Lee County/Horizon Council now accepting applications for the 25th annual Industry Appreciation Awards honoring local businesses

HC 25 Anniversary logoTo salute excellence in Lee County’s business community, the Lee County Economic Development Office and the Horizon Council are seeking submissions for the 25th annual Industry Appreciation Awards. The honorees will be recognized during the Industry Appreciation luncheon on Thursday, Aug. 25 at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point in Estero. Networking begins at 10:30 a.m. and the program is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Horizon Council will honor businesses in four categories:

  • the LocalLee Grown Business Award will be awarded to a company that was founded in Lee County and is distinguished by its operational excellence and commitment to the vibrance of Southwest Florida’s business climate;
  • the Business Citizenship Award honors a company whose financial, volunteer and active involvement in organizations and programs have helped create a better quality of life in Lee County;
  • the Emerging Business Leader Award will be awarded to a relative newcomer to Lee County that is experiencing marked growth while introducing inventive products, services or business practices;
  • the Bruce T. Gora Legacy Award has been added to honor the 25th anniversary of the Industry Appreciation Awards. It recognizes an individual who during the last 25 years has established a history of distinguished service and contributions to the betterment and growth of Lee County’s business community.

Applications for the 2016 Industry Appreciation Awards are now being accepted online at LeeCountyBusiness.com. The deadline for submissions is Friday, May 27.

The Horizon Council is a public-private board established in 1991 to advise the Lee County Board of Commissioners on economic development issues. The Council has over 70members representing six cities; chambers of commerce; economic development and trade organizations; community, business, and education organizations; along with various officers and at-large members.  TheLee County Economic Development Office works to attract new and diversified businesses to the area, and improve the overall business environment in Lee County. For more information, visit www.leecountybusiness.com or call 239-338-3161.

Southwest Florida wins big with Norman Love and Mark Loren’s EGGStraordinary Giveaways

Norman and Jo Champion

Chocolatier Norman Love Confections and jeweler Mark Loren Designs recently partnered to hide 36 “EGGStraordinary” prizes throughout Lee and Collier counties between March 19-27. In addition to the special giveaway, prize winners who posted their discoveries on social media sites using the hashtag #LoveLorenEggHunt were entered into a grand prize drawing, and Norman Love Confections and Mark Loren Designs have announced Jo Champion as the grand prize winner.

Champion discovered one of Mark Loren Designs’ prize bags at the Mercato in Collier County on her birthday, and as the grand prize winner of the EGGStraordinary Giveaway, her birthday celebration continues. She will receive a Norman Love Confections All Our Love Gift Tower, valued at $385, and a $400 gift certificate to Mark Loren Designs.

“I found the Easter egg from Mark Loren Designs on my birthday, so that was a nice surprise,” said Champion. “Then to learn that I was the grand prize winner and will receive two very special prizes from both companies, well, it feels like a never-ending birthday celebration!”

Prize bags from Norman Love Confections and Mark Loren Designs were placed throughout Lee and Collier counties at businesses, events and other high-traffic areas. Norman Love Confections and Mark Loren Designs took to social media, revealing special daily clues to help followers determine the whereabouts of the day’s prize. Both Southwest Florida residents and visitors were winners throughout the giveaway, and while many prizes were discovered unexpectedly, many people challenged themselves to be the first to interpret the daily clues in order claim the special prize. Prizes were discovered in wide variety of locations throughout Lee and Collier counties, some of which included Hammond Stadium, Matanzas on the Bay and Health Park in Lee County, and Artis, Waterside Shops and aboard a Pure Florida cruise in Collier County.

Inside eggs in the Norman Love Confections gift bag, winners found a prize voucher for Love’s internationally recognized chocolates or other offerings from Norman Love Confections. Inside eggs in the Mark Loren Design gift bag, winners discovered a gemstone, along with a gift certificate to have the stone set into a custom-designed piece from the award-winning jeweler. Love and Loren added something “EGGStra” to some of their prize bags: golden eggs with a high-valued prize for the winners. Two golden egg prizes from both Love and Loren were hidden in both Lee and Collier Counties, and were discovered at Edison National Bank and Citygate Ministries in Lee County and FineMark Bank and North Naples United Methodist Church in Collier County.

