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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE The Rev. Dr. John H. Danner April 9, 2018


The Rev. Dr. John H. Danner

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club

April 9, 2018


I realize this is not a classification talk.  But the theme for the coming year in Rotary seems custom made for a pastor:  be the inspiration.  I mean offering inspiration, being inspiring, is literally part of my job description.  In fact in a recent survey of the members of my church conducted by the Pastoral Relations Committee one of the questions asked if I preach inspiring sermons!

Personally,  I find some inspiration from time to time in the comic strip drawn by Doug Marlette called Kudzu.  It features the comings and goings of a young man in the south, who frequently turns to his pastor for counsel and advice.

In one strip, they are out for a walk, when the young man turns to the preacher and says, “Bein’ a minister must be really hard, huh, preacher?  I mean, living for others, leading an exemplary life!  That’s a lot of responsibility!  The pressure must be tremendous!  Having to set a good example!  People watching, waiting for one false move, one sign of human fragility they can jump on! . . . I don’t know how you handle it! . . .”  The preacher thinks for a moment, and then says, “I stay home a lot.”

That is most certainly not the case with this club.  This club has discovered over the years that part of our work, part of our mission, if you will allow the term, is found outside the four walls of the Clubhouse at the Dunes.  Certainly, what happens there on Friday mornings is important, and in and of itself often inspiring.  Over breakfast we often share our lives, and offer support to one another in times of difficulty.  Networking connections are made that enhance our ability to serve in our own professions.  We find a few reasons to laugh, ribbing Don Russell about his beloved Buckeyes, listening to one of John Frederick’s stories. Our speakers often challenge us to think in new ways, and to take on new efforts.  But this club has learned that what matters most is not what we do on Friday mornings, but rather, what we do the rest of the week.  For it is when we move out into the wider world, as individuals and in groups, it is then that we can truly be an inspiration.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot these past few weeks–and considering the many ways I have been inspired by the members of this club.

I am inspired by the way there is always somebody willing to step up and take on a task when needed, like Cindy DeCosta, Dorrie Hipschmann and Shirley Jewell did this evening.

I am inspired by the way some of our members, like Chet Sadler, Bill Rahe and John Grey, have devoted so much time and effort and even personal funds to keep us involved in places like Haiti and Guatemala and Trinidad.

I am inspired by the fact that we as a club are helping farmers in Guatemala with microloans that make it possible for them to grow some of the best coffee in the world.

I am inspired by the all hands on deck approach we take to the Arts and Crafts Fair, and the way Scot Congress, Dick Waterhouse, Robert Monk, Rachel Tritaik, the two Rogers (those guys can sell anything!) and so, so, so many others make it possible for us to raise tens of thousands of dollars every year all while providing Sanibel with a top-notch community event attended by thousands.

I am inspired by the fact that this year we are planting a tree for every member of our club –and how we helped fund a Food Forest right next door in Pine Manor in Fort Myers.  A food forest, for crying out loud!  In Fort Myers!

I am inspired by the hundreds and hundreds of wheelchairs we have provided for persons in desperate need, allowing them to literally get up off the ground, sometimes for the very first time in their lives.

I am inspired by how Eldon Bohrofen has worked overtime to bring in new members, and how those new members like Richard Green and John Schwandke have become vital participants in our work.

I am inspired by how Jack Alexander and Joleen Raho got us involved in the rehab work along the Imperial River after Hurricane Irma and how the residents there were keeping the faith.

I am inspired by the way Lee Almas, year after year, after year has organized our efforts to help various community organizations park cars for important fundraisers that benefit the island.

I am inspirited by the young men and women who have received thousands and thousands of dollars in scholarships from our club, and the way Dan Cohn and his committee have kept that project so very well organized.

I am inspired by the fact that such a large percentage of our members serve on various boards and committees across the island, and literally around the world, making a real difference in so many lives.

I am inspired by Holli Martin makes sure every contribution is acknowledged with her weekly shout outs and thank you notes.

I am inspired by the fact that doctors and preachers and lawyers and accountants and teachers and scientists and bankers and others are willing to scour the side of Summerlin Road once a month and pick up all manner of debris to help keep our world a beautiful place.

