We have a great story to tell.”
“The future of both the Naples Children & Education Foundation and the Naples Winter Wine Festival is to be all inclusive.”
“Life is a team sport.”
These statements are just a small sampling of the wisdom Brigadier General James W. Swanson, USAF (Ret.) brings to his new post as the new CEO of the
Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF).
But it’s not just his 32 years of active duty with the Air Force, followed by top-level positions with the Department of Homeland Security, Military Officers Association of America and most recently, with the American Bar Association’s Washington D.C. office. Swanson is a compassionate person who understands the
mission of the NCEF.
The Foundation is heavily focused on children’s health programs. One example is the positive impact it has had combatting epidemic dental problems. The Foundation
is partnering with the School of Dentistry from the University of Florida. Some participating children have cavities in every tooth. Regardless of the causes and issues
addressed, all programs are carefully vetted regarding the needs of the children in the county.
“The funds this organization provides target specific needs – whether oral health or mental health or vision or whatever it is and if you don’t deal with those kids they
are not going to do well in life,” says Swanson. Already hundreds of volunteers are dedicated to NCEF and to making the wine festival a success and additional groups are springing up to support the NCEF.
Friends of the Foundation recently presented a check for $60,000 for the kids through their own efforts. “It is just amazing how many dedicated supporters
they have,” says Swanson. “It’s extraordinary, from the security teams to the people manning the tents, the level of commitment to this Foundation is really outstanding
and it’s inspiring to see trustees who have been willing to do everything from hauling wine to making contacts.”
Despite his impressive background, Swanson is down to earth and grateful for the unexpected opportunity that arose when Trustee Bob Clifford invited him to view the new facility. The timing was perfect as Swanson was tiring of the commute from Washington, D.C.
A keen understanding of gathering and leading people is also a trait Swanson will bring to his new job, something the NCEF needs to grow beyond the current roster
of supporters and into new generations. Swanson’s reputation for building great teams precedes him and his background in the military has helped him hone
“What works in the military works everywhere because leadership is universal,” says Swanson, who is putting together the right players to interact with the 48 trustees, whom he credits as being concerned entrepreneurs ensuring that funds are used to their best effect. “These are very smart, dedicated people who put their heads together to grow the wine festival into one of two great wine festivals in the country, so they are all winners in the American dream game wanting to share
Swanson says the organization’s mission is perfect for his philosophy: the first part of a career is about success and the last part should be about significance.
NCEF was founded in 2001 to provide strategic initiatives to improve the lives of underprivileged children in Collier County. In so doing it provides assistance to
more than 30 local non-profit agencies and hosts the Naples Winter Wine Festival.