Loren is nationally known for offering unique and rare gemstones, innovative diamond rings, exceptional engagement and wedding bands and expert jewelry design and repair; all services are done on-site at the Fort Myers and Naples gallery locations. From celebrities to clients who appreciate wearing exclusive jewelry designs, Mark Loren Designs assures the finest one-of-a-kind sentimental jewelry pieces for lasting enjoyment. For more information, visit www.marklorendesigns.com.

Founded in 2001 by Norman and Mary Love, Norman Love Confections creates and distributes handcrafted artisanal chocolates from its corporate headquarters at 11380 Lindbergh Blvd. in Fort Myers.  The award-winning Fort Myers-based chocolatier has been lauded more than a dozen times by a leading consumer ratings magazine, including recognition six times for producing the best ultra-premium chocolates in the nation. Forbes.com included Norman Love Confections BLACK line on its list of the nation’s top 10 truffles; The Huffington Post listed it among the six best U.S. destinations in its Chocolate Lover’s Travel Guide; and USA Today named Love as one of its top 10 entrepreneurs for 2014. Love has recently been named as the inaugural inductee of Dessert Professional Magazine’s Chocolatier Hall of Fame, partnered with local chefs to present a six-course meal at the James Beard House in New York and Norman Love Confections was ranked among the top 10 shops in the world for chocolate lovers by U.K. media outlet Daily Telegraph.

Norman Love Confections has Chocolate Salons in Fort Myers, Estero and Naples, and Artisan Gelato by Norman Love is next door to the Fort Myers salon, off Daniels Parkway east of I-75. Chocolates, gift baskets, sipping chocolate and Love’s book, “Artistry in Chocolate, A Story of Love,” also can be ordered online at www.normanloveconfections.com. In addition, Norman Love Confections chocolates and desserts are offered on 18 Princess Cruises’ ships through the “Chocolate Journeys” partnership and at independent retail locations throughout the U.S. For more information visit www.normanloveconfections.com or call 239-561-7215.

Conservancy of Southwest Florida announces summer programs

Parents looking for a fun and educational way for kids to spend time over the summer – consider the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is now offering new summer activities, including a Little Explorer pre-k programs, guided kayak tours, Junior Vet Lab, wildlife hospital exhibits and an environmental education lecture series.

Led by Conservancy representatives, guests will have the opportunity to come face-to-face with native reptiles, ocean cr
eatures, and occasionally catch a glimpse of rehabilitating wildlife. Daily Education Programs will begin from May 1 through Oct. 31 at 11 a.m. at the Wildlife Hospital Nursey Viewing Window.

Daily programs include:Photo 3

11 a.m. “Wildlife Hospital Nursery Viewing Window”

11:15 a.m. “Reptile Roundup”

12:15 p.m. “Wildlife Hospital Talk”

1:15 p.m. “Ocean Discoveries”

2 p.m. “Wildlife Hospital Nursery Viewing Window”

On the Water

Electric boat tours are also available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guests can enjoy a relaxing 45-minute ride on the mangrove lined Gordon River led by a Conservancy boat captain. Rides are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Boat Tours are included in price of admission to the Conservancy Nature Center, must be 2 years old to board electric boats.

In addition, kayak rentals for up to two hours, are available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Take a guided tour of the Gordon River or head out on your own and discover the hidden treasures of this brackish water habitat, which provides a perfect sanctuary for many native Florida species and explore the natural beauty of Southwest Florida. Kayak rentals and guided tours, reservations required.

Visitors can go on a 2-hPhoto 2our kayak adventure with a Conservancy-trained guide where they will learn about the importance of the mangrove forest while spotting Florida wildlife. Tours will be offered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. for $40 for members and $50 for non-members, reservations required.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida will also offer a guided Boat and Lunch tours of the Gordon River on Fridays in May through September. Tours will depart at noon aboard one of its famous electric boats and stop for lunch at Wahoo’s River Bar and Grill. After your meal, guests will cruise back to the Conservancy’s Nature Center where they can explore the Dalton Discovery Center, the Little Explorer Play Zone and wildlife hospital exhibits, reservations required.

