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A Treasure Island Treasure
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By Jackie Minniti - You may have seen her tooling around Treasure Island in her vintage 1978 sky blue Lincoln Continental. Maudie Gurak has been a fixture on the island for 42 years. As a member of the Treasure Island Action Club (a senior’s travel group) and the head of the hospitality committee for the Treasure Island Islettes, Maudie’s social calendar is usually full. Not bad for a woman who is 98 years young.
After retiring, Maudie, a native Canadian, and her husband Stephan moved to Treasure Island from Ontario. Not one to be content to while away her days sitting in front of the TV or relaxing in the sun, Maudie went to work for the Treasure Island Chamber of Commerce. When a neighbor told her about a group called the Treasure Island Islettes, Maudie decided to give it a try. “After moving down, I didn’t know anyone,” she says. “I thought it would be a good way to meet new people.” That was 33 years ago, and Maudie is still going strong.
Chartered in 1955, just five years after the City of Treasure Island incorporated, the Islettes is a women’s club whose volunteers have helped enhance the quality of life for TI residents for 58 years. The club’s fundraising efforts focus on neighborhood beautification, scholarships, and community service. To date the Islettes have contributed more than $900,000 to the city and to organizations like the TI Chamber of Commerce, the police and fire departments, the TI Art Guild, and area schools and hospitals. Other recipients include the Gulf Beaches Library, American Cancer Society, Friends of Strays, PARC, Blind Athlete’s Association, the Heart, Muscular Dystrophy and American Lung Associations, the Komen Race for the Cure, and the Parkinson and Alzheimer’s Associations. Each year, the Islettes also award scholarships to TI students.
Some of the Islette’s fundraising activities include their annual Fashion Show and Hollyfest, a luncheon and bazaar where homemade craft items are sold. You can find the Islettes selling bottled water at TI beach functions. The club’s Thursday night Bingo games raise funds for scholarships. The Islettes have even used the organization’s birthday as a way to help others. “At our September birthday party, instead of giving each other presents, we collected household items and sent them to CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse),” Maudie recalls.
Maudie has served the Islettes in many capacities over the years, but she is best known as “Mrs. Hospitality.” It’s her job to set up for the group’s monthly meetings at the TI Community Center and for other Islette functions. “I do the refreshments and decorations,” she says. “I’m the one in charge of the coffeepot.”
She has become such an institution that this year, TI Mayor Robert Minning designated April 24, Maudie’s 98th birthday, as “Maudie Gurak Day.” The city also dedicated the Community Center kitchen to her, renaming it “Maudie’s Kitchen.” Commissioner Phil Collins had high praise for the petite nonagenarian. “Every time I see her and she smiles her very special smile at me, I just want to wrap my wings around her, protect her, and give a tight squeeze,” he says. Maudie isn’t one to let all this praise go to her head. She feels lucky to be an Islette. “If I didn’t belong, I would never have met so many nice people,” she says.
And this admiration is mutual. According to Islettes president Marian Alton, “Maudie is the matriarch of our organization. She’s an amazing woman, and we’ve had some great times with her. She’s dependable and always there. We love our Maudie!” In addition to Treasure Island residents, membership in the Islettes is now open to offislanders who wish to join.
For more information call Marian Alton at 727-360-0164.