An experience that changed MY LIFE

by Marquis Hilaire
BCHS Battlion Command Sergeant Major

It was really early, so I was pretty tired. Despite my exhaustion, I was really excited to face the day.

Early mornings and flying were never really my cup of tea, but today was different. Today, I was going to Washington D.C. Not just I, but seven other JROTC cadets, would tour the city with American veterans.

JROTC is my second home. I spend most of my time and energy doing what I can for this program. It’s more than a course; it is a family, a form of motivation, or purpose.

I think I speak for all of us when I say I love JROTC. If it weren’t for this program, I never would have had such a privilege as to go on this Honor Flight. I never would have even heard of it. Collier County Honor Flight is run by volunteers who give their time to give back, to illustrate to our veterans that they still have our respect and admiration.

Washington D.C was stunning and the weather was lovely. I was guardian for Senior Master Sergeant (SMSG) Miller McCormack, he preferred Mac, and it was a great experience. We all drove by the Washington and Jefferson Monuments and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum en route to the World War II Memorial.

The fountain surrounded by the columns representing the unified nation was incredible. Mac and I posed in front of the Kentucky pillar – his home state – and the Florida pillar. Afterwards, everyone took a group photo in front of the fountain!

Lunch was provided at the United States Air Force Memorial. The spires rose high above us and shined with a powerful reflection. Mac was a donor to the Memorial’s success and creation and his name was listed within their system and database. He couldn’t hide his joy!

Arlington Cemetery was quiet with respect and we witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown. There was one cadet who participated within the placing of the wreath! I was a little jealous… but I was so impressed as well! Seeing how professional and precise the procedure went was hypnotic but also a little intimidating.

Unfortunately, Iwo Jima was undergoing construction, so we traveled to the Lincoln Memorial. Standing next to the huge statue of the 16th President was incredible with the famous Gettysburg Address carved into the walls. Looking out, the reflecting pool displayed the Washington Monument in the waters.

Lincoln was surrounded by other monuments, too. On his left, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I got uncharacteristically emotional when I went to see the wall. Neither Mac nor I knew anyone on the wall, but the thought of those loved ones being gone with no closure put me in a melancholy mood. And to walk away from the wall to see the statue of the women screaming into the sky, crying and calling out for help; it genuinely distressed and unnerved me to see.

On Lincoln’s right was the Korean War Veteran’s Memorial. The statues were carved with fear in their eyes, their huge radios unable to connect with anyone for assistance, running with no end in sight.

I will admit, the latter half of the trip felt a lot more somber, but I think I speak for everyone when I say how emotional and impactful it was. There is nothing I would have changed about this trip though. Just like our veterans, for the rest of our lives, every action – every sacrifice – we make should be for our country, to give it the best future.

Seeing these memorials and monuments really put this idea into perspective.

There are many people I want to thank for making this trip possible. SMSG Mac McCormack, for being a guardian who was funny and full of heart-warming stories, and the other veterans for all they’ve done. Thanks to those officials who give their time for Collier County Honor Flight; specifically CW3 Rutizer, one of my JROTC instructors.

Thank you all of opening this window of opportunity for me! It was an experience I will never forget and I will cherish every second!


The Collier County Sheriff’s Office has a new tool in the fight against illegal drugs. The White House’s Office of National DrugControl Policy recently announced that Collier County would be designated as part of the South Florida’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).

Investigations Captain Thomas Storrar said the Sheriff’s Office applied for the designation, which opens up federal resources for drug investigations and allows for additional federal funds that can be used in drug operations such as for overtime and drug buys.

“Frankly, we’re looking into the future and we suspect there’s a possibility we’ll see an increase in drug trafficking in South Florida,” said Captain Storrar.

Captain Storrar noted that CCSO’s Vice and Narcotics Bureau detectives have been attending monthly South Florida HIDTA task force meetings for years. In April, the agency began partnering with the Washington-Baltimore HIDTA in an electronic mapping program that tracks suspected heroin overdoses in real time.

Southwest Florida Congressman Mario Diaz Balart sent a letter to the White House in support of CCSO’s HIDTA application.

“Designation as part of the South Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area will provide the Collier County Sheriff’s Office with the resources it needs to combat this problem,” Congressman Diaz-Balart said in a news release.

“It will also offer CCSO the opportunity to partner with federal, state and local agencies to address the drug-related issues that our community faces.

Drug trafficking cases can be complex and costly, and no single agency has sufficient resources to adequately address drug crimes. Collaboration with other agencies is vital, and I was proud to support the Sheriff’s Office in this initiative.”

