SARASOTA COUNTY - Every Monday we spotlight an amazing Suncoast woman; someone who has achieved great things while overcoming adversity. This week we take a look at Sandra Terry.
Not many people get a building named after them while they're still living. That's one reason Ben Petro, who works at the Laurel Park Sandra Sims Terry Community Center, nominated Sandra as an amazing woman. "I was just amazed at how much she has done for this community, for the kids in this community, for the adults in this community," says Petro.
Sandra Terry was born in the Laurel community and has lived there all her life. "I graduated from Venice High School, I went to work at GTE -- I was the 3rd African American that they hired…went to work there in ’67," says Terry.
But she was bothered by the blight in her community. They still had dirt roads, no running water, and criminals had moved into abandoned houses.
So Sandra organized the Laurel Civic Association to improve conditions, and became its number one volunteer. "I never had a lunch or a break for ten years, because I was on the phone that whole time."
She pushed hard and she got action. The county held its first community clean up there, and they didn't just pick up trash. "There were houses that needed to go, and the fire department needed training, so we burned them down.”
And through the Laurel Civic Association, Sandra Terry helped bring in new houses with Habitat for Humanity and other sources, and drive crime out.
Other changes she brought about? "The park, the building, getting the roads paved, the drainage."
To help kids in the neighborhood, the association started a homework assistance program and a kids cafe. “When they get out of school, they come here on the bus, but we pay for it. They are driven here from Laurel Nokomis School, and we have kids cafe. We feed about 60 kids a day now."
Plus they have a teen empowerment summer program. “It is an all-day program. It's 7 weeks, and the things those kids learn in there is just unbelievable."
And they feed 72 needy families a month. The community center offers an amazing array of activities for all ages. All are paid for by donations and grants.
What has lessons has Sandra Terry learned in her fight for her community? "There are so many good-hearted people in this county, and I think that's what keeps me going."
Sandra Sims Terry, we salute you are truly an amazing woman.