As Center Place President-Elect Randy Wolfe read off a description of this year's S.L. "Spud" Clements Award winner, Dorothy Mahieu said she felt the tears well up in her eyes.
"As soon as he said the winner purchased the first cash register for the gift shop, I knew it was me," said Mahieu. "I couldn't believe it. I was so surprised."
Mahieu received the coveted award named for the one-time state legislator and Center Place patron at the annual Center Place Arts Gala held Saturday at The Regent in Riverview.
As she walked up to accept the award, she was greeted with a standing ovation.
"I was overwhelmed," said Mahieu. "When my friend, Nancy Hilbert, told me to get dressed up and wear a lot of bling because she was taking me somewhere special, I never expected this."
Mahieu said she was especially surprised because it's been a few years since she was involved with Center Place. She was forced to give up her volunteer duties at the nonprofit cultural arts center when her husband became ill and was placed in a nursing home.
Mahieu's involvement with Center Place dates back to 1989. She had just returned to Brandon after she and her husband had been living in Arizona for four years.
“My husband didn’t like it in Arizona,” said the Brandon resident, “You can’t take the Floridian out of Florida. So we moved back to Brandon.”
Shortly thereafter, she ran into Pat Odiorne, a longtime patron of Center Place.
“Pat kept talking about Center Place, urging me to volunteer with her there,” said Mahieu. “I didn’t know much about Center Place at the time, but I finally agreed. Pat took me under her wing and got me on the board. I just loved it. I was hooked."
A year later, in 1990, Mahieu played an integral role in starting the Center Place gift shop.
“I not only helped open it but helped organize volunteers from the Brandon Newcomers Club where I served as president and chaired just about every committee," said Mahieu.
Volunteering at the gift shop at 619 Vonderburg Drive, Brandon, at least three days a week, Mahieu incorporated her previous retail experience running a baby boutique on Oakfield Drive. She helped Center Place purchase its first cash register for the gift shop and, when Odiorne died, it was Mahieu who suggested naming the gift shop Pat’s Corner in Odiorne’s honor.
"I had to retire from Center Place almost three years ago," she said. "There were so many issues with my husband I needed to take care of."
However, her contributions over the years didn't go unnoticed Saturday night when Mahieu joined the rank of fellow tireless Center Place volunteers in receiving the S.L. "Spud" Clements Award.
"I'm so grateful," said Mahieu who was recently hospitalized. "I tried to convey that in a thank-you note I just wrote to Center Place. This award really lifted me up. I miss being involved in Center Place. I was there three days a week for many years and I enjoyed every moment, I really did."
Past recipients of the award are the Brandon League of Fine Arts, Gene Bishop, Sue Allen, Sandy and Ardie MacKinnon, Ralph Stoddard, Vince Ferraro, Brandon Commercial Centers, Carol Todd Johnson, Patricia B. Odiorne, George Anello, the Community Roundtable, Diana Hagemann, Larry Cox, Debi Kyle, Nancy Kelley, Lisa Rodriguez, John and Kay Sullivan and Flora Temoin.
In addition to honoring Mahieu, Center Place President Barbara Schwabe presented the Patricia B. Odiorne scholarship to two area students, Ashley Joseph of King High School and Danielle S. Quichocho of Newsome High School. Both students scored over 2000 on their SATs. Joseph plans to study journalism and Quichocho is plannning a medical career.
The evening featured both a live and silent auction to raise funds for Center Place's children's theater program. Led by auctioneer John Jernigan, patrons had a chance to bid on chicken for a year and Universal Studios passes, courtesy of Paul and Tammy Holmberg of the Lake Brandon Village Chick-fil-A, a suite at a Tampa Bay Lightning home game, a weekend in a 2011 Jaguar XJ and getaway at the Trade Winds Island Resort, a mosaic birdbath by mosaic artist Merinda Wolfe and a multi-media painting by artist Greg Manley.
In addition, patrons bid on 285 silent auction items including baskets donated by local businesses and works of art by Brandon area artists.
The Arts Gala, this year featuring a Mardi Gras theme, is Center Place's major fundraiser. Committee members for this year's gala included Barbara Schwabe, chairwoman; Chris Kazor, silent auction chairwoman; and Diana and Carl Hagemann, decorations.
Among the sponsors were Music Showcase, TECO, SunTrust, the Kitty Smaller Memorial, Chick-fil-A, Veterans of Foreign Wars Brandon Post, Spotlight Catering, Cox Electric, Durkin & Masons CPAs, Terry Fink Insurance, Foley and Lardner LLP, NuSurance, Odiorne Insurance, RSA Consulting, Winthrop Retail LLC, Worthco, Bank of Tampa, Bill's Prescription Center, the Community Roundtable, Schwabe Benefits Group and Orange Home Decor.