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Beach realtor nominated as WGCU Maker

December 3, 2014
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Beach realtor Cynthia Shafer has been nominated as a 2015 WGCU Maker for her contributions in the Voices For Kids and Bedz for Kidz programs.

Shafer, who is a realtor at Lahaina Realty, will be one of five nominees honored at a Holiday Open House ceremony at a residential home in south Fort Myers in the evening on Wednesday, Dec. 10.

WGCU Public Media, in partnership with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the Women's Fund of Southwest Florida, accepted nominations for 2015 MAKERS: Women Who Make Southwest Florida, from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31. Nominations were for women that impacted Southwest Florida by leaving a mark in the arts, business, education, environment, health/wellness, politics or social justice fields.

Article Photos

WGCU Maker nominee Cynthia Shafer (left) and her sister Donna Garvey pose with a toddler bed in 2010 that had been set up, dressed up and given a special touch for a child in need.

Shafer has been involved with Voices For Kids of Southwest Florida for numerous years (currently an honorary board member). She founded Bedz for Kidz as a branch-off program, along with her husband John, in 2001. The mission for Voices For Kids is to ensure every abused, neglected and abandoned child in the area has a Guardian ad Litem volunteer for advocacy reasons and available financial assistance and resources for their health, education and social needs. Bedz For Kidz' aim is to provide a bed (and other furniture) for any child in foster care who has a guardian.

For Shafer, it's all about the kids and not individual promotion.

"Every time you are in the paper, it brings awareness to not only Bedz for Kidz but the Guardian Ad Litem program," she said. "Voices for Kids is the monetary arm that lets the guardians do the best for kids. Every abused child wants to be like everybody else, so we try to give them the opportunity that the other children have."

Cynthia has served as a member of the board of directors for the local "Voices" chapter and has volunteered as a Guardian ad Litem for Florida's 20th Judicial Circuit for more than 20 years.

The Shafers have a tireless work ethic and spend most every Saturday delivering multiple beds to homes of guardians who have filled out the required paperwork during the week. The different-sized beds are purchased with donation money, set up, dressed up with sheets, pillow and blankets and given a stuffed animal as a caring touch. This comes after Cynthia does spreadsheet work and phone calls to set up deliveries as well as packaging sheets and other items on Thursday and any purchases, vehicle organization and bed setups on Friday.

For their continuing efforts, the Shafers were presented an Outstanding Service Award by their non-profit organization in 2010.

"When I deliver beds on Saturdays, you get kids that just grab your arm and ask is this really for me?," Cynthia said, then continued with stories of how Saturdays touch her.

Now, she travels to certain areas to speak about the program and its experiences to certain groups that usually donate funds or bedding gear. For example, the Southwest Florida Quilters' Guild donated 90 quilts and Project Linus made baby blankets for the toddlers' beds and cribs. On Friday, she will make her pitch to Palm RV in Fort Myers.

Many realtor groups have supported the cause. Even, our neighbors to the north are helping out.

"The past Realtor Association president from Canada brought us 50 teddy bears," Shafer said. "When you touch another nation, you know you really made a dent."

Locally, the Bedz for Kidz program sprouted when the Florida Department of Children & Families stated that every child has to have his or her own bed. On her first case, Shafer donated a twin bed out of her own spare bedroom so that a grandmother could be the guardian of her own grandchild prior to a 5 p.m. deadline.

So far, the Shafers estimate they have delivered more than 2,500 beds. During Hurricane Charley, most of the beds in storage were delivered to Fort Myers Beach.

"We delivered maybe 150 to 200 beds there in the two weeks," Cynthia said. "We were called angels during the hurricane."

At the upcoming Holiday Open House event from 4 to 7 p.m. at Voices For Kids Board President Dr. Kathleen Davey's home at 1045 Wittman Drive in Fort Myers, any donation to benefit the programs is requested and matched by Modern Woodman Fraternity Financial Services.

"I am hoping we will get some donations then," Cynthia said.

Shafer has been a professional realtor in Southwest Florida since 1993. She is a past president of the FMB Board of Realtors and past state chapter president of Women's Council of Realtors. She has been named Realtor of the Year twice and collected the Good Neighbor Award for the national Association of Realtors and Humanitarian of the Year for the Florida Association of Realtors, the Women's Council of Realtors and Lee County attorneys and judges.

Nominees were considered by a selection committee of Makers alumni and WGCU leaders. According to the WGCU website, "Makers" was inspired by the PBS national project titled and features stories of remarkable Southwest Florida women. WGCU produces video and audio portraits of the Makers to air on WGCU-TV and WGCU-FM and archives their stories at for future generations.

For Shafer, the honor is special, but not as special as seeing the smiling faces of the children she helps.

"I'm passionate about it. I feel blessed because, the more I can help the kids and put a smile on their faces and give them that moment of happiness, it lasts a long time," she said.



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