Many Hands Make Bright Work

by Jeff Lytle

I had been saving string for weeks for a story about civic collaborations past and present.

While working as a daily journalist until retiring in 2014, I would scout opportunities to congratulate government, community and business leaders for working together for the public’s benefit.

It has been my experience that collaborations stretch limited budgets, avoid duplicated efforts and result in better, more efficient results than any single entity could produce.

I was thinking that a summary of beneficial collaborations might give credit and inspire others to try it for themselves. Then, on September 12, there it was – a newspaper column by Michael Wynn of the Sunshine Ace Hardware chain and Wynn’s Market touting the virtues of collaboration, in the context of health care providers and others working together in the wake of COVID-19.

Rendering of the David Lawrence Center facility for drug addiction funded by a voter-approved sales tax.

With Wynn’s track record of timely, valuable civic leadership, I knew I was on the right track.

Let me identify a sampling of collaborations that come to mind, and please tell me of success stories that I miss.

Breaking the grip of mental illness and opioid addiction is the goal of an urgent collaboration led by the Community Foundation of Collier County, Collier County courts, Collier County Commission, National Association for the Mentally Ill, Collier County Public Schools, Wounded Warriors, the Sheriff ’s Office and David Lawrence Center. The team is using the fruit of another collaborative effort, among Collier voters to pass the first local option sales tax in county history, to expand DLC to handle the patient load.

Collaboration is key to gentler programs such as the Naples Performing Arts Center, now hosted by the Greater Naples YMCA on Pine Ridge Road and staging children’s and young adults’ shows at The Community School nearby. Another collaboration, between Gulfshore Playhouse and the City of Naples, allows performances at Cambier Park’s Norris Center until Gulfshore’s own theater complex is built blocks away. The city collaborated with The Naples Players by allowing the donor funded Sugden Theater to be erected on a public street.

Sugden Community Theater is a star of collaborative downtown redevelopment.

After 9/11, the sheriff ’s office welcomed federal immigration officials to share office space and track criminal aliens.

In the late 1990s a collaboration that would be complicated in today’s partisan gridlock saw county Republican as well as Democratic leaders decry corruption at the highest levels of GOP-led county government. The effort led to indictments and an ordinance barring gifts from lobbyists.

More recently a collaboration of public and private groups laid groundwork for 7,500 seniors often confused by vaccination protocols and online registration to get their protective shots. The Naples Senior Center worked with county and state politicians and health departments to help center members and later the general public.

The CFCC partnered with Artis-Naples to fund an arts and culture strategic plan that was being rolled out to thecommunity.

CFCC was part of the team with the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce and two county technical schools working on a better trained workforce and attracting new business.

A cornerstone to much community awareness and progress was the services needs assessment driven by the CFCC and Richard M. Schulze Foundation, introducing original research and fact findingto the planning process.

The Naples Children and Education Foundation of Naples Winter Wine Festival fame joined CFCC and Schulze to fund a proposal from Collier public schools for a smartphone app that lists helpful community resources.

Meanwhile, the non-profit Naples Therapeutic Riding Center offers programs to heal trauma and boost self-confidence with organizations including Youth Haven, Collier County Public Schools, David Lawrence Center, Shelter for Abused Women &Children and Wounded Warriors.

The Naples Senior Center is proud of its work with the sheriff ’s office helping seniors avoid fraud predators and making Collier paratransit rides more accessible.

Neighborhood Health Clinic works with St. Matthews’s House and the Shelter to treat medical needs without emergency room visits. The clinic also worked with NCH Healthcare System and the Florida Department of Health to administer COVID-19vaccines for the working poor.

Former Naples Mayor Bill Barnett points to a major transportation project, the Golden Gate Parkway overpass, as a shining example of teamwork. He says city and county elected officials and planning staffs worked to meet neighbors’ concerns about “disastrous” noise and views hurting their property values. “After the last little detail was agreed upon, it was built and the end result was spectacular in every aspect,” he says, adding that even the landscaping was “amazing.”

“It was one of the biggest examples of collaboration that I can remember as mayor, and we had a lot of them.”

Editor’s note: What did I miss? Email me at

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