By Bunny Ware for Connect Savannah — Celebrating my last big event of the spring/summer season, I head to Savannah Station for the Mary’s Place Annual Gala on June 16. Greeting me at the door is Teresa Reed. The tiny proprietor of this historic venue points at my red Step One Jeep Gladiator and asks, “When am I going to be the local celebrity?!” Today, little one! Climb up and pose for my daily photo.
Chatting about her trip to Ocean City, Maryland to chase down wild ponies at Assateague National Park, Teresa tells me, “When I was 12 years old I read a book called “Misty of Chincoteague” that told the story of the pony roundup between two islands. For 97 years, on July 27, the ponies are released from the corral and head out on their yearly swim between Assateague and Chincoteague during low tide.”
Saddened to hear that they auction off the yearlings to thin the herds, I put this event on my bucket list, then follow Teresa inside to look for Mary’s Place executive director Doris L. Williams. Wearing a custom teal, off the shoulder satin evening gown from Daniette, Doris is talking with her Mary’s Place team as they finish up displaying 36 silent auction items.
“The money raised tonight goes to everything from emergency financial support for victims—whether it’s eyeglasses or a cell phone, hotel accommodations, bus transportation or gas cards and meals after examinations. This money makes a huge difference for survivors during their most traumatic times,” shares Doris.
After a quick pic of Doris with her team, I see Simply Savannah Marketing’s Dru Usry and Marianne Ganem Poppell doing a run of show with WSAV’s Daisy Kershaw. Wearing a fitted red dress, the vivacious anchor, reporter and producer is amped to do her first emcee gig.
Over at the bar, Tim Dean has some competition for the best looking dude in the room as I meet E.R. physician Cromwell Reeves—cool name for a Savannah native who loves to fish so much that he would do it as a profession. Turning to Tim, I ask the Chatham County Assistant District Attorney what career he would be in if he wasn’t in the legal world, his response, “Infantry Officer.”
Speaking of the military, Savannah newbie Michael Lind tells me he retires from the Army in July after 20 years, while he eyes a diamond necklace on the silent auction jewelry table. Sharing his love of our beautiful city, the lifestyle, water and weather is Memorial Blood Bank’s Lindsay Kiefer and Social Butterfly’s Montana Tohm. With her new social media management company thriving, Montana continues to show us the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry’s hidden gems.
After posing the new friends together for a pic, I head inside the ballroom. Waving me over, International Diamond Center’s Gary Pinka shows me the gorgeous pearl necklace he is presenting to volunteers of the year Sharon Levins and Meredith Layman. Hating that we are missing Sharon tonight, I learn that Meredith has volunteered 3100 hours at Mary’s Place since August of 2019. This Chatham County Assistant District Attorney is one class act!
Sitting at Gary’s table is Lisa Gray and Phillip Friedman, a bass player who admits to having a lot of stories on local beloved musician (and Connect Savannah employee) Bucky Bryant. While posing the couple for a pic I see Henry Plumbing royalty in the house! Tonya Reed and her daughter-in-law Meghan wave me over for a hug and pic before I hit warp speed and snap photos of Daisy with her uber-nice WSAV General Manager David Hart.
A fan since day one of meeting the Alabama native and proud Auburn Univ. alumnus, David leaped into the Savannah scene in January and is amped up over his station’s plans for new partnerships and friendships in the community. “I’m proud to be here tonight to be able to see Daisy take the stage and to support such a worthy cause,” he shares..
Another much-loved man is Antonio Wells. Mary’s Place Intern Volunteer Coordinator is literally the only man in that building. Surrounded at work by ten women, this Savannah native tells me, “For the past 6.5 years I have worn various hats, from office administration and facility issues to serving as an advocate when needed. With a background in the military as a sexual assault response coordinator, I felt at home with the mission of Mary’s Place.”
After snacking on some flaming donuts from the magnificent Mark Thomas from Magnolia Catering, Daisy and Doris take the stage to introduce hometown hero Weslyn Bowers to the crowd. My gorgeous friend opens up with this: “I’m a proud little black girl from the westside, and I’m a survivor that is living, thriving and surviving.”
While Weslyn tells us to live our lives, to smile more, to help others and to forgive, I look out over the room filled with women and men who support the benevolent team at Mary’s Place and say a silent prayer and thank you for every single kindness this team does to those who need them. There really are angels among us.