Little Explorers

The Little Explorers Pre-K programs will be offered Thursdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m.  Little Explorer Play Zone provides the youngest visitors, the opportunity to explore nature and discover amazing animals through multi-sensory, interactive activities, stories, and crafts. No registration required. Admission is free for members and included in admission for non-members. Little Explorer Play Zone is most enjoyed by children 5 and younger. Summer programs include:

May 12; 14: A Color of His OwnPhoto 1

May 26; 28: Salty the Sea Turtle

June 9; 11: Over in the Forest

June 23; 25: House for Hermit Crabs

July 14; 16: Small Green Snake

July 28; 30: Where Should Turtle Be?

Aug. 11; 13: The Little Lazy Lizard

Aug. 25: Commotion in the Ocean

Adult Speakers Series

Free to Conservancy members, “Evenings at the Conservancy,” the monthly environmental education lecture series will continue on select Tuesday evenings. The series features a wide variety of presenters, eco-programs, panel members from the Conservancy, and local and regional environmental experts. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the program starts at 6:30 p.m. Programs frequently sell out, please pre-register by emailing Sophia Navarra at sophian@conservancy.org or by calling 239-403-4207. Lecture topics include:

May 10: “Legislative Wrap Up” with Jennifer Hecker, Conservancy Director of Natural Resource Policy

June 14: “Invasive Reptiles in SWFL” featuring Ian Bartoszek, Conservancy biologist

July 12: “FWC Florida Manatee Research” with Denise Boyd, FWC Conservation Research Associate

Self-Guided Nature Center Tours

In addition to summer programs, the Conservancy Nature Center offers self-guided exploring. Visitors can explore the interactive Dalton Discovery Center, which features the wondrous ecosystems of Southwest Florida. They can discover live animals, get hands-on in the touch tank, and see Luna, the loggerhead sea turtle, in the 5,000-gallon aquarium.

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital treats more than 3,200 injured, sick and orphaned native animals each year. Discover threats facing our animals and injury prevention tips. Guided tours of the Wildlife Hospital Nursery Viewing Window are offered every day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Guests can walk through the hospital exhibits and check out a behind-the-scenes film, patient X-rays, animal artifacts, and the Jr. Vet Lab.Photo 4

The Junior Vet Lab is an interactive play space where children can learn how veterinarians care for animals, and the children can role-play with native animals (of the “stuffed” species). The Junior Vet Lab is open Mondays through Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Nature Center’s Sapakie Family Classroom.

Special Celebration Days

May 7 will be Nature Cat Day, guests are encouraged to leave their inner house cat behind and explore the natural world, encounter animals, and enjoy interactive children’s activities based on the newest PBS Kids TV show “Nature Cat.”

On Friday May 19 and Saturday May 20 the Conservancy will celebrate Endangered Species Day to raise awareness about our must vulnerable species. There will be special activities throughout the day and special admission deals for Conservancy and Zoo members. Zoo members receive free admission to the Conservancy and Conservancy members get in free to the Zoo.

Summer at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida will include special celebration days with family-friendly activities to celebrate our water, land and wildlife.

World Turtle Day – May 23: Celebration activities May 23-29

World Oceans Day – June 6: Celebration activities June 6-11

World Snake Day – July 16: Celebration activities July 11-16

World Lizard Day – Aug. 15: Celebration activities Aug. 15-20

 Free Admission Days

Mother’s Day, May 5-7: Free admission for Mom when accompanied by a paying guest.

Memorial Day, May 26-28 and May 30: Free admission for current and retired military with valid ID.

Father’s Day, June 16-18: Free admission for Dad when accompanied by a paying guest.

Independence Day, June 30-July 2: Free admission for current and retired military with valid ID.

Labor Day, Sept. 1-3: Free admission for First Responders with valid ID.

All Conservancy Nature Center programs and events are online at www.Conservancy.org/Nature-Center. Membership is available online at www.Conservancy.org/Join. For information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and to make reservations, call 239-262-0304 or visit www.Conservancy.org. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is located at 1495 Smith Preserve Way in Naples.

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida:

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a not-for-profit environmental protection organization with a 50 year history focused on the issues impacting the water, land wildlife and future of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Conservancy accomplishes this mission through the combined efforts of its experts in the areas of environmental science, policy, education and wildlife rehabilitation. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, world-class Nature Center and von Arx Wildlife Hospital are headquartered in Naples, Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, south of the Naples Zoo off Goodlette-Frank Road. Learn more about the Conservancy’s work and how to support the quality of life in Southwest Florida www.conservancy.org.

