Citizen of the year: Neil Snyder honored for community contributions

Lance Shearer

It is said that charity begins at home, and Neil Snyder is an ideal illustration of the principle.

Snyder was honored as the Naples Daily News Marco Island Citizen of the Year for 2017 during the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce Christmas Gala, with the emphasis on the good works he has done out in the community, but what he does at home is no less impressive.

Stan Niemczyk, left, and Neil Snyder, Marco Island Volunteer and Citizen of the Year. Lance Shearer/Special to the Naples Daily News

Neil Snyder and his wife Rebecca Hodge are partners in both life and work, the two principals of the Law Offices of Hodge and Snyder, with offices on Marco Island and in Naples. At home, they are foster parents to two siblings, a 10-year-old girl and her four-year-old brother, who is nonverbal and deals with autism.

“We’ve had two ‘bonus children’ continuously in our home for the past year, as well as several children on a temporary basis,” said Neil.

The couple also has what Snyder called seven “fur babies” – a Shih Tzu named Alvin, a Westie named Skipper, two Siamese cats named Suki and Sumo and a Persian cat named Toffee. Finally they have two African Grey parrots named Sweetie and Toby. Five of the seven babies are rescues, and they take Alvin, Skipper, Toffee, Sweetie and Toby to their law office every morning and back home every night.  

Neil Snyder in his law office. Snyder was named Marco Island Citizen of the Year in a Chamber of Commerce gala Sunday night.

Alvin became a Snyder family member when Neil was serving as a judge at the Christmas Island Style Holiday Pet Parade, when the Shih Tzu, he said, “had a sign saying, ‘I need a home,’ ” and a melting gaze. Snyder once again took on the pet judging this year, which is perhaps a minor community contribution, but does entail braving the wrath of scorned proud pet parents.

Snyder is best known for his work with Meals of Hope, the Collier County-based food charity that has supplied millions of meals to feed the surprising number of local residents who regularly don’t get enough to eat. Known for years as “Capt. Hope,” Neil has been a tireless booster of the group, organizing fundraising events, getting groups involved, and coordinating the massive meal packing events, when volunteers come together and assemble meals that are provided to local food banks and charitable groups. In presenting the Citizen of the Year award, Marco Eagle manager TJ Boone said Snyder has a “hunger” for helping those in need.

Erik Condee, Susan Ackerson and Neil Snyder with some of the thousands of corks the pub has collected to exchange for Meals of Hope food. Snyder was named Marco Island Citizen of the Year in a Chamber of Commerce gala Sunday night. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent
Event committee member Neil Snyder with the cooler of booze, plus an electric guitar, he won in the silent auction. The American Cancer Society's Imagination Ball, Saturday night at the Marriott hotel, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the fight against cancer. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

During his tenure as Capt. Hope, Marco Island groups including the two Rotary Clubs, the Kiwanis Club and others raised money to buy, and physically packed up, over 800,000 meals for Collier County families in need. Snyder recently passed the Capt. Hope moniker to fellow attorney Bill Rose, who was effusive in his praise of his predecessor.

“We developed a very good friendship. There’s not anyone who is more dependable, and does what he says he will do,” said Morris. “And if you ask him to do something, he’ll generally do it.” Morris, who has fostered and adopted nine children, worked with Snyder on fostering, and called him “one of a select few” in his approach to helping out and responsible citizenship.

As an attorney, Snyder also has helped run the Collier County Mock Trial and Teen Court programs, giving high school students a taste of what the legal profession entails, and getting the chance to practice law in a real courtroom, either in imaginary cases in the mock trials or literally working on cases involving their peers, juvenile offenders who go through the Teen Court process.

Event judge Neil Snyder was adopted by Alvin at a previous Christmas Island Style Holiday Pet Parade. Snyder was named Marco Island Citizen of the Year in a Chamber of Commerce gala Sunday night. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

He is involved in public interest legal work, closely working with local organizations that provide much needed services to impoverished clients-- including assistance immediately following Hurricane Irma.

Snyder is also active in the community as the immediate past president of the Rotary Club of Marco Island Sunrise and Rotary District 6960 Assistant District Governor Elect, Area 1. He is a past member of the board of directors of the Greater Marco Family YMCA and is active in the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce. He is often found working with the Kiwanis Club, the American Cancer Society and Marco Island Christmas Island Style.

Originally from New Jersey, Snyder has been a Marco Island resident since 2005 and a small business owner since 2010. He received his JD and MBA from the University of Baltimore. He worked as a prosecutor, which is where he met his defense attorney wife, and is a member of the DC Bar along with the Florida Bar, as well as practicing in the Federal Courts.