Living Out Her Dream

TIF Direct Scholarship Recipient

by Steven Kissinger

Growing up in Immokalee, Brittany Gonzalez didn’t have an easy life. The oldest of five children, Gonzalez was often tasked with taking care of her siblings while her mother was working long hours in the fields. Gonzalez admits it was sometimes difficult, but she recognized the significant role she was playing in her family. Most importantly, she never stopped dreaming of bigger and better things.

Her mother, Christina Martinez, encouraged her to reach for the stars. “I always told her that this was not the life I wanted for her,” said Martinez.

LOUISE PENTA, ALEX ARREGUIN, JOYCE HAGEN FITES AND BRITTANY GONZALEZ AT TIF 2014 CHARITY CLASSIC CELEBRATION

LOUISE PENTA, ALEX ARREGUIN, JOYCE HAGEN FITES AND BRITTANY GONZALEZ AT TIF 2014
CHARITY CLASSIC CELEBRATION

With enormous drive and determination, along with some help from The Immokalee Foundation, Gonzalez is on the path to achieving her dreams. She said the struggles she witnessed, and the challenges she faced, have helped her along the way.

“My mother worked hard for us to have food, shelter and clothing, and for the most part I was a happy kid,” explained Gonzalez. “However, once I started to really grasp my mother’s struggle, I knew that I had to educate myself and work hard to create a better life for myself. Fortunately, I had many kind-hearted role models who believed in me.”

For Gonzalez, going to college was never a question. “I knew if I wanted a real chance at life, I had to go,” she said. What she didn’t know, however, was what she wanted to do. That changed in high school when her passion for listening to morning radio motivated her to pursue a career in broadcast. “Every morning I would look forward to the talk segments on 105.5 The Beat and it all came together,” she said.

“Morning radio made me laugh, kept me informed and was involved in charity work in the communities. That is what I think life is supposed to be about.”

Gonzalez became involved with The Immokalee Foundation when she was a senior at Immokalee High School. She applied for, and received, a TIF Direct Scholarship, allowing her the opportunity to fulfill her goal of going to college to pursue her new-found passion. In 2007, she graduated from Immokalee High School and attended Florida Gulf Coast University. In 2012, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication/public relations.

She credits TIF with helping her not only financially but also by instilling a sense of confidence. “When I got the scholarship, it meant so much to me not just because it was money toward my education, but the feeling that someone believed that I could do it,” she said. “Someone
believed that I deserved a better life so much so that they were willing to put money on it!”

This vote of confidence from TIF inspired Gonzalez to stay involved with the foundation. “They were always there for me when I needed help and advice,” she said. “They always checked up on me and made sure I was okay. They stand for a better future to students who wouldn’t have been given a chance otherwise. I love them for that.”

As for that career in radio, she is well on her way to achieving her dream. While in college, she served as an intern at 105.5 The Beat with DJ Quest. Knowing Gonzalez wanted to continue pursuing her passion, Quest introduced her to a fellow disc jockey friend at HOT 101.5, in the Tampa Bay area. She contacted the program director, sent her resume and demo, and emailed relentlessly asking for a shot. It worked; today
she is employed by Cox Media Group in St. Petersburg as a board operator and on-air talent for HOT 101.5 and 102.5 The Bone.

Her mother is not surprised at her daughter’s success. “Brittany is inspiring to me and has encouraged me to do different things and get out of the field,” Martinez said. “It’s been a wonderful journey to see where she started and where she is now. Whatever she wants to do, I know
she can do it.”

Gonzalez added that she will always be grateful to those in the Immokalee community and to TIF. “They are extremely important to me because I am a product of Immokalee and TIF,” she said. “They gave me hope, encouragement and a chance. I want the same for everyone else.”

The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and post-secondary preparation and support, mentoring and tutoring, opportunities for broadening experiences and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about TIF, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239.430.9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.

Steven Kissinger, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at steven.kissinger@immokaleefoundation.com.

