From the monthly archives:

April 2009

Art Gallery,Windsor Symphony and Hospice Unite

by lulujane on April 13, 2009

I have been in the Sarasota (Bradenton) area about three times in the past five years.  Since being introduced to the Woman’s Exchange Inc. at my insistence on subsequent visits, shopping at this amazing store is a must for me.

After my January 2009 visit I am even more aware of how large amounts of money can be generated by non-profit organizations through the resale of personal and household items.  Read below to catch up on the history of the Woman’s Exchange

The Woman’s Exchange in Sarasota, Florida began operations in 1962 in the back room of the small building still standing on the corner of Palm Avenue and McAnsh Square. The enterprise, as a continuing means of fund raising for the Florida West Coast Symphony and the Youth Orchestra. The shop was staffed by volunteers from the Symphony Women’s Association.

By December of 1962 the operation had outgrown its quarters and moved to a house at 1277 First Street. Consignments were taken in the kitchen and consignors waited in the yard under trees. On December 11, 1962 the Exchange was incorporated.

On April 12, 1963 the Exchange presented the first major amount, $3,800.00 to the Florida West Coast Symphony.

As the Exchange grew and prospered there was constant need for larger quarters. Three more moves were made before we arrived at our permanent home. Each of these locations, 1519 Main Street, 120 S. Orange Avenue and 1506 Third Street had several common factors: the rent was reasonable, the parking uniformly bad and the arrangements for taking consignments and merchandising strictly make-shift. Of course, none of these buildings had heat or AC and customers, consignors and volunteers burned or froze at the mercy of the elements. In 1965 Mr. A.L. Sainer donated a room at 125 Central Avenue for our use and thus was born the Bargain Box.  Articles that did not sell in the regular shop were sold there at reduced prices.

In November of 1966 the name was changed from Symphony Women’s Exchange to Woman’s Exchange and that year monies were given to several cultural organizations. As the success of the Exchange continued, it was deemed wise to broaden the base of operations to include a variety of cultural groups and activities. On April 22, 1967 the Exchange activities came under the guidance of the then active Allied Arts Council.

The growth of the Exchange made permanent workable quarters necessary so the Board of Directors of ACC with the help of several supportive, far-sighted bankers (particularly Emmett Addy) arranged to buy the former Sarasota Herald Tribune building, our present site. After necessary structural changes we moved in November 18, 1969, and at last we had a facility adapted to our own special needs.

At the Annual Volunteers Luncheon at the old Gulf and Bay Club in 1979 we “burnt the mortgage”, and since that time except for improvements and necessary contingency funds, our monies earned have been returned to the community.

Since the Woman’s Exchange was founded in 1962, the total amount awarded in Grants and Scholarships is over Seven Million Dollars and Millions more in donated merchandise!

Resale is very popular in this city.  It is big business. I often resist making donations to Value Village because the charity they fly on their banner (Diabetes Association) receives a very minute portion of the dollar value of sales of these goods.  St. Vincent de Paul, Bibles for Missions or Salvation Army are not private enterprise and therefore benefit more since they receive the total dollar value of the items merchandised in their stores.

In this challenging economic climate, I have wondered why the Windsor Symphony, the Art Gallery or Hospice haven’t jumped on this band wagon yet.  There is money to be made.  In the instance of each of these organizations, they have loyal followings who would likely gladly donate to their fund raising cause through the resale of their discards.

At the Woman’s Exchange I have observed stacks of oriental rugs, clothing, jewellery, top-of-the-line good quality furniture, multiple dining room sets at one time, books, quality china, paintings, etc.  Did I mention that their parking lot is always full.  I understand that Woman’s Exchange accepts direct donations as well as consignment goods. A steady stream of cars, many of them the type of vehicles you find on the higher end car lots, flows through their lot. Parking spots are filled immediately when they are emptied. Wouldn’t it be fun of these three groups chaneled their energies into a cooperative team venture like this?  The model is there and airfare to Sarasota to check it out is cheap.  I’m sure volunteer recruitment would be a breeze when combining the resources of the Art Gallery, Symphony and Hospice. There are lot of vacant properties in prime locations available.  What are you waiting for?

Each time I visit the Woman’s Exchange I pick up brochures and information pamphlets because I am so impressed with what these people do.  It appears to run like a well oiled machine. I am even a fan of their sales ticketing where the dates of their price reduction structure are marked on each item allowing the customers to see when the next reduction date is, and how much it will cost with that reduction. Check out their website to get a feel for what they are all about.

My wish is that someone would lobby government to provide tax receipts for such donations.  This might encourage supporters to give gladly and would help the donations of valuable items roll in to help support these worthy causes.

Windsor could do this with such class and why not?  Windsor is the city with a heart.


Choir makes me stand tall

by lulujane on April 1, 2009


In September 2008 I joined the Windsor Community Choir with literally no experience. I last sang in an organized choir when I was eight or nine years old…… a very long time ago.

Choir Director, Edward Kingins was our Master Sculptor. That is what he does as he works to coax the best from us, encouraging us toward a level of excellence that he, and we can be proud of.

I do not read music and during the first few practices found it difficult and extremely challenging. Even the unfamiliar warmups took me out of my comfort zone. I felt it would be impossible for me to ever ‘get it’. Even with the generous assistance of my sister alto choir members, I was not having fun. I put my toe in the water to test a lot of things and integrate into my life on a long term basis only those things that make my heart sing. In discouraging moments I thought “oh well, stick out the semester, you can always quit in December.” There was a lot of struggle and uncertainty involved – intellectually and vocally.

I appreciated Mr. Kingins’ passion, dynamic energy and commitment. He was gentle and when required to make a point, firm. Demanding and accepting, serious and light hearted. All of these qualities created a balance for me. He was strongly focused as he worked with the choir, to form solid mass from my jello. Even when I was quivering with doubt I knew that we were extremely fortunate to have him as a teacher, a guide.

At a practice prior to our late November concert another choir member was moved by a piece of music and found it difficult to continue. She asked me if I had ever experienced that. At the moment, nothing came to mind. However, on the evening of the concert, during our performance of the Ave Maria I became overwhelmed with emotion and had to take a couple of deep breaths before continuing. Perhaps it was the venue or the sacred music. It might have been both. Maybe I was just feeling the wonder, beauty and magic of it all. I am grateful for this.

I was fortunate to have one of my sons, his wife, and a close friend attend the choir’s concert performance. They were pleasantly astonished with the music. As a member of this choir, they made me feel I had really accomplished something…. and I guess I have.

I worked hard and have come a long way from my initial tentative vocal offerings. I am not perfect. I didn’t get everything right. But I worked hard, I showed up, and I learned something new.

Fast forwarding, I did join again for the Spring Semester to address new music, inviting challenges.  As our April 19th concert is approaching I am happy that I didn’t give up, that I stuck with it to work through my uncertainty and self doubt.  I don’t have to be perfect. I know it is important to keep moving, keep working to improve who I am and deal courageously with the challenges.

As I leave our weekly rehearsals I find that I walk taller, shoulders back and head high.

The Windsor Community Choir is a non-denominational teaching choir, with no auditions required. New members are always welcome and appreciated.