NINA GRAY Wins Civic Achievement Award

By Dave Trecker

Service is never overrated. And service for the needy and underprivileged is particularly important in these challenging times. There can never be enough of it. The Collier Citizens Council, a local civic organization, took it upon itself some years ago to recognize people who provide that kind of help. The group established an award and named it after its cofounder and longtime leader, Murray Hendel, himself a Naples icon.

The Murray Hendel Civic Achievement Award is presented annually to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to the Naples community.

Nina Gray, the 2022 recipient (the award was presented in 2023), certainly meets that criterion. She has given over 40 years of service to Collier County, both professionally and through volunteer work.

Her qualifications are exemplary. She holds a B.A. in Education from Arizona State and an M.A. in Counseling and Rehabilitation from the University of South Florida. She is a licensed mental health counselor and has spent years working with the less fortunate, both one-on-one and through workshops and volunteer programs.

Some time ago, Ms. Gray helped launch Avow Hospice and served as its executive director in the 1980s. She later joined the Neighborhood Health Clinic and served as CEO for a number of years, overseeing a period of significant growth.

Then in 2016 she founded the Collier Resource Center and established what has become a “brokerage house for the underprivileged.” With little budget and a skeleton staff, the CRC connects vulnerable people needing help with professional service providers. It helps the needy find food. It points the way to sources of employment. It connects the elderly to essential services.

The CRC accepts no taxpayer money. With funding provided entirely by individuals, foundations and churches, its return on investment is through the roof. And the aid it provides benefits thousands.

CRC’s clients are a diverse lot. Ms. Gray says 68% are women seeking help for their families. Most are elderly and financially strapped. Some speak little English, and many live in substandard housing. Few have computer access and they typically don’t know where to turn for help.

“Navigating the maze of health and human service organizations can be daunting,” says Ms. Gray.

Here are some success stories.

  • CRC brokered a program to build a wheelchair ramp for a blind woman trapped in a mobile home and arranged for payment from charitable groups.
  • CRC connected a destitute woman with dementia to the Area Agency on Aging, which provided a nurse and 20-hour-per-week care.
  • CRC found a physician who gave pro bono treatment to a woman with thyroid problems.
  • CRC located a group of church volunteers to rebuild the rotted floor of a woman’s house deep in the Everglades.
  • CRC hooked up a woman who could not afford insulin to treat her diabetes with an anonymous donor who provided funding.
  • CRC connected a woman seeking addiction counseling with a rehab clinic.
  • CRC provided food cards and a list of food pantries to a destitute family of five in Immokalee.

“Sometimes,” Ms. Gray says, “people just need someone who listens. With CRC, they get to talk to a person, not a recorded message.”

Outgoing CCC president Mike Lyster says, “We salute Nina Gray and her remarkable accomplishments She’s a worthy recipient of the Civic Achievement Award.”

She joins a distinguished group of past winners.

  • Carrie Kerskie (2017), for her relentless efforts to combat identity theft.
  • Judge Janeice Martin (2018), for her work in the county’s treatment courts to aid the mentally ill and addicted.
  • Nancy Lascheid (2019), cofounder of the Neighborhood Health Clinic, for providing health care for the needy.
  • Sheriff Kevin Rambosk (2021), for enlightened law enforcement, blending policing with community service.

Nina Gray has this thought for those who devote themselvesto helping others. “Service,” she says, “is the rent we pay forliving.”

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