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Scene & Heard


The shelter for abused Women & Children was a distinguished first in hosting a big fundraiser this season. It invited St. John designer Marie Gray to town for the fashion show and fundraiser at The Ritz-Carlton on Nov. 5, and Naples philanthropists Barbara and John Jordan were once again a huge part of making this benefit for the shelter in Naples a huge success. John himself had survived an abusive family situation in his childhood years.



We got more gardens than hats—and a pea soup bonus—at this season’s annual Hats in the Garden fundraiser. The event usually centers on an auction or fashion show, but this time the 350 guests got an afternoon focusing on Naples Botanical Garden. They saw a video of what the gardens will look like when they are finished, and Scott Kapnick, whose late father Harvey was an early donor for the gardens, talked about his father’s vision. Co-chairs Vicky Smith and Karen Scott not only forged a close friendship during their year of planning this fabulous afternoon, but also brought a new level of elegance to the event. Speaking of new levels, the pea soup made by the chefs at The Ritz-Carlton was the best soup I’ve ever tasted at charity lunches. Mmmm. How about the recipe, guys?



You can get a fascinating look at an artist’s creative process by heading out to Ave Maria. On an outdoor space across from the oratory, internationally known sculptor Márton Váró is fashioning a white marble scene that will depict the annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive Jesus Christ. When the massive design is completed, Mary will be 20 feet tall. Credit Ave Maria with great commitment to the arts. Beyond the sculpture-in-progress, there are plans for a foundation for the arts, a school of visual and performing arts, a museum and an endowment for the arts.



Tough times notwithstanding, the good guys in our community still care and still dig generously into their wallets to help those in need. Two recent fundraisers brought this home to me rather dramatically. At the PACE luncheon last November, seeking to help at-risk girls stay in school, we were pitching to get some furniture for one of the success stories. This girl had been through 11 foster homes, graduated from high school, enrolled in college and rented her own apartment. By the time the luncheon was over, the audience had donated enough furniture to furnish apartments for five teenagers. Accountant Gail Markham is the driving force behind this Fort Myers organization. And wouldn’t you know it? Gail was once a PACE girl herself. Congratulations to her for winning the APEX award, given to women in business. 



At the second of these fundraisers, the 2008 National Philanthropy Day luncheon, we got quite an emotional wallop listening to the story of the youth volunteer of the year, Jeanette Arvizu. The daughter of migrant farmers, she is graduating from Immokalee High School with straight As and spends her free time teaching children English at the Guadalupe Center of Immokalee. She spoke movingly about her parents having to move away to find work while she was trying to finish her senior year of high school. She told of her determination to complete her studies and be the first in her family to attend college. No sooner had Jeanette wound up her heart-felt tale than two scholarship offers surfaced—one from Florida Gulf Coast University President Wilson Bradshaw and another from Robert Jones, president of Edison State College’s Lee County campus. You could feel the emotion in the room and the offers bubbling up from those with connections to schools around the country. Quite a kid. Quite a day.



The ronald mcdonald House of Southwest Florida ended up being the big winner in the holiday tree extravaganza at Norris Furniture & Interiors. I helped auction off fabulous trees at the Fort Myers store while FOX 4 anchor Patrick Nolan did the same at the Naples store. We made $45,000 to help the children of sick families.



We got a peek at the latest from the elite design team of Badgley Mischka and … wow! On a lovely November afternoon, Mark Badgley and James Mischka brought their spring line to Jay and Patty Baker’s glorious penthouse overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. About 40 Naples fashionistas, including Marissa Hartington of Marissa Collections, Cynthia Sherman, Jan Goldsmith and Denise Cobb savored a tasty lunch and the spectacular show. Was Jay paying attention? Will we ever see Badgley Mischka stuff showing up in Kohl’s, Jay’s old stomping grounds?



And speaking of wow, do stop by the newly renovated Saks Fifth Avenue store at Waterside Shops. Talk about style! The staff actually had it snow for the glamorous party celebrating its reopening. The event was to benefit Saks’ neighbor, the Naples Philharmonic, and power celebrities Myra Janco Daniels and Bob and Suzanne Chute were among those on hand.

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