Toll Brothers donates appliances, countertops, cabinets and more to Lee BIA Builders Care

Builders Care PR Logo

Toll Brothers, the nation’s leading builder of luxury homes, recently made a significant donation of high-end appliances, cabinets, countertops, fixtures, decor and more to Lee BIA Builders Care to help support local homeowners in need of emergency construction repairs. The items had been featured at Toll Brothers’ Southwest Regional Design Studio, which is currently being redesigned.

 

“Toll Brothers is a proud supporter of Lee BIA Builders Care in Southwest Florida,” said Kevin Brown, Toll Brothers Southwest Florida Division Vice President. “We admire the organization’s commitment to Lee County and are grateful to be a part of its mission.”

 

The goods donated by Toll Brothers will be used directly in renovation projects coordinated by Builders Care or offered during the “Building Product Blow Out Sale,” held annually by the organization. Funds raised will help provide wheelchair ramps, handicap accessibility, widened doorways, and roof and air conditioning repairs to elderly and disabled homeowners in Lee County.

 

Toll Brothers’ Southwest Florida communities include Bonita Lakes and Cordova at Spanish Wells, both located in Bonita Springs, and Palazzo at Naples. For more information, visit TollBrothers.com

 

About Builders Care

Builders Care is the nonprofit charitable arm of the Lee Building Industry Association (BIA). Its objective is to provide emergency repairs and construction services to elderly, disabled and economically disadvantaged people who are unable to obtain home repairs through traditional means. To date, Lee BIA Builders Care has put nearly $3.8 million in construction services back into the community at no cost to homeowners in need.  Builders Care enlists the volunteer services of Lee BIA members and leverages grants and donated materials to provide construction and remodeling services to qualified homeowners throughout Lee County. Major supporters include Cape Coral Plumbing, Ferguson Enterprises, Minto Communities, Nilles Design Group, Priority Marketing of Southwest Florida, Stock Development and The Aubuchon Team of Companies. Builders Care is headquartered at the Lee BIA offices at 10501 Six Mile Cypress Pkwy., Suite 118 in Fort Myers. The Building Industry Association (www.BIA.net ) is a 50-year-old association affiliated with National Home Builders Association and Florida Home Builders Association to serve the local building and related industries to strengthen our community by advancing a professional building industry through advocacy, education and services. Donations can be made online at www.LeeBuildersCare.org, or to the Builders Care general fund at BB&T Page Field branch at 4959 South Cleveland Ave. in Fort Myers. For more information, visit www.LeeBuildersCare.org.

 

About Toll Brothers

Toll Brothers, an award-winning Fortune 1000 company founded in 1967, embraces an unwavering commitment to quality and customer service. Toll Brothers is currently building in 19 states nationwide and is a publicly owned company whose stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: TOL). In FORTUNE Magazine’s 2016 Survey of The World’s Most Admired Companies®* Toll Brothers was ranked #6 worldwide across ALL INDUSTRIES in Quality of Products/Services Offered after Apple, Walt Disney, Amazon, Alphabet, and Nordstrom and before Netflix and Facebook. In the same 2016 survey, Toll Brothers was named the #1 Home Builder Worldwide. The Company was named America’s Most Trusted Home Builder™ 2015† by Lifestory Research, receiving the highest numerical score among the largest 133 home builders in the country. Toll Brothers was also recently honored as national Builder of the Year by BUILDER magazine, and was twice named national Builder of the Year by Professional Builder magazine.

 

* FORTUNE Magazine’s survey of the “World’s Most Admired Companies®” for 2016 began with over 1,500 companies across more than 50 industries, and asked over 4,000 executives, directors, and analysts to rate companies in their own industry on nine criteria (Go to http://fortune.com/worlds-most-admired-companies/ for the full methodology.) From FORTUNE Magazine, March 1, 2016 ©2016 Time Inc. FORTUNE and The World’s Most Admired Companies are registered trademarks of Time Inc. and are used under license. FORTUNE and Time Inc. are not affiliated with, and do not endorse products or services of, Toll Brothers, Inc. † Toll Brothers received the highest numerical score in the United States in the proprietary Lifestory Research 2015 America’s Most TrustedTM Home Builder study. Study based on 43,200 new home shoppers in 27 markets. Proprietary study results are based on experiences and perceptions of consumers surveyed between January and December 2014.

