Judy Collins has had her fingers in practically every nonprofit in the city of Venice and surrounding areas.

“She’s one of those people who’s exceptional in all the things that she does,” says Judy Wilcox, co-chair of the 2017 Venice Lights of Friendship, a fundraiser Dec. 6 where Collins will be honored for her contributions to the Friendship Centers and the community. All money raised at the gourmet dinner and silent auction will benefit the programs and services at the Friendship Centers’ Venice campus.

“One thing we are looking for is a fabulous turnout,” says Wilcox, who aims to sell 325 tickets, which would require setting up a tent.

Wilcox and her co-chair, Pat Tyler, are hoping to raise $40,000, vs. $23,000 last year. Wilcox believes that their goal can be achieved because this year’s honoree has so many friends in the community. “Judy knows so many people and her husband (a doctor) practiced here for years. She says she entertained every doctor who came to town.”

She and her late husband, Dr.Thomas Collins, moved to Venice in 1971 and raised six children here. Collins, 77, served on the Friendship Centers’ board of directors from 2003 to 2008 and as chairwoman in 2005-2006. She has worked on many activities and events, including the Venice Lights of Friendship.

“I worked with great people that made those events successful,” says Collins.

She has also served on the boards of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Friends of Venice Public Library and volunteered for many years with Our Mother’s House and dozens of other local organizations.

Collins first became involved with the Friendship Centers in the 1990s, when a good friend, Dr. Richard Beebe, was establishing the health clinic on the Venice campus. The Venice Foundation (later renamed the Gulf Coast Community Foundation) contributed part of the funding.

“I was impressed with how dedicated the Friendship Center was to getting things done right,” Collins says, “and I was hearing more and more about the good things the Friendship Center was doing in the community.”

An all-volunteer team of doctors and dentists at Venice’s Pat Buster Health Clinic treat needy patients 50 and over, the majority of them uninsured. At least half pay nothing for their care. Those costs are covered in part through donations.

Generous donors are also responsible for keeping the activity center next door in operation five days a week. That’s where older adults exercise, dance, socialize with friends, take all kinds of classes and gather for a nutritious lunch.

Help us fund these critical services and programs that promote health and quality of life. Attend the Venice Lights of Friendship on Dec. 6 and invite your friends and family members. And consider becoming a sponsor or buying an ad in the program. Call the Development Office at 941.556.3205.

Venice Lights of Friendship, Dec. 6, 5:30-9 p.m., Venice Friendship Centers, 2350 Scenic Drive. $150 a person. For tickets or sponsorship information, call 941.556.3205 or go to