When Hurricane Irma knocked down their fence, Paula Pesmark and Randy Siebert didn’t see an inconvenience, they saw an opportunity to give back to their community. Employees of Manatee County Government’s Property Management Department, Paula and Randy had been making upcycled artwork from discarded wooden pallets and selling their artwork to friends and coworkers to support Property Management’s United Way Suncoast campaign. When their fence blew down, they used the pieces to make Florida inspired art to sell for charity. In total, Paula and Randy donated $700 to United Way Suncoast through this project.
Paula and Randy always try to take an unfortunate circumstance and flip it into a giving opportunity. Paula was raised to nourish a charitable mindset. She says, “even if you had nothing, if you could grow a tomato and give it to a neighbor, that’s what you did. That’s the way we grew up, doing for other people, always.”
When asked why she chooses to help United Way Suncoast in particular, Paula said, “I feel United Way is there in different capabilities to help people in different ways, whether if it’s after a storm or a heartbreak or with any kind of need. In this day and age there are a lot of people who need some sort of help. If you’re in a position to help somebody and feel good about doing that, that’s what makes it well worth it.”
Paula and Randy have been crafting for thirty years, even back in their hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin. They first learned about United Way Suncoast seven years ago. During their workplace campaign, departments within Manatee County Government would get together and sell goods to benefit United Way Suncoast. Paula sold upcycled jewelry, lanyards and scarves, but didn’t start painting until she faced a life-altering challenge.
Two years ago, she tested positive for the BRCA gene. Due to her greatly increased risk of developing breast cancer, she underwent a double mastectomy, turning to painting classes as a way to heal emotionally. “Painting was my way of forgetting life for two and a half hours. I painted a flamingo and I was hooked. I couldn’t find enough paintings to do and enough people to give them to as gifts.”
Paula’s story of turning adversity into a giving opportunity is just one reason why she continues to inspire those around her. United Way Suncoast can’t thank her enough for her generosity and hard work.