Tumaini Fund USA launches 2016 fundraising campaign

Headquartered in Naples, Fla., Tumaini Fund USA held its sixth annual fundPhoto 3raising event March 19 at the Naples Sailing & Yacht Club, raising more than $65,000 to support its mission of alleviating suffering of the tens of thousands of AIDS widows and orphans in Kagera, the North-West province of Tanzania, Africa. Funds raised will be used to continue to provide services to the area, such as offices and vehicles, which Parish workers need to navigate the area’s rough terrain, new classrooms and fresh water wells for villages, as well as bicycles for transportation and renovating houses for families. Additionally, the organization will use funds to supply the more than 25,000 orphans in the area supported by Tumaini Fund with basic necessities, such as mosquito nets, education, solar lamps, clothing and much more.

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The campaign launch included the organization’s signature event Colors of Hope, featuring works of art from local and nationally renowned artists, including Paul Arsenault and Gary Akers. Th ere were also many quality silent auction items. A live auction included luxury trip packages to Napa Valley, Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, Canada and Maine. It also included fund-a-need items such as solar lamps, mosquito nets and water wells for the orphans. More than 150 people gathered to hear from Tumaini Fund founder and CEO Dr. Susan Wilson, about her recent trip to Tanzania and the work of the organization. Corporate Table sponsors included Jeff Wilson Pools, Gulf Coast International Properties, The Vanderbilt Beach Resort and Brooks Insurance Services. In-kind donations from Driftwood Garden Center, Sunshine Ace Hardware, The Great Frameup and Penny Taylor Photography.

 

The fundraiser was part of a 10-day fundraising campaign embarked upon by the all-volunteer staff and board of directors of Tumaini Fund UPhoto 1SA, which raised funds for the nonprofit organization. Other fundraising initiatives included speaking engagements around Southwest Florida by Wilson during her visit to the area. The fundraising efforts will continue throughout 2016 in order to reach the goal of $200,000 to make the necessary impact in the service area of the organization.

 

Tumaini is the Swahili word for “hope.” The Tumaini Fund seeks to alleviate the suffering of AIDS widows and orphans in Kagera, the North-West province of Tanzania. The Tumaini Fund now supports more than 25,000 orphans, supplying the nePhoto 6cessities for life such as food, blankets, mosquito nets and medical assistance to the villagers. The organization also provides opportunities for education and rebuilds derelict shelters and houses, strengthening families and communities, so they can take care of their children. Ninety-five percent of the funds raised by The Tumaini Fund USA are used to fund programs, supplies and education for the mission. To help or learn more, visit www.tumainifundusa.org.

Conservancy of Southwest Florida and partners celebrate volunteers during National Volunteer Week, April 11-15

Photo 2 - Conservancy Volunteers

In honor of National Volunteer Week, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida has partnered with Naples Botanical Garden and Naples Zoo to celebrate the many dedicated volunteers who share their time, talent and abilities to make a difference within the Southwest Florida community. Throughout National Volunteer Week, which takes place Monday, April 11 through Friday, April 15, volunteers at the three organizations will have the opportunity to visit each partnering organization’s facilities free of charge with the presentation of a volunteer name badge or special pass. Volunteers can visit the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and the Naples Botanical Gardens and Naples Zoo Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Volunteers are essPhoto 4 - Dalton Discovery Centerential to supporting the day-to-day operations and programs at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Their dedication is vital in helping our organization raise awareness about the importance of protecting Southwest Flori
da’s unique natural environment and quality of life,” said Kelly Rhoades, volunteer and intern services manager for Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “We look forward to showing our appreciation for all of our volunteers’ hard work and to celebrate the impactful individuals who are making a difference in our community.”

Karl Williams, volunteer chair for Conservancy of Southwest Florida, expresses an ever-growing need for volunteers committed to protecting the land, water and wildlife in Southwest Florida.Photo 3 - Critter Couriers

“Many of our volunteers fill essential roles from caring for wildlife in the von Arx Wildlife Hospital to working as docents in the Dalton Discovery Center to serving as captains of our electric boat tours,” Williams said. “Tourist season may be over, but the work at the Conservancy must continue. We welcome new people with a passion for protecting this wonderful place we call home.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, visit www.Conservancy.org/get-involved/volunteer. Volunteers must be at least 16 years old.

