A Different Kind of Future

Community members creatively adapt in trying times

“The future ain’t what it used to be,” Yogi Berra famously said, and that’s what our Chapter 10 is all about.

Clearly, the future isn’t what it used to be, even as we strive toward “business as usual.” Like it or not, area executives tell us business is anything but usual — but that there might be some good things about that.

We also take a look at the selfless efforts of area financial institutions that kept regional businesses afloat and employees employed. And, we examine how going back to work in the traditional sense affects our furry loved ones who had gotten used to us being around 24/7.

No one carries the resiliency banner better than Jeanne Sweeney, founder of the Above Board Chamber, who

spreads positivity wherever she goes. Another Hometown Hero is Kathryn Goges, who ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­gave a man shelter of his own, following disastrous Naples wildfires in May.

You’ll read about ways you can help organizations in need and about two writers who found silver linings as they navigated through the clouds.

And just for kicks and calories, we’re sharing an unusually quick, flourless peanut butter cookie recipe we hope you’ll enjoy.

More than anything, we hope you know that you are not alone, and that you’ll take care of yourselves and everyone around you.

 
 
 
 
 

Silver Linings

In these unsettling times, silver linings can be seen from the back of a horse or by strumming an old guitar. Here, two writers talk about moments of gratitude experienced when time seemed to stand still.

During times like this, solace can come in so many different forms. For me, there is nothing like a walk in nature on the back of this kind, sweet horse, Luvie, to calm my soul and quiet my mind. Spirits nourished, gratitude abounds. ~ Cathy Cottrill

Right before the lockdown, a friend asked me if I wanted the guitar her ex had given her. Without hesitation, I said yes, since in my past life, I was a rock ’n’ roll radio DJ, and like all DJs, I was a frustrated rock ’n’ roller.

I’ve always had a mild interest in learning the guitar and even took lessons with my son maybe six years ago. With extra at-home time, I dug up the notes I had from those lessons, found some free YouTube videos and patchworked together various chunks of information from the many available apps out there.

I now have a few songs using the basic chords I’ve learned. I still have a long way to go, but the noise I’m making now is considerably less painful than a couple of months ago. ~ Julie Clay

Business NOT as Usual

Business leaders adapt to meet the COVID-19 challenge

by Julia Browning

Taking temperatures before entering work, creating individual offices for employees or at least spacing computers 6 feet apart, speaking to clients through the muffle of a face mask and working from home — these are adaptations businesses have made in the face of COVID-19.

“We are going to see an interesting shift even after this is over, where we see people doing business differently,” says Tiffany Esposito, president & CEO of the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce. “There’s a new confidence in the capabilities of doing business virtually.”

In addition to ensuring workers’ safety, employers have made significant changes and now see the world differently than they did four months ago.

Small businesses, who used to rely on personal touch and personal interaction, had to follow the lead of larger companies and adopt methods totally new to them.

“This whole situation just expedited things that were going to happen anyway,” Esposito says. “If you look at

the big box stores (Best Buy’s and Target’s curbside pickup, for instance), our small businesses have had to learn how to implement those practices, as well.”

We now have local restaurants with robust takeout menus and curbside pickup, or who provide unique offerings, like selling kits to create your favorite dishes
at home.

Retail shops with smaller inventories, like Wildflower Boutique in Naples, are having sales associates video chat with customers to maintain that personal touch.

“It’s been really interesting to see how people have adapted,” Esposito says. “They’ve been changing the way they do things or see things, whether that’s adapting to virtual environments or completely rethinking community needs and how they can help.”

Of course, not all changes have been welcome or expected. Florida remains one of the highest states for unemployment claims in the U.S., according to a report by Wallethub.

Though the statistic seems grim, CareerSource Southwest Florida’s Director of Business Services Peg Elmore says that the organization, which helps job seekers in the area, hasn’t seen the influx in inquiries they expected.

“Right now, even though there are thousands of people unemployed, a large number of people are not actively seeking new work,” Elmore says. “If you’re looking to transition to a new career, or a new position in your career, keep applying.”

Now is the time to reevaluate your career and make conscious decisions about the next step forward, Elmore says, whether that is seeking training or learning about a new industry.

So Easy! Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

by  Lois Sabatino

For those of you minding your flour intake, here’s a peanut butter cookie recipe you can whip up so quickly and easily, you’ll barely know the oven was on, and you won’t miss the messy white flour cleanup.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peanut butter

  • 1 cup white sugar

  • 1 tsp. vanilla

  • 1 egg

 

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 325°.

