Southwest Florida’s charities are growing, breaking ground and defying expectations. Naples Botanical Garden blooms into a new season this fall with the construction of its $15.5 million Evenstad Horticulture Campus to expand its seed bank and research endeavors. Meanwhile, after receiving a $100,000 grant, Alliance for the Arts goes off campus this month with its Family Art Labs, which offers pop-ups at Lee County community centers to provide activities inspired by their exhibitions. This month, Alliance also creates a Digital Art Lab, which offers free classes to everyone from middle school students to senior citizens in programs and skills like Photoshop, filmmaking and 3D modeling. The goal is to enhance digital literacy and provide career opportunities and technological access across the county. In Collier County, Rob Moher, CEO and president of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, debuts the Southwest Florida Music Education Center in collaboration with the Berklee College of Music. The center will operate out of Artis—Naples until its building on Naples’ Hodges University campus is renovated (to the tune of $10 million) and opens in the fall of 2024. The school provides 2- or 4-year music certificates that serve as a high school transition program and a post-secondary program for neurodivergent adults, ages 18 to 30. And, also in the education sphere, the renamed Jay and Patty Baker’s Preschool of the Arts, which exposes pre-K kids to all aspects of the art world, breaks ground on a 17,000-square foot expansion with the Chabad of Naples, to be completed in 2024.
Generosity is flowing as nonprofits report record-breaking fundraising: Collier Community Foundation (CCF) distributed over $43 million in grants, up from $33 million last year; Saint Ann School Foundation raised $11.3 million for scholarships in 18 months (they were aiming for $7.5 million in 24); and Boys & Girls Club Lee County raised more than $1 million before they even launched their $2.5 million campaign for a new club. Groups reached big milestones at galas, too, with Naples Children & Education Foundation bringing in $22 million in January, STARability Foundation raising $3.2 million at its event, and Gulfshore Playhouse, Naples Zoo and Conservancy of Southwest Florida closing their galas with more than $2 million each. Many of these were aided by matching gifts, like Julia Van Domelen, and Denny and Tanya Glass matching earnings at Zoo Gala, Patty and Jay Baker at Gulfshore Playhouse’s gala and the Richard M. Schulze Foundation matching CCF’s Give Where You Live campaign. Let’s raise our paddles high and keep it going for the 2022-2023 season.