Alan Horton is 2015 Humanitarian of the Year

Hodges University has selected retired newspaper executive and community leader Alan M. Horton as its 2015 Humanitarian of the Year. The award will be presented during a luncheon event on Thursday, March 12, 2015, at The Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort, Naples.

“The Humanitarian of the Year Award Luncheon has become a highly anticipated, respected and celebrated event,” said Philip M. Memoli, Vice President of University Advancement for Hodges University. “This annual award recognizes those citizens who exemplify the spirit of benevolence and public service in the Naples community. This is the 19th year in which Hodges has bestowed the award upon a local individual or couple.”

Alan Horton

Alan Horton

A native of Delaware, Horton has held leadership roles with several important civic organizations in Naples. He is immediate past chair of the Community Foundation of Collier County and immediate past president of the Yale Club of Southwest Florida. He also is a past president of the Forum Club of Southwest Florida Inc. and was a founding director and past Chairman of the Education Foundation of Collier County, now known as Champions for Learning. He also chaired the ConnectNow steering committee. Horton also previously served on the boards of the local YMCA and David Lawrence Center.

In 2012, Horton and his wife, Beverly, were recognized with the Heart of the Apple Award from the Education Foundation for their tireless efforts to help local students.

Horton also was honored in 2013 as the Naples Daily News Outstanding Citizen of the Year, which is presented each year at the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce banquet.

Horton is a prize-winning newspaper reporter, editor, publisher and Washington correspondent and is a member of the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame. Horton most recently served as senior vice president of newspapers for The E.W. Scripps Co., the Cincinnati-based parent company of the Naples Daily News. Prior to that, he served as editor of the Daily News from 1987 to 1991, helping to guide the community during rapid and challenging growth. Also during Horton’s tenure, the local newspaper switched from an afternoon to morning publication and became a major metropolitan daily. Horton began his newspaper career as a student at North Central High School in Indianapolis.

During the summer months of his high school and college years, he worked at five papers in the state. Upon graduation from Yale in 1965, he joined the Cincinnati Post to begin an association with Scripps that would last for more than 30 years. After coming to the Daily News in 1987, the American Society of Newspaper Editors named the Daily News one of the nation’s top 10 newspapers with circulation less than 50,000.

Horton was a member of the boards of the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), the American Press Institute and the Foundation for American Communications. He also is a past chairman of the American Society of Newspaper Editors Ethics Committee. He also was chairman of the NAA’s Board Committee on Industry Development with the principal mission of horizon watching for threats to and opportunities for the industry.

Upon his retirement in 2004, Horton served three and a half years as chairman of the Scripps Howard Foundation, the corporate foundation of The E.W. Scripps Company.

“As evidenced by his extensive career and local community service, Alan M. Horton is deeply committed to education and the betterment of youth in our community,” said David Borofsky, interim president of Hodges University. “We are delighted to recognize him for all these years of service by naming him as our 2015 Humanitarian of the Year.”

Horton joins a growing list of local business and community leaders selected by a committee comprised of prior Humanitarian of the Year recipients to receive the award. Previous award recipients include J. Dudley Goodlette (2014), John R. Wood (2013), William and Nancy Lascheid (2012), Dolph and Sharon von Arx (2011), Juliet C. “Judy” Sproul, Katherine “Katie” Sproul and Jennifer Sproul Sullivan (2010), Terry and Christine Flynn (2009), Jerry and Arlene Nichols (2008), Truly Nolen (2007), Michael Watkins and Ellin Goetz (2006), Clyde Butcher (2005), Peter Thomas (2004), William Schoen (2003), Frances Pew Hayes (2002), Earl Hodges (2001), Corbin Wyant (2000), Jack
Humphrey (1999), Myra Janco Daniels (1998), and Lavern Norris Gaynor (1997).

For his enduring support of the local community, for fostering hope in those afflicted by despair, for proving that the promise of tomorrow’s future never means forsaking the past, and for demonstrating the degree to which a family can make a positive difference when times most demand it, Hodges University is pleased to recognize Alan M. Horton as its 2015 Humanitarian of the Year. Horton will be formally recognized at an award luncheon event on March 12, 2015, at 11 a.m. at The Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort, Naples.

