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Friendship Centers Announces Honorees For Its Third Annual People Helping People Awards

(Sarasota, FL) – June 20, 2017 – The Friendship Centers, a non-profit organization offering services for older adults in Southwest Florida, is pleased to announce the honorees for its third annual “People Helping People” awards ceremony. The breakfast honors community champions who do so much to increase awareness of senior health, well-being and dignity –issues that impact older adults.

“Friendship Centers’ mission is to promote health, dignity and quality of life throughout the journey of aging,” said Erin McLeod, president and CEO of the Friendship Centers. “Our honorees each demonstrate that mission in their own way, and perfectly exemplify People Helping People, the principle on which Brother William Geenen founded Friendship Centers almost 45 years ago.”

The awards breakfast is scheduled for October 24, 2017, 8:30 a.m. at Michael’s on East.  The event Chair is Phil King, and Honorary Co-Chairs are Susie and Jack Steenbarger and Ida and Ernie Zito.  Proceeds will benefit the Sarasota Campus of the Friendship Centers.

This year’s honorees are:

Visionary Award:

Dr. Nancy Schlossberg
Author, Speaker and Retired Professor
Author of nine books and expert in the areas of adult transitions, retirement, and adult learning, Schlossberg has helped thousands of older adults be their best in their golden years.  Schlossberg was recently the focus of a 90-minute PBS special, “Retire Smart, Retire Happy.” Her book, Revitalizing Retirement develops more fully the importance of paying attention to one’s psychological portfolio. And her new book, “Too Young to be Old:  Love, Learn, Work and Play as you Age,” tells the story of transitions and how to handle them with a focus on living longer and living well.

Life Changer Award:

Freeman Epes, MD
Family Practitioner
After serving Sarasota as a family practitioner for more than 60 years, Epes began volunteering at the Rubin Center for Healthy Aging at the Friendship Centers.  Known for his friendly demeanor, he practiced in our clinic for more than 15 years. Epes has not only helped thousands of older adults have a healthier life but has saved lives as well.

Hidden Gem Award:

Pat Gussin, MD and Robert Gussin, MD
Physicians, Diabetes Educators and Philanthropists
Retired from top administrative positions at Johnson & Johnson, the couple have redirected their medical and scientific skills to help the Friendship Centers realize a goal of better health treatment and education.  In addition to volunteering as a physician and lecturer respectively, they have also donated significant funds to the Friendship Centers to establish a comprehensive diabetes education program called Living Successfully with Diabetes, an initiative they hope can be a model for other communities.

Hidden Gem Award:

Michael Juceam
Right at Home Sarasota, Former FC Event Chair
In addition to being the owner of Right at Home Sarasota, Juceam is a vocal advocate for seniors nationally by serving on the Executive Committee of the National Board of Directors of the Home Care Association of America and its Florida chapter board. Juceam is also a Friendship Centers hidden gem.  He has held a chair role for three golf tournaments and two fundraisers for the Friendship Centers, raising thousands of dollars for the organization and securing boundless support from the senior industry.

Bob Carter Senior Advocacy Award:

Barbara Peters Smith
Sarasota Herald-Tribune Health and Aging Writer
Peters Smith is the aging writer for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and editor of the newspaper’s weekly Health+Fitness section. Peters-Smith has immersed herself in the study of aging issues, studying twice as a fellow in the Gerontological Society of America’s journalism program, and another two fellowships at Columbia University’s Age Boom Academy.  She has won numerous awards for her stories on older adults, including ones on elder guardianship and the graying of AIDS.

Information on tickets ($85 per person), and individual and corporate sponsorship opportunities are available online at For more information about sponsorships please call Jane Icely at 941-556-3215.

Please visit the website and check out our Facebook page to learn more about the Friendship Centers and the programs and services it offers to area seniors.

About Friendship Centers

Friendship Centers serves older adults in Sarasota, Charlotte, DeSoto, Lee and Collier Counties. Its mission is to promote health, dignity and quality of life throughout the journey of aging.  For more than four decades the organization has served persons 50 and older with programs and services that include medical and dental clinics, activity centers, lifelong learning, meals at centers and delivered to the homebound, caregiver support, adult day services, and case management.  More than 800 volunteers give their time valued at more than $3 million annually.  For more information, visit or call 941.955.2122.