The Sarasota Post’s Person of the Year – Betsy Halliwell Plante
Betsy is President and Co—Founder of The Blessing Bags Project . We chose Betsy because she has such a big heart for children and others who need help. They can always count on her to do everything in her power to get the job done. Not only does she help those who need it but, she helps those who help. By connecting the haves with the have nots she is promoting unity in our community!
How this adventure began: In 2014 Betsy announced through SWAT (Successful Women Aligning Together) that she was collecting toiletry items for the homeless. Soon after that came the idea for the Blessing Bags which they filled and distributed to homeless folks in the area. They started expanding and now help Sarasota and Manatee counties through various organizations and events. By 2016 The Blessing Bags Project was a 501c3 and now their Board of Directors is made up of 50% SWAT members!
One of the bigger events is Breakfast with Santa in mid-December. This is held at The Swordfish Grill & Tiki and Bob Slicker (General Manager) and his crew donate and cook breakfast for the families in need. Santa comes on The Eddy Lee Z (the fishing boat on the pier at The Swordfish owned by Cortez Deep Sea Fishing) with Captain Lance Plowman at the helm and a big smile and lap for all the boys and girls! Outside on long tables are bags and bags of presents and each child is called to sit with Santa and is given a huge bag to take home. And, this year, every family also received a turkey to cook for Christmas as they left from Carl & Vicky Snyder of Hunger’s End.
Betsy told me they started a new campaign with Social Media that provided Sponsorship Forms for Breakfast with Santa that collected tons of money to help buy presents for the kids. Over 50 people were able to donate through that program! The Bradenton Rotary Club also donated a bunch. Around $100 is spent on each child for Christmas presents.
Betsy wants us to know that she has many people that help her. One of her biggest supporters is her friend, Maryann Gauvin. (Betsy and Maryann are known as “Thelma & Louise”!) Another good friend, Barbara Hires, who lives in Sea Breeze Mobile Estates, rallies her whole community to help; besides donating time they also collect cans and donate the money from them to The Blessing Bags Project.
Many of her supporters are her SWAT sisters: Hope Kinney from Painting With A Twist on Manatee Ave. donates all year long and then on Martin Luther King Day a bunch of kids come free and learn a bit about painting. Vicky Roll of Heart’s Desire hosts Boutique Trunk Shows for The Blessing Bags Project which bring in donations. Patti Light, owner of the Pandora Store at the UTC Mall, bakes amazing homemade desserts with a beautiful presentation every month for the Monday night meal at Hunger’s End.
She also partners with Downtown Ministries, JFCS (Jewish Family & Children’s Service of the Suncoast, Inc.), Hungers End and, Turning Points to help people in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Carl & Vicky Snyder of Hunger’s End donated a huge area where The Blessing Bags Project can fill their bags and store all their items until needed. They are partners in helping the homeless in Bradenton and host a Monday night meal for anyone at 1802 14th. St. W. Bradenton, FL 34205.
One thing you will notice about Betsy is how she takes time to show her appreciation to all who help. Her FB page has post after post thanking for small and large donations of time, money and things. She believes everyone has a purpose in life and she is fulfilling hers, with gusto!
The Sarasota Post is proud to name Betsy as our “Person of the Year” and we hope that you will come along side her and her people to make our community a better place.
Photos courtesy of Betsy’s FB pages.