Yes, friends, even working on road kill can be an inspiration.  But none of it would happen–none of it at all–if we simply stayed home.  If we simply ate eggs and bacon and raised our cholesterol levels and enjoyed ourselves on Friday mornings none of it would happen at all.

But we don’t.  We take seriously the need to put “Service above Self”.  We take seriously the fact that yes, we are women and men who can and do make a difference as individuals, but also that we are able to multiply that impact exponentially when we work together.

And in the year ahead, I will do all in my power to help us continue being the inspiration.  I will be proposing some new efforts as well as supporting our tried and true programs of the past.  I will be encouraging us to explore what it might mean to sponsor an Interact Club at the Sanibel School.  I will be asking us to find creative ways to partner with FISH and other groups at part, RUSH–Rotarians United to Stop Hunger.  I will be urging us to think about our relationship to Shell Point, and to examine the idea of fostering a Satellite Club there.

On a more personal basis, I turn sixty-five this summer.  And so it seems time again to get on my trusty bike, and put in a couple of hundred miles to raise some funds for wheelchairs.  When I turned sixty, we were part of an effort that raised $22,000 to that end.  We placed over two-hundred people in those chairs.  What can we do this time?

I am so honored to serve as your President for the coming year.  Because, my fellow Rotarians, you inspire me.  You inspire me to be a better person.

Back in 2011 the late Art Cramer, a long time Rotarian, asked me over and over again to come with him to a Rotary meeting.  I finally relented.  A year later, Art passed on.  And I had the privilege of officiating at his Memorial Service.  Recently, I looked up my homily from that day.

“Art,” I said, “not only repeated the words of the Four Way test at each and every Rotary Club meeting, he lived by them as well.”

Fellow Rotarians, might that be said of each of us.  As individuals and as a club, might our words and our deeds be the inspiration.

Blessings in a Backpack (BIB)

Lee County identified and found an overwhelming need for this exceptional program starting with Tice Elementary School were 98% of the students rely on Federal Food Assistance programs. The BIB program went into effect at Tice in 2008 and since that time, measured test scores, reading skills, positive behavior, general health, and attendance have improved dramatically.

Lee County continued their fundraising efforts for schools in our County that have a concentration of need.   But, quickly realized that there were pockets of children with these same needs in every school within Lee County. Lee is a school-choice county and parents can elect to have their children attend schools near their place of employment; in some cases parents work jobs with wages so low they can’t afford to buy groceries. On average, today’s minimum wage has 30% less purchasing power than it did in the 70s. Housing costs have risen exponentially and food and transportation costs continue to go up week after week.

At first, Sanibel doesn’t seem like a place where the “Blessings in a Backpack” program would actually be needed, but au contraire, 72 children and their families are currently involved with this now BIB-Sanibel/FISH Backpack Program. The “Blessings in a Backpack”national organization in Kentucky supplies the backpacks, local BIB-Sanibel Board Members and Friends raise the funds for food products through various types of fundraising activities from golf tournaments to program presentations to local service clubs. Backpacks are packed by a group of FISH volunteers and are ready for pickup at school or at the F.I.S.H. storefront office here on Sanibel. FISH continues this backpack program all through the summer, when the need for this program continues to be most important.

This backpack program is offered to children in Grades K-8 at the Sanibel School as well as Pre-K ages at Children’s Education Center of the Islands, Sanibel Christian School, and Summit. If you would like to make a contribution to “Blessings in a Backpack”, please contact John Nicholson at jnicholson@VIP

Clean Water

In remote places throughout the world, people are getting clean water for the first time, thanks to the efforts of Rotarians in a district that spans from Palmetto to Marco Island. The Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch hosted a showcase before its regular meeting to show how clean water and sanitation projects are changing lives, reducing suffering for some of the 780 million people in the world who do not have access to clean water.

Rotarians from clubs in Bonita Springs, Estero, Sanibel-Captiva and Fort Myers South joined others from Sarasota and Manatee counties in promoting and learning about projects in Peru, St. Lucia, Guatemala, Haiti, the Philippines and Dominican Republic.

