Welcome aboard, Brittany!

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New Visitor Center manager feels at home, due in part to Siesta Beach history

By Jane Bartnett

The power of volunteering is something that Brittany Stokes takes to heart. In fact, volunteerism and community service are the cornerstones of her career.
So, it’s no surprise that she’s embracing with delight her new role as both the manager of the Siesta Key Visitor Center and the manager of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce’s volunteers.
“This job is a dream come true for me,” said Stokes. “I knew from the start that volunteer management was where I was happy.”
As a college student, Stokes moved to Sarasota with her family and became a lifeguard with the Siesta Beach Patrol. Her post atop the colorful lifeguard chairs gave her a unique perspective of life on the beach as she observed the people and wildlife that flock to the soft white sand and water. Putting her communications studies to work, Stokes teamed up with fellow lifeguard Scot “Scooter of the Beach” Ruberg and wrote a series of articles about Siesta Beach from a lifeguard’s perspective for the Pelican Press, a former Siesta Key newspaper.
It was during her lifeguard days that she met her future husband, Christian. He now serves as a lieutenant with the Sarasota County Beach Patrol.
As she settles into her new role at the chamber, it brings her joy to be back on the island that she first fell in love with 20 years ago.
With her communications degree from the University of North Florida, Stokes began her career, as she became highly experienced in managing and recruiting Sarasota-area volunteers for the YMCA, the Food Bank of Manatee, Special Olympics, and The Haven, a non-profit Sarasota-based organization for children and adults with disabilities.
“Brittany is very passionate and knowledgeable about the value and importance of volunteering and community service,” said Ann Frescura, executive director of the chamber. “She is an asset to our chamber team. We feel fortunate to have her join us.”

Brittany Stokes (left), the new Visitor Center manager and volunteer coordinator for the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, works alongside new volunteer Heidi Natt. (photo by Jane Bartnett)

As the tourist season gets underway, Stokes is launching her campaign to spread the word about the benefits of volunteering with the chamber.
“Being a part of the Visitor Center and taking part in the many activities that the chamber offers throughout the year is so rewarding,” she said. “We’re posting about volunteering on all the Siesta Key walking and running groups, “I love Siesta Key,” and other popular Facebook groups.
“We’ll be following up with our many Siesta Key Crystal Classic Sand Sculpting Festival volunteers and encouraging them to continue to work with us. We’re really excited about increasing our volunteer ranks.”
There are currently 15 active volunteers but Stokes hopes to bring those numbers back up to the pre-pandemic numbers of 40 or more. “We have the need for many more volunteers,” she said.
Each year, more than 10,000 visitors walk through the doors of the Visitor Center in Davidson Plaza. Volunteers are the first people that those visitors meet as they staff the desk, take calls, and respond to email inquiries from visitors from around the world.
On a December afternoon, Stokes was working with Heidi Natt, a new volunteer who had recently relocated to Sarasota from Michigan. She had heard that the Crystal Classic needed volunteers and, after working at the event, stayed on.
“It’s so great to have a place to go and to meet such nice people,” said Natt.
Fellow volunteer Mike Netkovick, a veteran of the Visitor Center, came to Sarasota from his native New England.
“You give something back and you meet new people. It goes both ways. People tend to overestimate the skill and time that’s involved,” he said.
Said Stokes, “Mike is a great ambassador for the program.”
She noted that some volunteers only work during the tourist season and some only work in off-season.
“It’s fun and a great way to learn about the area, the businesses that operate on Siesta Key, and you get to meet wonderful people,” Stokes said.
And for newcomers, both volunteers agreed, it’s a perfect opportunity.

Stokes on duty in a Siesta Beach lifeguard station, circa 2003. (submitted photo)

In the weeks ahead, Stokes plans to have her Visitor Center volunteers shadow chamber staff members for two hours a week. She also hopes to arrange visits to chamber members’ places of business. The goal is to have the volunteers learn as much as possible about all that Siesta Key has to offer
“Such interesting people come through our doors,” said Stokes. “The funny thing is that they have all the same questions that I was asked as a lifeguard.”
To learn more about volunteering with the Siesta Key Visitor Center, located at 5114 Ocean Blvd., complete an online application form at siestakeychamber.com. Or, contact Stokes at info@siestakeychamber.com or call her at (941) 349-3800.
The center’s hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Jane Bartnett
Author: Jane Bartnett

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