Ms. Jessie McGee is a neighbor of Central-Cocoanut, where she has lived for the past 22 years. Known on the block as “Grandma Jessie,” she is the mother of 13 children and grandmother of 30 children, and for 15 years she has been a licensed home childcare provider. She is a 1961 graduate of Booker High School and attended Manatee Community College, which is now State College of Florida. Grandma Jessie checks in frequently with neighbors and knows of many local resources that neighbors find helpful. She has been a neighbor leader of efforts to fix up the 15th Street Park, and has been known to surprise neighborkids at the park with cake. She also opens up her kitchen and home to fellow neighbors when they are homeless. Grandma Jessie co-authored the 2012 editorial by Central-Cocoanut neighbors that was published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in response to mural art. At the Studio she focuses on issues of housing.
JUAN "JOHNNY" TORRES
Mr. Johnny Torres lives in the Central-Cocoanut neighborhood with his fiancé Ladis Colon and their two sons. He moved to Sarasota from Ohio in 2012. He often can be spotted walking and riding his bike throughout the neighborhood, and also is building a pigeon coop. He has worked in various manufacturing and industrial settings, for many years operating a forklift. He now works at Goodwill Industries. Mr. Johnny works on maintaining the physical space of the Studio.
Ms. Ladis Colon lives in Central-Cocoanut with her fiancé Johnny Torres and their two sons. She moved to Sarasota from Lorraine, Ohio in 2011. She loves to walk, and frequently can be seen walking throughout the neighborhood and talking with fellow neighbors or heading over to Sarasota Bay to watch the sunset. Ms. Ladis is a talented and inventive cook and is known for her pastelillos and Coquito, two Puerto Rican specialties. She was the Head Cook for students and staff at Whittier Middle School in Ohio. Ms. Ladis speaks both English and Spanish and has provided Spanish translation for the Studio, including the Grand Opening invitation.
Gus is a 4-year-old goldendoodle who lives in the Central-Cocoanut neighborhood with Ms. Allison and Tim. He is an especially happy and friendly pup because he has been loved and nurtured by neighborkids since he was 8 weeks old. Gus loves to explore the neighborhood and has been on many scavenger hunts. He especially likes to run and play at the 15th Street Mary Dean Park and at Central Pups. He spends his days at the Studio where he often can be spotted with paint on his ears and tail.