Library Friends Annual Meeting


Principal Manzi Guest Speaker

While the Beach community lost Fort Myers Beach Library Director Dr. Leroy Hommerding a month-and-a-half ago, he was omnipresent, from beginning to end, at the Friends of the Fort Myers Beach Library’s Annual Meeting on Thursday morning, February 28. The FMB Friends rescheduled the Annual Meeting from its original January 28 date, as that was too near the shadow of the tragedy.

As Dr. Hommerding was a FMB Library Friends officer, his absence led to a lack of a quorum to open the meeting, causing the nomination of Lorrie Wolf to temporarily fill his slot that received unanimous approval. The Annual Meeting then observed a Moment of Silence in memory of Dr. Hommerding, with President Betty Simpson commenting, “Every time I come through the entrance, and see his large photograph and memorial book, I am so grateful for everything Dr. Hommerding has done for our Library, and the Friends will continue his mission.”

A Bit of A Celebrity

Simpson then introduced the program’s guest speaker, Beach Elementary School Principal Karen Manzi. “I feel like a bit of a celebrity,” she began in jest. “In 30 years of teaching, I never once addressed a community group; I became the Beach Elementary School Principal in August, and since then, I have spoken to the Kiwanis, Fort Myers Beach Woman’s Club, Beach Kids Foundation, and now here!” She explained that she is a Fort Myers Beach resident, “and for the past five years, I have driven past the Beach School intersection and thought, ‘I would love to turn there!’ When I learned there would be an opening for the Principal position this year, I went to the Lee County School’s Administration and said, ‘Please pick me!’ At my last school, there were about 850 students, with around 100 kids in each grade level; here we have 100 total students!”

Principal Karen said, “The Number One educational goal at Beach Elementary School is reading proficiency. Even though our kids read all the time, we still have some who are behind their age group, so that is a challenge, especially with only one teacher-per-grade-level. Reading is the main thing in their cognitive development, and some of our students do not have any books in their homes and if you do not, it is not a priority. In my own family, for example, we as kids were already being read to in the womb! Getting Beach School students reading properly is our biggest challenge, as expectations have gone up for kids, but we are up to that, as kids will do what we expect them to do.”

She said she is very appreciative to be at Beach Elementary School because “our parents, who have such a tough job to do, are so supportive and a wonderful group – I have never had such a supportive Parent-Teacher Organization in my life!”

Like Clockwork

friend of library, annual meeting, fort myers beach
Beach Elementary School Principal Karen Manzi was the FMB Library Friends guest speaker. Photos by Gary Mooney.

Following a short break, the FMB Library Friends unanimously approved the Minutes of the 2018 Annual Meeting, heard its Treasurer’s Report as well as additional Reports on Bookstore/Book Sales, Membership and Newsletter, as well as confirming that the group will have a float in the March 9 Shrimp Festival Parade. Jan Fleming, who is in charge of Book Sales, stated that the final one for the Spring 2019 season will be Saturday & Sunday, March 16 & 17. Simpson said that these activities and more allowed the FMB Library Friends in 2018 to present Dr. Hommerding with a check for $20,000 “to use for his ‘Wish List’ of things he needed for the Library, and we will keep working hard to carry on his vision. We look forward to receiving the Library’s next ‘Wish List’ and expect to be able to top that amount!”

Before nominating the 2019 slate of New Officers & Board Members, Simpson thanked retiring members Cherie Smith, Judy FitzSimons, and Warren Richardson for their service. The FMB Library Friends then unanimously elected Betty Simpson as President, Paula Smith Vice President, Suzanne Katt Secretary, and Sandy Walker Treasurer, as well as the new Board of Marge Bejune, Johanna Campbell, Jan Fleming, Jessica Hernstadt, Eric Olson, Kelly Smith, and Lorrie Wolf, with Interim Library Director Cletus Poser an ex officio Board member.

Under New Business, Fleming reported that the FMB Library Friends to date received 34 “Memorial Cards” in tribute to Dr. Hommerding, with a total of $2,775 in contributions. “They are still coming in. These are not just from FMB residents, but a graduating class from a Minnesota school, as that is where Dr. Hommerding was from, as well as from several area libraries. It is so touching to read the kind words people wrote.”

Simpson offered that the FMB Library’s Elected Library Board of Directors is considering an appropriate memorial for Dr. Hommerding. “There is a local petition circulating to rename the Library in his honor, but that may legally be difficult to do, as it must go through the State of Florida. Other options right now include a memorial garden full of native plants, and some type of bronze sculpture, perhaps even a bust of Dr. Hommerding, as he loved both of those things. If you have any other ideas, please pass them along to Jan (Fleming), who is a Library Board Member.”

Fleming informed the FMB Library Friends that their group will be the recipient of donations from the “Drag Queen Bingo” fundraisers at the Nauti Parrot Dock Bar each Tuesday in April. “This is a very diverse program,” said Jan, smiling! “The Nauti Parrot hosts it each Tuesday and Friday evening, with proceeds to a local non-profit. To give you an idea of how this can add up, the Nauti Parrot recently presented the Friends of Lovers Key State Park a $3,910 check! What is especially exciting is that in a fortunate fluke of the calendar, there will be five Tuesdays in April!” To show their full support, Simpson suggested that the next FMB Library Friends group host their April meeting at the Nauti Parrot, then stay for Bingo, and received an enthusiastic response, so that will occur on April 9 at 6:30 p.m.

Finally, Simpson announced that refreshments for the meeting were courtesy of Mom’s Restaurant, as well as a generous contribution from the Hommerding Family of delicious items from Heidi’s Island Bistro. “On behalf of us all, we want to thank the Library Staff, at this difficult time, for everything you do. To an outsider, the Library seems to be humming along, like clockwork, and we so appreciate your service during your time of pain and grief, to follow through with the goals set by Dr. Hommerding.”


By Gary Mooney