George Lewis, a four year Lakewood Ranch resident and club member, calls himself “The Waterman.” While still living in Oregon in 2006, he became involved in developing water projects. He figures he has helped 2 million people in 37 countries. “He’s always looking for ways to get people’s attention to donate to water,” said Ron Myers, the Lakewood Ranch club’s chairman for Clean Water Projects. The 81-year-old uses a palette knife to create original oil paintings. In exchange for $100 to pay his expenses, he gives them to Rotary clubs to then auction for higher prices to help fund charitable projects with an emphasis on clean water and sanitation. He is prolific. In 22 months, Lewis has painted 264 canvases, generating thousands of dollars. His name is known in Rotary circles. “I knew George before he was famous,” Myers quipped. The men, with Sandra Hemstead, of Bonita Springs, are the go-to people in planning, promoting, funding and executing projects that bring water filters, wells, latrines and hygiene education to the poorest of the poor living in Third World areas. They get help from volunteers such as Dr. Michael and Judy Berlow of Lakewood Ranch, who went up the Amazon in 2012 with Myers and follow club member John Freeman to the Iquitos region of Peru. Judy, a former Spanish teacher, said it was rewarding talking to the people in the village, teaching them the importance of clean water, sanitation and washing your hands. “They had a religious service before they turned the tap on,” said Michael Berlow, a retired radiologist. The children lined up to take the water home and the Rotarians noticed they carried unsanitary containers. Since then, the club supplied clean containers that have covers.

Sustainability for the projects is a key concern. The Rotarians work with the nongovernment organization Water Missions International to coordinate the projects, ensuring monthly visits continue for at least three years, residents are trained in equipment operation and the water is tested for quality. All of the work is not cheap. The Lakewood Ranch club has been involved in 26 projects since 2007. This year, the club committed to giving at least $55,000 toward clean water projects. That’s why Myers said it was important to honor his longtime friend, Carl Baldwin, and his wife, Kay. The couple live in Naples, but so believe in the Lakewood Ranch club’s water projects that they have made annual $10,000 donations since 2007. “They were not Rotarians,” Myers said. “Now they are honorary Rotarians. ”They also received a Major Donor Award on Thursday from District 6960 Governor Cyndi Doragh, of Fort Myers, recognizing their continued philanthropy.

It all comes down to numbers. Myers said 760,000 children die each year from diarrhea, which could be prevented with access to clean water. “That’s 2,000 children a day from water-borne diseases, and that’s too many,” he said. “That’s why we do what we do.”

Business on Sanibel

On August 14th the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club got right down to business. Instead of a speaker for Friday’s morning meeting Rotarian, Robert Monk with the LAW OFFICE OF ROBERT MONK, ESQ. suggested that we should have a roundtable discussion basically with the intent of examining the current business environment on Sanibel and Captiva. It’s no big secret that Sanibel-Captiva Rotary has a fairly good number of retired professionals in the club but we also, have a pretty good percentage of business professionals in the club actively engaged in the business community here on our Islands.

Robert Monk 8-12-2013 7-56-56 PM 1200x1600

Talking Points for the round table were retail, trends in real estate, and personal and business changes seen by our Island Professionals.

First to speak was Scot Congress of CONGRESS JEWELERS. Being in the higher-end jeweler business, CONGRESS JEWELERS was definitely affected, like all Island businesses, by the U.S. economic downfall in recent years and although the economy is recovering, customers are slightly more conservative in their spending. The jeweler business itself has had to adjust to higher gold prices and the devaluation of diamonds. This summer the traffic counter at the store registered an uptick in the number of people coming into the store. The average sale is up from the last few years but not back to before the economic crisis. High-end jewelry sales are down but people are still buying quality jewelry pieces including the CONGRESS SEALIFE COLLECTION. Although business comes in waves in the summer, the store has seen customers coming in from SUNDIAL BEACH RESORT and SOUTHSEAS ISLAND RESORT. This is definitely a healthy sign, tourists are getting more comfortable with higher-end vacation spending, and this will help all Island businesses.

Trent Peake, Membership Services Manager of SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE spoke in general about the visitors to the Sanibel and Captiva during the summer. Businesses on the Islands are reporting great numbers this summer. Room rates are less expensive during summer and that is bringing in nearby visitors from Tampa, Orlando, and Miami for family travel. They may be traveling on a budget but they still are enjoying all our Islands offers… renting bikes; visiting Ding Darling, the Shell Museum, and CROW; eating out; and retail therapy.

