SARASOTA - Four years ago, after a career designing equipment for conglomerates such as Combustion Engineering and Raytheon Corp., William Merritt patented a coffee-cup holder that attaches to laptop computers.

It presented the biggest challenge of his working life.

"It was simple to get the patent," said Merritt, 78. "But then to let people around the world find out about it -- that is where it gets complicated."

In 2012, Merritt became one of more than 500 people annually who turn for help to the Manasota chapter of SCORE, the Services Corps of Retired Executives.

On Tuesday, as the local SCORE chapter celebrated its 50th anniversary, it named Merritt its Client of the Year.

In addition to client services, Manasota SCORE in the past year held more than 2,000 mentoring sessions and increased by 84 percent the number of people it reached through educational services, chairman Dennis Zink saide.

"Our goal is be first place among over 330 SCORE chapters," said Zink, who also writes a weekly small-business column for the Herald-Tribune.