Collier was among 16 counties across the nation to receive the HIDTA designation. The designation will enable those counties to receive federal resources to further the coordination and development of drug control efforts among federal, state and local law enforcement officers. With these extra resources, HIDTA can provide interagency collaboration, promote the sharing of intelligence and information, and provide specialized training and other resources to participating law enforcement and treatment agencies.

“Drug trafficking is a national problem that has to be addressed on the local level, and adding these counties to the HIDTA program is a critical part of this effort,” Richard Baum, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in a news release.

“These new designations and the funding they will bring will help our federal, state and local law enforcement officers work together to disrupt and dismantle the trafficking networks that are bringing drugs into our communities.”


  • Sullivan County in Tennessee and Wood County in West Virginia as part ofthe Appalachia HIDTA
  • Greenville County in South Carolina as part of the Atlanta/Carolinas HIDTA
  • DuPage County in Illinois as part of the Chicago HIDTA
  • Martin County as part of the South Florida HIDTA
  • St. Clair County in Michigan as part of the Michigan HIDTA
  • Ocean County in New Jersey and Oneida County in New York as part of theNew York/New Jersey HIDTA
  • Bradford and Union Counties in Florida as part of the North Florida HIDTA
  • San Benito County in California as part of the Northern California HIDTA
  • Bannock County in Idaho as part of the Oregon/Idaho HIDTA
  • Montgomery County in Pennsylvania as part of the Philadelphia/CamdenHIDTA
  • Taos County in New Mexico as part of the Southwest Border HIDTA – NewMexico Region
  • Dorchester County in Maryland as part of the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA

The HIDTA program was created by Congress in 1988 and serves as a catalyst for coordination among Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug trafficking regions of the United States. Law enforcement organizations working within HIDTA sassess drug-trafficking problems and design specific initiatives to decrease the production, transportation, and distribution of drugs. There are currently 28 HIDTAs located in 49 states, as well as in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.

Newt Gingrich Speaker at Ave Maria Event at the Ritz

Are you interested in hearing insights about the Trump White House and the new political conservative agenda?

Ave Maria School of Law is pleased to present The Honorable Newt Gingrich, 50th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, author and Fox News contributor as their Signature Event guest speaker on Saturday, February 17, 2018 at The Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort, Naples.

NEWT GINGRICH is well-known as the architect of the “Contract with America” that led the Republican Party to victory in 1994 by capturing the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in forty years. After he was elected Speaker, he disrupted the status quo by moving power out of Washington and back to the American people.

Recognized internationally as an expert on world history, military issues, and international affairs, Newt has published twentyseven books including 14 fiction and nonfiction New York Times bestsellers.

Speaker Gingrich launched the Center for Health Transformation in 2003, and continued there in a leadership role until he stepped down in 2011 to seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

All net proceeds benefit the Ave Maria School of Law Scholarship Fund. Tickets are tax deductible minus goods and services received.


(All ticket sales are final. No refunds.):


• 5:00 p.m. Exclusive VIP Cocktail Reception,
“Understanding Trump” Book signed by Newt and
Photo with The Honorable Newt Gingrich
• 6:00 p.m. Three-course wine dinner
• Lecture with Premier VIP Seating
• Valet parking
• Seating is very limited
• $1,000 per person


• 6:00 p.m. Three-course wine dinner
• Lecture with Priority Seating
• Seating is limited
• Valet parking
• $600 per person

To purchase tickets, please visit:

For more information, please contact Donna Anthus at 239.687.5403 or email her at

Sponsorships available.
Ave Maria School of Law Campus, 1025 Commons Circle,
Naples, FL 34119

Programs, Tours and Events at Rookery Bay Reserve

Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is open9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday year-round, withspecial “Science Saturdays” on the last Saturday of everymonth. Enjoy the two-story visitor center, art gallery, giftshop, nature trail with viewing platform and more.

Themed naturalist programs are offered daily on topics such as manatees, sharks, sea turtles, Estuary Encounter marine life exhibit and more. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for kids6 – 12, and free for kids under 6 and Friends of Rookery Bay members. Located at 300 Tower Road, one mile south of the intersection of US 41 and Collier Boulevard.

