On Friday, June 6, at 10 AM, a D-Day 70th Anniversary Observance was held at Hodges University. The Collier County Sheriff’s Color Guard posted the Colors, and Megan Cook sang the National Anthem beautifully. Dr. Peter Thomas — 2004 Humanitarian of the Year — gave a stirring remembrance of what happened on that terrible day in Normandy when our soldiers landed at Omaha Beach. He mentioned Bedford Biles as one of the people he so greatly admired and remembered. Hopefully, Fay reads this column, and finds her wonderful husband was remembered this morning by the great Peter Thomas in front of many veteran’s from World War II who were in the audience. I felt so proud to have known Bedford and happy that Fay is still my friend.
• In case you are not aware of how very special the Greater Marco Family YMCA is in the lives of East Naples children, let me tell you of years of outreach provided to these children of lesser means to provide after-school and summer programs through grants they received from organizations such as the Winter Wine Festival, state grants, etc.
In East Naples — where there are at least four whole villages of Habitat children, plus Naples Manor, Whistler’s Cove, six elementary schools, two middle schools and many more children in mobile home parks — there is a park named Eagle Lakes Community Park that has terrific ball fields and a nice playground, but was never completed with a community center. It is the only community park in Collier County with NO community center, so these little children had no place to go after school nor in the summer, other than to hang out in neighborhoods.
The YMCA saw the need, contacted the county Parks and Recreation Department and the schools in the area, and offered to conduct after-school and summer programs. They were even able to find transportation for a few of these kids to be driven to the Marco Y pool to swim and play. In most cases, these children had never been in a pool before, and some had never SEEN a pool.
The county is now embarking on building that much-needed community center at Eagle Lakes Community Park, which will be a blessing to the children and also to the adults in the community. They’ll offer Zumba, line dancing, a fitness center (presently there is no park in E.N. with a fitness center) and classes of all kinds. The YMCA has already offered to help in any way they can with the children’s programs if the county needs them. The Marco Y is an organization we can all be very proud of.
• A concern of mine is the new Racetrac Gas Station, Truck Stop, and Convenience store that will be built on the corner of Collier Boulevard and Manatee Road. Racetrac is a 24-hour operation with very bright lights and all-night deliveries, and they will be building right up to the property line of the over-55 mobile home park and across the street from the Shell Station and convenience store. The land is already zoned for this use, so they didn’t need any permits or approvals. I pray that they will take into consideration their impact on the residents’ right behind them by building a very high wall and installing thick landscaping, shields on their lights at night, etc. The county was not given the opportunity to offer input to protect those people in the mobile home park. Keep watching as they begin to build. They can build a smaller, more neighborly station if they so desire, but have no plans to do so. We’ll see what happens.
• The construction at the intersection of Collier Boulevard/U.S. 41 East — as well as the widening of U.S. 41 East east of the intersection — has been moving along very well. With the mounds of dirt, fill and debris, the digging, the equipment, the construction workers and all that it takes to construct two roads at the same time going in different directions, the movement of traffic has been fantastic! It’s seldom we are even slowed down, we just move along steadily. It’s very impressive indeed!