Sue Reed, Meghan Israel, ErinMia Milchman, Cheryl Petrich, Pat Rutledge, Sharon Scholl Nabulsi, Lynn Polk and Linda Larsen. Above Left: ErinMia Milchman Photos by Maureen Chodaba
“I t began with two ladies sitting on a bench,” said Erika Kozar as she looked back on the original idea that sparked “Food, Fun and Fashion,” an event that was recently held at the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa. Kozar, of Chico’s, the women’s clothing and accessories store located in the Marco Walk Plaza, recalled the days of this past summer when she and Robyn Beasley, then of neighboring store Swim ‘N Sport, gazed across Collier Boulevard at the Hilton, wondering what could be done to increase their business activity in the off-season months. The two stores were experiencing the typical slowdown of the summer, while the Hilton was recovering from an electrical fire and flooding incident that occurred back in June.
Michelle Gabriel, Debbie Kelly, Donna Dubey, Jaye Spencer and Kathy Lauber
At the time, Kozar and Beasley never dreamed that a bad girl named Irma would be making a visit to Marco Island on September 10. Irma wasn’t coming to shop at the stores or stay at the Hilton, but she was coming nonetheless and would leave her mark on everything and everyone in her path. Swim ‘N Sport would end up closing in the aftermath of Irma, while Chico’s closed temporarily due to power outages. The island and surrounding areas would suffer damage and many setbacks. But thankfully, there would be a group formed to fight back against Irma and help restore this beautiful island to its original state. It would be a group of true patriots with a message to Irma that we are Marco Strong!
It began as a way of registering those who chose to stay on Marco Island during Hurricane Irma. Founded by Captain Ron Hagerman, Matthew Melican and ErinMia Milchman, the Marco Patriots were a light in the darkness for many by way of their Facebook page and Zello app. This philanthropic group of volunteers has continued to grow in members and in their efforts. They have supported those who were affected by Hurricane Irma in Marco Island, Goodland, Everglades City, Chokoloskee and Copeland by delivering vital supplies, assisting in clean-up and providing other disaster relief efforts.
Robert Marcil of the Hilton
Chico’s is up and running again, offering the finest in women’s stylish apparel. Although the Hilton’s guest rooms are still closed due to recovery efforts from their fire and flooding (unrelated to Irma), their restaurant and bar are open and serving great food and your favorite cocktails. Chico’s and the Hilton joined forces to showcase their food and fashion while honoring the Marco Patriots with this fabulous event. A packed house of 260 women and men enjoyed a delicious buffet, happy hour drink prices and a live fashion show. Representatives from the Hilton Spa were on hand with a display of their products and services, while photographer Joey Waves was there to sign his book, “Marco Island and the Everglades.”
Robyn Beasley and Erika Kozar shout, “We did it!”
Local residents Sue Reed, Linda Larsen, Sharon Scholl Nabulsi, Cheryl Petrich, Pat Rutledge, Lynn Polk, Meghan Israel, and Marco Patriots founder ErinMia Milchman modeled the latest in Chico’s fall fashion line. These beautiful ladies rocked the room with their fashion forward style and sophistication. It was a fabulous evening of fun and fellowship for all in attendance.
Two 50-50 drawings doubled the fun and funds, as both winners generously donated the money back to the Marco Patriots. Perhaps the most wonderful part of the evening was when interim General Manager of the Hilton, Robert Marcil took the podium to thank all who came out to support the cause. It was originally stated that half of the event’s proceeds would be donated to the Marco Patriots. Marcil surprised the crowd with the good news that 100% of the funds raised that evening would be donated to the Marco Patriots to facilitate the continuation of their good works!
Great supporters of the Marco Patriots
To learn more about the Marco Patriots, please visit and “like” their Facebook page. Be sure to stop by to say hello to Erika at Chico’s, located at 599 S. Collier Blvd. in the Marco Walk. She can assist you with all your fashion needs. After that, take a walk across Collier Boulevard for a cocktail and delicious meal at The Deck at 560, the Hilton’s fabulous restaurant. Let’s support those who have supported us with their generous efforts to keep Marco Strong!
Melissa Phillips of Avow Hospice, Andrew Neubauer of the Hilton and Jada Shigley of JW Marriott Marco Island
Sharon Scholl Nabulsi, Pat Rutledge, Linda Larsen and Sue Reed
Billie Maine, Cindy Crane and Susie Walsh
Joey Waves signs his book for fans.
Annette Mennella and Maureen Gold share a moment with new friend Roseann.
Laverne Leahy, Susan Lamonica and Sharon Hemmer sample the delicious food.
Debbie Donovan and Laura Lorusso of the Hilton Spa.