Guided Boat andKayak Tours

Two-hour guided kayak tours let you explore backwater bays and mangrove tunnels while learning about your surroundings from an experienced guide and naturalist. Boat tours provide opportunities to see wildlife such as wading birds, osprey, fish and dolphins. All tours include free admission to the Environmental Learning Center on day of trip and proceeds support the non-profit Friends of Rookery Bay, Inc. Kayak and boat tours are offered Tuesdays through Fridays from November through April. Learn more and register for tours and events Friends of Rookery Bay member discounts apply to most events. January 5 | 8 – 10 a.m.

Birding Basics

Enjoy this fun and informative class with Randy McCormick is designed to help novice birders identify birds. The classroom session explores how to use birds’ plumage, shape, behavior and habitat to recognize various species as well as effective use of binoculars and field guides. Attendees will then practice skills and learn more tricks of the trade during a field trip.

January 9 | 12 – 1 p.m.

Lunch & Learn

Hear from expert speakers and enjoy a meal during the Lunch &Learn Lecture Series sponsored by the Florida Humanities Council and the Friends of Rookery Bay. Registration fee is $15(includes lunch). This month’s lecture is entitled “Marjorie Harris Carr: Defender of Florida’s Environment.” The program blends Florida, women’s and environmental history into one story of conservation, given by Peggy MacDonald, author and executive director of the Matheson History Museum in Gainesville.

January 12-14

Festival of Birds Formerly known as the Southwest Florida Nature Festival, this event encourages exploration of the local environment through dozens of guided field trips to wildlife hot spots around Southwest Florida and lectures at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center. Field trips, including birding walks, buggy rides and boat tours, are offered by local partners. Field trip prices range from $20 – $140, and registration is required. This year, field trip registration includes admission to the Environmental Learning Center on Saturday andthree featured lectures. The Saturday evening KeynotePresentation is by Dr. Ken Meyer with Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI) and is entitled “Data driven Conservation for Florida’s Imperiled Raptors and Water Birds: 20 Years of Discovery Through ARCI’s Remote Tracking Studies.” Admission is $25 and includes light refreshments. Registration is required.

January 24 | 6 – 8 p.m.


Tales from the Coast

Join the Friends of Rookery Bay for the first lecture in the 2018 Tales from the Coast lecture series. This month’s featured speaker is David E. Guggenheim, Ph.D., marine scientist, conservation policy specialist, ocean explorer, submarine pilot and educator. Dr. Guggenheim will share his recent coral reef and ocean conservation work in Cuba and the Caribbean. Doors open at 6 p.m. with hors d’oeuvres and drinks; program starts at 7 p.m.

January 27

Science Saturday

Science Saturdays provide an opportunity for families to spend the day at the Environmental Learning Center enjoying programs, labs and activities centered around different science themes, on the last Saturday of every month. This month’s theme is Fantastic Frogs!

February 2 | 8 – 10 a.m.

Birding Basics

Enjoy this fun and informative class with Randy McCormick designed to help novice birders identify birds. The classroom session explore show to use birds’ plumage, shape, behavior and habitat to recognize various species as well as effective use of binoculars and field guides. Attendees will then learn more tricks of the trade during a field trip to a nearby park to practice new skills.

Piping Plovers

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve protects some pretty important bird habitat.

On October 23, Anne Mauro, Avian Ecologist with Rookery Bay Research Reserve, spotted a Piping plover on Keewaydin Island, one of the barrier island beaches protected within the reserve boundary. Through her spotting scope she was able to see some colored bands on the bird’s legs, so she reported her sighting

The colored bands showed that the bird had originated from the Great Lakes area, where the Piping plover is an Endangered species. After getting more details about what to look for, Anne returned to the area again on November 17. Amazingly, the plover was still in the around and she was able to get a good enough look to read two of the digits on the bird’s leg band, confirming that the bird was born in 2017 in Pennsylvania.

Piping plovers haven’t nested in Pennsylvaniain 60 years. In 2017, four chicks were banded there, and two of those chicks (including the one Anne saw) have been resighted in Florida this year. It is very exciting to learn that two of the four chicks survived the long migration south to the Florida coast and at least one of them is able to spend the winter on this relatively secluded beach. With luck, both will make it north in spring and settle along Lake Erie, continuing the re-population of historic Great Lakes Piping Plover nesting territories.

Festival of Birds – Rookery Bay

January 12 – 14, 2018

Field trip registration opens to Friends of Rookery Bay members on November 25, 2017. Join the Friends Group today to have the first pick of field trips. Registration opens to the general public on December 1, 2017.

Mark your calendar for field trips and lectures during the Festival of Birds! Formerly known as the Southwest Florida Nature Festival, this event still invites you to explore the local environment through almost 40 guided field trips to 20 wildlife hotspots around Southwest Florida and lectures at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center. This year we have a new emphasis on birds.

