Jim Stringfellow: My ‘movers and shakers’ list


Published: Monday, December 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 30, 2008 at 6:25 p.m.

The recent front page story naming Gainesville’s “Movers and Shakers” had me chuckling. Don’t get me wrong. Those named are nice folks. But let me tell you who the real “Movers and Shakers” are in our town:

Ester Tibbs:

This strong leader has directed this region of the State Department of Children and Families for years. She, through her department’s direct care staff and contracted services, manages the lives of some 3,000 children and their parents every year. These are kids who have been reported neglected, abused, abandoned ... kids who, except for the caring and management skills of this lady, would never have a chance for a successful life.

As we speak she is developing an innovative new children and family resource center here that could revolutionize the present system of determining the disposition of children as they come into the DCF system.

Dan Boyd:

Whether he is all over the county speaking for passage of a tax increase for our schools, or negotiating with flu vaccine physicians to protect the children, or fighting for funds to improve high school reading levels and reduce dropouts, this dynamic leader is surely the most dedicated and effective school superintendent we have had here in modern times.

Bruce Stechmiller:

Dr. Stechmiller is an oncologist and has cared for the sickest of us for more than 30 years. He has served in just about every leadership position possible in health care institutions and not-for-profit organizations in this area.

Of all the physicians in this town he has always been the one that could be depended on to do the free care, or head up a charitable effort.

Karen Bricklemeyer:

Another strong, effective CEO who, through the organization she leads, the United Way, affects the destiny and quality of life of thousands of our less fortunate citizens.

It has been her courageous leadership that has transformed the United Way from a ho-hum distributor of charitable funds into a dynamic company that has directed its mission to making the most impact possible to the present and future quality of life in this community.

She has implemented programs like the Success By Six project which is changing the lives of hundreds of our at-risk children, developing them so that they will be prepared to succeed as they enter school.

Sadie Darnell:

This indefatigable and dynamic mover and shaker seems to be everywhere the word “prevention” is uttered. Our community finally has a senior law enforcement leader who understands the importance of the protection and development of our at-risk children in reducing the future cost and security of our citizens due to adult and juvenile crime.

Sam Butz:

This modest octogenarian retiree to me personifies the classic community volunteer. He is a Guardian Ad Litem advocate, aiding children who are seriously involved with the juvenile justice system and have no adult to stand up for them.

He founded the first Kiwanis World’s Greatest Baby Shower, an annual event that serves more than 200 young, pregnant and new mothers with seminars on child care. Very concerned with school dropouts here and below-grade-level reading, he is working on innovative programs that might help resolve these issues. Check out his Web site on this subject www.at-riskgainesville.info.

There are so many more:

Capt. Tony Jones, founder of The Reichert House and tireless advocate for young troubled African-American teens.

Joyce LeBlanc, director of Healthy Families, which works with at-risk children from birth.

Pam and Jim Pearce. She founded and managed Big Brothers and Sisters for years, and now directs the Guardian Ad Litem progam. He manages the Corner Drug Store.

Gordon Tremaine, CEO of the Early Learning Coalition.

Jennifer Anchors, who directs the Childrens Home Society and yearly handles the adoption of 150 children.

Sol Hirsch heads up our library system, whose innovative childrens sections in the 10 regional libraries can change the literary skills and lives of children throughout the county.

My movers and shakers may not be moneyed, or make big real estate deals. What they do is use their considerable leadership skills to dedicate every waking hour toward making our community a better place to live.

Jim Stringfellow is a lifelong resident of Gainesville.

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