The Laura (Riding) Jackson Foundation (LRJF), a 501(c)3 non-profit, with more than thirty years in Indian River County, announces the retirement of Ms. Marie C. Stiefel from the Board of Directors as of June 30, 2024. Her strong commitment to the mission of the organization continues—which is no surprise to anyone who knows her. Among her many contributions to be considered, imagine moving a 1910 Florida Cracker House twelve miles across the county and having to raise $350,000+ to make it happen. Marie C. Stiefel made it happen. She is an exemplar of philanthropy as demonstrated through her selfless hard work and innumerable contributions to LRJF, including saving the historic house. Marie’s vision for growing the literary arts and her leadership in bringing together different parts of the community in the effort, provides a model for others to emulate.

As the President of the LRJF from 2016-2023, Marie built on a strong foundation set by previous leaders by expanding the overall mission of LRJF. With the Laura (Riding) Jackson Historical House now at IRSC, she worked to create new opportunities for the community to engage in this author residence museum and Florida friendly plant garden.  Marie also broke the way to create a headquarters and writing classroom at what is now the Laura (Jackson) Foundation Writing Center at 1914 on 14th Street in the midst of downtown Vero Beach.

The opportunities for teens to participate in creative writing, attend workshops by renowned authors, and benefit from college essay workshops continued and grew under her leadership. Additionally, the number of adult writers workshops and ongoing adult writer groups grew from two to seven under her leadership. All of these provide support for the literary mission of LRJF.

Marie, due to her avid love of gardening, also spearheaded the creation of a Florida friendly garden surrounding the historic home at Indian River State College on Mueller Campus next to the Brackett Library.  She oversaw the design and execution of what is now a lovely garden open to the public and serves as a retreat for writers of all ages.  Marie continues to be a garden volunteer and a member of the Wednesday Morning Weed Warriors who help maintain the garden.    She created the design of a separate children’s sensory and word garden to encourage the interaction of children with nature and which is now being transformed to a square foot gardening for school age children.

Last, but certainly not least, Marie is a strong financial supporter of LRJF and has provided a quiet, but powerful, voice on the importance of ensuring the sustainability of the LRJF mission through donations that underpin the many activities related to the preservation of the LRJ Historical House and gardens and the literary activities that enhance the creative expression of our citizens. In 2020, Marie was recognized as an Honored Leader on the Association of Fundraising Professional’s National Philanthropy Day for her focused cultural advocacy in our community.

Asked to share her own thoughts about her extensive volunteer work with LRJF, it is easy to see the passion she brought to the work.

When I am asked why I love working with the Laura (Riding) Jackson Foundation, I think about the power of storytelling to entertain, inform, and inspire. What can be more fun than wonderful stories?  I love stories. The best ones are informed by lived experience. Vero Beach residents bring rich personal histories including a wealth of doing travel, reading, and living. Whether someone has lived in Florida all of his or her life, has recently arrived, is emigrating to a new culture, a corporate executive transitioning to retirement after an intense career, or a mom finding a new identity when her little children become adults, each brings unique yet universal elements. Whether it’s written in a memoir, or fiction, or verse, the story has a bit of that author’s experience in it. It’s so exciting to see a writer gain enough confidence in one genre to branch out to another poetic or prose form or make the leap to the wider world by publishing,” remarked Marie Stiefel.

LRJF provides a much-needed haven for storytellers: a safe place to bring to words on paper those experiences that have shaped one’s life and imagination. LRJF provides a much-needed haven for storytellers: a safe place to bring those experiences that have shaped one’s life and imagination to words on paper. Of course, the Foundation helps our community in many other wonderful ways. For example, preserving Laura’s historic house not only shows how people lived before the invention of concrete blocks and air conditioning, but also provides the Foundation with its mission: to follow Laura’s lead in the cultivation of the love of language and the possibilities of literature.

“I enjoy it all, but I delight and celebrate the enthusiasm of the storytellers most of all and am so fortunate to see this creative process up close,” quoted by Marie C. Stiefel.

LRJF is dedicated to preserving the author’s home and the Florida-friendly garden surrounding it while nurturing writers of all ages through a series of literary offerings including writers’ groups, summer camps, workshops, and poetry festivals. The Foundation honors writer Laura (Riding) Jackson’s belief in the promise of language by creating community through the literary arts.

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