Social Register

New + Noteworthy

Stylish new venues, celebrity appearances, new nonprofits—the social season is back with a force, offering plenty of reasons to give with gusto.

BY September 1, 2021
(Autograph Collection; Courtesy Dave Sansom)


You’ll fundraise in style at these new venues.

Starry Nights
Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center debuts its long-awaited rooftop bar.

(Photo by Brian Tietz)

In Fort Myers, Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center is reenergizing the downtown scene with its highly anticipated Sidney’s Rooftop Sculpture Garden, which debuted in May. “When I got the building in ’03, I came up here on the roof and said, ‘This is going to be a sculpture garden someday,’” CEO and executive director James Griffith says. Complete with a stage for live entertainment, a full bar and a kitchen, the rooftop is the cherry on top of this now-five-level museum, cultural center and event space. Sculptures and murals dot the 2,400-square-foot rooftop, which lords over the Historic District with views out to the Caloosahatchee River. Look out for artworks by local artists, such as Brian Weaver, Caesar Aguilar, Mariapia Malerba and Lawrence Voytek (Robert Rauschenberg’s go-to metalworker for 30 years), as well as international artists like Rainer Lagemann, who donated the Climbers scaling the building’s wall. To keep things fresh, Griffith says sculptures will be swapped every year and live music, which goes until midnight every Friday night, will feature a mix of local bands and DJs. —Jaynie Bartley

+ 3 More Buzzy Debuts 

Ferrari of Naples
With soaring ceilings for killer acoustics, a swanky bar and lounge, and shiny cars to set the scene, this space is perfect for creative events like the live painting demonstrations at Legal Aid’s Art Aid Naples fundraiser last April. This season, the doors open to a slate of nonprofits, including Avow’s Charity Adventure in February, as well as events for Gulfshore Opera and The Shelter for Abused Women & Children.

(Courtesy Ferrari)

Caloosa Sound Convention Center & Amphitheatre
Another gem from the Luminary Hotel Co. along the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers, the center has a stylish, 30,000-square-foot ballroom that can accommodate up to 3,000 guests and be divided into five spaces. There’s also a dramatic entry fit for a red carpet welcome and an outdoor stage slated for completion in 2022. Food and drinks come from the hotel’s culinary team.

Arthrex One
Tucked away in the sprawling Naples-based medial campus, this indoor-outdoor space, with a lake view, is perfect for alfresco functions like the Opera Naples gala—which returns this February after being the first to utilize the space last season. There’s also a cafeteria on-site for catering services and staff to keep the drinks flowing all night long.



Three inaugural fundraisers take place on the green.

(Courtesy Dave Sansom)

For the Love of Golf

In a place with more golf holes per capita than anywhere in the country, many of the liveliest fundraising efforts happen on the course. And this season, there are three new charity golf tournaments worth teeing up for.

The most anticipated is the Naples inaugural SWFL Celebrity Golf Invitational (Nov. 19–21), in which participants pair up with celebs to play the two-day tournament at the lauded Bonita Bay Club. Hosted by 16-year PGA TOUR Champions member and Bonita Springs resident Peter Jacobsen, the event benefits St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Festivities also include a jam concert featuring founding member of R.E.M., Mike Mills, Creed’s Scott Stapp and other rock legends—plus, a dinner with a live auction and an awards banquet.

Also in Naples, golf meets progressive dining at the First Annual Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA) Collier Golf Classic (Oct. 28), with food and drink stands at each hole of the Hammock Bay Golf & Country Club’s Audubon Gold-certified course. Sponsorships benefit the FRLA Educational Foundation of Collier County, which provides hospitality training for high school students.

And in November, celebrate national heroes at the Inaugural 2021 Veterans Honor Invitational (Nov. 10–11) at Tiburón Golf Club. A dinner with live auction precedes the event, which benefits three organizations that assist local veterans and The  Lucas Cup Foundation for kids with diabetes, run by one-time PGA TOUR winner, Mark Lye, who is helping put on the event.  —Zahra Khan



Major stars headline some of the biggest parties of the season. 

(Courtesy Gravina, Smith, Matte & Arnold/Gulfshore Playhouse)

“I had the privilege of seeing Rita Moreno speak at the Kennedy Center and I have never forgotten the experience. Beyond her talent and cultural status, Rita is a passionate believer in the impact and benefit of the arts. I know our guests will leave feeling as inspired and invigorated by her words, as I was all those years ago,” Gulfshore Playhouse founder, Kristen Coury, says.