Trent Peake and Holli Martin at Podium 8-12-2013 8-05-54 PM 1200x1600

Although the Islands are still seeing foreign travelers from Canada and Europe, the concern for the value of the Euro and fluctuations in oversea economies impact travel plans for this visitor pool. Balancing that out this year will be Fort Myers Beach road construction project during season. This construction will send the day-tripper heading our way, so get ready! Good for business, not so good for residents.

There definitely is great optimism in our island business community. We have seen a number of new businesses open up on the Island over the last few months and new restaurants are definite going to increase dining options.

It’s pretty much a given, most of our Island residents first came to the Islands as visitors. So how about the Real Estate market? Prices are trending up; there is an increase in new house construction starts and definitely confidence in investing in Island real estate. The resale real estate market is getting stronger, particularly in the mid-range category.

Holli Martin, Insurance Agent for HEIDRICK & COMPANY INSURANCE is seeing the effects of Real Estate Sales in her office. Business is booming for both new sales insurance coverage and the generational shift of inherited property. Because Florida has not had any major natural disasters in recent years, our state’s property insurance corporation, Florida’s Citizens Insurance Company’s cash reserves are strong and some of their policyholders have seen premiums going down. Since 2013, Florida lawmakers want Citizens to get out of the insurance business. Private insurance companies are now capable of taking on the risk of insuring some of Citizen policyholders at reasonable cost. The state has selected a number of private insurance companies they have confidence in and basically encouraging customers to transfer to these companies. Right now, higher-end properties over $900,000 will continue to be covered under Citizens till their contract expires but then will not be eligible for coverage through Citizens and will have to go to private insurance coverage. January 2016 the coverage limit amount is reduced to $800,000 and in 2017 the coverage limit will be $700,000. Flood insurance policies held by Citizens are going to cost you more if you own property on Island and to not reside in the State for the required six-month period per year or if you rent your property on Island.

We had many more Rotarians join in on the conversation regarding the Island economy and how traffic concerns are causing great apprehension for business owners, particularly during season. Rotarians had a lot of ideas about this including some out-of-the-box thinking, so off we went in that direction.

According to statistical quotes from Trent there were 3.4 million cars coming over the Causeway in 2001 and in 2014 the figure was 3.2 million. So, even if it seems like traffic is increasing, that really doesn’t reflex itself in the numbers.

The traffic problem really is concentrated at peak times when cars coming on and going off Island log jam Periwinkle Way. Can this problem be solved? Well the City of Sanibel is studying that, good luck to them. Dorrie Hipschman, Executive Director of the BAILEY-MATHEWS SHELL MUSEUM reported that visitor traffic to the museum has been increasing throughout the year and that they regularly inform their visitors about traffic problems during peak times. The SHELL MUSEUM suggests that visitors stay longer on Island have a great meal somewhere on Sanibel or Captiva or just enjoy a walk on the beach and look for shells.

Rachael Tritaik, owner of ISLAND THERAPY CENTER told us about her unique way of managing her need to transport her son to school off Island, return to the Island during the peak morning traffic, get to work at I SLAND THERAPY to open, and reverse the process to pick up her son after school in peak afternoon traffic. This is good…she drives her son to school off-Island, returns to the Island…but here’s the twist…when she comes over the causeway she parks her car legally, takes out her folding bike, and pedals to work…and, again, reverses this action in the afternoon… folds up the bike… and drives her car to pickup her son. BRILLIANT…one less car on Periwinkle during peak traffic hours

Sanibel Community House

One of the oldest buildings on Island outside the grounds of the Sanibel Historic Museum and Village is the Sanibel Community House. The original Community House structure of about 1500 sq. ft. was built in 1927…now called the North Room and was added onto twice after… in the 1950s the middle room, and in the 1979…the auditorium. If walls could talk, the Community House walls would reveal stories of Island politics, social gatherings, and about the founding of many civic organizations and cultural activities on the Island.

