“The goal is to bring people in so they can learn about the city and ask questions,” said Margarete Tober, president of Gulfport Neighbors. “We have talked about this idea for a while, but it got put on the back burner due to other activities until Mel came along.”
Donavan, who works at the library, and her husband moved to Gulfport a year and a half ago and she quickly became active in the community.
“This event is the result of all I wanted to know about Gulfport,” said Donovan. “There are so many new people moving to town, and it’s good to know about the library and what is available around town. Working with the Gulfport Neighbors was a perfect fit for what we wanted to do.”
The presentations were a mix of fun facts – Did you know that the library used to be where Pia’s restaurant is now? – and useful information for new and established residents. Besides receiving a Gulfport welcome bag, attendees listened to Library Director Dave Mather showcase what the library has to offer as well as helpful features on the city’s website. Community Resource Officer Zack Mills talked about safety in the community, and Margarete Tober, raised in Gulfport, spoke about its history, the Senior Center and volunteer opportunities. Cathy Salustri, secretary of the Gulfport Historical Society, gave out free Gulfport history books to attendees. Vice Mayor Yolanda Roman was also on hand to welcome newcomers to the city.
Everyone was invited to introduce themselves and tell how they came to live in Gulfport.
“The first time I visited Gulfport,” said Wolfgang Deininger, a Gulfport Neighbors board member who randomly picked the Tampa Bay area on a Google map, “I knew I was home.”
When Patricia Brown and her husband, who briefly lived in Gulfport, were getting ready to retire to a warmer climate, she kept looking at locations, telling her husband, “I want a home where we can do the things we used to do in Gulfport. He said ‘Why aren’t you looking for a house in Gulfport then?’ So here we are,” she said.
According to Donovan, the response was so positive, Welcome to Gulfport meetings will be held monthly at the Gulfport Library beginning in January. For more information, visit the library website at mygulfport.us/gpl or find them on Facebook at facebook.com/GulfportLibraryFL.