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Community “Spirit” shines for children in need

December 12, 2012
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Fort Myers Beach community members came out in full force to support an annual giving event at South Beach Grille on Tuesday, Dec. 4.

More than $14,472 was raised through a live auction, silent auction and a 50/50 draw during the course of the evening for the Spirit of the Holidays. The 28 donated items from the live auction alone drew $9,490 ($320 of which came from random $20 donations).

The benefit dinner/auction funds also included $10 back from the $25 dinner charge from each of the 120 tickets sold for the occasion. In fact, South Beach Manager Robert Saunders sold 18 more seats to his regular customers for a grand total of $1,380 back to the Spirit cause.

Article Photos

Charity auctioneer Rick Gallo of Gulf Coast Coin & Jewelry Brokers, Inc. acknowledges the winning bid for one of the many live auction items at South Beach Grille during the Spirit of the Holidays dinner/auction.

The 17th annual Spirit of the Holidays is the charitable arm of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce Foundation. It has an organized committee that has combined forces with the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department and other donating businesses to make the drive such a success.

"The Spirit of the Holidays is a great example of how our beach community has fun while contributing to a good cause," said Beach Chamber President Bud Nocera. "With the combined efforts of the Foundation board members, sponsors, gift donors, volunteers, Beach fire fighters and South Beach Restaurant, the Foundation was able to sell out all available tickets for the evening and conduct an auction that will ensure needy children have a good Christmas."

Charity auctioneer Rick Gallo of Gulf Coast Coin & Jewelry Brokers, Inc. was aided by Gini and Shannon Smith (co-chairs) and a handful of "spotters" to make sure all bids were recognized. Donated items that were bid on included two handmade treasure chests, a "wagon of booze," resort stay packages, baseball tickets with autographed baseballs, lottery trees, a John Gowdy painting, salon gift baskets, a handmade Afghan, cruise tickets, autographed footballs, NASCAR tickets and two crowd-favorite fire fighter dinners at Station #31.

"Thanks to all of you who have so generously donating your time, efforts and money," said Beach Chamber Foundation President Fran Myers. "I really want to thank our fire department. Without them, we couldn't do this."

Spirit of the Holidays is dedicated to ensure every child living in the 33931 area has a meaningful Christmas through events, private donations, grants and concerned businesses and individuals. Funds are used to buy toys, clothing and Christmas dinner for affected families referred to the committee by the local school district.

The Spirit pancake breakfast, sponsored by the Red Coconut RV Park, Costco, Sun Harvest Citrus and the Beach Fire Department, raised $670 in $5 donations and tips this past Saturday. Next, a gift-wrapping party will be held at the RV park on Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 5:30 p.m., before Santa and his elves distribute the gifts before Dec. 25.

Giving trees have been dispersed at willing Beach business locations. So far, Fish Tale Marina, Munch Box, BB&T bank, Bennett Chiropractic, Century 21 Tripower Realty, Moss Marina, Zushi Zushi, Surf Club, VIP Realty, Beach Chamber office and Indian Creek Park have stepped up. Any other local businesses interested in having a Giving Tree may contact the Chamber.

"Various businesses in our area agree to have a Christmas tree in their building, and we provide paper ornaments to them," said Beach resident and Spirit committee member Corri Francisco, who added the child's sex, age and wish list are disclosed but not the name. "School officials go through the forms of the needy children. Anybody can go to any of these businesses and pick an ornament or a few, purchase the gift and bring it back to that same place unwrapped."

Before the dinner/auction, The Beach Pub raised $2,300 and a "mountain of toys" from the recent annual Toys for Christmas Drive and Patrick Stott Memorial Poker Run. Lani Kai Beach Resort is also pitching in with their own special holiday dinner for the applied children and their families.

An anonymous person recently donated 17 bicycles to the cause. So, like in year's past, the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation has promised it will donate the helmets for them.

Now that Spirit of the Holidays officials have solidly reached their fundraising goal of $10,000, leftover money will be supplemented to the Chamber Easter Egg Hunt and Beach school students in need.



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