Okay, so why are we talking about the Sanibel Community House? Well, for a couple of reasons. One is that the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary is now holding our regular Friday morning meetings at the Community House where we can’t help but notice architectural drawings for the proposed Community House reconstruction project prominently displayed in the lobby.

Reason two because we invited the Community House Executive Director, Teresa Riska-Hall to bring us up-to-date on the proposed renovation project on the Community House. Indications are that the city planning department and the Sanibel Planning Council are vigilantly reviewing the proposed construction plans and hopefully it is just a matter of time before actually construction begins during summer 2016.

Teresa, told us she has a passion and it’s connected to Sanibel’s History and the Community House being part of that History…as she says, “History Matters”. There has been much speculation about whether the Community Association would actually move the Community House across Periwinkle to become part of the proposed future Common Core project. After much thoughtful consideration and pressing needs for improvements to the Community House, the Sanibel Community Association Board and Community Association Membership determined that they will not move the Sanibel Community House but would keep this historic part of Sanibel’s history right where the community placed it in 1927 and where the memories of our Island have been held over the years.

With that decision made, it was time to discuss the actually condition and functionality of the present building. The historic part of the building works extremely well and is in relatively good standing but not so with the 1950 and 1970 expansion add-ons . Problems that need to be address …building flow, electrical and sound systems, fire and air systems, restroom functionality, kitchen layout, and storage. After much discussions in-house, with community members, construction professionals, and the city on how to best address these problems an architect was called in to draw up some plans. Actually a couple of architects were called in; there was tweaking, more tweaking, re-tweaking, city input, change of architect and finally a plan. Stop by the lobby of the Community House; check the beautiful architectural drawings by Architect, Amy Nowacki, AIA. You will be duly impressed…restoration of the original historic structure… opening back up the front window area to extended the width of that entrance side and replacing the now very worn floor with similarly appropriate and aged wood.

San Comm House

The most extensive area to be renovated will be the center part of the building…major changes will happen here…a portico style structure and entrance will bring you into a new welcoming entry-way lobby… to relocate the lobby the current hall and storage areas now leading to the North Room will be opened up and combined …complete rebuilding of the middle room including new electrical and sound system and a complete remodeling of the kitchen expanding the footprint into the storage and hall space nearby stealing floor space where ever possible…the auditorium space will pretty much stay the same with new electrical and sound system but both outside walls of the auditorium will be reconfigured. The current lobby space will be rebuilt to house restrooms, a corridor, storage space and an abutted expansion on this side of the building will include a small board room and outside vestibule…on the opposite outside wall of the auditorium the plans calls to add on storage space for the Shellcrafters.

Even before the Common Core idea was put forth, the Community House was beginning to put aside funding for some of these updates but it became more and more apparent that it was time to go ahead and bite the bullet…major renovation was needed. There have been a few go and stops on this project but the plans are on the drawing board, city approval is in the works, and now how to you pay for it. That will be the challenge. The cost is estimated to come in somewhere around $1.975 Million. The Community Association is asking the community to rally around this project …the community has always been the central focus of this historic place. The land the Community House sits on was donated by an Islander, the original Community House was built with funds raised by the community, subsequent additions were funded by the community, and now it’s time to do it again. $1,975 Million should not be that hard to raise to guarantee that this historic place will continue to be here for many generations to come. The Sanibel Community House is not funded by the city, but as before, the generous members of our community will be needed to help raise money for this project…stop by talk to Teresa, look at the plans, ask questions …oh, and bring your checkbook.

SPEAKER NOTES FROM 8-1-15 James Johnstone


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New President

As the gavel was brought down last Friday morning, it was official Chris DeCosta took on the responsibility of being the new President of the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club for the 2015-16 rotary Year.  Chris, as many Islanders know,  is a founding partner in the law firm of Holtz Mahshie DeCosta –Sanibel and Fort Myers – concentrating on real estate litigation.

During the summer months attendance at our Friday morning Rotary club meetings dwindles down to a precious few; but it is also is the time when much of the planning for season takes place. New giving opportunities are discussed and new request for funds are encouraged and reviewed. One of those new requests is the opportunity of putting in place a brand new Sanibel-Captiva Rotary scholarship at Florida Southwestern College/FSW/ Edison College. Basically hand delivering that request was Paul Bova, Senior Director Development at FSW . Our Rotary Club has a long tradition of providing scholarships to students with outstanding academic achievement and financial need. In fact, raising scholarship funds was the driving force for the original Rotary Arts & Crafts Fair here on the Island.

