Thousands on Marco Island have benefited from the good works of Stan Niemczyk, they just might not realize it.
Sunday night during the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce Christmas Gala at Bistro Soleil, Niemczyk got some recognition for the many hours he has put in to help others. He was named the Marco Island Volunteer of the Year, an award presented by Marco Eagle manager TJ Boone.
Niemczyk is one of “the usual suspects,” the regular group of perennial do-gooders and volunteers who show up at event after event to keep things running smoothly. But his greatest claim to fame is as a music promoter, sort of the Bill Graham of Marco Island. In 2008, he came up with the idea for the Marco Island Seafood & Music Festival, a massive weekend of outdoor concerts, colorful cuisine and community spirit that takes over Veterans Community Park every March.
Realizing that the festival was too big for just one organization to stage, Niemczyk, who was president of the Sunrise Rotary Club, recruited the Noontime Rotary, the island’s other Rotary club, and also the Marco Kiwanis to help sponsor and provide volunteers for the event. It didn’t hurt that Donna Niemczyk, Stan’s wife, was incoming president of the Kiwanis Club, although she deflected all credit back to Stan.
Donna also works full time at the Chamber of Commerce, and Stan said that in years past, she has sometimes tipped him off who the winner of the Volunteer of the Year will be.
“But this year, nothing,” he said, “but I didn’t think anything of it.”
“It’s a once in a lifetime thing. I was going to keep the surprise,” said Donna, “but I did get there the people who needed to be there.” Along with her husband, of course, that meant the couple’s children. They have two girls and a boy.
In unmasking and announcing the 2017 Volunteer of the Year, Boone said he (or she) “changed the scope of fundraising on Marco Island, in order to raise money for local charities and the less fortunate in our community.” The festival he started “has become the largest yearly single event on Marco Island, with some 10,000 visitors annually,” with an all-volunteer staff including the three service clubs plus over 200 additional volunteers. Over the years, the event has raised over $600,000 to help those in need locally.
Niemczyk also works with Meals of Hope “since day one,” is a Paul Harris Fellow with the Rotary Club, and served on the board of the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Foundation.
Stan Niemczyk is a Realtor with the Keller-Williams office on Marco Island, and Hyla Crane, executive director of the Marco Island Association for the Arts, pointed out he does all his charitable endeavors while working full time.
“I’ve known Stan for many years,” said Wanda Day. “He is a really dedicated, great guy, and the guiding force behind the Seafood Festival.”
“Stan is a man of few words, and those spoken very fast,” said Debra Shanahan. “He’s a wonderful person, and will do anything to help.”
“This award has been a long time coming,” said chamber executive director Dianna Dohm. “The Seafood Festival has helped so many people.”
Originally from Elizabeth, New Jersey, Niemczyk grew up in Linden and Tom’s River. He sold his service industry business there to Republic Industries before relocating to Marco Island in 2000.
Ever the promoter, Niemczyk made sure that this year’s festival, “coming up March 23 to 25,” would get a mention, and included a bit of news; they are changing the name.
“Some people just don’t like seafood. There’s always been all kinds of food, but we want to make that clear. So this year, it’s the Marco Island Food and Music Festival,” he said. Look for performances by area standouts the Ben Allen Band, and an Abba tribute group.