What can I say about the best 10 years of my life in a small city? We became residents here in November 2004. Then we became full-time travelers in 2014, but Sebring is still our legal residence. Please note, this is really more my post than Bill’s. For me, I have an emotional and spiritual connection with this precious city. I’ve been trying to think how can I capture its essence, more than my factual based last post about it or about the County in general?
Family History. In 1996, we drove around the Sebring downtown circle with Bill’s Uncle Norm and Aunt Posey when we moved Bill’s mom here. They loved living near Lake Jackson and showed us all the sights. Nothing really grabbed our attention at the time. They became snowbirds here in 1989 and full time residents in 1995. Then in 1996, we visited over Christmas break with our then 14 year old daughter – the Circle was decorated for Christmas (Carousel of Lights) in all it’s glory! We began to notice a unique charm. Once we moved here, we made it a tradition to attend the yearly Christmas parade and when they “light up” the circle. We began to visit here once or twice a year for the next eight years – and slowly, we grew to love the area.
More Family. My mom remarried in July 2003 after being widowed for five years. She married a man that loved the RV life, as did my mom. They became full time travelers, until March 2005. One of my sisters and her husband also owned a motorhome, so they traveled some with them. They all came to Sebring to visit and my folks bought a manufactured home where they could also park their motor home for free! That meant they could still travel some. Soon after, my sister and her husband sold their motorhome and bought a “snow bird” home here in Sebring. And then the month we sold our home to become full-time travelers, my step sister and her husband moved to Sebring. That was not planned as we independently didn’t know what the other was doing until the plans were finalized!
Sadly, both Uncle Norm and Aunt Posey passed within our first two years here. In their day, they were the life of their mobile home park. Norm said he knows moving here added five years to his life. They both were very active and loved helping others. And like Bill’s mom and my dad, both were veterans of WW II. They were treasured and we are grateful they found Sebring for us!
Holidays. Holidays became a blessing for us as Bill and I never lived near family. We always traveled on the holidays but now, we had plenty of family for all the holidays. And with our new extended family, that brought more family to celebrate at various times during the year.
But we quickly realized how hard this move was going to be on our 22 year old daughter, and our only child. So I guess I can honestly say, it was very hard on me. While looking through old pictures, I found an old letter I had written around this time. I said had we stayed in Virginia to be close to her, she would have fell in love with a Marine and moved away….wouldn’t you know, she had just met and was falling in love with a young man from the area with deep family roots? They finally married and have now given us two adorable grandsons. And that propelled us into our “Full Time RVer” lifestyle! But I digress. We were sitting in the airport with our daughter for her to return home to Virginia after her whirlwind her three day Christmas visit here in December 2004, Bill realized the two women in his life needed something to look forward to. His idea? A cruise in March 2005! Woohoo! The plans started. We also reached out to family members and invited them. Here we are on the cruise:
March 2005 Royal Caribbean Cruise, from left Bill, me, Bill’s mom, Jessica, my mom, my step dad, my sister and her husband.
Great memories. And then we began to enjoy Florida to the fullest once we got over the first big holiday. We will admit, initially, we were not impressed with cruising. But in time, we decided to give it another try. Jessica and Shane didn’t get the honeymoon they wanted, so we offered to help them plan for a cruise to celebrate a few months later while we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. We absolutely loved the Princess Cruise!
We also enjoyed every holiday by celebrating with family. They say once you move to Florida, be sure and have a guest bedroom as everyone will want to come visit! And what a blessing all those visits were. My one sister bought a snow bird home here with her husband and eventually, our step sister and her husband moved here permanently.
I’m planning on another post to talk about all of the fun times we had those ten years! We can’t count how many great three day mini-vacations we took all around the state, riding our motorcycle. Our favorite such trip was to Key West! And then, we saw parts of the state many native born Floridians didn’t know existed, such as the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary!
It was a 6 hour ride. The best part was going over all of the keys on bridges and being surrounded by the blue skys and gorgeous water!
We made it! One benefit of your tourist vehicle being a motorcycle – they have preferential parking!
Living in south central Florida was literally central to everything. We became regulars at the Orlando Airport after I retired. Before that, we used the Fort Lauderdale Airport. Oh, talking about planes, trains and automobiles, I had to blog about one of those crazy airport trips.
But where my heart became so attached was when I became involved in the community. First, it started with our church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, PCA. We became involved in 4M, Monthly Morning Mercies Ministry. We quickly appreciated the legacy of the founder of Sebring. He wanted to find a low cost of living place where pastors and missionaries could retire. There are a number of Missionary Retirement Villages in the county. And our church was blessed to have at least 25 of them from Serving In Missions (SIM) attend our church. One of our favorite places for 4M was to do things for these saints in there homes and around their yards. Oh, and we also learned, missionaries never retire! They continue to serve Him, our Lord and Heavenly Father! What a rich experience it was coming along side these saints.
