The Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce is known for its promotion of business and tourism in our community. But did you know that the volunteers and employees of the Chamber also serve as international ambassadors of good will? This is the story of the Wisse family of the Netherlands and their longtime friendship with our Chamber.
Back in 2009, the Wisse family – Karel, Doris, Marcel, Danielle and 4-year-old Björn – decided to take a trip from their home country of the Netherlands to sunny Florida. This four-week vacation was a celebration of Doris’s 60th birthday. The family travelled throughout the state and decided to venture to an island that they had read about in a travel brochure. Just like so many of us, they fell in love with the beauty of Marco Island from the moment they crossed the Jolley Bridge. While exploring the island, they noticed the sign for the Visitors Center at the Marco Island Chamber and decided to stop in. They were welcomed by the dazzling smile and vivacious personality of Chamber volunteer Pat Hagedorn who bestowed them with an abundance of Marco Island tourist information enhanced with sparkling facets of local lore. The Wisse family immediately knew that they had found a friend!
The Wisse family couldn’t wait to come back to their newly found piece of paradise and did so in 2010. Unfortunately, the return visit didn’t start off that well. The house they had rented through an agency based in Sarasota did not measure up to their expectations. It was bad enough that they were uncomfortable in these less than satisfactory conditions, but to add to their misfortune, Marcel’s cell phone had died, leaving him unable to contact the agency for help. Faced with the dilemma of what to do, they decided to go see Pat, their trusted friend at the Chamber. Pat immediately connected them with the Chamber’s Administrative Coordinator, Donna Niemczyk. Donna assisted the family by calling the agency in Sarasota to make sure they found a more suitable vacation rental. According to Marcel Wisse, Donna was persistent in helping them, going above and beyond the call of duty by following up to make sure the family was happy in their new location. They were more than happy and have been coming back ever since!
This year, after their flight from the Netherlands landed in Orlando, the family tooka tour of the panhandle area of Florida. Marcel said “The panhandle was nice, but the people weren’t as friendly as the people of Marco Island!” Doris commented that as they crossed the Jolley Bridge this time, they all said “Ahh, we are home!” During their stay here, they have enjoyed the Dolphin Explorer, shelling on the beach and Rookery Bay. The ladies enjoyed shopping at Miramar Outlets and the various boutiques of Marco Island. The entire family loves going to Subway for lunch, particularly for the opportunity to visit with Nancy, who has also become one of their dear Marco Island friends. Sitting on the lanai of their vacation rental, Doris summed up the simple joy of each day, saying “ I look to the east in the mornings to see the sun as it rises and I look to the west in the evening to watch it set.”
Perhaps the best way to appreciate the magic of our island is to see its beauty through the eyes of youth. Björn Wisse, now 11 years old, remarked on the island’s greatest asset – our people. He was thrilled with the opportunity to meet and converse with friendly members of the Marco Island Police Department as they patrolled the beach. Such fond memories combined with those of his family’s positive experiences with the Chamber of Commerce will live in his heart forever. Björn summed it up best by saying, “When we are getting ready to go on vacation, I don’t say that we are going to Marco Island. I say, ‘We are going to see Pat and Donna!’”
In the Dutch language, the word “kind” means “child.” Pat Hagedorn and Donna Niemczyk are deeply touched and humbled by the kind words of wisdom from this preteen that they once knew as a preschooler. Donna Niemczyk said, “They are a wonderful family. I look forward to their yearly visits!” Referring to her experiences with the Wisse family, Pat Hagedorn added, “It shows what extending the hand of friendship can mean. Marco people are the true heart of our island.” With that sentiment, the definition of “Marco people” can expand to include not just the residents of our island, but our visitors from across the USA and from all corners of the world. We all come together in peace to celebrate life on this little piece of paradise right here on earth.