Saturday, June 12, 2021

Volunteers are the Backbone of Our Community

Coastal Comments

Donna Fiala with Dave Weinbach, one of the top pickleball players in the U.S. | Submitted Photo

Good news! In case you haven’t noticed, or in case you have already gone up north, the lights across the Jolley Bridge are now all lighted! It’s been quite a wait, and many folks were starting to get impatient. I noticed though, that the lights on the older section of the bridge are all rather dim, yellow looking lights, which makes me wonder if they were the type of lights we had originally, and the lights on the other side of the bridge (the new side) were all very bright white, possibly they were LED lights? When you face the bridge you can see the stark difference between one side and the other, but at least we have lights now. That took about one year and seven months to repair. Quite a long time. Possibly because there was so much severe damage to the top of the state that needed to be addressed first, but at least ours is now in working order.

  • Congratulations to Royal Wood Country Club for their Country Club Ground Breaking! From all that we saw, it will be a more spacious facility with many more amenities. Everyone looked very pleased with the drawings. I’ve been told that even their restaurant will be enlarged. I’m sure all will be very pleased.
  • The County transportation officials and yours truly were invited to the Forest Glen community to discuss the eyesore at the “Skeleton Building” on Davis Boulevard and 951, and their encouragement to change the impression people have when driving into Collier County off Exit 101, to be a more inviting, welcoming area. It looks like the Benderson people who own that property don’t know the concern felt by the residents in the area, but the people at Forest Glen are hoping this meeting will encourage the Benderson Company to be more considerate to the area and to the residents and visitors. When you think that 10,000 spectators and players just came into town to participate in the Pickleball U.S. Open, and the first greeting they have is the Benderson property and half built facility, you would hope that Benderson will improve the appearance of that property sooner rather than later. Also, Forest Glen discussed the overpass which will be coming to that area in just a few years, and FDOT was there to get their comments and hear their concerns, and take them back to headquarters. I thought it was great that FDOT would come down to actually listen to the residents before they build rather than afterward. I think they heard many great suggestions to take back to headquarters. The Forest Glen people also stressed strongly about the need for median landscaping for their area, but right now the landscaping stops just before their area, which is not making them very happy.
  • Did you know there is a Master Gardener program and volunteer opportunity with the IFAS Extension Service in Collier County, where you can learn to grow in our soil (sand) and how to grow different types of trees and flowers and when to fertilize and water, etc.? The volunteers for that program attended a luncheon to thank them for all their service and received some nice plants as prizes. As I said to this group: Volunteers are the life blood of our community and our service organizations and not-for-profit charities, plus other organizations such as the hospitals, sheriff’s office, libraries, museums, schools, etc. Our volunteers (many of whom leave for the summer and we can truly feel the difference) are the backbone to our community, and volunteering is also a way for people to socialize and meet others with the same interests. For those who haven’t had a chance to meet people yet… call an agency that you really admire or enjoy and volunteer to work for them a few hours a week. You’ll meet terrific people who have the same interests as you and talk the same language.
  • Speaking of volunteers: There were over 500 volunteers at the pickleball games and park! And these volunteers didn’t know when to quit! They would show up at 6:30 AM (some got there earlier, by the way) and stay until after most people were gone, as they prepared the park for the next day’s festivities and games. Usually volunteers work three or four hour shifts, and of course you could do that here, but THESE volunteers worked the entire day and into the night! There is a family of one of the U.S. Open officials named Chris, a hard worker herself, who’s three brothers (Tom, Jerry and Tim) all work there each day, every day even before the games begin, and all those crazy hours from before dawn till after sundown, and they all have a smile on their faces for everyone! I shake my head in amazement! Then of course you have Jim Ludwig, Carol Caefer and Terri Graham who have no idea what the word “stop” is! They just work and work and are always there for whatever concerns are raised. Now I’ve only mentioned a few, but I could mention Gloria and George Kas from Chicago, who don’t come here during season but come to volunteer for pickleball and St. Matthew’s House, Naples Botanical Garden, St. Peter’s Church, and Freedom Waters out of season! They come here off season to volunteer! Oh, and by the way, Gloria bakes for us as well. She baked a different wonderful dessert each day from cookies to others, but the baklava is LIKE NO OTHER! And they, like all the other volunteers, always are helpful, friendly, courteous, and work like Trojans! We have so many of these people like Debbie, and Jeanette, and oh my goodness, I just cannot name all the hundreds, but they are all more than terrific! I try to spend time there every day at the park to do my part, but I still have to work at the office as well, so I pale in their presence. The Kiwanians, especially Bill Ricigliano, Ted DeGroot, Daryl Mattison and Joe Paterno were there constantly. Now there were so many others, but I just wanted you to take a peek at the backbone of our community and our major sports event ever, right there at the East Naples Community Park, the Pickleball Capital of the World! That’s so much fun to write about!
  • On the last day of the U.S. Open, Jim Ludwig, the event director for the U.S. Open, met with a gentleman named Howard Goldberg who told him that he wanted to bring a 101-year-oldveteran to the pickleball game, and he was hoping he could find a seat for the gentleman that wouldn’t be difficult for him to get to. Jim said to bring the gentleman to the game, and he’d be waiting for him at the entrance. When the veteran, Abe Brown, arrived with Howard, Jim Ludwig met them and ushered them over to a seat in the Gold Box section. Once seated, Jim signaled someone in the sound booth, who introduced the 101-year-old Veteran and then started playing the recording by Lee Greenwood, “God Bless the USA,” and people stood, cheered, applauded and saluted this veteran while everyone sang, “Proud to be An American.” It was a real tear jerker and goose-pimple-y moment for everyone, especially the kindly gentleman receiving the recognition.
  • Did I tell you I was invited to a mermaid party at a home near the pier? Some people dressed up like mermaids, and a couple mermaids showed up with extra props like floating in a huge bubble on the water, etc. All I can say was it was lots of fun and lots of laughs.
  • I’ll be back in two weeks to bring you up to date on new stuff, but next week there is an Aqua Ball sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Greater Collier to be held at the Naples Hilton to raise funds to give children swimming lessons and life saving techniques. Child drowning is a major concern in an area where there is water everywhere, including the Gulf of Mexico, swimming pools and other people’s homes. The more kids learn to swim, the safer our community will be. Contact Terri Ballo if you are interested in attending (

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