Representatives from four businesses and organizations in the Heart Of The Island (HOTI) neighborhood met at the Tuckaway Café on Wednesday afternoon, March 13, to discuss on-going activities and necessary steps to become a 501c3 organization. Chairing the session was Beverley Milligan, joined by husband Roland Weinmann as co-owners of The Myerside Inn; Dan and Tree Andre of The Mango Street Inn; Jan Fleming representing the Fort Myers Beach Public Library; and Sherry Oaks of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce.
HOTI is from roughly Pearl Street to Donora Boulevard, from the Beach to the Bay, with the Town of Fort Myers Beach recognizing its existence in its Comprehensive Plan. High profile HOTI destinations include the Bay Oaks Recreational Center, Fort Myers Beach Community Pool, Beach Elementary School and FMB Public Library. Dan and Jan found it interesting that the Comp Plan refers to its boundaries as “from ‘about’ Pearl Street to Donora Boulevard,” with Dan citing that as just one example of how the Comp Plan “is not really very specific!”
“We need to focus our initiatives on what makes HOTI unique on Fort Myers Beach,” explained Beverley. “Everything we suggest so far to Town Council, however, they want to expand to the entire island, like ‘The Christmas in July’ program began by the FMB Public Library. We needs ideas and programs that form a clear delineation from everywhere else on Fort Myers Beach, to conform to the Comp Plan. Two things we could definitely use from Town Council are marketing funds, as well as just one Volunteer Committee with whom we can work, as currently the Bay Oaks Recreational Center Advisory Board (BORCAB) and Community Relations Advisory Board (CRAB) are examining HOTI.”
Since the last HOTI meeting, “we now have a logo,” Beverley reported, “and I tied up every domain name I could think of, and will soon start on our Social Media presence. Perhaps now is the time to speak to the new Town Council for assistance, with the election now over, to introduce ourselves and our numerous stakeholders.” Tree suggested that HOTI instead select one representative to speak for the entire group, preferably with a signed petition from its community supporters, to show Council that HOTI represents more than a handful of people, saying that “once we work up the appropriate letter, I am happy doing the leg work!”
One Long Commercial Corridor
“While our key stakeholders are those who live or work in the HOTI neighborhood,” Beverley said, “almost as important are secondary stakeholders from here to Times Square, as everyone who visits Fort Myers Beach eventually goes there, and our new 9-foot-wide sidewalks connect Times Square to HOTI, making it one long commercial corridor.”
HOTI members discussed upcoming and possible events, including participating in the FMB Library’s “Christmas in July” on Thursday and Friday, July 25 & 26, as well as Holiday Season concepts and a possible craft beer festival fundraiser. Beverley would like to “lock these down in the near future, to make them tangible.” Jan said the group must become a recognized organization before it can raise funds, and Beverley wondered if they should take that step before approaching Council, with Dan and Tree saying they should. Beverley, Jan and Tree volunteered to be future Board members, with Sherry feeling the FMB Chamber could recruit a Board member as well, with Beverley taking the lead on the paperwork. This would allow HOTI to join the Fort Myers Beach Alliance of Non-Profits, to take advantage of fundraising opportunities such as the annual Putt-&-Pub Crawl.
Beverley stated that the FMB Chamber is offering HOTI a complimentary half-page advertisement in its upcoming “Visitor’s Guide,” calling that “a tremendous opportunity!” Tree agreed, saying that would be an outstanding way to recruit new members, “to get all their business logos in that ad, to let everyone know who we are, stakeholders included – that would also be a fun t-shirt!” The next HOTI meeting will be Wednesday, April 10, at Tuckaway Café at 2301 Estero Boulevard at Noon. “Sounds like we have a plan,” exclaimed Jan, with Beverley adding, “we certainly have a To-Do List!”
By Gary Mooney