.

We are very proud to report that our joint program has produced the first pro bono collaborative divorce in Florida.  Nancy Lugo and Bay Area Volunteer Lawyer Program staff selected our first client.  The client chose Joryn Jenkins as her attorney.  Adam B. Cordover offered to work as her husband’s attorney.  Dr. Jennifer Mockler volunteered to serve as the neutral facilitator, and accountant Monica Ospina took on the role of the neutral financial professional.  All of the participants signed the pro bono collaborative participation agreement.

The clients had divided up their personal property.  There was no real property to distribute.  Timesharing and parental responsibility were therefore the critical issues to be resolved, especially because there was a significant other involved and a child born of that subsequent relationship.

The clients brought noteworthy effort to their collaborative table, and the clients and professionals, as a team, helped to sort out their issues.  Issues were identified in individual meetings with the clients and each neutral professional.  The parties and the full team of professionals met several times to resolve their disputes.  Dr. Mockler ably discharged her duties as the team leader, directing the discussion of the parenting plan details. Ospina increased the size of the clients’ limited financial assets by suggesting they not alternate the child tax credit every other year.  Rather, she suggested they maximize the value of that refund by annually awarding credit to the father.  The mother could already claim head of household status with her child born outside the marriage, so the father agreed to reimburse her share of the refund.

The clients reached a full settlement.  Before this is published, they will be divorced.  They will not have antagonized each other by swearing to horrific things about each other in pleadings.  They will have collaborated, under the tutelage of trained professionals, to forge a new and different bond as co-parents for the benefit of their children for the rest of their lives.

If you have an interest in working with our Pro Bono Committee, please contact our Pro Bono Committee co-chairs, Joryn Jenkins or Jeremy Gluckman.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Community Services Committee Makes A Difference In Lives Of Veterans

By Lisa A. Esposito 

Make a Difference Day - Adopt a Veteran was a huge success, thanks to you!  The Community Services Committee (CSC) did it.  We adopted every veteran on the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital’s hardship list, but we couldn’t have done it without the generosity and commitment of you, our members, and your friends, family, and co-workers.     

On October 26, 2013, CSC members visited with our nation’s most revered treasure, our aging veterans in need, to thank them for their service and deliver gifts of gratitude.  If you donated, thank you.  If you helped deliver or spread the word, again, thank you!  The hours we spent meeting these soldiers surely left its mark on us.  

In fact, I would like to share one of my experiences meeting an extraordinary veteran whom I will call Bob.  Bob is 96, still feisty, and quick with a laugh.  He spoke of his time in the Navy during World War II. He smiled when he talked about being a butcher, a baker, and a traveling salesman.  No, he wasn’t a candlestick maker, but he did try lots of professions in his lifetime.  He told me about making doughnuts while a baker, doughnuts better than Dunkin’ Donuts, according to Bob, and in talking with him I would have expected no less.  

Although Bob outlived his family, he still tries to find things to make him laugh every day.  This day, it was the colorful shirt he received from a member.  Bob laughed, saying he would smile when he wore the shirt as the colors reminded him of his youth!  Wow, powerful stuff!  Talking with this extraordinary man made me appreciate my life, my freedom that he helped secure, and my family.  Thanks, Bob.     

My story is just one of many that occurred throughout Hillsborough County on Make a Difference Day.  I hope that all who came out will share stories with your neighbors and family.  The soldiers we visited that day delighted in having someone with whom to reminisce about their lives, and we got to learn about their memorable experiences. We thought we were giving to them, but we walked away realizing we had received so much more.      

If you couldn’t participate in Adopt A Veteran, no worries.  In December, CSC will work with another nonprofit group, Aging Solutions, participating in Elves for the Elderly Holiday Gift Drive.  Our members will become Santa’s elves, adopting needy elderly state wards who can no longer take care of themselves and have no family support.  They need our help with basic necessities such as shoes, socks, maybe a stuffed animal to hug when times get tough!  Help us put some presents under their trees/menorahs.  Without elves like us, they would have no gifts this season!  Interested in adopting an elder or donning some antlers and visiting some special people this season?  For more information, contact Lisa Esposito ( or Lara LaVoie (     

Friday, November 1, 2013

Editor's Message: Giving Thanks To Our Mentors

By Rena Upshaw-Frazier

The fall season seems to be the time of year that we all become acutely aware of things for which we are thankful. We reflect, outwardly and internally, on gratitude for our family and friends, our careers and jobs, and of course the necessities that we have –food, shelter, and clothing. Recently, I was fortunate to have an experience that opened my eyes to a gift that is of great importance to me but for which I had rarely “given thanks.” I share this with you so that you may add it to your “thank you” list this season, if you have not already done so.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I believe that mentors and champions are important in all aspects of life – but particularly in one’s career. Those lucky enough to have mentors who are engaged and involved understand the opportunities for learning, growth, and progression that such relationships can provide. As Isaac Newton is often credited as writing: “If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” Mentors, through their experience and guidance, help us to see further and to become the people, colleagues, partners, and community members we strive to be.

A short time ago, one of my mentors retired. As part of the retirement celebration, someone had the idea of putting together a memento from those who wished to express their gratitude for the things this person had done to enrich their careers or lives. In essence, it was a formal “thank you” package, filled with personal gifts and messages.

As I prepared my message, I realized that it was the first time I was outwardly thanking this person for investing in me, my career, and my goals. I had thanked this person for isolated events, such as for sharing inspiring articles or for introducing me to a certain person. But I had not said “thank you” for the time. I was glad to now have the opportunity; however, I felt remiss that I had not done it sooner. I had taken it for granted that this mentor, and my other mentors, knew that I was thankful for their time and counsel.

Although my mentor’s retirement has not meant the end of our relationship, it has lessened the frequency of our casual conversations during which I would seek the advice. Such discussions now take more planning, but I am thankful that we still have the opportunity to talk. 

This year, as we enjoy this season of giving thanks for the things that we have and appreciate, let us remember to thank our mentors for allowing us to stand on their shoulders so that we may see further. Now is as good a time as any.