STRAIGHT TALK: Thanks to our army of volunteers

Steve Stefanides

As we begin to see the end of one of the busiest seasons I can remember in the past two decades here on our little island, it's important to remember to say "thank you" to a special breed of individuals who helped to make everyone's time here a little more memorable and fun.

I'm speaking about the volunteers who help to bring smiles onto the faces of fulltime and part-time residents of our community, along with the many visitors who come across the bridge to visit us they escape the chilly winds of winter up north.

Just this last weekend the island had the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of the hard work done by the Kiwanis and two Rotary clubs on Marco. Around 150 volunteers came together to make the seventh annual Marco Island Seafood and Music Festival a great success. The proceeds from that hard work will be used to provide scholarships for children, books for education, support for various shelters, help for the needy and so many other great charities that benefit from the efforts of those volunteers and your generosity.

If you haven't had the opportunity to feast at one of the Friday evening Knights of Columbus Fish Dinners during Lent you've missed one of Marco's most delicious offerings. The Knights in cooperation with their sister organization the Columbiettes work diligently to raise money through those dinners to help provide support to their various charitable endeavors.

The volunteers at our local Marco Island Art League and the Marco Art Alliance have also have outdone themselves with programs and events during this last season, as they too give back to the community and help with educational pursuits and a better appreciation of the arts through their volunteers and their efforts.

The Marco Island Sail and Power Squadron have diligently worked this last season, as have the members of the Civil Air Patrol and the Coast Guard Auxiliary by donating countless hours of training and support services to our extensive boating community, all done through their volunteer efforts.

The Lions Club continued their traditional pancake breakfast to fund their charitable causes to the delight of many. It's an annual event that has gone on for many years with volunteers feeding hundreds on one Saturday morning a year.

We also took the time to do some reflection at the annual Prayer Breakfast held each year at the Marriott Resort. This monumental effort is again coordinated by volunteers who work to provide Marco with one of its most anticipated events.

Who didn't take a short walk down memory lane when we got to stroll through the many rows of classic and muscle cars at the annual Kiwanis Car Show during one of our Sunday afternoons this last season? The shine on the cars was only matched by the smiles and reminiscing that went on as neighbors and friends walked amongst the stunning display.

For pet owners and pet lovers the night was awash in the pride and love of the canine breed when the annual Mutts and Martinis event was once again hosted by Jackie and Kurt Koon at CJs on the Bay. A silent auction and 50/50 drawing helped to fund the YMCA's outreach program to needy families while proud pet owners got to show off their favorite 4 legged member of their extended families.

The efforts of an army of volunteers who helped to support the visit of the traveling Vietnam Wall was also a great undertaking and provided islanders with an opportunity to pay respects to those that gave all.

Ever walk through the Bargain Basket? Those are volunteers working in that store to the delight of bargain seekers from across the island. The profits made from the store go to support the charitable missions and philanthropy efforts of the United Church of Marco Island.

Do you love to have a good time, check out some of the efforts of the Sons and Daughters of Erin, an organization which provides a number of activities such as sponsoring the annual Irish American Parade and Hooley each year. They also sponsor and arrange a concert each year featuring the Sicilian Tenors at Christmas and an annual golf outing that supports the Marco Island Charter Middle School.

Yes, we have much to be thankful for as the season here on Marco begins to draw to a close. We should take time to be thankful for that special gift which has been provided to us by the Almighty. Once again a special event to praise him will be brought together in a collaborative effort of churches and volunteers as we assemble on the beach April 5 at sunrise, when the annual Sunrise Easter Service is once again provided to the community.

Volunteers are everywhere and their contributions to this community are as priceless as the smiles they bring. We should all be thankful for their efforts and look to find an endeavor from which we could all give back to our community.