Rita Lawrence: Spirit of Gainesville nominee


Published: Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 5:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 5:12 p.m.

What can be said about my dear friend and colleague, Rita Lawrence, that is not already known by anyone and everyone she meets? Rita is by and large one of the most selfless, thoughtful, compassionate and deeply committed people I have ever known. For this reason I would love the privilege of nominating her for the Spirit of Gainesville Community Service Award.

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Rita Lawrence

Facts

Category: Community Service

About Rita Lawrence

Occupation: Sexual Assault Program Manager, Victim Advocate

Years in Gainesville: 20

Children: One dog - Lil' Stray

Rita acts as the Sexual Assault Program Manager for Alachua County Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center, which she has worked for twelve years, and is the chair for the local Florida Coalition Against Sexual Violence Task Force. As a coworker and friend, I come to Rita whenever I am stumped, looking for answers and for that boost of morale during hard times. This past April Rita hosted the first Survivors Art Exhibit in which she acted as director, curator and picture hanger, showcasing artwork and poetry from survivors of sexual assault. She is truly a gift to every victim and survivor she comes into contact with. Rita is a kind smile, an open heart and an inspiration to her clients, her coworkers, her friends and every dog in Alachua County.

Not only does Rita open herself up to sexual assault survivors, she opens up her home to as many dogs as she can. Rita tirelessly advocates and volunteers for many local animal rescue agencies, including Phoenix Animal Rescue, Gainesville Pet Rescue, Plenty of Pitbulls and Second Chance Farms. It is not uncommon for Rita to call in to our office in the morning hours to take volunteer leave because she has found a dog in the parking lot next door, or one wandering the streets of southeast Gainesville on her way to work. The revolving doggie door of Rita's house is in constant motion as she takes in, nurses to health and adopts out as many furry friends as possible. Rita is constantly finding ways in what little off time she has to gather money and support for animals. Recently she was able to gather a $500 fund from PNC National Bank for Gainesville Pet Rescue. As an artist and potter, Rita has created dog bowls for local pet stores to sell, contributing her proceeds to animal shelters.

Every moment of Rita's life is dedicated to making the lives around her more whole, centered and beautiful. I have had the great opportunity of learning so much from her and I continue to be inspired by her selflessness and warm spirit, a spirit which Gainesville should feel honored to hold.

Submitted by Ashley Cortez

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