Community leaders serve as celebrity waiters to help underprivileged youth | News

TRINITY — Community members gathered last week to share a meal and support a nonprofit organization making a difference in the lives of students and teachers.

Marjorie’s Hope exceeded its goal of raising $30,000, and founder Debi Shackowsky was left in tears as the good news was passed on to her.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” Shackowsky said.

Shackowsky founded the nonprofit in memory of her sister, Marjorie, who was the victim of a drunken driving accident. Marjorie was passionate about volunteering, Shackowsky said, and today her children and grandchildren continue her legacy by being a part of the nonprofit dedicated to helping others.

The third annual Celebrity Waiter luncheon benefit was held at Seven Springs Golf & Country Club, with River Ridge High School Principal Toni Zetzsche-Olds as the guest speaker. Tables were waited on by community leaders and business owners.

Participating waiters included Debi’s own son, Brandon Spencer, along with Beamon Battie, lead singer of Crossfire Creek Band; Derek Pontlitz, CEO of Pontilitz Financial Advisors; County Commissioner Jack Mariano; School Board member Megan Harding; Sara Mollo, Public Defender for 6th Judicial Court Pinellas/Pasco; Steve Farrell, CEO/Owner Farrell Roofing; Stacy Kemp, founder of Kemp Ruge and Green law firm; and many more.

Zetzsche-Olds shared the stories of two former students who benefited from Marjorie’s Hope. One was a young girl who lived out of a tent and had so few clothes, she was dress-coded for wearing spaghetti straps, which was the cleanest top she owned that week. Another was a bright young student who earned top scores on her AP tests and was living in a home that only sometimes had electricity or a refrigerator.

Students come to school from all different backgrounds and sometimes it’s up to the teachers to spot the ones who may need a little extra help, Zetzsche-Olds said. Marjorie’s Hope provides schools not just with supplies but clothes, personal hygiene, products, prom attire and scholarships based on community service. Even teachers from Pasco County can shop out of the boutique designed to serve them — the first of its kind in the country.

Today, the nonprofit provides 4,000-plus backpacks stuffed with school supplies and will need the help of volunteers to prepare them on July 30.

“Marjorie’s Hope fills a need, it’s such a blessing,” said School Board member Cynthia Armstrong. “They not only provide supplies but will jump in to help anytime they’re needed.”

Jessica Meek, assistant principal at River Ridge High School and board member of Marjorie’s Hope, said the nonprofit helps even out the playing field. She recalled the excitement she would feel on the first day of school with her new backpack, supplies and clothes, and how now working in schools she has seen the students who aren’t as fortunate.

“The impact Marjorie’s Hope makes is huge,” Meek said. “I remember the days when we started packing in a living room and now it’s morphed into 4,000 backpacks. It’s turned out to be incredible.”

Marjorie’s Hope continues to need volunteers and community support to make a difference in the lives of school children from elementary, middle, and high schools through Pasco, Pinellas, and Hernando counties. To learn more about the nonprofit, follow its Facebook page.

Celebrity waiters

Brian Perras, a candidate for Congress; Curtis Law Asst. Deputy Property Appraiser Office; Derek Pontlitz, CEO of Pontilitz Financial Advisors; Ed Burke, State Farm agent, of Trinity; Eva Vergos, lead state attorney Pasco County; Jack Mariano, Board County commissioner Pasco County; Jackie Borree, REMAX Realty; James Mallo, Pasco County Sheriff’s Office; James Morris, owner of Morris Tree Service; Joey Deeb, owner of Templar Construction Co.; Lisa Shippy-Gonzalez of the Pasco County Property Appraiser’s Office; Mary Surnicki, marketing director of Suncoast Roofing; Megan Harding of the Pasco County School Board; Regan S. Weiss, CEO of 43Inc; Sara Mollo, public defender for the 6th Judicial Court Pinellas/Pasco; Stacy Kemp, founder of Kemp Ruge and Green law firm; Steve Farrell, owner of Farrell Roofing; Yvette Behmer, legal assistant, community events, and foundation director at the Lucas, Macyszn and Dyer law firm.