top of page
On the Frontlines
Hometown Hero
Mental Health Support for Frontline Workers
Pomp and Circumstances

Mental Health Support for Frontline Workers

Many frontline workers fighting COVID-19 are fighting internal battles with depression and anxiety, as well. 


Services such as Lyf, a recently launched app, are working to support this population with virtual support groups. All people working on the frontlines during the pandemic — doctors, nurses and first responders — are eligible for a free 60-minute, text-based support session with a mental health expert. Registration is free and can be accomplished at:

Healthcare Network is also supplying mental health services for Florida’s frontline health workers with a series of free virtual discussions held twice a week from May 19 through June 11. Registration and information for each section, including skills like coping mechanisms, are available at


On the Frontlines

Nurses respond to COVID-19 with strength and selflessness


by Julia Browning

Through the night, the “Lady with the Lamp” attended sick, wounded and dying soldiers, ravaged by the Crimean War in the 1850s.


Her name was Florence Nightingale, and she and her team of trained nurses came to the aid of overworked medical staff to heal soldiers who were needlessly dying due to preventable infection and malnutrition.


She’s known as the mother of modern-day nursing, and to this day, her birthday, May 12, concludes Nurses Week, a national campaign to celebrate nurses and their essential, lifesaving work.


This year, Nurses Week took on a new meaning with the importance of nursing and all medical staff being highlighted amid COVID-19. 


Kristin Miller, nursing director at NCH Baker Hospital Downtown, says the outpouring of community support has been greater than she anticipated, and it keeps the staff going.

“That’s really given the nurses a pat on the back, inspiring them to keep doing what they’re doing because they have people supporting them,” she says.

Since COVID-19 took hold, stories from around the globe depict overrun hospitals, low on supplies, with nurses working grueling shifts to meet increased demand. Miller paints a different picture of NCH.

“Never once have I felt, nor have any of the nurses felt, that we didn’t have the supplies that we needed,” she says. “I know that’s not the case at some of the hotspots where they got hit so hard and fast that they didn’t have time to prepare. We learned from that as an institution and prepared really well ahead of time.”

Infection control policies, germ-zapping robots and thousands of donated supplies have kept the hospital high functioning. In fact, Miller reports that her staff works the same or fewer hours due to a decreased census of patients. (Until recently at NCH, all elective surgeries were postponed.)

Thus, their designated area for COVID-19-positive patients has been able to remain fully staffed.


NCH RNs, Kaylee Easley, Victoria Gillum, Jessica Dollhopf and NCH RN Nursing Director, Katie Matthews.

Credit: Lisette Morales

“We have, like most hospitals across the country, developed places for patients who are COVID-positive to separate them from surgical patients and others within the hospital setting in order to slow down the spread of this virus.”

Nurses aren’t shying away from these high-risk areas. Rather, Miller says, many nurses have volunteered to work in designated COVID-19 areas, and some even changed hospitals to work in higher-risk areas.

Several nurses who were working with NCH on seasonal contracts volunteered to work in “COVID-19 hotspots,” such as New York, to show their support for patients and fellow nurses, Miller says.

The main change at NCH has been how patients connect with their loved ones. As family members haven’t been able to visit the hospital, nurses have stepped up to be the patients’ primary advocates.

Setting up family video chats, scheduling and preparing signs for windows so families can see their healing loved ones from outside the building and working to get families through the door when the patient isn’t doing well, have all become part of the nurses’ duties.

“When you become a nurse, you become selfless,” Miller says. “You have to put others first. Some of our nurses put their patients before their own families at some point because they’re so dedicated to what they do. They want to make sure that everybody is cared for properly.”

Create a Virtual Graduation Party
Look for the Silver Lining
Easy as Pie

Easy as Pie


The simplest apple dessert recipe you’ll ever love

Swedish Apple Pie

This is one of the easiest sweet treat recipes in the world. My mother gave me this recipe about 40 years ago, and I’ve been making this delicious, no-fail dessert ever since. ~ Kathy Grey


Note: I prefer cooked apples that retain their texture, so I slice the apples thicker and then into chunks.



1 Tbsp. butter for greasing pie plate

4 apples, peeled and sliced

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 Tbsp. + 1 cup white sugar

¾ cup butter, melted

½ cup chopped walnuts

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 pinch salt



Preheat oven to 350°.


Fill a 9.5-inch greased pie plate three-quarters of the way with sliced apples.


Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. sugar mixed with 1 tsp. cinnamon on top.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup sugar and melted butter. Stir in flour, egg, salt and walnuts. Mix well.

Spread mixture over apples.


Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown.


Serves 8


Really delicious served warm with vanilla ice cream.

Hometown Hero: Veljko Pavicevic


Sails Restaurant feeds frontline workers

Veljko NCH 2.jpg

Veljko Pavicevic’s courage and generosity knew no bounds as he kept the Sails Restaurant team together over the COVID-19 closure. From day one, Veljko, Sails’ general manager, was determined to keep everyone who wanted to work employed.

In addition to that, he desperately wanted to give back to the community in such a difficult time, even though it was the most trying time for the restaurant. His idea to pack hot dinners for NCH frontline workers, with the help of local businesses, exploded quickly.


Within 7 days, Veljko turned Sails Restaurant from a fine dining establishment to a catering business, starting with 150 meals a day and working up to 600 meals per day in the restaurant’s last week of deliveries to NCH Baker Hospital Downtown and NCH North Naples. In total, he organized the delivery of over 6,000 meals to NCH and St. Matthews House’ homeless shelter.


~ Corinne Ryan, Sails Restaurant

Hometown Hero: Jonathan Kling


On call 24/7 for NCH

Jonathan Kling is the system chief nursing officer and chief operating officer of North Naples Hospital of NCH Healthcare System. 

During the COVID crisis, a coworker described him this way: 

“(Jon) has truly worked his way up in the system and proven that hard work and dedication and continued


education has its rewards. In this pandemic, he has been putting in more hours than anyone can imagine. He is on call 24/7 and available to everyone at all times to assure patients and staff are all taken care of.”

With multiple health care degrees, Jon has been a tremendous community partner, accepting speaking opportunities when asked, because he knows the value of partnerships and education in order to achieve best outcomes. 

~ Amanda Beights, Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce

Pomp and Circumstances


High school seniors show resilience in a new reality

by Kathy Grey

   She approached the register with deodorant, shampoo and a protein bar — essentials for a girl just turned 18. The clerk recognized her.

   “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry you’re going to have to miss your graduation,” she said.

   The girl stifled an involuntary gasp, tears trickling down the front of her mask.


Within weeks, ceremonial rites of passage, from prom to graduation processions, have been completely redefined for Collier County high school seniors.

It was just March 6 when school let out for spring break. Most students didn’t anticipate it would be the last day of classes as they’d known them in 2020.

But school district officials did.

As students basked in a week of glorious spring awakenings, school administrators worked feverishly to come to grips with school closures and alternate plans for those ceremonial rites of passage.

For graduating high school seniors, spring break could have signaled the Dickensian “best of times and worst of times.” Yet, somehow, these seniors have demonstrated remarkable resilience, rising above what others perceived as the end of innocence.


Here are four of their stories.


Collier Commencement Dates to Remember

Graduating seniors won’t walk across the stage as they imagined months ago, but Charlotte County Public schools has plans to celebrate the class of 2020 in several ways. Here are some dates to remember. For details and updates, click here.

June 3 - Class of 2020 video/virtual commencement ceremony for each Collier County high school. Each student’s name will be announced along with a photo of the graduate in cap and gown. Speeches by student leaders, school/district administrators and school board members will be presented.

  • Barron Collier High – 2 p.m.

  • Everglades City School – 5 p.m.

  • Golden Gate High – 1 p.m.

  • Gulf Coast High – 4 p.m.

  • Immokalee High – 7 p.m.

  • Lely High – 5 p.m.

  • Lorenzo Walker Technical High – 6 p.m.

  • Naples High – 7 p.m.

  • Palmetto Ridge High – 7 p.m.

July 24 - Having already graduated, students can walk a stage outdoors at their schools and take a photo with the principal, following current CDC guidelines for gatherings. (Rain date: July 25.)


December - In the event schools are unable to host July events, an opportunity for the Class of 2020 to reunite will be held in December.

Mayte Herrera

Lorenzo Walker Technical High School

Two graduation ceremonies are being postponed for Mayte Herrera: one at Lorenzo Walker Technical High School and another for earning her associate degree from Florida SouthWestern State College.


But her path is very clear: biomedical science, pre-med, medical school, surgeon. When those goals are achieved, she intends to return to Collier County to serve the underserved here and in Third World countries.


What’s most remarkable is that Mayte is the first person in her family to graduate high school.


So, the unexpected conclusion of her school years didn’t come easily.


"Initially, I was really sad,” Mayte says. “I worked so much to get to this day. But I got over it. What else can you do?”


She plans to be part of Collier County Public Schools’ virtual and live graduation ceremonies. And because she is the first to graduate in her family, her parents had planned a huge celebration. “Now it’ll be just us five,” she says of her parents, her brother, 17, and sister, 13.


This disappointment is relative for a girl whose spirit guide is resiliency.


And if this should happen again? What advice would she give to future graduates?


“This is not a vacation,” she emphasizes. “It’s not regular school, but don’t fall behind in your schoolwork because it is tough catching up. If you are struggling, ask your teachers (for help),” she advises.”


"(The pandemic) solidified my belief that heroes don’t have to wear capes. Doctors and nurses sacrifice their lives to save lives. That’s admirable. I want to do that.”


Perhaps Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kamela Patton said it most succinctly: “The Class of 2020 will forever be remembered for resilience through these unique circumstances.”

Greg Stovring

Barron-Collier High School

Greg Stovring will be celebrating with a virtual graduation party and a sign planted in his front yard. But that’s not all. Fire trucks will be coming by his house “just for him, because of his special circumstances,” his mother says.

That’s because Greg almost didn’t make it to graduation.

After a cross-country run in his sophomore year, he collapsed. His heart didn’t beat for 20 minutes. Airlifted to Niklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, he spent weeks in the ICU.

His cardiac event caused “severe brain and heart damage,” Greg says. For the next six months, he was schooled via the Hospital Homebound program, and rejoined his class for the last two months as a sophomore.

His friends and teachers helped him get back on track, and the path seemed steady until March, when school days became home-school days.

“It brings back some memories of being homebound,” he says. Those memories are piqued by the fact that his “brain is still not completely recovered,” he says, and that he wears a defibrillator at all times.

“For me, it has made me really resilient. In the face of trouble, you can learn a lot,” he says.

The future is bright for this young man. This fall, Greg will be a freshman at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, and after college, he plans to be an aerospace engineer.

“Remember that this won’t last forever,” he advises. “There are many positive things we can do. And we can get through this together.”

Allie Vallieres

Barron-Collier High School

It’s been a tough couple of years for Barron-Collier graduating senior Allie Vallieres. Last year, she was diagnosed with a tumor that ultimately left her without vision in one eye. Prescribed medications caused her to gain weight, a disconcerting side effect for any teen, especially for one who sees her future in the performing arts. Allie, who turned 18 in April, says she took advantage of household sequester “to get back to feeling like myself.”

Reading motivational books is part of her at-home therapy. Her favorite? “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.”

There’s been plenty of Netflix, too. “I’m not gonna lie,” she laughs.


The performing artist misses her friends at rehearsals at Naples Performing Arts Center and was disappointed when school became virtual.

“You work your butt off for 12 years to get to one goal,” she says, “and that one goal happens over FaceTime.”


There have been other disappointments. Allie’s plan was to go to Pace University in New York, but with a compromised immune system, she shifted paths to Lynn University in Boca Raton. There, she’ll major in acting.


As disheartening as it was, is or could have been, Allie makes the best of all situations. Life’s hardships have challenged her to examine her priorities and to appreciate the people who support her in good times and in bad — things others might take for granted.


“This is preparing me for all the amazing things that are coming my way.”

Claudio Ortega Franco

Immokalee High School

He ranks high among Collier seniors, with a 4.9 weighted GPA. He’s National Academy Foundation-certified in engineering, finance and information technology. He’s a member of the solar go-cart and tennis teams at Immokalee High School. His Living Literature team (in which students present a visual interpretation of a scene from literary works) will compete virtually in the nationals this summer.

But Claudio Ortega Franco is happy that he had unexpected time to spend with his family. He’s not worried about graduation exercises. He’s confident that he and his classmates will celebrate “when things settle down later on.”

“We’ll reunite,” he says.


Claudio’s plans include a freshman year at the University of Florida starting online this summer. He doesn’t anticipate a physical move until later this fall.

And if there’s a call for a Plan B?

“I’ll stay here and work online,” he says. And maybe he’ll have a job working at a place like AutoZone.


And what if this should happen again to future graduating classes?

“Don’t hold back,” he says. “You’ve already done 11 years of schooling, so don’t stop now. Make plans.”


Claudio’s plans include becoming an aerospace engineer after college and working for Boeing.

Create a Great Virtual Graduation Party


4 steps to celebrate your grad of honor’s milestone

by Jane Birdwell

Graduation season is a little ... “different” this year. Many high school and college seniors will be receiving their diplomas by mail. Commencement ceremonies are on hold. Very few will be traveling to attend post-grad parties.

While graduating during a pandemic is no one’s top choice, you can still plan a very special celebration.


As a mom of a graduating senior, I get the disappointment that so many families may be feeling right now. But just because you can’t get together in person doesn’t mean you and your family can’t celebrate your child’s years of hard work by following these 4 steps:

1. Send out an interactive virtual invitation on the platform of your choice (like Zoom). Find fun ways to


use color, theme, signage and accessories to make the party invitations unique and eye-catching.


2. Map out a virtual viewing space. Thoughtfully select an area of your home that will delight viewers. It could be a pretty corner of your backyard or a bright and cheery portion of your living room or dining room. The area should be no more than 10 feet by 10 feet, so guests can clearly see the décor and the people on camera. And don’t forget to designate a special space for the graduate.


3. Keep the “wow” factors simple. You can make a big, dramatic impact with simple touches, such as a fun dress code. Ask guests to wear the colors or logo gear

from the college your child will be attending in the fall, for example.

4. Great gifts. Request that guests send gifts in advance, so the grad-of-honor can open them and celebrate in real time.

The pandemic shouldn’t overshadow everything your graduate has accomplished and the new chapter they are beginning. Celebrate the victory and invite all loved ones to join in the fun. There’s no better way to honor your grad’s accomplishment and show them they are loved and supported.


Jane Birdwell is CEO of the Birdwell Agency in Pensacola, a creative business, serving prominent clientele on the Gulf Coast, and founder of Tablevogue, a producer of special event linens.

Look for the Silver Lining


Somewhere, the sun is shining ... make it shine for you

Silver linings are everywhere, as many people choose to stay at home for their health and the health of others.

From launching a home cleaning initiative to finding unique ways to create art, staying in also benefits the environment, evidenced by clearer skies and waters around the world.

Shiny Sinks and Sparkling Dishes

This silver lining is as simple as a tidy kitchen.

“Pre-pandemic, when my sink was filled with dirty dishes, I would solve that problem by going to a restaurant,” says Bonita Springs resident and èBella associate editor Julia Browning.

“With constant distraction and a seemingly endless number of places to escape to, housekeeping was never a priority. Home was mostly a place to sleep, get ready and store leftovers,” she says.

“Now, with nowhere to go and nothing to do outside of the home, I’ve been forced to clean, declutter and organize, which I find strangely calming during this time of peak stress and anxiety. Though world circumstances might be out of my control, the state of my sink is not.”

A Portal to Creativity

Artist and novelist Leah Griffith found a silver lining in solitude.

“As a woman of a certain age with some frailties, I’ve been forced into quarantine with my husband, Mike, and our two little dogs. As a writer and artist, I’m fairly 

friendly with isolation, but being in quarantine these past

9 weeks — although crushing at times — has also produced a silver lining,” Griffith says.

She’s no longer able to access her studio, where she stores most of her art supplies, but, she says, “I’ve been forced to become curious and inventive, repurposing everyday household items — dental floss … a spatula with holes in it … napkins — into tools that helped me create my latest commissioned painting,” seen here.

The commissioned piece, “Moon Sisters,” might have had a different title.

“If I were to choose the name of this piece, I'd probably call it ‘Silver Lining,’ as the quarantine has opened a portal to my creativity that will stay with me forever.”

How Readers Can Help

How Readers Can Help: Need for PPE


Local organizations seek safety supply donations

Charitable organizations that provide much-needed services (child care, for example) are anxious to reopen and return to serving the public. These organizations need personal protective equipment now more than ever to ensure they can safely resume services. Here are some ways you can help:

• Collier Senior Resources at the Golden Gate Senior Center seeks donations of PPE and face masks for its 1,300-plus members. To schedule your donation, call 239-252-4541, email or visit

Dress for Success expects to reopen its four boutiques June 1.

As the nonprofit prepares for an influx of female clients seeking employment in Collier, Lee and LaBelle counties, Dress for Success is in need of gloves, masks, disinfectant and hand soap to safely reopen. Donations of professional clothes, gas cards, jewelry, shoes and purses are also greatly needed.

If you’ve cleaned out your closet and want to donate, contact Nickole Hendra, executive director at for donation details.


STARability Foundation needs masks, gloves and large pump bottles of hand sanitizer to safely continue its services to people with disabilities. With schools closed and many people working from home, programming for families that have children with disabilities has become an increasingly vital resource.

Financial support for virtual programs and other needs can be made at To learn about donating goods, contact Miriam Pereira at 239-594-9007 or

Look for more ways to help in the next installment of èBella èXtra.

In This Together


Stories of compassion, hope and lessons learned

This is chapter 6 of èBella èXtra, a publication we as much foresaw at the start of 2020 as we did the COVID-19 pandemic. But here we are, covering issues between our regularly scheduled èBella magazine issues.

Here, we present thoughtful insights about what it means to be nurses, Collier County graduating seniors and pandemic-inspired hometown heroes.

We also continue to provide information in our èXtra chapters about how you can help area nonprofits. Like

us, they didn’t see this extraordinary point in time coming, either.

To sweeten this editorial feast, we offer a no-fail dessert recipe and a couple of silver linings our readers have found in these cloudy and confusing times.

In keeping with the èBella charter, we hope this sixth chapter of èXtra will inspire and empower you and those around you to live a life you love.



bottom of page