September 1, 2014
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From the Editor

The Welcome Comes in Many Forms.

Just in town from Michigan and want to get married on the beach today?

We can help.

Can’t find your way to the Edgewater Beach Hotel by car?

Follow me.

Looking for a nude beach?

Well, no luck there, but we can point you to a nudist resort here.

To get in the spirit for this issue— where we target visitors as well as our local readers—I dropped in on the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Center for a sense of what our guests wish for here. I thus had the pleasure of quizzing two volunteers, Bob Raymond and Glenna Thompson, who responded to the challenges above. They’re frontline ambassadors for our paradise—resourceful, kind and madly in love with Naples—and, boy, do they have stories and insights about the parade of life passing before them. In season, some 5,000 folks a month drop in at the Fifth Avenue South center with questions and requests.

Glenna took care of the lovebirds from Michigan by first sending them to the courthouse for the necessary papers and then recommending Lowdermilk Beach for saying their vows. “She already had her white dress on when she came in to see us,” recalls Glenna.

Bob helped the frustrated couple get to their Edgewater Beach Hotel by having them follow him in his car. “It was on my way home anyway,” Bob says, “and I know how difficult it can sometimes be to spot the sign for the hotel.”

As for the nude beach request, Bob knew there isn’t one here—“I’d have to send them to Miami for that”— but discovered a nudist resort, Southern Exposure of Naples, as a possible alternative.

Before telling more tales of their personal encounters, Bob and Glenna gave me some background on the center’s operation and shared some general observations about what they’re seeing lately. They’re two of 100 volunteers serving visitors. Pulling from the entire roster, the center can communicate in eight languages. Bob and Glenna bragged particularly about Harriet Stein, who speaks five foreign languages. We get a lot of European tourists, many now younger couples with babies plus small clusters of 20s and 30s traveling together. Bob and Glenna mused over how Europeans tend not to make hotel reservations before arriving here and also how many love to explore the Everglades. The center volunteers pride themselves on having answers for just about everything coming their way and have lists of suggestions for things to do on rainy, cloudy or cool days, activities for entertaining grandchildren, and itineraries for day, half-day, three-hour or one-hour excursions.

Meanwhile, they field the more unusual requests as well. Glenna got a call from a woman in Montreal, asking, “Do you have any good single guys down there? I didn’t find any on a trip to Miami.” “Are you looking for under 55s—or over?” Glenna asked. “Over,” she said. “I referred her to some singles clubs here,” says Glenna, “and will always wonder how she made out.” Lisa Swirda, now the chamber’s director of member relations, once served as a resource for visitors and recalls a situation that brought her to tears. “A couple from Germany rented a home here through the Internet and, when they arrived, discovered the place boarded up and in foreclosure. “The best I could do,” Lisa says, “was to find them a nice hotel—and send them to the sheriff to pursue their case.” On a happier note, she says, she once got a request for a bagpiper for a wedding and found one just like that.

Yes, the volunteers can keep their visitors tuned in to the joys of Southwest Florida. These happy ambassadors confess that many locals, too, stop by for tips on plumbers, painters, realtors and more. As you can see, they’re ever-ready with answers. Give ‘em a try, if need be.

NEW PUBLISHER

We’re delighted to welcome Ray Paprocki as our new leader. Ray is an award-winning communicator and brand strategist who focused on content, marketing and publishing matters while editor of Columbus Monthly magazine, columbusmonthly.com and 10 niche publications. “I look forward to becoming part of this dynamic region of Southwest Florida,” he says. Count on seeing Ray a lot this season as he goes for total immersion in our paradise.

—David Sendler

 

 

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