ORCHID – Fire Battalion Chief Cory Richter remembers clearly the day Mary Ellen Strawser, a member of the Orchid Island Club across the street, walked into Fire/Rescue Station #11, located on Route 510 in Wabasso with a proposition.
She wanted to start a scholarship fund with contributions benefiting the children of the first responders of Indian River County.
Although it sounded like a good idea, according to Richter, a lot of people came by the station with good ideas, well-meaning ideas, never to return.
But Strawser was different.
She followed through.
Thanks to her perseverance, Orchid Island Outreach, with the assistance of Dollars for Scholars of Indian River County, is responsible for awarding scholarships to academically deserving students in Indian River County.
On a recent evening, Peggy and Fred Marino opened their exquisite Orchid Island home, overlooking the verdant golf course and a fiery sunset, to hundreds of generous revelers, and their checkbooks, for the only fundraising event held each year by the group.
Guests strolled through the airy great room, out to the pool, where bars were tended by orchid members, and hors d’oeuvres were passed.
The evening was a labor of love, evidenced by the homemade mouthwatering tidbits passed, and the beautiful flowers arranged by fashionably dressed, gracious hostesses, who made sure everyone had enough to eat and drink, making the family atmosphere palpable.
Eschewing caterers and florists meant that all money collected goes right to the scholarships.
“This is an amazing group of smart people who know how important a good education is in life. The organization is self-sustaining,” said Richter. “These people really give back to the community, by showing their gratitude to all the public safety agencies and their employees.”
“We have a great staff, and we are so grateful to our firemen, our policemen, and our EMTs,” Darcy Smith Seed, an Orchid Island member, said.
Anthony Walton, an Orchid Island employee and third year civil engineering major at Florida Tech, wanted to go back to school, but the cost was prohibitive.
“I appreciate the generosity of the members. It gave me the incentive to go to Florida Tech. I was able to stay in the area and still get a great education.”
This year’s scholarship winners, Kiani Waikiki, who received the Employees’ scholarship, and Kristal Lavender, who received the Outreach Scholarship, are both freshmen at Florida schools.
Dollars for Scholars Executive Director Camilla Wainwright was grateful to the group.
“Our students are so lucky to benefit from this generous community involvement. We appreciate the generosity of the members of Orchid Island.”