Merry Christmas Everyone! I hope you are enjoying family and friends and our wonderful weather, even if the nights are pretty cold. My son T.J. just came down here to visit from Albany, NY, after shoveling snow with his snowblower that was over 3 ft. deep and towered over the snowblower. I’m not sure if there will be room in this column, but I’ve sent a picture over to the Breeze just in case anyone was looking forward to seeing the snow up there.
*My girlfriend Shirlee Barcic, who has lived on Marco for over 40 years, took my son TJ and me to dinner at the newly rebuilt and redecorated gorgeous Hideaway Beach Club the other night. Very sleek looking! As usual, their professional and friendly staff were wonderful, and so was the food! While there, Kathy Auten stopped at our table and chatted with us a little. She and Bob have been great supporters right from the beginning of my career with the County. They never wavered, and although we don’t see Bob much anymore, she was right there as always, warm and friendly.
*In case you were not aware, Rookery Bay, which is located close to Marco Island on Collier Blvd/951, works with the State overseeing all of the 10,000 Islands and estuaries, the wildlife and the surrounding area, to keep it preserved forever! The birds and fish and wildlife abound! I know right now it’s difficult to see things there, but Rookery Bay staff is protecting that area carefully, to make sure nothing affects the nature of the area. Did you know that originally a developer was about to build a road to Marco Island right there, but the Conservancy and Laverne Gaynor’s family put up the money to buy and preserve the area in perpetuity? The State also participates with some minimal financial help, knowledge, and protection. They are down to only a few employees trying to do a yeoman’s work, and volunteers on the fundraising board are working on plans to hold a virtual fundraiser in March. I will mention it a few more times in this column because I sit on their Fund-Raising Board and it is difficult for them to raise money when they are not open to the public, and they don’t have enough funds to spend on lavish invitations, etc., to raise those funds. If any of you out there are fishermen or nature lovers or boaters, kayakers or canoe enthusiasts, this would especially appeal to you.
*The other day I went to the Marco Island Florists—I go there way too often—and found more wonderful gifts that I wanted to send out of state, so over to Sunshine Booksellers on N. Collier Blvd I went to ship my purchases to friends out of state, and just loved that place! It was like a little trove of treasures to look at while you were getting your things ready to ship. I’d never been in that store before, but it had a nice atmosphere. Right now, businesses are busy, but not as busy as last year. The merchants are relieved that people are shopping, but hope to see more as the weeks go by.
*I’m sure many of you know Mike & Marian Harris, who had been long time residents of Marco Island and Mike was a commodore of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Well, Mike sells those little GEM cars that look, in my opinion, like roller skates. He has a place on Davis Blvd., close to the Porsche Dealership, and next to the self-serve car wash. They are cute and compact and easier to park. Last week, Mike got a shipment in of those cute little things and in two days he was sold out! They had their business doors open, but nothing to sell inside. Those little “roller skates” must have something appealing! I’ll have to take a ride in one of them, just to see how they feel on the road.
*Did you know Stan’s in Goodland is now open for lunch Friday, Saturday and Sundays? I don’t know how many of you knew that, but there they are, just waiting for your visit! You just might want to stop by there and say ‘Hi!’ It’s been a long dry spell, and I’m sure they would love to see you again.
*Hmm… lots of tidbits of local news to write about, but nothing major with development going on. A while back, the East Naples Civic Association planned a Retirement Party for yours truly, but with COVID hanging around, they decided to skip it because of safety concerns. Instead, they collected funds and asked me to name a few places the funds could make a difference. I named some schools in the area and they arranged with the principals to deliver gift certificates to families who would otherwise not have Christmas. These are the people no one sees and no one knows about, but the teachers see them and the principles do all they can to help the families. We didn’t see the children; the guidance counselors handled the distribution. Some were in shelters, some were in places that are hidden away from many, but these kids now will have a Christmas to celebrate. I personally want to thank all those who were so kind as to donate! You spread some happiness around the community and I thank you!
*I want to end this column before Christmas with a huge community hug to Mary Beth and the good folks at Alice Sweetwater’s Bar and Grill on Airport Rd near U.S. 41E. Alice’s has been there for over 30 years, and their food is just terrific! I swear I’ve never had a bad meal there, and it’s right around the corner, like the old-time taverns; and it’s become the place where people enjoy meeting other people. Neighbors meeting neighbors! Each year, Mary Beth puts up bare white trees inside the establishment with gift suggestions for the children in that area, and if you know that area, you KNOW those kids have nothing… nothing! I requested and received a few pictures of the gifts people brought in to distribute to the kids in the area. Mary Beth checks out their situation with the nearby schools, and also asks the principals and guidance counselors for information. It isn’t the usual group of people who drive up in the Cadillac or BMW and ask for free stuff. Mary Beth knows the neighborhood, and the people and oversees everything herself! People are so taken aback with the help that is needed, and the fact that they can actually see they are making a difference for these children—although they don’t see the kids themselves—that they give freely, knowing it is going to a good cause. Alice Sweetwater’s and Mary Beth should be given some kind of an award for reaching out to help others, but all she needs is to know is she is helping kids!