Field trips, including birding walks, buggy rides and boat tours, are still being offered in conjunction with local partners. Field trip prices range from $20 -$140, and registration is required. This year, field trip registration includes admission to the Environmental Learning Center on Saturday.

Event Schedule

Friday: Field trips all day

Environmental Learning Center – Buy One Get One Admission

Saturday: Field trips all day

Environmental Learning Center – $10 Admission/FREE for Field trip participants 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.- Includes Featured Lectures

Evening Keynote Presentation admission is $25- Friends of Rookery Bay members enjoy 10% discount

Sunday: Field trips take place off-site

Environmental Learning Center CLOSED


Featured Lectures on Saturday1 p.m. Birding as a Treasure Hunt: My Collier Big Year. Keith Laakkonen, Rookery Bay Research Reserve director, will give a light-hearted talk on how awesome birding can be, the amazing finds in Collier County over the past few years, and the insanity that can happen with a small Big Year.

2 p.m. A (Stuffed) Bird in the Hand: The Importance of Modern Natural History Collections. Alli Smith and Kim Savides will tell you that what you see on display at a museum is just the tip of the iceberg: behind the scenes, millions of specimens are meticulously stored and organized for use by researchers. From artists and students to paleontologists and veterinarians, ornithology collections are studied by a variety of people. In this talk, two young biologists share their perspectives of working with specimens and highlight current research using collections worldwide.

3 p.m. The Recipe for Saving Beach Birds: Education, Monitoring, and Nice Legs. Adam DiNuovo, Shorebird Stewardship Program Manager with Audubon Florida at Rookery Bay, will discuss how Audubon Florida’s Coastal Team is using education, monitoring and research to help save the beach birds of Florida.

Saturday Evening Keynote Presentation

6 p.m. Data-driven Conservation for Florida’s Imperiled Raptors and Water Birds: 20 Years of Discovery Through ARCI’s Remote Tracking Studies Dr. Meyer will touch on highlights of the research he and his team at the Avian Research Conservation Institute have conducted over the last two decades, including some of the lessons learned, secrets revealed, and stories they hope will compel us all to conserve and sustain our natural treasures. The stars of the show will be the birds ARCI has tracked hundreds of thousands of miles – species that keep enriching our lives as they struggle to endure: Swallow-tailed Kites, Reddish Egrets, Shorttailed Hawks, White-crowned Pigeons, Snail Kites, Roseate and Common Terns, Crested Caracaras, Great White Herons, Magnificent Frigatebirds…

Decorator vs Art Gallery – Ask the Artspers

Juliana Meek and Kristine Meek

Dear Artsperts:

I’ve recently bought a home in Naples and hired a reputable local decorator to redesign the house interior. Everything she designed is beautiful but I am not happy with the painting I bought at her recommendation.

The artist doesn’t appear to have a reputation like those in your gallery and I can’t find anything about the artist. Is there anything I can do with this painting?



Dear Decorating,

Artist reputation is established through museums. Pictured is a the museum exhibition for Will Barnet
(1911-2012) at the Ogunquit Museum of Art in Maine, summer of 2017

Good decorators create beautiful interiors with the finest and highest quality furnishings. However, unless the decorator works with a reputable gallery, it is unlikely they will have access to fine art by reputable and established artists.

Some decorators do work with fine art galleries, but it is more tempting for decorators to work directly with artists to receive a higher commission from the sale. Established artists are generally not interested in working with decorators and as such decorators must turn to emerging artists.

Established artists have set their sights on growing their reputations. This comes through museums, art critics, and published books.

All three of which have little respect for decorative artwork. Reputable artists are also not so concerned with how a work will look in a private home. The artwork they produce serve a greater purpose beyond decorating needs. As Tobi Kahn once said, “all of my work is beautiful, but not all of my work is pretty.”

The work is meant to draw emotions out of the viewer. It is about how the viewer relates to the work on a personal level. The artist isn’t concerned about how the work enhances your home, but how it enhances your life.

Because of the importance placed on museums coupled with striving for work that goes beyond decorating, reputable artists rarely work directly with decorators. While it is tempting to go through a decorator to meet all of your needs, you will likely be disappointed in the quality of artwork available through your decorator.

Work by Will Barnet (right) in a private home.

The artwork is unlikely to match the high standards of your home and lifestyle. If you have a Bentley in the garage, you shouldn’t hang the art equivalent of a Honda Civic on your walls.