Casting Call

While there’s always star talent on the roster for local philanthropy events, this year the nonprofit teams are outdoing themselves. The glitterati start to arrive in November when Broadway icon RITA MORENO serves as the keynote speaker for Gulfshore Playhouse’s Rising Stars: An Afternoon on the Red Carpet event (Nov. 15) at Arthrex One. Then, also at the Arthrex campus, NAMI Collier County welcomes actor and mental health advocate  ZAK WILLIAMS, the son of the late and great actor Robin Williams, for a speech and fireside chat at the annual Hope Shines Luncheon (Dec. 10). And, early next year, the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (CMON) hosts a superhero-themed bash (Feb. 19) with Captain America star CHRIS EVANS—who’s been known to visit kids in hospitals around the country and also runs a civic engagement platform, A Starting Point, to bridge gaps in political discourse. —J.B.



Nonprofits and donors rally in support of learning—and that’s reaping big gains for children in Southwest Florida.

(Courtesy Guadalupe Center/van Otterloo Family Campus for Learning)

Higher Learning

Though education isn’t a new focus for philanthropy, support for it has intensified since the pandemic’s adverse effects on kids and learning. That’s in part why The Naples Children & Education Foundation chose education—which includes early learning, out-of-school time, and career and college readiness—as its fund-a-need recipient for the 2022 Naples Winter Wine Festival.

The support toward education is majorly paying off for local kids, as institutions debut expanded spaces and immersive programs. One of those is the new Learning Lab from The Immokalee Foundation ­—within its Career Pathways Program—which prepares high schoolers for careers in fields with high paying, in-demand jobs in Southwest Florida. The Learning Lab offers hands-on training that can lead to industry-necessary certificates and job opportunities. The first lab has kids in The Engineering & Construction Management and Business Management & Entrepreneurship Pathways working with BCB Homes and Stofft Cooney Architects to build an 18-home subdivision in Immokalee, where more than 37% of residents live in poverty and 5% of adults have bachelor’s degrees (compared to a respective 8% and 57% in nearby Naples). Profits from sales of the homes go toward funding future builds.

Donors and organizations are also spending large to create attractive, functional spaces that stimulate learning and confidence. Last year, the Heights Foundation completed its $11.8 million Early Learning and Education Center, which houses programs for kids ages 0 to 12, split among three floors. With a modern design by RG Architects, the Fort Myers center has light-filled classrooms, art and music labs, and a terrace with hydroponic and aquaponic gardens. Children realize the importance of their accomplishments when surrounded by the generosity of their community, Debra Mathinos, the program officer, says: “They realize they’re worth it.”

In Naples, Champions for Learning, a nonprofit known for its college readiness programs and Golden Apple teacher awards, expands with The Frank and Ellen Daveler Center For Innovation in Learning, completed in August. The $500,000 donation from its namesake allowed the group to move into the rest of the first-floor space it occupies and create flexible areas for brainstorming, meetings and programs, with a focus on entrepreneurship development. 

Next spring, look out for the Guadalupe Center’s stunning van Otterloo Campus for Learning, which was aided by a $5 million gift from Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo. Situated on 9.5 acres, donated by Barron Collier Companies, it’s the fourth campus for the group in Immokalee, where they will now be able to serve 1,800 students annually. Designed by Naples-based architect David Corban, the campus has a learning lab, mentor lounges, communal areas with sunken seating and outdoor gardens, a separate building for the high school Tutor Corps program, and medical and dental suites for cost-free, routine care for the students. “It’s a blessing to connect with the children and help them have endless opportunities so they can do anything, go anywhere,” Kelly Krupp, the organization’s vice president of philanthropy, says. “To see that in action is a powerful and beautiful thing.” —Z.K.

+ More Feel-Good News

Nonprofit expansions, new causes to support and more reasons to celebrate local philanthropy.

(Courtesy Valerie’s House X3)

On the Rise 

After a year of hardships and reinventions, local nonprofits demonstrate their resilience—and stunning support base—as many come back stronger with debuts and expansions.

