The Community Foundation creates a sustainable Legacy

Eileen Connolly-Keesler CFCC
President & CEO

As the community’s convener and trusted foundation partner, the Community Foundation of Collier County carefully deliberated about marking its 35 anniversary this year. The result is a plan highlighting collaboration to tackle local issues and provide a beautiful legacy for generations to come.

 The Foundation partnered with the Naples Botanical Garden on a long-term project to grow 3,500 native trees from hand-selected seeds, nurture them over several months, and distribute young trees for free throughout Collier County.  This project will improve the local landscape and water and air quality while providing shade for humans and homes for wildlife.

 “Like these trees, which provide a legacy for future generations, the Community Foundation of Collier County builds donor legacies to ensure a thriving future for our community,” said Community Foundation President/CEO Eileen Connolly-Keesler.

Bald Cypress Tree

The Community Foundation’s research shows the county lost thousands of trees in Hurricane Irma in 2017, which has harmed wildlife, air and water quality, shade, and aesthetics ever since. The Naples Botanical Garden crew gleaned seeds from trees that thrive in Southwest Florida, benefit the ecosystem and wildlife, and are suited to the region’s climate and storm conditions, such as the bald cypress, golden shower tree, and Florida fiddlewood. Free trees measuring three and four feet will be distributed to the public in various locations throughout the county.

In addition to the Garden distributions in July and August, more giveaways will be scheduled in Everglades City, Marco Island and Immokalee. Each comes with a tag providing information on the plant and how to ensure it will thrive in the landscape for years to come. The Garden also worked with three nonprofits—the Salvation Army, Habitat Collier, and the Guadalupe Center—on site-specific landscaping projects. A tree giveaway will also occur at the grand opening of the Collier County Sports Complex, date to be announced.

Florida Fiddlewood Tree

Naples Botanical Garden CEO Donna McGinnis said the project is a labor of love. Her staff collected the seeds from public lands and nurtured them in the Garden’s nursery. During the pandemic shutdown, a staff member transported all of the saplings to her Golden Gate property on a flatbed, repotted them, and ensured they were properly maintained. “That was an unexpected challenge, but it went well,” McGinnis reported. “It’s been a great project for us, and it’s been so positive. We started planning this way before COVID-19 was on the calendar. It’s been a real morale builder—a piece of good news.”

 In addition to reforesting the county, the Garden’s focus on educating landscapers and residents about the importance of native trees, which are naturally storm resilient and less dependent on irrigation and fertilizer, was another plus to the project.

Golden Shower Tree

 “Getting trees out into the community is exciting, so the idea we could give away 3,500 trees in honor of the Community Foundation’s 35th anniversary and get the word out about what’s best for Southwest Florida, is a win for everybody,” McGinnis said.

 Connolly-Keesler agreed. “At the Community Foundation of Collier County, we are passionate about environmental causes and sustaining our natural resources for the next generation.  We are excited to give this gift to our community that has trusted us for the past 35 years to grow their charitable legacies.”





1110 Pine Ridge Road Suite 200                                                                                                                Naples, Fl 34108

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