Priority One for Kiwanis Clubs world-wide involves projects and support for initiatives designed to benefit the youngest members of our communities, newborns to age five. The Kiwanis Club of Marco Island’s involvement with Priority One locally has historically funded materials for early learning centers, drowning prevention programs, the Literacy Buddy project, and post-Irma support for families of young children, among other things. Recently, the Board of Directors voted to partner with Collier Child Care Resources (CCCR) in their plans to honor local infant/toddler and pre-school classroom teachers at the annual Apple Blossom awards event.
Many Collier County citizens know about the Golden Apple program in which kindergarten through grade twelve teachers of excellence are appropriately honored at a televised evening extravaganza in a ballroom setting. Fewer know about the Apple Blossom Awards, started some twenty years ago by the Naples Alliance for children and their iconic leader, Myra Shapiro, who has led a life dedicated to improving early learning opportunities for young children.
This year’s Apple Blossom luncheon was held on April 14 in the lovely setting of the Vineyards. The guest speaker was Jack Levine, who for twenty-five years has served as President of Voices for Children. Barbara Mainster, nationally known for her forty-year commitment to the education of migrant children, received the Myra Shapiro Early Childhood Leadership Award for “her decades of advocacy and activism on behalf of Collier’s children.”
Apple Blossom honorees were Ellen Hardy, Collier Child Care Resources Teacher of the Year; Ana Solis, Preschool Teacher of the Year; and Elma Mejeune, Infant/Toddler Teacher of the Year. Kathleen Reynolds, President of the Kiwanis Club of Marco Island, on behalf of the Club presented each teacher with a check for $250 to purchase classroom materials or to fund instructional activities of their choices. The teachers will report back to the Kiwanis Club at a later date on how they chose to invest these funds to the benefit of the children they serve. The Club also presented Nicole Howard, the Executive Director of CCCR, with a check for $250 to support the many ongoing teacher professional development activities sponsored by her organization.