The Humanitarian of the Year Award Luncheon is being generously underwritten by Baird, an employee-owned, international wealth management, capital markets, private equity and asset management firm with offices in the United States, Europe and Asia.

“Baird is delighted to be the presenting sponsor of this prestigious event, which aligns well with our longstanding tradition of giving back to the communities in which we live and work,” said Mike Prioletti, Senior Vice President and Branch Manager of Baird’s Naples office.

“We join Hodges University in recognizing the valuable contributions of Alan M. Horton and the many generous community citizens honored
before him.”

Individual tickets cost $175 per person. For more information on ticket reservations or sponsorship opportunities, call Adrianna Buitrago
at 239.598.6235 or www.hodges.edu.

Memorial Scholarship for Medical Students

The board of directors of the Foundation of Collier County Medical Society (CCMS) is accepting applications through March 2015 for its new scholarship award, “The Foundation of Collier County Medical Society Dr. William Lascheid Memorial Scholarship.” Eligible Florida residents enrolled or accepted in medical school, who have demonstrated excellence in service to their community, may apply.

The scholarship honors and remembers CCMS Past President and Neighborhood Health Clinic cofounder Dr. William Lascheid, his many contributions to the medical community, and his tireless efforts to provide care to the underserved in Collier County. The application and requirements for this scholarship, and the Foundation’s need-based scholarships for students training in any healthcare career, are available at www.ccmsfoundation.org, or may be obtained by calling 239.435.7727.

Rolando Rivera“The Foundation Board is grateful to Dr. Lascheid and the Lascheid family for their years of service in our community,” said Dr. Rolando Rivera, Foundation Chair. “This new scholarship is an ideal expression of our vision to provide scholarships and support to local healthcare programs in need.”

“My family is both honored and touched by the Medical Society’s recognition of my father’s service in this particular way,” Leslie Lascheid, CEO of the Neighborhood Health Clinic remarked. “He would be pleased that the scholarship recipient will be someone who is already serving community needs while preparing to serve as a physician.”

The Foundation of CCMS is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization launched by the Medical Society in 2012, with the mission to provide support and leadership to programs that address access to healthcare, promote health education and serve the community’s public health needs. The Foundation’s signature fundraiser, the Docs & Duffers Golf Tournament on September 26, 2015, will help raise funds for its scholarship program and local healthcare programs in need. Those interested in participating or donating to the Foundation can visit www.ccmsfoundation.org.

Dr. Lascheid and his wife Nancy had long recognized the limited medical care available to low income workers. Opening in 1999, the Neighborhood Health Clinic was the realization of this vision and has served as the medical home for thousands of uninsured low-income workers. Presently, some 250 physicians and dentists and 100 nurses volunteer their very valuable time and talent in the service of the Clinic’s patients. Memorials may be directed to the Neighborhood Health Clinic or the William P. Lascheid MD Endowment for the Clinic: 121 Goodlette Road. Naples, FL 34102.

Tennis in the park, anyone?

tennis parkThere is a certain charm about the downtown Naples area that cannot be found anywhere else in the Southwest Florida region. It beckons with the promise that this is what the fuss is all about. And it is here that you will find a precious stone set in the silver city: Cambier Park.

Located just off the southern side of vibrant 5th Avenue South, this oasis of Olde Naples features an art center, playground, and band shell among its many amenities. But the most prominent feature would be the tennis complex.

The Arthur Allen Tennis Center boasts 12 lighted hydro-grid har-tru courts. Operated by the City of Naples, it is a splendid setup indeed for a
public park. The courts are open seven days a week with lighting available until 9 p.m.

You can find just about anything to fulfill your tennis desires here by merely stopping by the pro shop. There are private lessons, group clinics for all levels, social round robins, league play, ball machine rental, racquet stringing services, merchandise and more.

