Debbie Frank has been the Program Director at the Friends of Boca Grande Community Center since last February.
Originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, she moved to St. Augustine after attending college at Lee University in Cleveland, TN. She studied psychology in school. Debbie met her husband, Chris, while living in St. Augustine. The couple moved to Gulf Cove eight years ago. “My sister moved to Venice and I really liked Southwest Florida, so that’s how we ended up in this area,” she said. “That’s when we became acquainted with Boca Grande. My husband and I enjoy going to the beach and when we discovered this place we just loved it.”
Debbie said it was a challenge to jump into the position at the Friends of Boca Grande, but in hindsight, she is really glad she did because it was a great learning experience. “So now this season I will really know what to expect having gone through the entire planning process last year,” she said.
Previously, Debbie worked for Sarasota County Schools before obtaining the job on the island. “I started out at Englewood Elementary School in office administration for a few years and then an opening came up at The Landings (Sarasota County Schools Administrative office) to work with the Executive Director of Elementary Schools. I was ready for a new challenge, so I did that for the next few years.”
Debbie said she started looking for a more local position about a year ago, and focused her search on the Boca Grande area. “I just happened to be reading a copy of the Beacon and I saw an advertisement for this position, and I called to inquire. I spoke with Rosemary Bowler, who is very instrumental and has been involved with the community center throughout the years. Rosemary had worked prior to that with school administration, through an educational grant initiative with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. She was helping Marta in the process of screening candidates. So it was just one of those connections where you never know where your path will cross with the different people you have met. And I just love this job, I love working here,” she said.
Debbie said her job duties at the community center include general office tasks, selling tickets to events and promoting those events through marketing efforts. “I also try to make sure we have enough volunteers lined up for all of our events, and I put together all the little details so our programs run smoothly,” Debbie said. “We also try to do a lot of community outreach. And then there is the process of putting together the programs for each event.”
Debbie said programming starts in mid-November at the community center and runs through March. “We save much of our programs and we try to hold them in January, February and March during peak season,” she said. “We enjoy the busy months while we can, and then we also enjoy the downtime of the summer months so we can start planning and gearing up for next season. People assume we get bored in the summer months, but we are actually very busy planning.”
Debbie recently attended a Performing Arts Exchange Conference in Baltimore for a week. That gave her an opportunity to look for possible artists to bring to Boca Grande. “It gives us a chance to connect with artists who might be interested in performing here,” she said. “It was a lot to take in. It was three 15-hour days where we literally started in the morning and went until midnight. There were booths and people could walk around and talk to the artists who were there. Then in the evening, different performers would do snippets of what their full show would be like, so being able to see it live was very interesting. It was a lot of fun.” Debbie said she likes the fact that her job at the community center is constantly changing. “We are always either starting a new project or wrapping an event up – so there is a sense of accomplishment with the job. There’s always a lot going on and that makes it exciting.”
Debbie said sometimes she has to deal with things that she has no prior knowledge about, so she is constantly learning. When she is not working Debbie enjoys going to beach, swimming and bike riding. “I am a leisurely bike rider – I don’t get into competitive racing,” she said. She also enjoys listening to all types of music. “I like being introduced to different kinds of cultures and listening to music from all around the world.”
She also enjoys watching shows on HGTV and sewing. “The shows inspire me to start new projects at home,” she said. Debbie and Chris have been married for 17 years. They have two cats, Kiki and Squeak. Both were rescued. “They act like our alarm clocks in the morning and wake us up at the same time every day – often before we want,” she said. Debbie said she looks forward to traveling in the future, but the couple doesn’t get the chance to travel much right now.
“We travel locally, we will go down to Naples for a day or spend a few hours in St. Petersburg. We also go to St. Augustine quite often since that’s where we met and were married. And his mom and brother live there.”
Chris is a musician and enjoys playing the guitar. “We have a music room at home, but it’s hard for him to find the time to play in a band,” Debbie said. Debbie’s parents live in Virginia. They come down to visit every winter. “They have been looking for years to relocate here, so hopefully they will find a place now that they are both fully retired,” she said.
Debbie said the person she admires the most in life is her father. “I’ve been blessed with so many good people in my life, but I would have to pick my dad. As an adult, looking back and reflecting, he would always put the family first. And even now, he spends a lot of time planning to make sure my mom, and me, and my sister are going to be taken care of. He is always thinking about the welfare of the family.” Her father was an attorney and a law professor, Debbie recalls him working all the time while she was growing up. Her mother was a music teacher. “The older I have gotten, the more I have appreciated just why he made the decisions he did and that has instilled values in me that I would want to pass on in life,” Debbie said. “I am sure I took it for granted as a kid, but I was very blessed to be raised in such a good family.”