Working on today’s article about the 50th anniversary of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast reminded me of yet another reason I love this town of Venice so much — Venetians volunteer.

Hundreds help Big Brothers Big Sisters; Venice Theatre; the Venice Art Center; Habitat for Humanity South Sarasota County; various religious organizations; Boy Scouts; Girl Scouts; The Salvation Army; the Red Cross; Venice Area Beautification Inc. (all those flowers downtown); Friends of the Legacy Trail; the hospital; service clubs; the Chamber of Commerce; the Venice Yacht Club, the Plantation and Venice Golf and Country Club foundations; the annual Holiday and the Christmas Boat parades; and countless others.

To list them all would take several editions of the Venice Gondolier Sun.

Most of us know the big organizations but few of us know about the many smaller groups and individuals that quietly notice a need and fill it.

The photo that accompanies today’s column is one example.

When the snowbirds leave for the summer, there is a noticeable drop in revenue for most local business owners. This past summer, there was an additional double whammy — red tide and road construction.

According to statistics from Visit Florida and the Sarasota Convention and Business Bureau, businesses within a few miles of the Gulf of Mexico saw as much as a 30 percent decrease in their normal summer business. With the road construction in Venice, downtown merchants have lost additional income.

Residents at Bay Indies Mobile Home Park decided to do something about it. They went out to eat in downtown Venice at Abbey’s on Miami Avenue and sent the accompanying photo to me. Other groups from Bay Indies have gone out to patronize other merchants.

I know these great folks are not alone. But restaurants are not the only businesses downtown.

There is plenty of parking at Centennial Park and there are many crosswalks to the shops and restaurants on Venice Avenue. West Tampa Avenue is still easy to navigate but its day is coming later this fall, so please do not forget the merchants in the Historic KMI Building.

While there, you can learn the history of the nation’s oldest military school. It kept winter quarters in Venice from 1932 to 1970, something that helped Venice recover from the Great Depression.

If you have not been to that building, check it out. There are some special shops there with great merchants plus historic items from KMI.

We do love our history in Venice.

Of all the cities in Florida, Venice is one of the most special historically. Its legacy includes early homesteaders like the family of Jesse Knight; Chicago socialite Bertha Palmer, who created the Eagle Point Club and moved the name of Venice south to where it is today; city planner John Nolen; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers; the KMI; the Chamber of Commerce, whihc brought the KMI and years later, The Greatest Show on Earth, to Venice; the creation of the Army Air Base in Venice; developers who created such areas as Venice Gardens; and founders of such institutions as the Venice Little Theatre (now Venice Theatre because it is no longer little), the Venice Art League (now Venice Art Center) and Venice Hospital.

When the hospital was sold years ago, the money generated became the nucleus of The Venice Foundation which today is known as Gulf Coast Community Foundation and is one of the larger foundations in the country.

To the 14,000 or so volunteers I have failed to mention in this little column, thank you and please keep up your good work. It is because of all of you that Venice is such a special place in which to live and work.


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