There is always something going on at Cambier.

tennis racketThis mecca of tennis has a special, relaxed atmosphere that becomes apparent once you first sit under one of the eight Chickee huts located between the courts. The warm and inviting ambiance will surely lure you back to play again and again. For both residents and visitors alike the enjoyment of playing at the Arthur Allen Tennis Center will be a rewarding part of their Naples experience.

For the Love of Dogs and Chocolate

A Valentine’s Event Hosted by:

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs & Naples Humane Society

Dog WalkCome out and join us “For the Love of Dogs – and Chocolate.” This fun, pre-Valentine’s Day event will help set the mood right before Valentine’s Day, with wine, a great selection of chocolates provided by Olde Naples Chocolate and love from some amazing dogs! The event will feature a chocolate tasting, an exciting silent auction, raffle and much more – plus get a glimpse into what skills service dogs perform for their recipients.

We’d love to thank our amazing sponsors for this event, including: Pearls from Pierre & Harry, Mia’s Desert Rose, Delphine Spa, and raffle items donated by: Sale e Pepe, Elegant Italian Dining, Naples Paddle Board, Trout Wine, Robert of Philadelphia Salon and Naples Trolley.

Tickets are $25.00 per person and can be ordered in advance, or purchased at the door.

If you’re interested in attending, sponsoring, or providing a silent auction item, please contact christine@medicalservicedogs.com, or visit www.medicalservicedogs.com to complete the online order form.

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization based in Florida that rescues, raises, trains and then donates medical service dogs to veterans and others who suffer from disabilities that are both visible and invisible.

 

The best of a holistic approach to living well

Moorings Park Aerial

AERIAL PERSPECTIVE OF MOORINGS PARK AT GREY OAKS

Moorings Park at Grey Oaks presents an opportunity to enjoy the best of a holistic approach to living well in an enclave of elegant residences that provides the high quality healthcare and lifestyle programs of a renowned Continuing Care Retirement Community along with the ambiance, amenities and activities of Grey Oaks Country Club. A year round Sports Membership at Grey Oaks Country Club is included with each residence.

At build-out, Moorings Park at Grey Oaks will include luxury residences in 12 buildings, a spacious and distinctive clubhouse, Center for Healthy Living, an Assisted Living and Memory Care facility, and three spectacular 80,000 square feet gardens designed by JRL Landscape Design Studios of Naples. Residents will also enjoy access to many amenities at Moorings Park’s main campus, including its renowned Center for Healthy Living, the upscale Trio Restaurant, the Bower Chapel concert series, and its Premier Senior Health Care program.

walking at moorings park grey oaks

THIS IS WHAT FREEDOM FEELS LIKE® WHEN YOU LIVE AT MOORINGS PARK AT GREY OAKS.

A very limited opportunity remains available to enjoy Moorings Park at Grey Oaks’ continuum of care and active lifestyle. Floor plan choices ranging from 2,873 and 3,007 square feet garden homes to nearly 6,000 square feet penthouse style residences are priced from $1.5 million and provide an opportunity to transition to a spacious, elegantly appointed home in a carefree, maintenance free environment. Each floor plan is designed to enhance the vibrant Moorings Park at Grey Oaks day-to-day living and entertaining experience.

Moorings Park at Grey Oaks’ lifestyle and continuum of care are provided at a predictable and affordable cost with no increase in monthly fees if a change in the level of care is required. Moorings Park is a nationally accredited, nonprofit, Medicare certified community and one of the only A+ S & P and Fitch rated Continuing Care Retirement Communities in the country. Moorings Park has been acknowledged as Southwest Florida’s premier retirement community for more than 30 years and is the only Continuing Care Retirement Community located in the City of Naples.

Visit the Moorings Park at Grey Oaks Sales Center within the Grey Oaks Sales Center at 2406 Grey Oaks Drive North in Naples. Call 239.919.1711 or visit www.MooringsParkGO.org.

