Search Member Directory
In The News
from Member News

Junior Achievement of North Florida programs have positively impacted students and helped shape their future according to a new survey commissioned by JA USA

from Member News

Did you know over 70% of digital transformation initiatives fail to meet their stated objectives, leading to millions of development dollars wasted

from Member News

A longstanding icon of Jacksonville’s culinary scene is under new ownership.

Friendship Fountain - Night

Peace in the Pages – Read USA Luncheon – Oct. 3, 2019

Published Tuesday, September 10, 2019

When Actress/Producer Sheetal Sheth heard about local non-profit READ USA gifting three free books to students in Duval County’s Title 1 Elementary Schools, she was excited.  In an email to READ USA founder, Ellen Wiss, Sheth introduced herself as the author of Always Anjali, a children’s picture book that had just won the Purple Dragonfly Grand Prize.  “I have books that have been generously sponsored/paid for,” she wrote enthusiastically, “and I would love to see if your program would benefit.”


As a result of that initial contact, Wiss invited Sheth to personally bring her book to Jacksonville on October 2nd and read it to children in three of the Duval County Schools served by READ USA, which invitation she accepted. 


Always Anjali is a charming, colorful tale about a 7-year old girl who tearfully begs to change her name because she is being teased and is the only one of her friends whom can’t find it on a personalized license plate.  Her parents refuse her plea, offering, “to be different is to be marvelous,” and explain that the name Anjali comes from India (“an enchanting place, full of magic, and brilliance, and power”) and means “Precious Gift.”  Illustrated by Jessica Blank and published by Bharat Babies, Always Anjali is a joyful, heart-warming celebration of being proud of who you are – a book that most certainly will benefit all who read it.


 “We are overwhelmed at Sheetal’s acceptance of our invitation,” said Wiss, adding that the internationally acclaimed actress (I CAN’T THINK STRAIGHT, GRIN, BLUE BLOODS, and many other TV shows and movies) has also agreed to appear as a co-hostess with Jaguars Attorney Megha Parekh at PEACE IN THE PAGES, a READ USA luncheon/fundraiser on

October 3rd at TIAA Stadium. 


“Sheetal and Megha are two inspiring and beautiful Indian American women who personify the power of the written word.  Who better to help READ USA celebrate International Non-Violence Day,  peace, literacy and Mahatma Ghandi’s 150th birthday than these two wonderful role models?”  ONEJAX is partnering with READ USA to sponsor the luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on October 3rd at TIAA Stadium, with emcee Darnell Smith of Florida Blue introducing Sheth and Parekh.


The daughter of parents who immigrated from Gujarat, India in the 1970’s before she was born, Sheetal Sheth endured teasing about her name as a child growing up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and even lost acting jobs when she refused to change it as an adult.  “I’m proud to have not compromised,” she declares.  “We say who we say we are.” Sheetal is hoping to take her daughters, Ember (5) and Maven (2 ½) to India later in the year for the first time, as her family did throughout her childhood. 


“My husband, Neil, and I have been wanting to take them for some time now but major life events kept postponing the trip.” Sheth was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2018. Frankly describing her chemo and double-mastectomy as “pure hell,” Sheth is in triumphant recovery and more determined than ever before to use her time wisely by passionately promoting her causes of equality, inclusion, and acceptance.  Sharing her book at home and across the country, Sheth and her daughters recently appeared at the iconic New York bookstore, “Books Are Magic.”


Last year, in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month (October!) Sheth and her publisher, Bharat Babies, teamed up with South Asian Youth Action (SAYA) to bring Always Anjali to underserved children.  This year, during the month of October, she is personally teaming up with READ USA to bring her book to the children of Jacksonville, Florida!

Megha Parekh, also the daughter of parents who immigrated from India in the 1970’s, remembers feeling “different” but always being encouraged by her parents to be her best self and to succeed.  She relied on sports and music to fit in, and still enjoys playing a set of drums and guitar in a beach bar occasionally for relaxation.  As to the sports connection, after graduating cum laude from Harvard Law School and working for a prominent New York law firm, she was hired in 2013 as the Jacksonville  Jaguars’ general counsel and is now Senior Vice-President and Chief Attorney for the NFL team.  


A dynamic and sought-after speaker and a member of “She Is Fierce” a global women’s network “connecting established leaders and women on the rise,” Megha Parekh is a vibrant, brilliant and independent young woman who is passionate about connecting with the community, reading and learning all she can, and promoting diversity and inclusion at every opportunity. 


Ellen Wiss, a 2019 EVE Award Winner for her strong community involvement through several avenues including the Women’s Giving Alliance and READ USA, will present the inaugural READ USA Peace Recognition Awards to five recipients, including Sheth and Parekh.


“When I read that the name Anjali in Sheetal’s book means precious gift in Sanskrit, I was truly touched,” said Wiss.  “Ghandi gave us all the precious gift of his wisdom and now these two incredibly talented Indian American women are giving us the precious gift of their presence at our luncheon on his 150th birthday.”


For information about sponsorship of the PEACE IN THE PAGES Luncheon to benefit READ USA, please join ONE JAX or READ USA for ticket information at


Please join READ USA & ONEJAX

In Celebrating World Non-Violence Days & Gandhi's 150th

OCTOBER 3RD, 2019 | 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM



Reading boosts your empathy and tolerance for others. With all the things in our world today that pull us in the opposite direction, reading brings us back, reminds us what it is to be human, to feel emotions and to use them with peace and love. It is our mission to promote literacy among today’s youth and allow them to see their lives as open and full of possibilities.


To contribute to the local conversation about empathy that was central to such recent public events as the Empathy Day Rally this March, the OneJax Humanitarian awards, last month’s Mandela activities and the theme that has resonated in our country and globally, READ USA and ONEJAX are seizing the opportunity to showcase the link between literacy and empathy on what would have been Gandhi’s 150th birthday.


This event will feature a luncheon with two Indian-American women, Sheetal Sheth and Megha Parekh, who will speak, and awards will be given to others who use reading to foster non-violence.


Sheetal Sheth, award-winning actress and author, will share her story of bullying and her mission to take this message to the world.


Megha Parekh, Jaguar’s Chief Counsel, will be sharing her inspiring story of how she hit the books at a young age and how it impacts her life and work as a humanitarian today.

Darnell Smith, Market President for Florida Blue for the North Florida Region, well-known for his humanitarian interests and realistic humility about one’s importance in the world, will

Emcee this event.


Join us for inspiring talks, introspective discussions, Peace Recognition Awards to some of Jacksonville's own Change-Makers, and seated lunch as we honor the life of Mahatma Gandhi and celebrate his ideals for peace, unity and freedom.


Net proceeds from this event will benefit READ USA.



Susan D. Brandenburg, READ USA

(904) 543-0730 or 962-5131