  2. Mix ingredients together well.

  3. Form dough into one-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

  4. Flatten with the bottom of a glass. 

  5. Bake 10-12 minutes.

  6. Cool cookies on a wire rack. 

 
 
 
 

Local Banks Vital Partners

Bankers become frontline workers, working tirelessly to help keep businesses open

by Julia Browning

With an economic crisis underlying the pandemic, financial sector workers became essential personnel overnight, with the task of helping local businesses obtain much-needed funding, adding to their already expanded workload.

For weeks, local bank employees worked around the clock to not only walk people through applying for the rapidly changing Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), but also to address concerns about a turbulent market — all with a reduced staff.

Looking back on those high stress few months, Adria Starkey, president of FineMark National Bank & Trust Collier County, lets out a heavy sigh.

“We kept the mantra of ‘keep calm and carry on,’” she says.

Though the bank had done its due diligence as the weight of the pandemic approached, Starkey remarks that nothing could have prepared them for the real thing.

With many employees sent home to work remotely, endless hours were spent making sure technology and security were top of the line. The staff that remained onsite continued working all hours, taking shifts, with doors locked and clients slipping information, cash and checks under the door.

And that was before PPP assistance came into view.

“FineMark had never been a small business lender. It’s not our niche. But this was something we knew would impact our clients.”

Referring to the fact that larger, national banks were overrun with loan requests and struggling to meet the need, she said, “If we didn’t do this for them, they weren’t going to have the opportunity.”

Ultimately, FineMark fulfilled over 500 loans, and put almost 9,000 people back to work.

First Florida Integrity Bank (FFIB) also had employees working around the clock, with some staff working from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. to ensure local businesses had the

funding they needed. FFIB processed over 1,600 PPP loan requests for businesses in the community.

“By repurposing our bankers and working all day into the early morning hours, we were able to fund over $185 million dollars to our community businesses, impacting over 24,000 employees and their paychecks,” says FFIB President and CEO Garrett Richter.

One loan operations manager, Richter says, stood out with a “first responder” mentality.

“Darby Moore made all the sacrifices necessary to get these loans funded in order for our small businesses to continue paying their employees,” he says.

 

The help of local community banks and their tireless employees has allowed many businesses to stay afloat, saving countless jobs, in this time of continuing uncertainty.

And it’s not over yet for these banks. The task of guiding businesses through the PPP loan forgiveness application process will soon be on their shoulders.

The way our local banks continue to step up to the plate when needed brings renewed meaning to their role as a vital business partner.

Allow us to say ‘Thank You’ from the entire community!

HOMETOWN HERO

HOMETOWN HERO

Preparing Pets for the Return to ‘Normal’

Easing your pet into your back-to-work routine can ease tensions

by Liz McCauley

I’ve always been a “glass-half-full” kind of person, and I truly believe that, for many, sheltering at home provided the opportunity to slow down, stop, smell the roses, and enjoy the simple pleasures in life — like spending more time in the company of our furry companions.

For our pets, this period has been a dream come true. Their “people” are paying more attention to them, with more walks, more treats, more play and snuggle time. Heaven!

But what happens when family that has been around 24/7 for weeks and months goes back to work and school? Suddenly, our pets are alone again for hours, getting fewer walks and less attention. This could be traumatic for some animals, even those who have never experienced separation anxiety before, and the result could be anything from whining and barking to being destructive, soiling in the house or being plain depressed.

So, what can you do to minimize this adjustment in the weeks to come? 

Animals cope much better and actually enjoy being in a routine. My dogs know exactly what time they eat, go out, go for walks and go to sleep. It gives them a sense of comfort and contentment. The best thing to do now is to keep your daily routine as close to normal as you can. 

 

Walks should be around the same time. If your dog is crated during the day, crate him now — maybe not as long as normal, but for at least part of the day. If he’s not normally crated, perhaps have your dog confined to a room away from you, or go out for a walk by yourself, so he gets used to you leaving.

Some cats may experience this as well. If your feline is super friendly and interacts a lot with you during the day, the same rules apply. Make sure he has some “alone time” to minimize stress down the road. Of course, I am sure there are many felines out there that, honestly, can’t wait for their owners to go back to work.  

As tempting as it is, showering your furry companions with love all day long during this time may make them miss you terribly when things return to normal. A few easy tricks now will help the entire family in the future. 

Liz McCauley is the executive director of Cape Coral Animal Shelter. She has a Master’s degree in business with a concentration in nonprofit leadership and management.

Ignite the Fourth with Hamilton

Hip-hop ode to American history streams July 3

If you’re feeling a little blue about red, white and blue this year, here’s a spark to ignite your Independence Day weekend.