Taking every opportunity to bring attention to the changes going on campus at FSW, Paul got up for a few minutes and highlighted some of those changes. Along with the name change a year ago, a new vitality emerged on campus. Many young people today see the value of attending their local colleges from both an academic and financial prospective; but while attending local college they also want the full college experience. With that in mind FSW has built two dormitory residences recently and is reintroducing a serious college level sports program at the school. Ground breaking of the new SunCoast Credit Sports Arena took place last week and before you know it tickets to Buccaneers Basketball games will be on sale. Just a short distance from Campus on the grounds of former Red Sox stadium-at City of Palms Park, FSW’s Buccaneers baseball and softball teams are getting ready for their upcoming seasons. Keep an eye on the sport’s page for announcements of FSW team schedules.

Shell Museum

Rotarian Dorrie Hipschman, executive director of The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, has been appointed to serve on VISIT FLORIDA’S Cultural, Heritage, Rural and Nature (CHRN) Committee for a term effective July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016.

This committee works in conjunction with VISIT FLORIDA to develop and promote expanding facets of nature-based tourism, culture heritage, as well as rural tourism that will increase the number of Florida visitors. CHRN also promotes extended stays for improved economic benefit and quality of life factors for all areas of the state. The VISIT FLORIDA committee is a volunteer position. Hipschman has 20 years of experience directing non-profit organizations.

S4TL (Seminar for Tomorrow’s Leaders)


Dana was our Rotary Club’s official red shirt student leader at S4TL 2015 sponsored by Rotary Districts 6890, 6950, and 6960.

Approximately 150 Rotary sponsored delegates from more than 150 high schools participate in this week -long program. Red Shirt Leaders take on the task of supporting, encouraging, and guiding the newbies through the program. Daily activities include exciting lectures, discussions, rap sessions, and demonstrations of those principles which enable an individual to lead others.

Students attending the Seminar for Tomorrow’s Leaders are challenged to utilize all available skill, knowledge, talent, expertise, and intelligence toward specific goals and objectives. The ultimate objective/goal of S4TL is for each student to leave the Seminar with new awareness of himself/herself, and more finely tuned to utilize their given abilities to serve others in leadership capacities throughout life.  Socialization and Fun are definitely part of the program from talent shows to friendly competitive games.

4-Way Test Contest

At our Rotary Club’s, end of May assembly meeting, we heard from a student who had recently participated in the Club’d essay contest asking a student to writing about a particular problem or conflict faced by teenagers, perhaps a dilemma they’ve faced personally, or an issue facing our nation or world and relate it to Rotary’s Four-Way TestTeacher Brittney Camp, Doug Towle,Bill Rahe,Vice Principle Nancy McDole, and Carson Towle   5-27-2013 8-01-26 PM 896x1107

The First placed winner of the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary 4-Way Test Essay Contest from the Sanibel School’s eighth-grade, Carson Towle.  Attending the meeting were his father, Doug Towle and Sanibel School Assistant Principle, Nancy McDole.  Language Arts Teacher, Brittney Camp took to the podium to read his essay.Attending the meeting were his father, Doug Towle and Sanibel School Assistant Principle, Nancy McDole.  Language Arts Teacher, Brittney Camp took to the podium to read his essay.

The Four-Way Test is read at every Rotary meeting across the globe to reinforce the strength of such a powerful ethical guide for all of us: Rotary’s Four-Way Test…

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3.    Will it build GOOD WILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?

In writing his essay, Carson made the decision after some thought that, “What better answers all 4 of the questions of the 4-Way Test than where I am today, a country that has been built on these ideas and principles”. Although we will not publish Carson’s entire essay here, this is an excerpt from the essay, “The US is fair to all its citizens and gives them rights that are believed everyone should possess. Also, the US builds good will by helping people in need and builds better friendships by supporting other countries around the world. Finally, the US is beneficial to all concerned because it helps out other countries and its citizens”.