One decision can change many lives

DUI CrashA painful journey that began with the heartache of losing a young daughter to a drunk driver is now a powerful story that is transforming and saving lives. The Meagan Napier Foundation, formed through an uncommon alliance between a grieving mother and the convicted drunk driver, will be featured at Drug Free Collier’s 7th Annual Fundraising Luncheon on Thursday, March 5, 2015 at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort.

Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge will share their compelling and personal stories to show how one decision and one moment in time can forever change many lives. Their fateful story of loss is also a unique story of forgiveness. While still grieving, Napier came to forgive Smallridge and even campaigned to have his sentence reduced. Teaming up to raise awareness about the dangers of driving under the influence, their story has been heard by millions in high schools, colleges, the military, churches, DUI offenders and also the NFL.

The Meagan Napier Foundation is one of several national presentations brought to our community by Drug Free Collier as part of ongoing efforts to protect local children from substance abuse.

RENEE NAPIER SHARES HER STORY ABOUT LOSING HER DAUGHTER TO A DRUNK DRIVER.

RENEE NAPIER SHARES HER STORY ABOUT LOSING HER DAUGHTER TO A DRUNK DRIVER.

“Our guests at this year’s luncheon will be touched by the heartfelt and moving testimonies of both presenters,” said Melanie Black, Executive Director of Drug Free Collier. “Their important message is relevant to people of all ages,” she added.

Hundreds of local supporters and distinguished guests are expected at this year’s event. “Our annual luncheon generates a surge in local interest and energy that is directed towards keeping our kids and our community drug free,” Black said. “As a nonprofit, we rely heavily on local support. It’s encouraging to see that so many people in Collier County are willing to make a difference in the lives of our young teens,” she added.

Drug Free Collier will also recognize Veora Little as this year’s honored guest. While serving as Volunteer Coordinator for Drug Free Collier’s Operation Medicine Cabinet® Program, Little has dedicated so much of her time to changing local habits regarding the safe use, storage and disposal of household medication. As a retired Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Little understands the benefits and risks associated with any medication. By spearheading Operation Medicine Cabinet, Little has helped to keep unwanted household medication from falling into the wrong hands or contaminating our environment.

Thanks to her, we now have 11 permanent drop boxes in Collier County and have safely disposed of thousands of pounds of harmful medication.

“We are extremely fortunate to have Veora leading such a dedicated group of volunteers who care about the wellbeing of the children in our
community. Our volunteers are the backbone of our organization and show us that we all have a role in prevention,” Black said.

Drug Free Collier’s Annual Fundraising Luncheon will also include special appearances by City of Naples Mayor John Sorey as celebrity auctioneer and Fox 4 News Anchor Patrick Nolan as Master of Ceremonies for the second consecutive year. Students from Drug Free Collier’s CORE Society will also be on hand. The CORE Society is a school-based student movement working to change perceptions about drugs and alcohol. With a growing number of students pledging to remain drug free, CORE students are Clean to the CORE and In Control!

As co-chairs of Drug Free Collier’s annual fundraiser for the third consecutive year, Mimi Scofield and Frank Nappo are working on their most successful campaign to date.

To learn more about Drug Free Collier, sponsor a table, or purchase individual tickets, please call Drug Free Collier at 239.377.0535 or visit
www.DrugFreeCollier.org

LIVING A PURPOSEFUL LIFE

How Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology helps create leaders

Lorenzo Walker Medical PrepThe Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology (LWIT) is a Naples institution. Bright minds and bright futures result from the dedicated teachers and administrators at this school, where kids get opportunities that change lives. More than 90 percent of graduates remain in Collier County and the majority of students receive jobs in their chosen fields. Many continue to further their education. Because LWIT provides certificate and workforce development training to adults and Lorenzo Walker Technical High School juniors and seniors, both LWIT and LWTHS are part of the Collier County Public School system.

Through partnerships with local businesses and industries, LWIT students receive considerable insight from real world leaders and a fast track to employment. Naples is fortunate indeed to have such an institution. We reached out to Principal Yolanda Flores to get the scoop on programs at the school and see what else is new at this dynamic place of learning.

surgery demonstrationLIFE IN NAPLES: What are some of the new programs you are most excited about?

