In 2018 President's Message


When I talked to a Panama City resident as his power was restored a few days after Hurricane Michael slammed into the Panhandle, he gave perhaps the best description of the devastating storm:

“Hurricane Michael … he was just mean.”

Yes, it was. The storm packed winds just under Category 5 strength, snapping large pines like twigs, battering homes and businesses and altering lives for years to come.

Several FPRA members were affected by the storm, and several October chapter meetings were canceled. But members have stepped up to assist the area in several ways, many in public relations.

Members have worked in the Public Information Offices of several counties and law enforcement agencies, including April Salter, APR, CPRC (Capital Chapter), Joy Tsubooka and Kaycee L­­argarde (Pensacola Chapter), Samantha Senger, APR, and Cheryl Mall (Space Coast Chapter), Jeff Grainger, APR (Orlando Area Chapter), Tara Poulton (Central West Coast Chapter) and Bryan Beaty (Treasure Coast Chapter).

Other FPRA members have helped out through individual efforts in assisting citizens, including Lindsay Hudock (Orlando Area Chapter) and Mandy Handley, APR, and Drew Piers, APR (Capital Chapter). Lindsay was organizing a huge Back-to-School Bash for Bay County on Nov. 9. Tom Derzpolski, the owner of BowStern, where Capital Chapter President Cathy Schroeder works, led recovery efforts in Calhoun County.

The Ocala, Space Coast and Tampa Bay Chapters have also helped by providing donations.

When disaster strikes, PR professionals in FPRA step up to help in crisis communications. And the volunteer opportunities will continue. I’m glad to be a part of an organization whose members show concern for others in PR, as well as their fellow citizens in times of need.

Speaking of storms, we encountered another weather event on Nov. 2 as the Executive Committee was meeting during its first quarterly board meeting of the year. A tornado was spotted near Tampa, prompting a tornado warning where we were meeting at the University of South Florida. We sheltered in a nearby room for about 30 minutes but continued to talk FPRA business!

The next day, the chapter presidents and presidents-elect joined the EC for the full board meeting. The chapters are off to a great start. The membership renewal drive ended with almost 70 percent renewals, topping last year’s totals.

During the meeting, I asked each one to share one thing about them that no one in the room would know. We found some very interesting things.

One is an opera singer; another owns a gourmet coffee company; and one is an all-star in a wives’ softball league!

On the networking scene, Barbra Hernandez, APR, CPRC, who is the president of the Tampa Bay Chapter, shares her story. Check it out here. Plus, she was formerly a park ranger in Puerto Rico.

As we head into the holidays, chapters are planning holiday socials, fundraisers and community involvement. Soon, you’ll be hearing news about the Image awards competition for 2019.

Stay Smart. Stay Engaged. Have Fun.

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