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Bubbles, Beats & Bites- A Night To Remember

When Paul, the owner at Art Avenue On Palm made the offer to host a fundraiser event at his beautiful art gallery in Downtown Sarasota we knew we couldn't turn it down. There was one catch, we only had about three months to organize this whole event.

After multiple board meetings, discussing our options, the risks, and the benefits, we finally decided to bite the bullet. That is how Bubbles, Beats & Bites- An International Art Experience was born, we wanted to offer people an opportunity to interact with different cultures through music, art, wine, and food.

(Paul, owner at Art Avenue On Palm surprised us with his violin skills.)

Planning an event in only three months was no easy task, from food to wine to entertainment to silent and live auction items, sponsors etc. our board members had some serious work to do. With some group effort, we managed to make the impossible happen, and with this occasion Project Light would like to thank the following board members for bringing this vision to life: Cheryl Evans (Vice President & Strategic Committee Marketing), Elena Farkas (Executive Director), Charlie Cunningham (Board President), Pamela Steen (Secretary) and Sue Birell (Strategic Committee).

On the evening of December 3rd, we all put on our holiday best and arrived at the venue early. Some Project Light students so gracefully volunteered their time to help at the event. We would like to extend our gratitude to Luis, Silkia, Gendry, and Elvia for helping our guests have the best time.

As 6 pm came around, bubbles and wine started flowing and the sound of the baby grand piano filled the room as our guests were checking in at the entrance. After some drinks provided by Sarasota Wine Co. and appetizers provided by Kojo, it was time to bring out the entertainment.

All the way from DC, international Opera sensations Olga Orlovskaya and Peter Slutsky accompanied by Tatiana Loisha on piano, proceeded to delight our senses with an unforgettable performance.

But the entertainment would not have been complete without a performance from our very own talented students. Magdala Ulysse, Junior Clerge & Drusille Alcide delighted us with some traditional Haitian music.

As our silent auction table was flooding with guests looking to get their names on the lists it was time to proceed with our coveted live auction art piece.

The 38X48 painting "Reflection" was donated by the artist and former Project Light board member Richard Monteleone. The imposing art piece was auctioned for $1.300.

As the evening was coming to an end it was time to announce the winner of the 50/50 raffle. The anticipation was high as we dug through the pile of tickets for the lucky winner who was none other than the sister of long-time teacher volunteer Deborah Thomas.

We are very grateful to Johncyna A. McRae for donating all her winnings to Project Light, so we can continue our vision.

Project Light Of Manatee would like to thank every single one of our guests who purchased tickets, participated in the auction, bought drinks and raffle tickets. All proceeds go towards our goal of closing the literacy gap and empowering adult immigrants to integrate into society and pursue their American dream!

A special thank you to our sponsor Sensenig Law Firm.


An Art Piece By Richard Monteleone

Richard Monteleone is a retired college professor, working visual artist, former Vice President for Project Light of Manatee, Inc., Ambassador for Ringling Museum of Art, and the Artistic Director of The Community Center for The Arts, Inc. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The University of The Arts, Philadelphia, PA., and a four-year Certificate of Fine Arts from The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA.

Project Light is honored to present Richard’s art piece “Reflection” at our First Annual Winter Fundraiser Event, “Bubbles, Beats & Bites” on December 3rd as our main live auction item.

“Reflection” By Richard Monteleone (Size 38x48”)

Coming from a family of immigrants himself, “Reflection” is a visual representation of his and his family's experience of seeking a better life in a different country all the while trying to overcome a language and cultural barrier.

“I am of Italian and Polish heritage. My family came to America in 1917 via Ellis Island. Like all families that dreamed of a better life, my ancestors worked hard to learn the language and secure a job. My family did not have a resource like Project Light. It was vital for them to create a new culture; culture and family life filled with freedom, creativity, expansion, and pride.”

“The painting “Reflection” illustrates this experience through an abstract/non-objective level. The fragmented face, with an open mouth and sectioned head, represents the possibility of the contribution of my family’s voice and thoughts integrated into a new homeland. The circles in close proximity represent the infinity, wholeness, totality, cyclic, and presence of a god. The colors are subtle gestures, and an overall kind and conscious narrative of a moment in time when all was well in the world.

This piece is vintage and originally created over 27 years ago. I kept this piece in my own personal gallery for this time because of its meaning and legacy. I am finally willing to let it go, to enter the progress of yet another American dream for the students, staff, board, and community for Project Light. “

You may acquire this art piece by participating in our live auction at our event “Bubbles, Beats & Bites” on Dec 3rd from 6-8 PM to take place at Art Avenue On Palm, 1289 N.Palm Ave. Sarasota, FL 34236.

Purchase tickets by clicking here.

-Deborah Thomas-

English Teacher

As you may already know, our beloved volunteer teachers are the backbone of Project Light. They dedicate their time, knowledge, and energy to teaching adults the English skills necessary for achieving their dreams in America.

Today we would like to introduce one of our most dedicated volunteers. Deborah has been with us at Project Light for five years, yes, five years of helping shape people’s lives. This year she is teaching English Level 101 in the mornings.

Miss Thomas first found out about our program at a Manatee Retired Educators Meeting, at that time, Chris McCormick the previous Executive Director, was giving a talk about Project Light and expressed the need for volunteer teachers. The idea of sharing her experience and knowledge in order to help immigrant adults find success in a new country appealed to her.

“Volunteering at Project Light was the right choice for me because I had taught school for 33 years and had the skills. I’ve always liked helping people learn, and there was a need…and I was curious!”

Deborah quickly found her place and purpose in the Project Light family and consequently in her community.

“What I like most about this non-profit is the people—the students, the staff, and the board members. Also, it’s a chance to give back to my community—helping adult students become proficient in English means they can be more productive in our community. The hours work for me.”

Of course, I had to ask Deborah about a student that stood out to her, after 5 years of teaching adults, surely she would have some stories to share.

“A student that stands out: Sainvilus from Haiti. Middle-aged man who was so diligent about attending. He worked a full-time night shift job, cared for his wife who has major health issues and would still get to morning class having had little sleep. Unfortunately, he is not back this year. I think carrying the full load of working and caring for his wife got to be all he could handle.”

Sadly we have seen this situation more than once in our endeavors, our students lead complicated lives, and many times these complications come in the way of their progress. More often than not, the students do return to our classes and continue their education. (Read Ana’s story here) We hope to see Sainvilus return and keep working on his dreams.

When asked about her overall experience teaching at Project Light, Deborah mentioned the perks of working with adult students.

“ My overall experience as a volunteer teacher at Project Light has been a good one. I’ve always enjoyed helping others learn. And I enjoy meeting new people—students and staff. When I taught school, I taught children. Now I’m teaching adults and using many of the same skills. With adults, I don’t have discipline problems, and I don’t have to deal with the parents! (smile)”

Five years of volunteering with our non-profit definitely had an impact on Deborah’s outlook on life and her community.

“Project Light has raised my consciousness more about what resources this community has (or doesn’t have) to help people, who migrate to the U.S., to assimilate. They want the same things we want—a happy life enjoying family and friends; to be gainfully employed to provide for the family; an education for themselves and children; good health care, etc.”

Lastly, I had to ask if she would recommend this experience to anyone, and her answer was unequivocal YES!

“Yes! I would recommend Project Light to someone looking for a volunteer opportunity. In fact, I’m always talking about Project Light to any and everyone I think might be interested.”