YOLANDA FLORES: Veterinary Assistant and Pharmacy Tech are two new programs which were added to LWIT’s program offerings this past year. They are both high demand careers that have a multi-million dollar impact on our economy. There is an ever increasing number of animal owners that expect high quality care for their pets; and because of our large population of baby boomers it is no surprise that Pharmacy Techs are in high demand. We are launching a full-time day welding program this spring.

LIN: We know LWIT changes lives – what is the biggest benefit to attending the school? YF: The mission of the Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology is to provide rigorous and relevant educational experiences that prepare all students with both the academic and technical skills necessary to succeed in their chosen careers and in further postsecondary education as desired.

Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology provides education and training for high skilled, high demand jobs required by local business and industries. Students who flow into a highly skilled workforce not only directly benefit as individuals; they help attract high wage scale industry to Collier County and in turn, increase and spread the county’s tax base.

student surgeryPractical nursing, auto collision and refinishing, drafting, automotive, veterinary assistant, business, pharmacy tech, welding, dental assisting, and culinary, are a few of the many training programs available at a very affordable price.

LIN: Can anyone attend the school or is it age restricted?

YF: LWIT is a postsecondary institution and most programs require a high school diploma or GED for admissions. High school students enrolled at Lorenzo Walker Technical High can get a jump start on their careers by being dually-enrolled at LWIT.

LIN: Are there any teachers you would like to mention who may be new or doing something very interesting?

YF: All our programs have a work experience component so our instructors work closely with the business community to ensure students receive a quality education with experiences that extend beyond the classroom. Each one of the training programs has a community advisory committee provide guidance to ensure our programming and curriculum is relevant and we continue to provide state-of-the-art training to students. That is no small challenge given the accelerated pace of change we are all experiencing. Entrepreneurship instructor Bob Jackson and Digital Design instructor Rick Ponton have an excellent relationship with Senior Corp of Retired Entrepreneurs (SCORE). SCORE members, such as Vincent Izzi, are vital volunteers on our campus working with students on business plans, marketing skills, and employability skills.

LIN: How can people keep track of all of the LWIT programs and get updated on new ones?

YF: I encourage people to visit our website www.lwit.edu or our Facebook page for the latest information. Individuals can also sign up for our monthly newsletter at http://lwit.edu/newsletter-signup.

Who can you trust

 Jim Henderson President of William C. Huff Companies and national speaker for estate downsizing and lifestyle transitions

Jim Henderson
President of William C. Huff Companies and national speaker for estate downsizing and lifestyle transitions

by Jim Henderson
President of William C. Huff Companies and
national speaker for estate downsizing and lifestyle transitions

ADVERTORIAL

Just the other day, I overheard a conversation about a woman who had hired a professional estate sale company to help liquidate her family’s belongings. The items were given to the company for sale but only after getting the police involved was the family able to recover a few of the pieces. They were never compensated for the almost $1 million worth of remaining estate items.

The loss was an incredible tragedy for the family not only financially but sentimentally. Without any ability to recover the money, this family learned a hard lesson in the worst of ways.

Being in the business of working with families who are selling their homes, downsizing and redistributing their possessions, this is just one of many horror stories I’ve heard throughout my career.

This summer, while relocating a very high net worth client (for the third time), she told me a similar story about her neighbor who had hired a moving company for a cross-country, corporate business move. Sadly, they never saw their things again. In her situation, the entire household completely vanished and there was no way to track down the company who stole their belongings.

These days, with the help of sophisticated websites and salespeople, it is easy to make anyone look professional and reputable. However, testimonials on a website are often written by a third party and after reading through several, one can see a pattern. Best price, excellent service and courteous staff are usually key terms used by internet based companies to attract customers.

