Our community’s cup runneth over with uplifting stories on this eve of a new decade.

Jeff Lytle

Let us try to count some of the ways that special individuals and organizations are making our world a better place, often against tall odds, at the outset of 2020.-

Empty Bowls: For the 14th year in a row, this crusade against hunger comes to Cambier Park on January 25th.

For tickets starting at $20, attendees can select and keep a ceramic bowl – handmade throughout the year by volunteers at churches, senior centers, schools, property owners associations and many other places – and stroll the grounds sampling soup donated by 50 restaurants and country clubs.

Thousands of supporters turn out every year to embrace the spirit and enjoy music from high school students, witness pottery in progress and bid on special arts and crafts in a silent auction.

Empty Bowls

The true beauty of all this is the all-volunteer culture: Proceeds go directly to food charities such as Meals of Hope and the Naples Senior Center serving food in secure neighbors of all ages and walks of life.

Thus, an event that is a year in the making and culminates in a single-day event keeps on making a difference year-round – while work on the next year’s event gets under way.

More information: Emptybowlsnaples.com.

The 250 member Literacy Volunteers of Collier County organization is going the extra mile to tutor families and build better futures.

When parents show up for English lessons at select local schools taking part in a pilot program, their toddlers are welcomed into supervised settings that teach fundamental language and math skills. No babysitters? No problem. In fact, Literacy Volunteers turns that challenge into an opportunity to prepare youngsters for success.

“Continued funding for Families Learning English is crucial to continue and expand the program,” explains Cindy Denhart, directorof family programs for the LVCC.

“The money is needed to purchase curriculum materials for the adult students; educational games, toys, and books for the children; and fiction and non-fiction books to give to the families to enhance and encourage English literacy in their homes.’

’The Community Foundation, whose priorities include early childhood education and literacy, is lending a hand with an angelfund grant.

More information: Collierliteracyvolunteers.org.

Collier County’s long standing Identity Theft Task Force is expanding its mission and name to reflect the reality of our expanding landscape of high-tech fraud.

The iFACT Task Force, for Identity Theft & Fraud Awareness, still led by Sheriff Kevin Rambosk and cyber-crimefighter Carrie Kerskie, is gearing up for a new round of public forums with updates on how to protect yourself. Stay tuned.

More information: Carrie@griffonforce.com.

A member of that task force – and many other civic efforts –from the start, Mike Reagen, continues to leverage goodwill earned from leading the chamber of commerce in Naples from 2002-2013. That was an era of economic ups and downs that was in dire need of his calming influence and voice of reason.

Now in a very active retirement mode, Reagen remains solidly engaged. He shares insights, skills and often public encouragement with organizations involved with art, health care, household injury prevention, Collier County Mosquito Control, Keiser University, Collier Citizens Council, Naples Council on World Affairs and the Naples Discussion Group at Moorings Park. He wrote and now rewrites the book on involvement, dialogue and civility.

Collier Citizens Council, with representatives of groups throughout the county, has made Nancy Lascheid the third recipient of its annual Murray Hendel Public Service Award.

She and her husband, the late Dr. Bill Lascheid, in 1999 founded the Neighborhood Health Clinic, which recruits volunteer medical professionals to treat the working poor and refer them to specialists when needed. The clinic, which started in a storefront and now is expanding its stand-alone facilities on Goodlette-Frank Road, is admired as a role model around the nation.

Lascheid’s award predecessors are Carrie Kerskie for her cybercrime-fighting and Collier County Judge Janeice Martin for her pioneering work with local drug court. Hendel championed beach renourishment and public beach access, among many other civic projects, helped found the Collier Citizens Council and worked behind the scenes to finish the Freedom Memorial.

The Legal Aid Society of Collier County is a prime example of a cause that has a full plate but keeps reaching out for more work.

The team of lawyers and other legal professionals – known for going to bat for people unable to fight landlord-tenant and other battles for themselves – now comes forward to offer pro bono help on wills and estate planning for veterans and first responders.

Though Legal Aid held a one day help-fest in November, services are available year-round.

“We had a Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputy, a singlemother, who sadly was diagnosed with cancer and we found an attorney very quickly to put that estate plan together pro bono,’’ says Jeff Ahern, development director.

“In addition, we offer holistic services at Legal Aid for those who qualify for other issues – including housing, family law, tax issues, public benefits to address medical care and to meet basic needs, etc.”

More information: Legalaid.org/collier.

Lytle is the retired editorial page editor and TV host at theNaples Daily News. Jeff can be reached by email at Jlytle@comcast.net

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