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida:

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a not-for-profit environmental protection organization with a 50 year history focused on the issues impacting the water, land wildlife and future of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Conservancy accomplishes this mission through the combined efforts of its experts in the areas of environmental science, policy, education Photo 1 - Rob Moher with Kelly Rhoadesand wildlife rehabilitation. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, world-class Nature Center and von Arx Wildlife Hospital are headquartered in Naples, Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, south of the Naples Zoo off Goodlette-Frank Road. Learn more about the Conservancy’s work and how to support the quality of life in Southwest Florida www.conservancy.org.

Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest ranks fourth highest-grossing charity auction by Wine Spectator

Cheryl and Dave Copham cheering by Michael Shapiro PhotographyWine Spectator has released its top 10 U.S. Charity Auctions of 2015, and the 2015 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest ranked fourth highest in the nation. Held at Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club, last year’s Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest raised $2.2 million through ticket sales and auction lots and brought in an additional $1.1 million through fund-a-need donations, bringing the total raised and donated to $3.3 million.

 

“We are honored that Wine Spectator has ranked the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest among the top-grossing wine fests in the country,” said Elaine Hawkins, board president of SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. “This was all possible due to the $350,000 contributed by generous trustees and sponsors to underwrite the cost of the event so that every dollar raised at the two-day festival serves our region’s children and students. To achieve this highly regarded ranking is a truly reflection of the generosity of the Southwest Florida community.”

 

The SWFL Children’s Charities Inc.’s annual signature fundraiser, the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, has raised $15.6 million over the past seven years. The nonprofit, SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. donates 100 percent of the event proceeds to three local beneficiaries. Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida is the primary beneficiary of the event, and the money raised helps to fund the building of the new family-centered children’s hospital that will provide new and expanded medical services and subspecialty services to children from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. In addition to providing funds for the new state-of-the-art Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. supports pediatric health care programs and provides scholarships for students at Florida SouthWestern State College and Florida Gulf Coast University. For more information, visit www.swflwinefest.org.

Lee County Economic Development office to launch new program

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Small businesses and entrepreneurs can mark their calendars for an April 22 event that will launch the Lee County Economic Development Office’s newest program, LEARN (Lee Entrepreneurs’ Assistance Resource Network) .

People interested in starting or growing an existing business can attend the LEARN kickoff and partner expo on Friday, April 22, at Harborside Event Center. The event begins at 8:30 a.m. with the Horizon Council General Membership meeting and LEARN panel discussion, followed by the LEARN Partner Expo from 9:30 to 11 a.m. There is no cost, but attendees are asked to RSVP to Lee County EDO staffer Sarah Newcomb at snewcomb@leegov.com by April 13.

LEARN’s mission is to bring together businesses and entrepreneurs with supporting organizations to promote the establishment, retention and expansion of businesses in Lee County. LEARN partners include the Florida Small Business Development Center at Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida SouthWestern State College, Southwest Florida SCORE, CareerSource, United Way, Goodwill SWFL MicroEnterprise Institute, Fort Myers Technical College, Lee County Library System, Keiser University, Hodges University, Fusion Pointe, Southwest Florida Enterprise Center and Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

LEARN has created an online toolkit and resource clearinghouse to provide business owners with information, contacts and resources on topics such as workforce development and training,  maximizing social media, business plan development, tax and legal resources and everything in between.

“The LEARN partners are excited about this opportunity to work collaboratively to promote the establishment, retention and expansion of businesses in Southwest Florida,” said John Boland, executive director, Lee County Economic Development Office. “LEARN creates a one-stop-shop for business owners and allows us to streamline the process of obtaining vital services to help them succeed.”

For more information about LEARN, visit www.LEARNswfl.com or contact Rachel Busch, Lee County’s EDO Strategic Projects Manager, at rbusch@leegov.com.

TheLee County Economic Development Office works to attract new and diversified businesses to the area, support company growth and expansions, and improve the overall business environment in Lee County. Services include Site Selection Assistance, Demographic and Statistical Information, Business Assistance, Financial Assistance, Employee Training and Recruitment and Community Tours. For more information, visit www.LeeCountyBusiness.com or 239-338-3161.

Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation to hold “Grow the Garden” Gala and Art Auction

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The Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation is holding its third annual Grow The Garden Gala from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 17, at Lakes Regional Park, 7330 Gladiolus Drive, Fort Myers. Enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvre, entertainment, live and silent auctions and park tours. All proceeds benefit the continued development of the Children’s Learning Garden, the next step along the path of the Botanic Garden at Lakes Park. This event is being sponsored by Denny’s Restaurants of Fort Myers, Ada’s Natural Market, FineMark Bank and Galeana Family of Dealerships.

The mission of the Children’s Learning Garden is to excite and educate young people about the life of plants and their environmental importance. Children will investigate the relationships of soil, water and sun to the growth of plant life.

Live and silent auctions feature dining and boating experiences, get-a-ways, golf packages and more. Art in a variety of mediums has been donated by area artists. All will be on display and available for silent auction bidding throughout the gala. The gala is open to the public. Admission is $50 per couple, $30 per person or $100 per couple for VIP tickets. The VIP package will include: valet parking, reserved tables in tent area, escorted tours of Children’s Garden area, concierge checkout service and a floral table centerpiece. For reservations, call 239-533-7575 Ext. 5.

Lakes Regional Park opened in 1984. Amenities include walking and jogging paths, a water feature, bicycling, paddlecraft rentals, The Railroad Museum of South Florida, fishing locations, bird watching spots and a lodge that features bathrooms, a kitchen, ceiling fans and tables with chairs. Plant lovers can meander through various gardens. For other park information, visit www.leeparks.org. Park users can volunteer or join the efforts of the Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation. More information on the Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation can be found at www.LakesPark.org.

Sip in Style Fashion Blast coming to Bell Tower Shops April 14

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Fashion event to showcase latest trends, proceeds to benefit Gulf Coast Humane Society

The trendy Sip in Style Fashion Bash returns to Bell Tower Shops Thursday, April 14 from 6 to 9 p.m. The event, benefiting the Gulf Coast Humane Society, will showcase the latest designer fashions for spring, presented by select Bell Tower Shops. The event will feature trending fashions for all ages, specialty cocktails, raffles and prizes, and a fashion show with some of Southwest Florida’s finest community leaders, philanthropists and local celebrities.

Doors will open at 6 p.m., where guests will be treated to specially-concocted beverages and light hors d’oeuvres. The fashion show will begin at 7:30 p.m., which will feature fashions from Saks Fifth Avenue, Fab’rik, Saratoga Sundress, Brodeur Carvell, Drapers & Damon’s, Chico’s, A’Tu, White House | Black Market and more.

Trendy apparel and a great cause combine to make Sip in Style a must-attend fashion show. The high energy production will include an impressive lineup of Southwest Florida’s finest business leaders sporting the latest in seasonal fashions and accessories. The celebrity model lineup includes representatives from Florida Gulf Coast University, Six Bends Harley-Davidson, and Edison Ford Winter Estates.

Limited VIP seating is available for $20 per person, reservations are encouraged by calling 239-489-1221. Proceeds from VIP tickets will benefit the Gulf Coast Humane Society. Admission is free for students from Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida SouthWestern State College are with Student ID. For more information, visit www.thebelltowershops.com.

About Bell Tower Shops

Bell Tower Shops is the premier dining and fashion destination of the Fort Myers-Cape Coral market. The open-air center is anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue, The Fresh Market, Bed Bath & Beyond and a 20-screen Regal Cinema complex. Exceptional specialty retailers include: World of Beer, White House Black Market, Francesca’s Collection, Ulta, Banana Republic and Williams-Sonoma.

About Madison Marquette

Madison Marquette is a private real estate investment and operating company and a member of the global investment firm Capital Guidance, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Founded in 1992, the firm employs a proven repositioning and redevelopment strategy to create value in infill and mixed-use assets in major urban gateway markets throughout the United States. Madison Marquette enhances returns while mitigating risk by directly controlling and managing the execution of its investment strategies. With more than 230 employees, Madison Marquette covers major U.S. markets through its offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, New York, Philadelphia, Dallas and Fort Lauderdale. For more information, visit the company website at www.MadisonMarquette.com.