Starting Friday, July 3, Disney+ will present “Hamilton,” the 2016 filmed version of the blockbuster musical. The show is streamable to subscribers and features the original cast, including creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Disney+ is an on-demand streaming service currently advertised at $6.99 per month. To learn more, visit www.Disneyplus.com.

 

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Fighting Fire with Love

When flames devoured everything, a stranger gave him a place to rest

by Brooke Stiles

Between the pandemic, natural disasters and a turbulent political climate, 2020 has been a rollercoaster ride. One thing we can hold onto, though, is our faith in humanity.

In mid-May, fires raged through Collier County. After smelling the smoke for days and reading stories about the wreckage, Sue Goges and her husband decided they had to try to help.

Goges took to Facebook, but found many requests confusing, with most asking for monetary donations.

Sue Goges

Goges decided to put her feet to the ground in fire-torn East Naples. She had a specific man in mind, remembering his face from the news. With little idea where she was headed, she put Lamb Lane — something she’d heard in the report — into her GPS
and drove.

“We went down that old, bumpy road full of potholes, and at the deadend of Lamb Lane, there he was,” she says.

Goges describes him as a small man from Laos. His trailer, generator, water well and bicycles had all burnt to the ground, leaving him to sleep in a car with whatever belongings he had left.

She delivered groceries to the man and drove home, brainstorming more ways to help him.

“My heart was drawn to him,” she says. “He’s had such a hard life.”

Eventually, she found a pop-up trailer on Facebook, for sale by a neighbor just blocks from her. Moved by the cause, the seller helped tow the trailer to the man on Lamb Lane.

Goges says the man from Laos was beaming in gratitude, so excited to have a place to stretch out and sleep, a luxury so many of us take for granted.

“He had no communication, no food, no water; he had nothing,” Goges says. “We told him we love him. He said, ‘I love you, too.’”

Education, Food Drives and Wolfdogs

Great ways to give back to the community

As things change, some remain the same.

One sure thing is that this community can get through any crisis. Here are some ways to help local nonprofits meet heightened needs.

Photo Credit: Gina Stancel

Collier Harvest Foundation encourages neighborhoods to donate non-perishable foods — things such as peanut butter, black beans, trail mix and crackers. To learn how to schedule your donation and what foods the pantry needs, contact Program Director Annette Kirk at 239-405-0921 or visit www.CollierHarvest.org.

 

Shy Wolf Sanctuary is requesting donations in the form of gift cards to Home Depot, Lowe's and Walmart, adding that the wolfdogs also appreciate donations of pull toys and stuffed animals.

Call 855-SHY-WOLF (749-9653) for more information or to schedule a drop-off.

Pathways Early Education Center of Immokalee needs cleaning supplies, antibacterial soap, diapers, baby wipes and personal hygiene products for distribution.

Donated materials can be dropped off at Pathways administrative offices between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 4060 Tamiami Trail N., Unit 1, Naples.

Keeping Everything Above Board

Jeanne Sweeney leads with positivity

by Julia Browning

The purpose of organizations like the Above Board Chamber of Florida was put to the test when COVID-19 shuttered businesses in Southwest Florida.

Founded by Jeanne Sweeney, the group provides professional development opportunities and connects businesses with community members. And her services suddenly became more important than ever.

“Throughout this crisis, she has poured herself into being a trusted resource of information on the virus and where to get help,” says Above Board member Susan Ryan.

Above Board quickly shifted its meetings to virtual, now conducting at least three webinars a month, covering topics such as unemployment and the CARES Act.

“We need to be out there to help (businesses), give them opportunities, give education, give hope,” Sweeney says. “That’s what the Above Board Chamber is trying to do, to make sure they’re getting what they need to be better and make sure they don’t feel alone.”

She stresses the importance of connection and communication at this time, cautioning people to be careful not to tell others that a business is closed, when it is shut down temporarily.

“If a rumor gets out that somebody is closed, their clients will go somewhere else, and we don’t want that to happen,” she says, adding that it’s more important than ever to support local business.

In addition to informational events, she also hosts virtual meetings that are all about fun, like a Zoom prom, where attendees wore gowns and tuxes. 

Jeanne Sweeney

Sweeney leads by positivity. Though she

acknowledges that local business owners have a right to be concerned, she also cites the good that change has brought, interpersonally and for the world at large.

“There are families that are now, for the first time in a long time, having meals together,” is one example she shares. “There is a lot of good that’s happening in the midst of a disaster,” she says.

“I just want people to have faith. It’s going to get better because we’re together.”

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