Community Spotlight: Making a great first impression

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Sharon Rivera appreciates her role at the Visitor Center and her Siesta Key history

Q: Sharon, you’ve been serving as a volunteer in the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce’s Visitor Center for four years. Why has that been important to you?  

A: I greet people and answer the phones there and I really appreciate the interest people have in our community and love being an ambassador for it. I like being that first line of defense. I get people who return after their first visit and remember my name, asking for Sharon Rivera. That’s when I know I’ve made an impression, made a difference.

Q: Speaking of the name Rivera, it’s one you share with a famous brother who played a role in your family having a history with Siesta Key. Tell us about that.

A: My parents had been living for 10 years in a motor home, traveling around the country. In the early ‘80s my brother Geraldo discovered Siesta Key and bought a unit for them on the seventh floor of Whispering Sands. I enjoyed visiting for years and in 2006, when my mother fell and broke her hip, I came to help for what was supposed to be three weeks but never left. I lived there for 12 years before I ended up moving downtown three years ago.

That’s part of why I’ve continued at the Visitor’s Center. I love Siesta Key and want to stay connected with it.

Sharon Rivera (right) with brother Geraldo and their mother Lillian. (submitted photo)

Q: You said you truly enjoy the Siesta Sand and appreciate community journalism, having enjoyed a career of your own in it. Share your history with it.

A: In the early 2000s, Geraldo bought the small weekly newspaper in Red Bank, New Jersey. At the time, the town had 50 empty storefronts and was known as “Dead Bank.” I pounded the pavement, selling advertising, and the paper’s success helped resurrect the community. I felt like I was queen of the town, going door-to-door pulling a buggy with the newspaper’s sign on it.

I was also a member of the chamber of commerce there, and that’s part of what attracts me to the same on Siesta Key. I can relate to the importance of the business community. It makes me a perfect fit for the Visitor Center.

Today, all the storefronts in Red Bank are full again. It’s been a complete turnaround. And many famous and influential people have since lived there. Geraldo is one, along with Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Maury Povich, and Connie Chung.

Q: Red Bank is near Manhattan, and you were dangerously close to the tragedy of 9/11, right?

A: I was between the Statue of Liberty and the towers when I saw the planes hit. Some of the photo images I took that day were published. It took eight hours to get back to New Jersey by water.

I knew several people who died that day, mostly working for Cantor Fitzgerald on the top floors of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.

Q: July is a favorite month on Siesta Key for your family, and especially Geraldo. Why?

A: His birthday is July 4 and he loves watching the fireworks here. We once gave him was a two-hour sand-sculpting session with Andy Daily of the Sandventure Crew that he enjoyed with his daughter Sol and his wife, Erica.

Dining at Ophelia’s and Turtles are favorites because he can get there by motorboat or sailboat. He also loves to sit out on Roberts Bay, watching the boats go by, watching the clouds go by. It’s heavenly for him.

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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