The Marco Island Shell Club is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization with the mission “to promote the study, conservation, history, and science of seashells and mollusks, and to encourage shell-related interests, such as collecting, crafting and art.”A flower garden of seashells, whimsical shell figurines, holiday ornaments and jewelry galore, were just some of the craft items for sale. Shell Club Workshop Chair Becky Miller was on hand to explain that these treasures were handcrafted at the club workshops held from 9-11:30 AM on Tuesdays, from November to mid-March at the United Church, 320 N. Barfield Drive. But these precious items are more than just knickknacks. Their purpose is one of much greater value. These gorgeous shell creations lead the way to education and conservation.
The proceeds of the holiday sale will be used to fund scholarships and grants. Paulette Carabelli, Shell Club chair of scholarships and grants was there to tell us more: Funds that were raised in the 2016 – 2017 season will fund the research costs for a doctoral student at the University of South Florida’s Department of Integrative Biology with a dedicated interest in ecology and molluscan biology. Endowed scholarship funds will provide one undergraduate research scholarship and one graduate competitive research scholarship in marine and environmental science at Florida Gulf Coast University. And that’s not all! The club will provide two educational grants to Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Originally, one grant was going to underwrite the bus transportation costs for National Estuaries Day in late September. Unfortunately, National Estuaries Day at the Rookery Bay site was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma. Those funds have been redirected to support the building of the Rookery Bay outdoor classroom and to provide supplies for a seventh grade educational program. The other grant will be used to purchase LED microscopes and a projector for a seventh grade classroom on Shell Island Road.Just when I thought I had seen everything there is to see about seashells and this wonderful club, I met Jae Kellogg, chair of the annual Shell Show that will be held on March 8, 9 and 10. With great enthusiasm, she described the upcoming show as an outstanding community event, featuring 150 juried exhibits in scientific and artistic divisions and a “gift shop like no other!” There will even be a special visit by the Love Bug, a VW bug completely adorned with shells! Once again, the proceeds of the annual show will go to the scholarships and grant programs. In addition to the craft workshops, the Marco Island Shell Club offers educational seminars and shelling excursions for members. Membership is open to shell enthusiasts and connoisseurs of all levels of interest and craft expertise. To learn more, please visit www.marcoshellclub.com.