Carrying on the Tradition Making Naples a Better Place to Live

Lois Bolinby Lois Bolin
Old Naples Historian

In 2013, Inc. magazine discussed why businesses should build a culture of giving back. The author wrote that making charitable donations isn’t simply a feel-good thing – it is a way to drive change in our communities and within our organizations.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say the author dove into the City of Naples archives and found ‘The Make Naples a Better Place to Live Plan”, which was later shortened to The Naples Plan. This plan not only drove change in 1948 – it solidified the Naples’ culture of giving back.

“The Naples Plan” captured the attention of the Tampa Tribune’s editor, James Clendinen, who wrote about a unique community effort that showed American ingenuity at its best. “This story is about how the west coast town of Naples, 160 miles south of Tampa, pulled $250,000 in town improvements out of a hat.”



The hat, Mr. Clendinen referred to, was not a magician’s hat; but an ordinary one – like the ones that were passed around to take collections for office parties. He went on to say the only thing this innovative plan needed was “preferably a 10-gallon hat” and a number of “high-bracket” property owners with enough community interest to part with a wad of folding money when the hat was passed.

Luckily, the town of Naples had both.

On Jan. 9, 1948 (at 8 p.m.), Mayor Roy Smith called a meeting to say that the IRS had approved their unprecedented “pass-the-hat-plan” under IRS Code Section 28 as a contribution to a political subdivision. At that time in Florida, 100 percent of political contributions were tax-deductible.

The plan outlined several projects, including mosquito abatement; the construction jetties; sand dredging; and street paving from Gordon Pass to Gordon Drive to the Post Office to “First Street and the Street to the Pier.” The town’s leaders understood their community’s most precious resource was not necessarily its beaches as parks and playgrounds were listed as the No. 1 priority. Cambier Park and Lowdermilk Park were completed in 1948 and 1950 respectively. Both were named after city employees.




It should come as no surprise that the United States is the most generous country in the world. This culture of kindness took hold after WWII when the United States took the lead to rebuild a shattered world at home and for their former enemies.

Naples culture of giving back was founded upon this spirit and is alive and well today. Whether it’s donating money to charity, volunteering, or helping a stranger, giving back is simply a way of life for our community.

In his 1901 Thanksgiving Proclamation, Theodore Roosevelt said, “Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us; and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips and shows itself in deeds. We can best prove our thankfulness to the Almighty by the way in which on this earth and at this time each of us does his duty to his fellow men.”

Those who live their duty to their community daily are too numerous to mention, but I’d like to highlight a few. Nurses, such as Thelma Hodges, the first Red Cross worker at NCH; Erika Hinson, key volunteer at Neighborhood Health Clinic and Johanna Dettis, retired US Navy Captain, deserve our undying gratitude for their continuing work in our community. Veterans, such as Bob Young, Marine Corp League and key volunteer for New Beginnings and Don Tallon, WWII POW and officer of the Combat Infantrymen’s Association, embody this spirit of giving back long after retirement.

Joan Colosimo, Patriot Guard Rider coordinator; Julie Campbell, Blue Star Mother and Homer Helter work tirelessly to ensure that our active military heroes receive gifts from home monthly. Ursula Phfal, Bigham Jewelers; Jeanne Sweeney, Above Board Chamber; Vickie Tracy, Arlington Naples; and Diane van Parys, Republican Women of SWFL Federated are stewards who can elegantly shape shift roles to serve as the leaders or a behind the scene supporter.

These individuals unknowingly pay homage to those pioneering families, who made Naples a better place to live by carrying on the tradition of giving back. And that is something that doesn’t come from a magazine article. It comes from a thankful heart.

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