“When my mother passed away three years ago, I not only lost my mom, my then-8-year-old daughter, Ellen, also lost her grandmother.
Myma, as my daughter called her, lived 6 miles from our home and was a constant presence in Ellen’s life. After my mother passed, Ellen attended grief counseling at her school with counselor Nancy Ruben, who often works with Avow Kids, an NCEF-funded grief counseling program. There, a path opened for her to share stories about her grandmother and grieve in a supportive atmosphere. Together, they made a memory box filled with mementos. The program had an incredibly positive impact on Ellen and, in turn, on me. At the time, it was hard for me to talk to my daughter about my mother’s passing because I was filled with my own grief. Avow broke the barrier. It allowed Ellen to dive into feelings and emotions, something I couldn’t do without help. Now, it’s rare that a week goes by without one of us saying, ‘Remember when Myma did this or that?’
I have consistently seen how NCEF helps young kids and families like mine. My longtime connection to NCEF began in 2001 when I volunteered at the first Naples Winter Wine Festival. That year, it was held in a tent on the property of what became The Ritz-Carlton Naples, Tiburón. The hotel hadn’t been built yet; the Festival was a far cry from the grand, multiday event it is now. Seeing how NWWF produces necessary funding for programs in the community has motivated me to come back and provide support year after year.
I have volunteered at every festival since, from working the registration table to stuffing invitations to manning the gift shop. I even volunteered when I was seven months pregnant with Ellen. I love greeting donors at the registration table.
When I first volunteered in 2001, I was on staff at the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County. During my eight years there, the organization went from helping 150 kids on one campus to more than 3,000 kids across two campuses, thanks to NCEF’s support. I’ve continued to work for more NCEF-supported sites, including YMCA of Collier County and Guadalupe Center. For the past 10 years, I’ve served as director of community engagement and district initiatives for Collier County Public Schools. Through it all, I’ve seen NCEF’s benefit to the students is immeasurable.
In my role with the school district, I bring attention to the educational efforts and needs of our schools. Recently, I discovered the school’s staff had concerns about the student’s mental health, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. NCEF took the concern seriously. Thanks to its ability to build connections between organizations, the team was able to call upon a mental health professional to provide training to staff members. It was an immediate, mobilized response to a growing need. It’s clear NCEF makes a difference, not just with children, but with organizations that support them, paving the way for them to communicate and help each other.