This week, we say goodbye to Abby Baker. Abby’s a unicorn: She loves Gulfport, has a passion for journalism, and her time management game in strong (she’s never missed a deadline). I knew Abby wouldn’t stay with us forever – she’s at the start of her career, incredibly talented, and an ideal employee. Last month, American Stage figured out what we already knew and made her an offer she couldn’t refuse; next week, she joins them as the communications coordinator.
“I’ve learned so much from Gulfport, and The Gabber, about community. When I started freelancing four years ago, I was a 21-year-old floored by the amount of people who wanted to show me how great this city is. It feels like my adopted hometown, and leaving wasn’t an easy choice, but Gulfportians will keep on keeping it Gulfport, and I have no doubt The Gabber team will continue to showcase the beautiful, offbeat, special parts of this corner of Pinellas,” she told me.
Everyone at The Gabber wishes her well, even if her leaving is bittersweet. The timing, though, was fortuitous.
In 2016, Jen Ring attended an opening reception for my Florida photography exhibit, took some pictures, and introduced herself. Later, she sent me a link to her web post about the reception, and I enjoyed her writing and photography so much that I asked her to freelance for me at the alt weekly where I was the arts editor. She said yes, and for three years I had the pleasure of editing her writing.
She didn’t go to journalism school; before changing directions, she worked as a scientist. When she developed scleroderma, she couldn’t work full-time, so she taught herself to take photos and write. Eventually, her scleroderma impacted her lungs so badly that she couldn’t live outside the hospital. She wasn’t coming out without two new lungs, so she called Tampa General home for months, awaiting a donor. In March, doctors performed a double lung transplant, sent her home without her oxygen tanks, and Jen began the road back to normalcy.
“Every day I do something that I haven’t been able to do in years,” she says. “It’s like I’m 18 all over again, learning my abilities, discovering my limitations, and trying to find my place in this crazy world. My life is changing so fast that sometimes it’s overwhelming, but it’s all for the better. Finally, I can breathe again.”
New lungs meant Jen could go back to work, full-time. But not in a lab; she’s ready to start writing full-time. So, while we’re sad to see Abby go, we’re thrilled to welcome Jen as our events editor and arts and features reporter. Abby’s showing Jen the ropes this week, and I have every confidence that Jen is going to be great for The Gabber – and our community. Please join us in thanking Abby for everything she’s done for all of us, and in welcoming Jen to Team Gabber.