May should be declared Community Month on Fort Myers Beach. Everywhere you look, there are signs that the community is alive and well and caring for each other. From keeping our fireworks displays alive, to sending our local students to college with a little help to supporting our local charities that help children and families.
After several years of patchwork funding for the two big fireworks shows on Fort Myers Beach, a core group of business people have stepped forward, with the support of the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce and taken the reins of a solution. Individual businesses have created fundraisers with proceeds going to the fireworks fund – Tuckaway Café, GulfShore Grill and The Cottage, Fish Monger and the Lani Kai.
Islanders have done their part by participating in these fundraisers, which come at just the right time, as we emerge from our seasonal cocoon, ready to let our hair down and get back in touch with our friends and neighbors who have been too busy for much fun for the last few months. Watch the paper for details on more fundraisers and be sure to join in the Lani Kai Luau this Sunday, May 15th starting at noon. This is your big chance to learn to hula. Or head to the Fish Monger on Sunday, May 15th for their First Annual Stone Crab End of Season Party from 2-7pm. Both events will help support fireworks on the beach.
For years local businesses held fundraisers every years to support fireworks when the Semmer Family organized them. There’s no reason why that tradition can’t be picked up again and continued forward. This year is a great start! Can your business help?
Another reason May should be Community Month is that it is often the month when scholarships are handed out. Area college students have amazing opportunities to earn scholarships right here in our community. The Lions Club, Beach Kiwanis Club, Beach Kids Foundation, Fort Myers Beach Art Association and Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation, just to name a few groups who offer scholarships.
If you listen to the recipients of these scholarships, you’ll hear appreciation for the community support that scholarships represent. While the money certainly makes a big difference in the tuition or books bill, you can’t put a price on the feeling a college student has far from home, knowing that their whole community is behind them. It’s not just the club that awards the scholarship; it’s the community that supports the fundraisers all year long that make those scholarships possible. We know who and what we’re supporting – it’s good to know that we’re helping area young people pursue their academic goals.
Sharing the Wealth
Many of those same community groups support a variety of local charities. Much of that money is handed out in the spring. This week the Community Foundation gave away about $30,000 all in one night. They offered support to a variety of organizations, many of which are focused on helping children and families. The Lions Club gives out around $45,000 each year in Shrimp Festival proceeds. Their focus is on vision and hearing efforts plus children’s charities. Beach Kiwanis provides nearly $100,000 in support each year to a variety of Kiwanis charities including Golisano Children’s Hospital, PTO, Little League, God’s Table and scholarships. All of these groups and others depend on the loyal support of the entire community to raise the funds that they then turn around and spread throughout our community to cover the needs that not everyone sees.
How fortunate our community is to have these community minded groups here in our midst, representing all of us in their charitable efforts. What these groups all need is more workers in the vineyard – more members to handle the regular all-year-long efforts that make this kind of charitable giving possible and enrich our community.
Islanders are asked to continue to support fundraising efforts by groups who support area charities. Our island is known for its support of those in need, so that probably doesn’t need to even be said.
This year, please consider joining one of these service organizations. They add real value to our community but are only as strong as their membership. Not too long ago, joining a community service group was something almost everyone did. Nowadays, with hectic schedules and long work hours, it’s not nearly as common as it once was. Community service groups recognize those facts of life and offer a low-pressure opportunity to be a part of your community in a way that will introduce you to other like-minded people. If there’s one thing that links all our service organizations, it’s that they all have a good time when they get together. Be part of the fun- join a service organization!
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
“The purpose of live is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson