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Abilities Foundation Newsletter

                                          January 2014 

Ch�teau Kwasin WineFest Jan 29 


Join us for the 'Thrilla at the Villa' in the palatial Tampa beachfront estate of Mike Kwasin...


The Foundation will benefit from the 6-9 pm Wednesday, January 29th VIP Wine Tasting at Mike Kwasin's magnificent home at 3613 South Beach Drive, Tampa, FL 33629.    

Guests will enjoy beachfront ambiance, appetizers, and more than 40 premium wines, including Ingelnook, Cuvaison, Rodney Strong, Cass, Chappellet, Barlow, and more. The suggested charity donation is $25 per person or $40 per couple. Wines are also available for sale at discount prices. Pay at door by cash, check, or credit card.    


Mike selects a different charity each month to benefit from his  in-home wine tastings.This will be the fifth tasting he's hosted on behalf of the Foundation.To date, Mike's netted and donated more than $94,000 to local nonprofit organizations. What a remarkable accomplishment! The 29th happens to be his 70th birthday, so be sure to join us for a fabulous evening, and maybe we can help him eclipse the $100,000 mark.     

GE Volunteers Foundation awards a construction grant

The GE Aviation employees who wanted to support a Foundation project got their wish when the GE Volunteers Foundation awarded us a $5,000 grant to fund the construction of an Armed Forces Flag Salute and Pavilion for the Abilities Guild Veterans Mall Victory Garden,
a site to honor, recognize, and engage wounded veterans and their families. In addition, GE Aviation will provide 40 volunteers to install flag poles, frame and pour a pad, and build a 26' pavilion under the supervision of Class-A general contractor Joe Mobley and Home Depot store associates. Stay tuned for the groundbreaking. Meantime, we extend our sincerest thanks to the GE Volunteers Foundation, Dana Noeske, JoAnn Catanzaro, and Patty Horst.  


Foundation finishes 1st place in Pinellas County in Facebook Voting


Thank you SO much for voting! The Foundation finished 1st Place in Pinellas County (by three votes) among 13 nonprofits; 1st Runner-up in the region (Pinellas and Manatee Counties) among seven nonprofits; and 13th Place in the nation among 60  nonprofits. Bright House Networks is arranging a check presentation at which we will receive $2,685 in prize money! Many thanks for your faith and persistence. It created tremendous awareness and really paid off! And thanks to Bright House, Brian Aungst, and Susan Juhl for a great funding opportunity.


Event Calendar
January 29 
Ch�teau Kwasin WineFest at Mike Kwasin's Magnificent Beachfront Residence

February 22

Queen of Hearts Ball    

St. Petersburg Hilton


May 24
25th Annual Abilities Wine Tasting

Armed Forces History Museum 


To RSVP or volunteer for these events, call Lisa Johnson at 727-600-8911. Click here to 

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Join the Guild in support of the
Queen of Hearts Ball Feb 22  

Preparations are well under way for the February 22, 2014 Queen of Hearts Ball at the St. Petersburg Hilton. The Abilities Guild is promoting the Ball in lieu of its annual Holiday Gala in the hopes of raising substantial awareness and revenue in South Pinellas County. You can support the Guild and Foundation by attending, purchasing a program ad, and/or donating an item to the silent auction. Watch for your invitation to attend this magical evening of food, drink, dancing, and pageantry. Click here to learn how the Queen's Court honors women who exemplify service, leadership, and heart. For ticket information and sponsor and auction donor opportunities, call Lisa Johnson at 727-600-8911. For information about The Queen's Court, which presents the Queen of Hearts Ball, call Elise Minkoff at 727-422-3301. 
Disability advocate's home renovated  

The Foundation's 25th home renovation benefited a disabled female veteran and fiercely loyal Home Depot customer in Pinellas Park. Angel Watson is a medically and honorably discharged nine-year U. S. Air Force veteran who specialized in intelligence in Japan and the UK. She's also a longtime and widely respected disability rights  advocate who's helped countless Floridians and veterans become more independent. Angel has paraplegia, which necessitates the use of a wheelchair for mobility. Having retired two years ago, she has limited income and relies on a service dog and therapy dog for help with activities of daily living. From her wheelchair, she's done a fabulous job of modifying the interior of her home, but needed help with backyard access, security fencing, pet doors, landscaping, and more. Thanks to Pinellas Park Home Depot store manager Denise Moore, team captain Tommy Gillis, 15 dedicated volunteers, and  Jersey Mike's Subs for donating lunch, her home was rendered safe, secure, and fully-accessible. Even her service and therapy dogs have access to the house and yard via custom-crafted pet doors. Very gratifying to give back to someone who's done so much for others. Click here for photos.