Fine art galleries, are highly specialized in focusing solely on art. We know our artists and their reputations well, along with trends in the art world.

Art dealers are in the best position for giving advice for purchasing artwork. We will also never leave you unhappy with a purchase. We take the time in the beginning to ensure you are happy with your selection, relying heavily on your personal connection with the work.

At Harmon-Meek Gallery, we also have a policy that allows clients to exchange a work they purchased for one they like better in the future, as long as it is by the same artist. We don’t ever want to leave you feeling stuck with a painting you don’t like.

While the theme of this article is to say that fine art does not need to match your couch, an art dealer is more than capable of giving advice on good placement of a work in your home.

As for your question about what to do with this painting by an artist you don’t know much about, if you aren’t happy with it and can’t return it to the decorator you can donate it to a charity (if you want a tax deduction you will have to have owned it a year and have it appraised by a licensed appraiser at your cost), consign it with a resale shop, or put it in a place out of sight. We often help clients move paintings to rarely used hallways and guests rooms when hanging a painting from the gallery.


The Artsperts


For most of us, the New Year brings a desire for change. Whether it’s a new car, diet, or a commitment to exercise more, January seems to trigger a need or want for something new and different.

Refreshing your home with new décor or even a makeover remodel can give you the inspiration to do other new things in your life.

We find that planning a remodeling project early in the year gives our clients a fresh start and something to look forward to in the coming months. Our team takes pride in giving personal service throughout the entire remodeling process. From the dream stage to design, and then the build phase, we are here to make your dream home a reality.

KGT Remodeling is a design build company that has won eight awards for our outstanding work and craftsmanship. We just received two Sand Dollar Awards from the Collier Building Industry Association this past fall. These awards prove, year after year, that we are committed to each project in providing the best quality and design available.

There are many stages of any remodeling project. Here are three important stages you can expect to go through. If you stay involved with each stage, particularly when it comes to selecting building products, you can ensure your project stays on track and on budget.


Be organized; you’ll need to decide on the size and style of your project, and then start a list of all your “must haves” with features and products. Sticking to your product list is important when staying on budget and on schedule.


Throughout this phase, the KGT design team works closely with the client to ensure we meet individual budget needs. One of the most important advantages of the design build process is that it allows the client to feel more confident about estimated costs, and feel more secure about staying within budget. Our designers have immediate access to our suppliers and experts in the building industry; this allows them to specify the most cost-effective materials and methods for construction.


Removing walls, wiring, carpet and flooring can be dirty work. To minimize your stress, KGT Remodeling uses the Build Clean process and equipment to eliminate most dust and dirt from your home.

Our team will manage and perform all work on your project during construction. Our lead carpenters are the liaisons and are responsible for overseeing our trade partners and coordinating all materials. Our goal is to get your project completed as quickly as possible while upholding our exceptional standards and craftsmanship.

KGT Remodeling can give you a new home for the New Year – an entire home, kitchen or bath, as well as an addition to expand your existing home! You choose.

Many families hand us the keys and return to a new remodeled home. It’s easy for our clients to feel they are part of the process because of our custom client portal that provides calendars, updates and photos of every phase on the renovation.

KGT Remodeling is a licensed and insured residential design build remodeling company with over 45 years of experience. Their goal in every project is complete customer satisfaction by sharing their‘5-Point Promise’ which includes: prompt and clear communication; listening, advising, and adding value; excellence in design and workmanship; custom client portal; and a clean jobsite.

Please give us a call at 239.992.2300 for your next remodeling project – entire home, bathrooms, kitchen or outdoor living space; we can make your dream home a reality.

KGT Remodeling is licensed, insured and an award winning remodeling company!


Victims of Hurricane Irma that took place beginning on September 4, 2017 in parts of Florida may qualify for tax relief from the Internal Revenue Service.

As of September 15, 2017 the IRS is now offering relief to victims of Hurricane Irma. The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. Deadlines falling on or after September 4, 2017 and before January 31, 2018, are granted additional time to file through January 31, 2018. This includes individual, partnership, corporate and estate and trust taxpayers who had a valid extension to file their 2016 return.

On September 29, 2017, President Trump signed into law the Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017. This act provided further relief for taxpayers that suffered casualty losses in connection with Hurricane Irma.