But after this work-a-holic was retired for a year and a half, the volunteer work and helping Bill with our rentals was not rewarding enough. So I took our Sheriff up on her offer to come work for her after I retired. It was a match made in heaven as I began working part time as the Coordinator for Drug Free Highlands, a coalition for the stakeholders in the community to help keep teens off of drugs, which includes alcohol. I began to meet so many people and truly found the heart of this community. After four years, the funding ended for me to work for her, so I transitioned to some very part time work with the school district and became a volunteer with Youth for Christ (YFC). And then more volunteer opportunities came around.
Probably some of the most rewarding and significant work I did was help with the YFC Quarterly Prayer Vigils and Blessings of the Businesses with the Mayor of Sebring. More on that below.
City on the Circle. Here is a slide show that highlights downtown Sebring, known as the City on the Circle. Let’s drive there and then take a walk around it. I have so many great memories of fun events we’ve participated in downtown. And of course, love the Circle Theatre, stores and restaurants:
Let’s now take a drive out of the city and go to Veterans Beach. When we first moved to Sebring, the water in Lake Jackson was very high, but there was a beach. Then there was a huge drought and the lake waters were dangerously low. As a member of the YFC Prayer Vigil team, at a County Commissioner meeting, we requested the support of the County Commissioners for one of our quarterly prayer vigils. Coincidently, if you believe in such things, there was a presentation that evening about how hopeless it was to “fix” the low water levels in Lake Jackson. We presented soon after that presentation and said we had the solution! And it wouldn’t cost the small fortune predicted. PRAYER! Ok, so we got a few smirks and polite nods from them. So guess what? There is hardly a beach left because the water is now so high! Thank you LORD!
Let’s continue our tour as we leave downtown and head around Lake Jackson to Veterans Beach:
The People. There are so many people who made Sebring super special to me. One was such a privilege to work with on a variety of events for the betterment of the community, the former Mayor of Sebring, George Hensley. We met when I was the coordinator for “Drug Free Highlands” through the Sheriff’s Office. We held Town Hall meetings in each municipality, which enabled me to work with each Mayor. The Mayor of Sebring and I really clicked and he invited me to work on another project, Blessings of the Businesses, and then we became partners in several more. I came to love and respect him and his most amazing wife, Nancy. Here is a great article about them both: Mayor George Hensley and his lovely wife.
And one other dear friend is Kevin Roberts. He is a mover and shaker for the children of the county. Again, I met him while the coordinator of “Drug Free Highlands.” He has so many dreams for the county and Sebring. One was to restore the historic Circle Theatre. And he made it come through against all odds. He wasn’t just satisfied with the one dream project, he wanted the ugly vacant lot next to it. And wow, I lost track, but what a great surprise to walk downtown last week and see another dream of his come true, the Garden of Joy! Here are a few recent highlights about Kevin being honored:
The chamber’s 2015 Individual of the Year award went to Kevin Roberts, executive director of The Champion for Children Foundation.
“This man has a heart as big as the downtown Sebring Circle,” Elwell said of Roberts, adding that the Individual of the Year award was the highest honor the chamber can award any one person for a lifetime of excellence.” From Highlands Today.
“…the 2015 George Hensley Citizen of the Year Award went to Kevin Roberts for several decades of helping thousands of people through the Children’s Services Council, the Champions for Children Foundation, the Children’s Advocacy Center, the Highlands County Domestic Violence Shelter and Lindsay’s Wish, and his work with the Garden of Joy, the Kids Tag Art annual fundraiser and the annual Judge Clifton M. Kelly Champions for Children Awards Gala.
“It’s incredibly touching — incredibly touching — that the chamber would choose to honor me,” Roberts said. “It’s because of so many people who surround me and guided me.”
Roberts said he almost didn’t attend the banquet. He was at the “Own the Stage” youth talent competition finals at Champions for Children Circle Theatre that night when his son-in-law, county tax collector Eric Zwayer, called and persuaded him to come.
“The Champions for Children would not be a success without the private sector being involved,” Roberts told the 255 business leaders and professionals gathered for the banquet. From the News Sun.
And that is as brief as I can be to share a little about the heart of Sebring and how special it was for me to live, work and volunteer here. And now I am so happy to be able to call it my home town!
But you may be asking, “how could you move away?” Lots of people asked that of us. All we can say is that our priorities changed when we had our first grandchild….
Next up will be more fun things to do while in Central Florida.