Children's Christmas Brightened


The ServiceSource Florida Regional Office staff, Veterans Mall, and Abilities Foundation teamed with Cathy Smith and Melissa Messer of Psychological Assessment Resources in Lutz and Rosemary Mobley and Jean Blaine of Women of Wonder to brighten Christmas for the families of two military veterans and a staff member. Stuffed animals, toys, camping gear, fishing rods, electronic games, clothing, sporting goods, team jerseys, and numerous gift cards were among the many gifts donated, wrapped, and presented to Mike and Heather Morgan, Kevin and Vanessa Southcott, and Leah Byler for their children to open Christmas morning. Tears flowed, as did heartfelt expressions of gratitude from the parents. Special thanks to our donors and organizers Mike Dunlap, Dianne Duncan, and Lori Simpson. Click here for photos.
In Memoriam
Sharon O'Gradney-Krkljus

The Foundation is deeply saddened by the passing of longtime benefactor and mentor Sharon O'Gradney. She was a highly accomplished culinarian whose O'Bistro Restaurant was a fixture at local charitable benefits. It was Sharon who introduced the concept of a 'VIP Private Reception' at the 2000 Abilities Wine Tasting at Tropicana Field. The pairing of gourmet  restaurants with premium wine purveyors prior to the Grand Tasting attracted thousands of patrons each year and set the gold standard for premier wine events. She also hosted countless Foundation wine dinners and tributes at O'Bistro and promoted and generously supported our annual wine tasting for each of the past 20 years. We were honored that Sharon directed memorial gifts to the Foundation in lieu of flowers. Our prayers are with her family. She will be sorely missed.

T.W. Curtis

Another dear friend of the Foundation and charitable community departed days ago. Celebrated artist and Downtown St. Petersburg advocate T.W. Curtis left a legacy of philanthropy among Tampa Bay area nonprofits and parlayed his passion for art with a love of friends, food, and wine into an impactful career. His work adorns the walls of many art collectors and  corporate offices. T.W.'s trademark hat, full-white beard, and broad smile were ever-present and unmistakable. And his advocacy for the Foundation was never more evident than the night he hosted the sold-out Una Notte di Vino e Pianoforte Arte the third of our Artists & Artisans Series, at his new studio. We tip our hats to a beloved, one-of-a-kind artist and friend.

Mary D'Amico


One can never underestimate the value of a volunteer, especially one who carries out her responsibilities with proficiency and aplomb. Mary D'Amico was one such volunteer. Drawn to us by their love of wine and our mission to serve people with disabilities, she and Randee Hoffmeier were for many years integral elements in the execution of our annual wine tasting. Among other duties, they welcomed and registered thousands of patrons in a timely and orderly fashion, and had the unenviable task of holding off Grand Tasting guests until the 7 p.m. Pamplona-like 'Running of the Bulls,' yet did so with grace and dignity. Their professionalism was well respected as was their dedication to our mission. Mary died after a long bout with ovarian cancer. We greatly admire her friendship and service.   

Tax-wise planning tip...



Marsha Uhler thought of a clever way to call attention and make a tax-deductible contribution to the Foundation in support of the Mall. She donated 10% of sales during a Veteran's Day promotion at Cassi & Co, a Belleair Bluffs fashion boutique she purchased recently. The sales event generated considerable awareness and netted more than $600 for the Mall, which has now helped 530 military veterans transition from homelessness to apartment life. Marsha also donated new women's clothing to the Mall, which has seen an increase in use by disabled female veterans. This is yet another way Marsha and her husband Bill -- owner of Mr. Bill's Fine Foods -- have demonstrated their generous financial and in-kind support for the Foundation and Mall. Click here for more information.