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East County Observer, Oct. 2015: Lorenzo Waiters started at the bottom of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office as a teenager in the cadet program. He rose through the ranks — and the racism both in and out of the office — until he retired as a major after 36 years. PDF: Waiters

East County Observer, July 2015: Two East County residents found friendship, independence and a renewed sense of worth after getting their seeing-eye dogs from Southeastern Guide Dogs. Now, the two humans and two pups are roommates and friends for life. PDF: Guide dogs

East County Observer, Dec. 2015: One East County resident takes the phrase “from farm to table” literally by growing all of the ingredients in her own garden for her fabulous, homemade hot sauce. It doesn’t end there, however — she makes honey and wine and raises a fruit grove and a chicken coop with a little help from her husband. PDF: Hot Sauce

East County Observer, Jan. 2016: Sarasota is known for its circus history, but Myakka City has its own legends. The Fearless Flores family lives on their own acreage when they’re not touring the country or attending high school. PDF: Fearless Flores

Sarasota Observer, Nov. 2014: Vamo Drive is a historic street with a varied and colorful past. But what makes the street unique in today’s world is the community spirit that sticks the neighbors together. And the glue of that community spirit is Norma Martin, its longest-residing homeowner. PDF: Vamo Drive

Community issues:

Sarasota Observer, April 2015: Two of Sarasota County’s major employers, both the county government and the school district, are facing a staffing problem: a growing number of retiring employees. PDF: Aging Workforce

East County Observer, Jan. 2016: Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary School has the highest population of migrant students, students whose parents work as migrant farmers for large commercial farms in Manatee County. To adapt to the needs of this demographic of its student body, McNeal found solutions to help students succeed. PDF: Migrant students


East County Observer, Nov. 2015: Craft breweries and growler stores have gained swift popularity in Sarasota, and the craze finally met Lakewood Ranch. University of South Florida’s culinary lab started a class in which students learned how to make their own craft beers. PDF: Craft beer surge

Sarasota Observer, Oct. 2014: The Sarasota County Commission revisited an old, outdated law that banned the sale of alcohol on Sunday mornings– the last vestiges of old “blue laws” that were supposedly put in effect to uphold a high moral standard. Businesses in Sarasota said the law put them at disadvantage. Link: Sunday Service

General news:

East County Observer, Jan. 2016: A developer bought 40 acres outside county lines to provide off-site mitigation to compensate for 4 acres of rare wetlands that would be paved over for a Whole Foods and Wawa gas station. Sarasota County commissioners approved the project against the counsel of the county’s environmental staff. PDF: Whole Foods

East County Observer, Jan. 2016: Hidden deep in the forest around Myakka City, the Lemur Conservation Foundation is home to 51 of the most endangered mammals in the world. As the hub of research and conservation efforts for the Madagascan animals, the foundation sought fundraising to expand its efforts. PDF: Lemur

Sarasota Observer, Jan. 2015: Siesta Key has become a popular vacation destination, winning multiple No. 1 Beach awards in the last 5 years. Unfortunately, the county didn’t anticipate the increase in parking needs in the small village. Now, the problem remains, where will people park? PDF: Siesta parking

Sarasota Observer, March 2015: A developer in Osprey, Fla., wanted out of his original agreement to extend a residential street when he created a condominium complex. The street extension was part of a revitalization plan with strong community support. Planning Commissioners ultimately approved the developer’s request, but some of them felt they had betrayed the trust of the Osprey residents. PDF: Osprey debate

Enid News and Eagle Summer Internship, June-August 2013 

While most families are having fun together and blowing up fireworks on Independence Day, volunteer firefighters with the Waukomis department spend the evening speeding from call to call to put out fires started by rogue sparks. PDF: Waukomis Firefighters Photo: Photos by Jessica Salmond

Despite the church being damaged in 2013 Moore, Okla., tornado, this congregation gathered together to help both victims and volunteers of the tornado. Text: Moore church

When a tornado hits, the first thought is people. But what happens to the pets? The Animal Resource Center of Moore housed lost and rescued pets of the 2013 tornado. Text: ARC Moore


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