Head of the House
As home visitations go, none experiences more frequent frequent house guests than Sanibel’s Community House. For more than 80 years, the Community House at 2173 Periwinkle Way has served as the central hub of Island happenings and a headquarters for the Sanibel Community Association, not to mention the primary gathering place for any number of local organizations. It has always been a popular space, but in recent weeks local may have noticed certain increases in activity, as well as a few new offerings in terms of things-to-do, and much of that can be attributed to new leadership in the form of Teresa Riska Hall.
Hall was appointed Executive Director of the Sanibel Community Association several weeks prior to the new year. Though fairly new to the role, Hall is anything, but a newcomer to the community. In fact, when she married Matt Hall (the property manager of Artist Robert Rauschenberg’s Captiva estate) the wedding reception was held at the Community House some 23 years ago.
Hall’s arrival to the community dates back further. A military brat who grew-up in a range of different communities, Hall ultimately went on to enroll at University of Wisconsin where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation. Upon completing her courses, she began investigating areas where she could apply what she had learned, hopefully in a warmer climate, and that research led her to the discovery of South Seas Resort. She went on to spend a number of years there, developing a range of recreational programs, but as time waxed-by, Hall began seeking other opportunities where she felt she could make a positive difference in the lives of others.
That resolve led her to work with the Lee County Education Foundation where she was very involved in the development of initiatives such as Take Stock in Children Program (a scholarship program for needy students) as well as the Golden Apple program (which annually recognizes outstanding area teachers). She also spent several years supporting the aims of the not-for-profit Ronald McDonald House, which provides shelter to families during emergency or extended periods of medical care.
Hall says, “Life is about building relationships” and for her part, she is keenly interested in “making connections… and making a beneficial impact in the lives of others.” As she is fully aware of what the Community House has represented to the people of Sanibel, Hall has been busy making an impact to the operation there, which some, have no doubt, noted. Upon her arrival, she immediately set out to make improvements with the organizational calendar. Where double bookings had previously been a problem, that is now gone. She’s also been busy preparing new activities and programs. The New Year’s Celebration with dance and music from a “old school” rock band was new for the venue; they even recently hosted a touring production of the avante-garde “7-Shot Symphony” (aka The Kickass Cowboy Show).
The Community House continues to host a variety of events sponsored by local organizations, but Hall is presently at work planning new activities and programs that she hopes will appeal to young families in Sanibel. She says the Community Association is also engaging in various focus group discussions to better plan for the future. Though those discussions are ongoing, Hall says talk has included making some facility improvements that include structural repairs, improvements to the storage facilities and upgrades to the heavily used kitchen area which could benefit from new (or newer) appliances. She says overall the facility needs “a little tender love and care” and that’s what she plans to deliver to the house as well as its many guests. Hall says the Community House “has been a significant aspect of Sanibel’s history.” She’s working to ensure that it remains just as significant to the community’s future.