Circle of Friends narrow beneficiary program list to six possibilities

Shanti Sanchez, Diane Wilhelm and Margaret Goembel

VERO BEACH — Never underestimate the power of women; especially when they unite as a like-minded group.  Originally formed in 1979, the Vero Beach Museum of Art Friends Committee (then known as the Community Committee) has provided stalwart support throughout the Museum’s history.  Last year, after learning that Florida had cut arts funding from the state budget, they started an offshoot – a Circle of Friends, to give a boost to the Museum’s educational outreach programs.

Close to 50 women attended Wednesday morning’s Circle of Friends meeting to learn more about the programs currently provided by the Museum and to narrow down the list to six semi-finalists, one or more of which will benefit from their largess this spring.  Circle of Friends co-chairs Diane Wilhelm and Margaret Goembel have set a goal of 100 women contributing $250 each.

“We are two-thirds of the way towards making our goal of $25,000, so we still need additional members,” said Wilhelm.  In its inaugural year, the Circle of Friends raised $15,250, which was awarded to the Artists in the School Program.

Marshall Adams, the Museum’s Director of Education, introduced the gathering to 17 educational programs in four different areas of interest: School Programs, which work closely with teachers and schools, Community Engagement Partnerships, which collaborate with outside organizations, Student Programs, provided outside of regular school hours, and Family Programs, which allow children and their families to enjoy the arts together.  After his presentation, members were each asked to vote for the three programs that most tugged at their heartstrings.

While the votes were being tallied, Shanti Sanchez, School Youth Programs Manager presented a montage of photos overlapped with voices of the children, teachers and artists who participated in the Artists in the School program, all expressing gratitude for the way it had enriched their lives.

The top six programs that will now move on to the next phase were:  Artist in the School, designed to provide students with the most impact possible when visiting the Museum; Transportation Grants, to help cover the expense of buses and substitute teachers; Afternoon at the Museum, a partnership with the Alzheimer & Parkinson Association; Children’s Home Society, providing a creative outlet for teen girls living in the Vero Beach Baines Hall Girls Home; Intergenerational Art Program, bringing together at-risk teens in a drug abuse treatment facility with adults from the Senior Resource Association; and Summer Camp Scholarships, for those who might not otherwise be able to attend the summer sessions.

“Over the next couple of months, members will be making site visits to each of the six finalist programs,” said Goembel. “At the next meeting, they will give presentations about their visits to help the others make informed decisions.”

Maya Peterson, who joined Circle of Friends last year, described it as “a nucleus of women who wanted to go one step further with the Museum.”

“I might have chosen more programs for people that are needy, but I’m happy with the choices.”

Sue Sharpe has been a Museum Docent for the past eight years and joined Circle of Friends this year.

“Personally, I like to see the effort put into the children’s programs,” said Sharpe.  “I love it when the children interact with the artists and staff; they get the whole hands-on experience.  Being a docent, and working with the kids is fabulous.”

At the next meeting, Wednesday, March 16 at 10:30 a.m., those who have made site visits will make their presentations and members will again vote, narrowing the number down to three programs; the final vote will occur at 5 p.m. Monday, April 11.

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