In addition to all the growth among education-driven groups, like Guadalupe Center and the Heights Foundation, there have been gains for healthcare nonprofits. NCH Healthcare System has certainly given us plenty to talk about with its Judith & Marvin Herb Family Simulation Center, expanded Whitaker Wellness Center and its rise as a world-class cardiology center.

Also in Naples, David Lawrence Center is growing to meet the need for mental health services in our area. Last year, they debuted a certified addiction recovery residence for men, and now, the team is planning a $25 million facility—slated for fall of 2023—near its Golden Gate campus that will greatly expand inpatient services.

In caring for local kids, Golisano Children’s Hospital debuted a pediatric eye clinic with support from a $3 million pledge from SWFL Children’s Charities. The new clinic, just a few miles away from the hospital, helps reduce wait times for appointments, which at one point were as long as nine months. And, Valerie’s House, which provides services for children who have lost a loved one, has already outgrown two different houses in Fort Myers since starting in 2016. In November, construction begins on an Old Florida-style forever home that will nearly triple the size of its space, with a cheery design by South Florida Architecture.

Similarly, Naples Senior Center continues to elevate the support it provides for seniors in our community by building a 30,000-square-foot facility that more than doubles the space of its previous home. Look for it to open in fall 2022.

There’s plenty to celebrate among the arts, too, including the highly anticipated Gulfshore Playhouse cultural campus and The Naples Players’ planned overhaul of the Sugden Community Theatre—a $15 million renovation that will add balcony seating to the proscenium and allow for a second black box theater. And we hear that’s just the tip of the iceberg for our arts community. —Justin Paprocki

Food for Thought

St. Matthew’s House opens LuLu’s Kitchen with fresh eats and job training opportunities.

(Courtesy St. Matthew’s House/Naples Kenny Photography)

Last October, LuLu’s Kitchen at St. Matthew’s House—the homeless shelter and feeding ministry that also offers addiction recovery services—opened in East Naples. The complex is home to St. Matthew’s existing programs: The Culinary Training Institute of Southwest Florida and Delicious by Design catering kitchen, plus the new from-scratch eatery The Fresh Start Café, which employs grads from the culinary program.

Naples contractors Connor & Gaskins Unlimited built the 8,000-square-foot space, complete with a commercial kitchen, a dining room with flexible seating and a drive-thru that serves Starbucks coffee along with breakfast and lunch.

Liz Morris, the director of hospitality for the nonprofit, says the hub not only creates jobs, but also provides culinary and management training to prepare people aided by the shelter for careers in other areas of the hospitality industry. The center’s sous chef Ryan Schank’s journey is a prime example: Since getting sober, he’s started developing his culinary skills with the goal of becoming an executive chef.  —J.B.


For Girls and Women: Alliance for Period Supplies of SWFL
Since 2019, this Naples-based, all-volunteer chapter of the national organization has distributed more than 1 million pads to local women and girls who can’t afford feminine hygiene products.

For the Service Industry: Hope for Hospitality
During the COVID-19 shutdowns, chef Don Splain delivered meals to fellow hospitality workers. Now, he’s helping the hard-hit community by fundraising for an emergency-need fund that covers urgent costs like medical expenses and car repairs.

For Families: Myles’ Message
After her son was diagnosed with Down syndrome, Lehigh Acres mom Maddie Levy created this resource that delivers thorough information and connects families to build support networks and help parents cope with the condition that can be hard to understand at first and navigate. —Samantha Garbarini

Travel For Good

Fort Myers’ father-daughter duo Brad and Megan Maloney teamed up with family friend Keith Hudson (singer Katy Perry’s father) to launch Charity Pro Travel, an online travel agency with a built-in fundraising platform that donates up to 50% of commissions to the traveler’s chosen nonprofit. It doesn’t cost anything extra to book—but you can sign up for hotel deals with a $10 annual donation.

Nonprofit leaders can register their organization and invite donors to book travel that will benefit the cause.

Beyond the agency, the Maloneys fundraise through their The Charity Pro’s nonprofit, which hosts benefit concerts, including its first live event this November. The three-city tour (Nov. 20–23)—with stops in Fort Myers, Orlando and Hollywood—benefits first responders and kids who lost parents during the pandemic. As the organization grows, they’re also looking to pair with local children’s charities. “So many organizations missed out on a year of raising money, we just want to help make a difference,” Megan says. —J.B.

(Getty Image)


Related Images: