Paradigm Shifts

In turbulent times, the only constant is change

This 11th chapter of èBella èXtra addresses COVID-induced paradigm shifts: changes in everything we’d come to know to as “normal.”

Here, we take a look at shifting employment concepts that might just benefit workers and employers. These are essential relationships intended to afford both success to businesses and the human needs of the people of our community.

As we address human needs, we examine the selfless work of Youth Haven, a safe harbor for young people who are at risk. We also honor this week’s Hometown Heroes, including the work of a married couple devoted to supporting the human service activism of St. Matthew’s House.

And on a literally lighter side, our test kitchen serves up the vegetarian carrot dog, a suitable addition to any barbecue.

This is all evidence that the only constant in life is change.

We hope you will embrace these shifting paradigms, keep your minds and hearts open and, most of all, be well.


Spotting Sculptures

Shangri-La Springs presents public display of outdoor Tibetan art

Shangri-La Springs’ outdoor art exhibit provides a socially distanced, artful activity for community members.


The four-acre historic property, now open to the public, showcases a permanent display of Tibetan sculptures.


Tree lovers will welcome the sight of statues placed strategically through the property’s lush landscape, featuring 40 species of trees, including two champion Mysore Fig trees. Visitors will also come to realize that singular works of art, in the form of furniture from Tibetan and Thai monasteries, are strategically placed throughout the property.

Shangri-La’s onsite restaurant, Harvest & Wisdom, also features art, with rotating exhibits from local artists. From now until September, works by Taylord Dezeme, an award-winning Haitian visual artist, will be on display.


To learn more, visit www.shangrilasprings.com or visit the site at 27750 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs.

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Job Hunting in the Time of COVID

Experts offer insight about redefining yourself during an era that defies definition

by Julia Browning

Even as Florida unemployment numbers present statewide cause for alarm, local employment experts advise job seekers to avoid panic and focus on their dreams.

“There are currently a multitude of employment opportunities,” says Peg Elmore, CareerSource Southwest Florida’s director of business services. This applies particularly to people who identify opportunities in the shifting market.

Below are her tips for job hunting in the era of COVID-19

1. Do Not Wait

“Start looking now. Don’t sit back,” Elmore says.

She urges locals to apply for jobs while they are still open. Even if a person was successful in filing for unemployment, benefits will run out eventually, especially with the increased demand. Once benefits run out, an uptake in job seekers is expected, making timing even more important.

“Right now, even though there are thousands of people unemployed, a large number of people are not actively seeking new work,” she says.

2. Keep Applying

“If you’re looking to transition to a new career, or position within your career, keep applying,” Elmore advises.

“Especially for more professional positions.”

When it comes to applying for jobs, she says, don’t give up after only a few applications.

Career Source (careersourcesouthwestflorida.com) provides training and information about job opportunities.

Other sites provide information for job seekers, including Indeed (www.indeed.com) and Glass Door (www.glassdoor.com). By indicating your area of interest and desired geographical location, the website can provide information about job listings and ways to apply.

3. Make Sure You’re Qualified

Read job listings carefully to be sure you’re a good fit for the position. Most posts indicate experience required and level of education, from a high school diploma to advanced degrees. Applying for jobs can be a lengthy process, and time is valuable to everyone.


“Don’t waste anybody’s time by applying for positions you’re not qualified for,” Elmore advises. Save yourself and the employer time by only applying for jobs that will be a good fit.

4. Give It Time

With the pandemic still a primary concern, some applicants have taken a “wait and see” position, something Elmore does not advise. According to Indeed, it takes about 9 weeks on average to find a new job, a timeframe that should be factored into any job search.

“Don’t think, ‘Maybe in July, I’ll feel safer,’” Elmore says. “The interview process still takes time, even though it’s now virtual. It takes time to go from a final interview to an offer letter and to a start date.”

5. Take the Next Step

With so much change in the air, now is the time to think long and hard about your business or employment.

“If you’re a displaced worker, it may be unlikely that you’re going to go back to your previous position,” Elmore says. That said, what avenue should you pursue? Going back to school? Learning a new skill? Trying a new industry?

With so much unknown, Elmore suggests that this just might be an ideal time for a career pivot, perhaps toward a job you’ve always dreamed about.


Next Stop: Unknown

Young professionals struggle to land opportunities in uncertain times

by Julia Browning

People today think, eat, gather and work differently than ever before, not always for the better. But some folks have been motivated to embark on new voyages.


According to a University of Pheonix survey, more than two out of five workers say the COVID-19 pandemic has made them reevaluate what they do for a living.


Such is the case of longtime friends Jasson Velez and Nathan Burlingame. The Southwest Florida residents seized a pandemic-riddled opportunity to go into business together. Forced to take a break from their work in May (Velez is a massage therapist and Burlingame is a Realtor), the two 20-somethings took the shutdown time to really consider what they’d like to do with their lives.


“I was starting to feel a bit of stunted growth in my business with the spa,” Velez says. “I was in a space where I was thinking, ‘Is this something I want to keep doing?’ … Coronavirus provided the perfect reset button.”

Extroverted, entrepreneurial and with 20 years of restaurant experience between them, Velez and Burlingame chose to become restaurateurs — on wheels.


Noting the growing trend of outdoor dining, the pair decided on a brunch-themed food truck, Next Stop Brunch, scheduled to open this August.


Even before COVID-19 and its forced preference of alfresco dining, the food truck industry was driving the market, increasing by 20% in 2019, according to Food Truck Nation.


While the pandemic provides a plethora of uncertainty, Velez and Burlingame look forward with positivity. They brainstorm continuously about ways to cater to the needs of the market.


It’s been a life-changer for the duo in more ways than one.


“We take time off for vacations, but we (as a society) don’t take time off to think about what we want to do with our lives and come up with business plans,” Velez says.


Perhaps it took a pandemic.

Vegetarians, Assert Your Independence!

Move over, brats: These carrot creations are ‘dog-gone’ good!

by Kathy Grey

I saw a recipe on Facebook last week and thought, “Carrot hot dogs? Are you kidding?”

But because Independence Day barbecues often leave vegetarians and vegans empty-plated at the grill, we gave the carrot dog a try in our humble test kitchen.

Turns out this dog-in-disguise is — get ready for it — a wiener with its many fans.

I changed up the recipe a bit, borrowing tips from several available on the web. (Seriously, who knew there were so many carrot dog techniques?)

Frank-ly, it was dog-gone tasty.

Shown here are the finished dogs in bun and the Veggie Supreme, with bread-and-butter pickles, chopped onions and red bell peppers

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6-8 peeled carrots



¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

¼ cup vegetable broth

2 Tbsp. maple syrup

2 Tbsp. Liquid Smoke

1 Tbsp. fresh minced garlic

1 tsp. yellow mustard

1 tsp. dill pickle juice

1 tsp. celery seed



Peel carrots and cut them to “bun length.”


Boil carrots in water till just fork tender, 10-15 minutes.


Drain carrots and shock them in ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again and place carrots in zippered storage bag.


Stir all marinade ingredients together and pour into the bag with the carrots.


Place bag on a plate and marinate in the refrigerator 4-6 hours, turning bag occasionally. (If you marinate the carrots too long, the acids will make the carrots softer than desired.)


To get a char, heat up a dry cast-iron skillet. When hot (I used medium-high heat), add the carrot dogs and don’t move them for about 4 minutes. As the carrots release their juices, you’ll be able to turn them.


(The preferred charring method is the grill, because that’s kind of the point with Fourth of July barbecues.)


Heat the carrot through, transfer to your bun of choice and garnish with your favorite toppings.


Rolling up Their Sleeves

Hometown Heroes Dianne and Brad Ament give their all for St. Matthew’s House

by Kathy Grey

Ashlie Johnson, director of engagement at St. Matthew’s House, nominated Dianne and Brad Ament for this issue’s Hometown Heroes recognition.

St. Matthew’s House’s mission is to “change lives in a spiritual environment that is both compassionate and disciplined as it provides housing for the homeless, food for the needy and comfort for the addicted and suffering.”

The Aments actively assist with the organization’s fundraising events and operations using their available time, talent and treasure.

Dianne has been a regular volunteer at St. Matthew’s House’s food distribution events, expanded in the last two months because of the pandemic. She packs countless bags of food, Johnson says, and that means Dianne’s volunteerism has helped feed thousands of local families struggling to make ends meet at this troubling time. If that were not enough, Dianne also provides administrative support at St. Matthew’s House’s main office in East Naples.

Utilizing his lifelong background in strategic financial management, Brad has been a founding member of the St. Matthew’s House committee tasked with creating a social enterprise expansion fund. In this capacity, he has provided guidance and planning to the organization’s leadership as it explores creative. new ways to fund the expansion of its social enterprises (thrift shops, car wash and catering services).

The Aments, who moved to Naples in 2018 from Illinois, say they prefer to keep a behind-the-scenes profile for the organizations they support. But they gave us insight about why they choose to support St. Matthew’s House and its work within the community.

“I had been very active with food pantries in Illinois,” Dianne says of her more than 10 years volunteering with People’s Resource Center in Wheaton, a multifaceted nonprofit dedicated to responding to the community’s basic needs. She also served on its board of directors the last two years they lived in Illinois.

As new residents of Florida, the Aments were drawn to St. Matthew’s House, intrigued by its social enterprise programs, job training and human service offerings that empower those in need.


So, the Aments took a tour and were further impressed “for a combination of reasons,” Brad says, including its homeless shelter, job training, social enterprise, recovery programs and initiatives toward self-sufficiency.

“We did our research and started contributing,” Brad says.

What compels them to support St. Matthew’s house is how quickly the organization reacts to the needs of the community it serves. For instance, food distribution that had been a weekly event was bumped to twice weekly due to the pandemic’s economic fallout. It was not without struggle, but St. Matthew’s House made it happen, reacting with urgency backed by vision and compassion.

“St. Matthew’s House is open to new ideas and changes,” Brad says. “Just look at how they’ve grown over the years.”

It’s the culture of caring, unwavering philosophy and flexibility in practice that draws the Aments to do what they can for St. Matthew’s House.

Johnson sums it up nicely.

“This husband and wife duo are incredible ambassadors of St. Matthew’s House and true Hometown Heroes, helping those in need right here in Collier County.”


Home is Where the Heart Is

With help of a dedicated staff, Youth Haven continues to serve kids and teens facing homelessness

by Julia Browning

Stay-at-home orders and vigorous hand washing are exasperations that accompany COVID-19. But imagine battling the pandemic without a place to go home to or a sink to wash your hands in.

COVID-19 affects individuals experiencing homelessness particularly hard, says Jinx Liggett, Youth Haven’s executive director.

“The homeless population doesn’t have the same living conditions, the same access to health care,” Liggett says. “We know that COVID-19 is much more dangerous for someone who has compromised health. Living as a homeless person does give you that, it makes you more vulnerable to all kinds of things.”

Youth Haven, Southwest Florida’s facility providing a home for homeless or displaced children and teens, saw a drop in census after the coronavirus pandemic began.

Because schools were closed, those who typically report signs of abuse — teachers and counselors, for example — couldn’t advise law enforcement or child services of their suspicions. Thus, investigators weren’t checking the living conditions of potentially at-risk children and teens to determine their safety.  


Now, Liggett says, as restrictions have lifted, more reports are being made and investigated. Thus, Youth Haven’s population is again climbing to capacity.

The employees take every safety precaution and have a plan in place for when COVID-19 strikes, reserving one cottage to provide isolated space in the event a member tests positive for the virus.

“That’s going to happen to us at some point,” Liggett says. “It hasn’t yet (knock on wood), and we do take temperatures of the kids and staff every shift as a preventative measure to keep us aware of what’s going on. But we’re not immune to the coronavirus.”

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Martine Fleury, one of Youth Haven’s Youth Care Workers, goes above and beyond for the children and teens she serves.

Youth Haven/Courtesy Photo

Heroes for the Homeless

The 25-acre campus can house 73 kids between the ages of 6 and 18. They operate with a “waking staff system,” meaning that employees come in shifts to provide around-the-clock care.

“It’s not a sleeping model, as our kids are too high risk,” Liggett explains.

Similar to hospital hours, Youth Haven is staffed with day, evening and night shifts that overlap for high-activity hours.

When COVID-19 hit and the kids began school remotely, Liggett admits they had to ask more of their workers, add staff and increase hours worked.

“They are the heart and soul of what we do,” Liggett says of the youth care workers.

Even before the pandemic, these workers’ jobs were challenging, she explains. They supervise kids who have experienced trauma and often have behavioral issues as a result, as well as shoulder the responsibility of providing normalcy and stability.

When schools closed, youth care workers assisted in virtual learning, essentially becoming teachers.

“That’s tough. I don’t think I could do that myself,” Liggett says. “There was not one moment’s hesitation. Nobody resigned; nobody has gotten sick with COVID-19 so far; they did not step away from those youngsters at all.”

Even with fear of the coronavirus, and the workers having their own families to go home to, they continue to show up, day after day, to support the kids.

“You have to be an amazing person to do that,” Liggett says.

How Readers Can Help

Keep local areas safe and clean with your donations

With reopening, comes unforeseen costs, particularly in these times of COVID-19, when companies must spend more time and money on cleaning than ever before. To continue serving the population, nonprofits are in need of cleaning supplies.


Here are two ways to help local charitable organizations.


To safely reopen, Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary needs $2,500 for a three-month supply of hand sanitizer, masks and other sanitizing equipment. In addition, $3,500 is needed to perform a deep cleaning of the Blair Audubon Center. Learn how to donate here: www.corkscrew.audubon.org/about/support-sanctuary.


The Naples YMCA is now open and in need of cleaning supplies, as they must use them more often than ever.


The Y is accepting donations of hand sanitizer, paper towels and disinfecting sprays. Learn how to give at www.greaternaplesymca.org/donate.


Do you know how our readers can give a tangible hand up to nonprofits supporting our community in these challenging times? If so, please email us at inspireme@ebellamag.com.