MARCO ISLAND — How do you ensure a great turnout for your fundraiser? A hot button local cause, and an elegant, familiar venue are a great start. Throwing in wine and hors d’oeuvres doesn’t hurt, either.
The Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation held an inaugural Nest Fest on Sunday evening at The Art League Marco Island’s Center for the Arts headquarters on Winterberry, to a packed house. The event focused on raising money to protect the eagle habitat at Tract K.
More than 100 people spread their wings to learn more about why eagles are an essential part of the fragile ecosystem of Marco Island. Most importantly the evening focused on protecting land known as Tract K, where a pair of eagles are nesting.
“We have a great turnout tonight,” said Carl Way, chairman of the Marco Island Eagle Sanctuary Foundation. “We basically arranged this event in 45 days, and this whole event was to create founding members.”
When May moved to Marco Island just shy of a year ago from Washington, D.C., he was quickly approached to lead the fledgling non-profit organization, which now boasts more than 30 founding members, who all made financial pledges covering 27 percent of the Foundation’s five-year budget.
“Our financial goal is between one and three million dollars to secure it,” said Way. “The property is not for sale now, but again, our job is to get it ready for the vote.”
Getting it ready for the 2012 election for islanders to vote on what they want the property used for, means his committee will have to secure 1,200 signatures for a referendum.
“Our long term goal is to buy the property or create the funding, and have it available to give it to the City of Marco Island to continue it’s use as a conservation area,” added Way.
Presentations took flight with an eloquent welcome speech by Linda Turner, an original Marco Eagle Sanctuary founder. She introduced speakers Randy McCormick, the environmental manager of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Reserve; Dr. Gerald Swiacki, Marco Eagle Sanctuary PAC president, also serves as the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation vice chair; Carl Way, chairman of the Sanctuary Foundation, and Linda Boston, an original MESF founding member, presented recognition and appreciation to all involved at the conclusion of the evening. Every presentation offered insights into possibilities of development of the eco-park followed by a enthusiastic round of applause from audience members.
For Katrina Canady, a 30-year resident of Marco Island, and a founding member of the Eagle Sanctuary, her role on the foundation is to help children on Marco Island know the critical role of the eagles.
“It was an opportunity for me to work with children, and we designed a ‘Name the Eagle’ contest for elementary school children. The foundation thought it would be great for children to name the eagles. They are going to have the Student Council pick the names, and the contest will be during this month of May,” she said.
“Living on the island as a kid, I remember walking from Tommie Barfield to see the eagles as a field trip,” Canady recalled. “The island is very developed now, and it would be nice for kids to see this again.”
Donna Kahn, a MESF volunteer agreed with Canady. “I love the eagles. I want more green space, too. They are way behind with protecting these birds. I was very excited to volunteer tonight. So many people turned out tonight, and we had so much fun doing it,” said Kahn.
Following the lively presentations, Linda Boston distributed photos of a stoic eagle photographed by Dennis Goodman to everyone in attendance, and recognized the event organizers and Eagle Watch volunteers from the Audubon Society. She also thanked contributors for their continued support of MESF.
Photographer Dennis Goodman donated several of his eagle photos, and Nicole deBusman, on behalf of the Arlington retirement home, donated the wines for the event.
Five lucky founding members also had a chance to win one of five framed prints at the conclusion of the First Annual Nest Fest.
If you would like to learn more about the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation, go to www.marcoeaglesanctuaryfoundation.org.
With additional reporting by Lance Shearer.