Tax relief would include:


Currently, the base subtracted from unreimbursed personal casualty losses is generally $100 plus 10 percent of AGI. The base under the Disaster Act for a qualified disaster-related personal casualty loss is changed to $500 for qualified disasters. The “10 percent of AGI” portion of the base does not apply to these qualified disasters. Normally, a personal casualty is an itemized deduction. The Act permits these qualified losses to be deductible in addition to the standard deduction. This “additional standard deduction” is only allowed for the “net disaster loss.” This means the disaster-related personal casualty losses would have to be netted against any personal casualty gains to arrive at the “net disaster loss” that becomes the additional standard deduction.


The 10 percent early withdrawal penalty does not apply to any qualified hurricane distribution. A “qualified hurricane distribution” is any distribution received by an individual whose principal place of abode is located in the applicable hurricane area and who has sustained an economic loss. The maximum amount of distributions exempt from the penalty under this provision is $100,000. Distributions have to be made on or after September 4, 2017, and before January 1, 2019. The income from these qualified withdrawals is spread ratable over the three-taxable-year period beginning with the year of the distribution.

Taxpayers can elect not to have this spread apply. If the taxpayer dies before the end of the spread years, any amounts not already reported as income are required to be reported as income in the year of the death. The taxpayer can do a rollover of any portion of these distributed amounts at any time before the end of the three-taxable-year period. For purposes of the one-in-a-year rollover limitations, these rollovers will not be considered to be a rollover.


If a qualified individual has less earned income in the taxable year which includes the applicable date than the amount of the earned income in the preceding taxable year, the credits allowed for the Additional Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit will be computed, at the election of the taxpayers, by using the preceding taxable year’s earned income. Any election to use the provision for either the Additional Child Tax Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit will be an election to use this provision for both. A taxpayer cannot make this election for one credit purpose and not for the other.

It is important to remember there may be other tax relief provisions that you may be able to utilize. Please feel free to call my office or email me.

If you should have a topic that you would like me to discuss or if you should have a question, please feel free to call 239.403.4410 or e-mail me at 4280 East Tamiami Trail Executive Suite 302-M | Naples, FL 34112

An enrolled agent, licensed by the US Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before the IRS for audits, collections and appeals. To attain the enrolled agent designation, candidates must demonstrate expertise in taxation, fulfill continuing education credits and adhere to a stringent code of ethics

100 years of the American Red Cross in the Southern Gulf Region

The American Red Cross is celebrating 100 years of service to South Florida. For a century, the Red Cross has been there for the people in the Southern Gulf Region.

Since the Lee County chapter was established in 1917, the Red Cross has made the community a safer place to live, work and play, meeting the needs of South Florida’s ever-changing population through good times and bad.

The Red Cross have helped thousands of people affected by local disasters including hurricanes, home fires, floods, tornadoes and other emergencies. From health and safety classes, to supporting military members, their families and veterans, the Red Cross has helped make our community safer and more prepared for what may come in the next 100 years.

In May 1917, Mr. Lorenzo D. Case and other Lee County residents met in a room of the Board of Trade to establish a Red Cross Chapter in Fort Myers with the purpose of making bandages, knitting socks and sweaters and creating bags with candy and chocolate to send to the men who were at the frontlines during WWI.

During World War II, once again the Chapter supported the Red Cross by helping the wounded and raising money for the Red Cross War Fund. As a nonmilitary organization, the Red Cross has provided continuous support to the Armed Forces, veterans and their families.

In times of peace, the Red Cross turned its attention to the poor, veterans’ assistance, nursing classes, natural disaster relief, training volunteers and teaching children how to swim. As South Florida experienced a boom in the 50s, population growth and urban expansion gave the Red Cross additional focus on prevention and preparedness, with first aid and water safety as priorities.

During the summer of 1966, the American Red Cross, Lee County Chapter, Water Safety Committee was established, meetings were held at the Fort Myers Swim Club. On September 10th, 1960 during and after Hurricane Donna struck land near Fort Myers, the Lee County Chapter gave the Lee County disaster victims over $205,000.00 in material provisions. Then in June 8, 1966, disaster units were activated in support of hurricane “Alma”. Twelve shelters were opened for about 1,500 people who sought refuge.

In the summer of 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused unprecedented devastation and the Red Cross was there to aid the victims and help the community heal. For all the major hurricanes in subsequent years – Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne in 2005; Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017 – Through the years the Chapter has provided a wide variety of different functions and they’ve always been among the first to be on the ground providing comfort and relief to all who need it.

While today the Red Cross has a more focused approach to its operations, including providing assistance to persons affected by residential fires, it remains centered around the overall American Red Cross mission: To prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.