By Adria Starkey
Co-Chair, 2014 Naples Winter Wine Festival
Since its inception in 2000, the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF) has been in the business of raising and allocating significant funding to improve the lives of underprivileged and at-risk children in Collier County. The vast majority of the funds have come from the foundation’s signature annual event, the Naples Winter Wine Festival, from which all auction proceeds go directly to charity.
In the 13 festivals held so far, more than $110 million has been generated, and more than 150,000 children have experienced important educational, physical and behavioral changes as a result. Nearly two and a half million meals have been served to the hungry. Every child in a Title I school who needs eyeglasses is receiving two pairs through the NCEF Mobile Vision Program. More than 15,000 annual patient visits occur at the NCEF Pediatric Dental Clinic.
And so much more.
As we look to our future, we realize that it is critical that we sustain, and even build, our level of support. Where would the children of Collier County be without it? To accomplish this lofty objective, we recognize that we need to broaden our base of support to include the larger Collier County community.
We expect that for the near term, the wine festival will remain the source of the lion’s share of funding, and we will need to assure strong leadership for it. But we also will need to look beyond this one event, and to embrace those who may want to help in other ways.
One program we have started to this end is a committee formed by the board called Friends of the Foundation. Comprised of next-generation philanthropists and co-chaired by Brandie Dixon LaFond and Sandra Edwards, this group has set a goal of raising $100,000 this year to support the work of the NCEF.
An equally if not more important objective is to raise the awareness of the real needs of the 63 percent of Collier County children living below the poverty line, and of the significant impact that NCEF programs make in addressing these needs.
The members of this group, who are largely young professionals, have put together a schedule of events that will spread the word about the work of NCEF and its seven long-term strategic initiatives. Their efforts to generate funding also will make a difference in the lives of local children.
Following their successful September Chef Cook-Off event, they will host a kick-off party at Hamilton Harbor Yacht Club on Nov. 7, and a signature event called The Grape Celebration on April 5.
Also, the Friends of the Foundation have begun a monthly Tuesday with Friends social hour every first Tuesday. The venue will rotate, but in each case a suggested $20 donation will help support the effort. Next up is Nov. 5 from 5-7 p.m. at the newly remastered DUSK at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples.
You can become a Friend of the Foundation at a cost of $500; sponsorships of the Friends also are available at levels ranging from $2,500 to $15,000.
Current sponsors include, at the platinum level, Carnival Corp. and Comerica Bank; at the silver level, Florida Builder Appliances, Gulfshore Life Magazine, Hill Barth & King, LLC, HBKS Wealth Advisors and Paradise Furnishings; and at the bronze level, Coleman Yovanovich Koester, Moorings Park and PNC Wealth Management.
Specifics of events and sponsorships, including benefits allocated, are available at www.friendsofthefoundation.com.
Friends of the Foundation is just the beginning of our outreach to our community. In coming months we will share details on other ways you can be involved in helping to achieve our mission: to support effective, disciplined charitable programs that significantly improve the physical, emotional and educational lives of underprivileged and at-risk children in Collier County, Florida.
From all of us at the Naples Children & Education Foundation and the Naples Winter Wine Festival, and on behalf of all of the children who benefit, thank you for your interest and your consideration.