LAKE PLACID - Lake Placid resident Brenda Knoche has had many roles, but in the past five years, her position as the leader of a group called "The NU-HOPE Ladies" has earned her respect and recognition.
Selected by NU-HOPE Elder Care Services Inc. for a Community Leadership in Aging Services award, Knoche was honored this past year for her "tireless efforts to enhance the quality of life for seniors within her retirement community, Tropical Harbor, and the broader community as well."
"Brenda Knoche is a true example of the difference that one person can make in the lives of many," said NU-HOPE's executive director Ingrasherese Gardner. "She has coordinated numerous volunteer activities at Tropical Harbor, led fundraising campaigns to benefit local senior services and strengthened the ties between the Aging Services Provider Network and those they serve."
Knoche, who seemed humbled by all the attention, said: "I was blown away. When Ingra got up and started to talk, I thought, 'She's not talking about me.' I was flabbergasted."
Sitting in the Tropical Harbor Estates recreation hall with the steady hum of surge and sewing machines in the background, Knoche praised a group of about 20 devoted seamstresses who meet every Wednesday to create lap pads, clothing protectors, pillowcase dresses, mattress pad covers and other items for local charities such as the Redlands Christian Migrant Association and NU-HOPE.
"I love it here. We have the nicest group of ladies," Knoche said.
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The Manchester, England, native moved to the United States at age 4, crossing the Atlantic on a luxury ocean liner after her father was offered a position in New York with the Shell Oil Co.
It was a cruise repeated every year on either the Queen Mary or the Queen Elizabeth when her family went back to visit.
"I still have my brother and his wife who live in France, and my sister in New York," Knoche said.
A proud mother, Knoche shared the fact that her son, Jim Molina, was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals and played baseball in the minor league. He's now a member of the Coral Gables Police SWAT team and lives with his wife and two daughters in Davie.
While Knoche was working in the Miami corporate offices of Burger King Corp., she met her husband, photographer Rick Knoche.
Since marrying in 1986, the couple has captured many memories in the stunning landscapes, wildlife and floral images on display at NU-HOPE's Sebring office at 6414 U.S. 27 S., as well as at art shows and fairs across Florida.
One of their journeys was a 1992 camping trip to Yellowstone Park that kept them out of harm's way when Hurricane Andrew plowed through South Florida, damaging their home.
"Thank goodness we weren't there, but the house was badly damaged," said Brenda Knoche, who added that the experience left them wanting to move inland.
Since moving to Highlands County in 2007, Brenda Knoche has been actively involved at the Tropical Harbor mobile home community, volunteering and helping to plan the annual "trash and treasure" sales, birthday parties, matinée movies and the "Crazy Cards" fundraisers.
Held this past Saturday, the "Crazy Cards" fundraiser raffled away prizes that included one of Rick Knoche's "Images by Mother Earth" framed photographs and a stay at the Château Élan in Sebring.
"We sold 120 tickets and chances on other items. All the money goes to NU-HOPE Elder Care Services," Brenda Knoche said."In 2013, our group raised $3,100 for NU-HOPE."