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Pearl Society Events

Pearl Society Spring Event - Gale Pinkston and Maria Ropp

The Pearl Society held its Spring Event on Thursday evening, April 10, 2014, at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. Click here to view the Event Program. The event was to feature “Pearls of Wisdom” from Richard Gonzmart, President, Columbia Restaurant Group, and “Pearls of Truth” from Maria Ropp, BALS Speakers’ Bureau member. Unfortunately, at the last minute, Richard Gonzmart was unable to attend, and his daughter Andrea Gonzmart graciously stepped in to share what drives her family’s commitment and passion for support of the Tampa Bay community, and to recognize the importance for every Tampa resident to do so as well.

Following Andrea Gonzmart, Maria Ropp held the group spellbound with her personal story. Maria was a Bay Area client starting in 1992, but with BALS’ and attorney Gale Pinkston’s aid, she was able to not only safely get out of and divorce an abusive husband, but most importantly for her, obtain sole custody of her young son. With the helping hand she received, at a time when she did not have a home, job, skills, money, or a means of transportation, Maria was able to create a safe and loving environment in which to successfully raise her son; obtain her degree and advanced credentials as a paralegal; and build a 20-year career in the legal field, working for several of the most prestigious firms in Tampa and now working directly with Craig Rothburd (BALS Development Council member, and former BALS Board of Directors member). Her presentation ended with a standing ovation (and some wet eyes in the audience), along with a special surprise for her, when her BALS attorney Gale Pinkston greeted her at the podium with a warm embrace – the first time she had seen Gale since Maria’s case was closed more than 20 years ago (pictured above).

The event was attended by BALS supporters both in and outside of The Pearl Society – a group of about 50 people. Click here to view photos from the event. Thanks to generous sponsors who covered the expenses of the event, all monies raised as a result of the event will go directly to BALS in The Pearl Society’s end of year annual contribution. The event sponsors were:

  • Richard A. Gilbert, Esq. ($1,000 – Pearl Sponsor)
  • Carroll Air Systems ($500 – Amethyst Sponsor)
  • Stichter, Riedel, Blain & Prosser, P.A. ($500 – Amethyst Sponsor)
  • Mike Bedke, Esq. ($250 – Topaz Sponsor)
  • Kathleen Kloiber Koch, Esq. ($250 – Topaz Sponsor)
  • Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP ($250 – Topaz Sponsor)
  • Doug Belden, Hillsborough County Tax Collector ($200).
  • Dr. Martin Hanratty ($200).