Community Spotlight: a volunteer extraordinaire

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Joyce Kouba is a Key asset indeed, despite being just slightly shorter than Kareem

Q: Joyce, you and your husband, Joe, have been all over the place. What eventually landed you on Siesta Key as your forever home?

A: We purchased property in 1997 on Siesta for retirement, so we did not live here for our first year of ownership. I wanted to be near my sister who would be retiring in Holmes Beach, and since Joe did his doctorate at the University of Florida we felt a connection to Florida. We explored most of the west coast and settled on Siesta because of its laid-back, eclectic atmosphere close to the beach but with easy access to the mainland. Even though much has changed, it is still a lovely place to live.

Joyce Kouba running a Siesta Key Association civic meeting. (photo by John Morton)

Q: You are vice-president of the Siesta Key Association civic group. During your 25 years with it, can you list a couple of accomplishments and/or endeavors for which you’re most proud? And why?

A: As soon as we bought our Siesta Key home, we joined SKA to stay abreast of important issues impacting the island.  One of my first SKA activities was to attend the county commission meeting where they established the Siesta Key Overlay District (SCOD). Being new to the Key and Sarasota zoning issues, I didn’t really comprehend the significance of that action.

Now, I realize it allowed the county to enact regulations on the mainland without impacting our fragile barrier island. And conversely to prescribe special provisions for Siesta Key without impacting the rest of the county. The SCOD provided necessary protections for our island.

When our Big Pass sand was first coveted to renourish Venice beaches, the Save Our Siesta Sand committee of SKA was able to ward off that encroachment. In the recent lust for Big Pass sand to renourish Lido Beach (in an era when sand is so valuable it is a target of thieves), SKA was able to limit dredging to the Big Pass shoal. Dredging was not allowed deep into sea grass beds of the pass or in the channel immediately adjacent to the north shore of the island. I believe SKA’s efforts limited erosion of our northern island.

Currently the SKA is working to improve Siesta waterways through our Grand Canal Regeneration project. We are seeing significant increases in amount and diversity of juvenile sea life in the canals and in the long term, hope to document improved water quality.

Q: You went to UCLA. Who did you meet there who was/became famous?

A: Most famous was Lew Alcindor (who would become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). I was at UCLA during its years dominating college basketball. I had a history class with Lew; my nose was even with his belt buckle in the elevator to class.

On Siesta Key with husband Joe and son David. (submitted photo)

Q: Are you involved in any other volunteering endeavors?

A: I have been involved in many volunteer activities in Sarasota, from the Audubon Society to the Sarasota County post-disaster response team.

But for me, the most important work is to help children. As a Guardian ad Litem, I could impact a few children’s lives. However, working with Habitat for Humanity has impacted many more children’s lives. When I started volunteering with Habitat, it was for the environment – the local Habitat for Humanity ReStores annually save tons of items from going into our landfills. Eventually, I realized the more important aspect was raising funds to provide children with a stable home where they can flourish. I am proud to have been a part of starting Sarasota’s Habitat for Humanity ReStore and, when that became a resounding success, I helped start the Manatee Habitat’s restore, where I continue to volunteer today.

Q: You’re from Pennsylvania. Your favorite sports team from there?

A: The Pirates. I love baseball. I had pictures of Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax on my bedroom wall when I was in the fourth grade. Little did I know they would follow me to Los Angeles where I would see them in my first baseball game — 13 innings of no runs, no hits, no errors.

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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