As the former executive director of the South Florida Baptist Hospital Foundation for many years, Judy Martin has had a big family to care for. She has tended to seniors, the middle aged, children, toddlers and infants for over a decade through her charitable and tireless works.
As the daughter of an Army officer, Martin spent her childhood traveling extensively throughout the United States and Germany with her family. This was a tremendous adventure for a little girl from Georgia. Settling in Haines City, Florida, Martin studied hard and received her high school diploma from Haines City High School. From there she went on to Florida State University to obtain her Bachelor of Science degree.
Organizations such as the Junior Women’s Club, the Woman’s Club, and the Plant City Arts Council has had the privilege of having Martin guide them through many successful projects. She is active in the Plant City Chamber of Commerce and was recognized as Plant City’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 1995. Martin says, “With no husband or children my family is a nine year old Shih Tzu named Lulu along with all of Plant City.”
After many years of fundraising and community involvement, South Florida Baptist Hospital opened its doors in 1953. It is a not-for-profit acute care community hospital and licensed for 147 beds. The hospital is supported by the Foundation, just as the community has always supported it.
After retiring from Tampa Electric in 1995 with 32 years in the marketing department, South Florida Baptist Hospital hired Martin that same year to help develop and direct the Foundation and to do community relations work.
Sandee Sytsma, long-time friend of Martin’s, told of her life-long friendship with this special lady. “I’ve known Judy for over 40 years from when we were co-workers at Tampa Electric. She has always been the ‘go to’ person,” Sytsma continues. “When you want something done and done right, she’s your gal! Another great trait of Judy is she loves to laugh. You know with every call or visit she’ll find something funny. She is a treasured friend to many in Plant City.”
Martin knew that starting the Foundation from the ground floor would not be an easy undertaking. But with her caring heart for her community, whom she regards as family, Martin did not shy away. “In 1997 South Florida Baptist Hospital became part of the BayCare Health System and I became the first full-time executive director of the Foundation,” explains Martin. “We began the Foundation from scratch. There were no donations to start with. There was only one team member: me! We did, however, have a 25 member volunteer board of directors and I shared a secretary with two other departments.”
“The Foundation currently has two full-time employees: the executive director and the coordinator. But they still depend largely on volunteers to provide needed manpower, especially for the events and capital campaigns,” states Martin.
Another long-time friend of Martin’s, Maggie Carlisle, states, “If I had to use one word to describe Judy, it would be ‘POWERHOUSE.’” With her leadership skills, Judy met and exceeded any goal that she or others set for her.
Since the inception of the Foundation, the community has raised well over $9 million dollars through creativeness, imagination and a lot of people working hard toward a common goal. Martin comments, “The greater Plant City community has been and continues to be very generous: both with its time and money!”
Under Martins leadership and tireless efforts, two centers were added to the hospital: the Beaty Surgery Center was built in 2000 and the Jim and Ruby Jean Redman Emergency Center opened in 2006.
Of her community, the town of Plant City, and all those she holds so dear in her heart, she says, “Working for South Florida Baptist Hospital was a wonderful experience. I learned a great deal about healthcare and met and worked with a cadre of very dedicated people. It gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction to ride by the hospital knowing that I helped play a small part in its growth and success.”
Martin retired on May 31, 2012 after twelve and a half years of dedicated service, community commitment, and a lifetime full of friends and lasting memories.
photo and story by Dale Bliss