So, who can you trust? To start with, get references from someone you know who has used the service and/or company. Second, visit the company’s physical address; it will speak volumes about the company’s character. And, if there is no physical address, don’t even consider using them. And lastly, do not consider any company whose price is the lowest in the industry. The current demand for estate sales and logistics providers is much higher than the number of quality service providers available due to the massive amounts of homeowners who are downsizing. Companies with a great reputation and legitimate reviews are going to be very busy and not the lowest bid. Cheaper is not better, you can’t put a price on peace of mind.

February Imagine the Possiblilities

Wine AuctionThis past January, hundreds of wine enthusiasts and philanthropists descended on Naples for the 15th anniversary of the Naples Winter Wine Festival. Guests enjoyed the finest wines from around the world, tasted handcrafted meals from some of the United States’ most celebrated chefs, and bid on amazing travel and wine experiences during the thrilling live auction.

Guests also had the opportunity to participate in two new events this year, including a historic tasting seminar and luncheon featuring older vintages of the greatest Krug champagnes, moderated by Olivier Krug himself. Krug was joined by special guest and noted wine critic Antonio Galloni, who provided attendees with fascinating insight into Krug and the Champagne region.

The entire Naples community and wine enthusiasts from around the world were invited to bid during the Festival’s first-ever online auction, which featured an array of exclusive items, including exceptional wines, unique fine art, jewelry and fashion, intimate dining experiences, and incredible travel adventures. Among the accomplished vintners from the 15 global wineproducing regions, five countries, and two continents attending the Festival was Marchese Piero Antinori, one of the most prestigious names in Italian wine making, who was named Honored Vintner.

wineMr. Antinori’s wine, along with that of his renowned colleagues, was poured by over a dozen Master Sommeliers, a distinction that only 219 wine professionals have earned worldwide, offering guests the ultimate tasting experience. Leading the group was Master Sommelier Larry Stone, who returned to the Festival for his third year, this time as Honored Sommelier.

What started as a mere conversation among wine loving philanthropists 15 years ago has blossomed into one of the world’s most prestigious charity wine auctions, raising millions of dollars for underprivileged and at-risk children in Collier County.

Through the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), Festival funds have been distributed to 40 of the most effective nonprofits in
the community, providing around 200,000 children with the resources they need to excel.

2015 Mercedes sls amg gt

2015 Mercedes SLS AMG GT Final Edition

In addition to these critical grants, NCEF has invested over 13.5 million dollars in seven long term, multifaceted, collaborative strategic initiatives that address areas of particular need within the community. For instance, initiatives focused on dental and eye care have led to the creation of NCEF’s Pediatric Dental Center and provided more than 45,000 children with vision screenings, with over 9,000 of school age children receiving eye glasses.

The transformative impact of NCEF is immeasurable. Here are just a few of the organization’s incredible achievements over the past 15 years:

  • Each year, NCEF donates over $1.5 million to help 40,000 children receive healthy meals in remote and needy sections of Collier County.
  • More than 705 premature babies were transported in the NCEF Neo-Natal ambulance and are now thriving children.
  • NCEF makes an annual investment of $4.4 million to after school and summer programs that have helped two low socioeconomic high schoolsimprove graduation rates from 65 percent to 81 percent, surpassing the state average for at risk student graduation.
  • More than $12 million has been donated to help 9,500 children live in safer environments due to injunctions for protection, custody orders,and guardianship orders obtained through several community based organizations that are dedicated to advocating for children.
  • More than 8,000 children have had access to high quality early childhood programs.
  • Over 15,000 children who live in the most isolated and rural areas of the community now enjoy medical care within minutes of their home.

The 2015 Naples Winter Wine Festival was yet another fruitful year, combining three days of the very best in food and wine with a year long impact for underprivileged children.

The Festival’s success could not have been possible without the support of the Board of Directors, current and emeriti trustees, staff, partners, sponsors, volunteers, and the entire Collier County community, all of whom worked tirelessly to make this event a smashing success. It is through their effort that every dollar raised under the tent benefits children in need. Grant recipients of this year’s Naples Winter Wine Festival will be announced on March 9, 2015.