Category Archives: Weekly Meetings

Club Assembly

This past week Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Trust Board members Scott Congress, Chet Sadler, and Immediate Past President, Bill Rahe put together an impressive power point presentation regarding giving practices of our Rotary Club. Requests come to this committee in a couple of ways: member submission or applications from organizations and non-profits seeking funding for special projects. (Applications can be found on our club web site… under the “membership only” tab.

Bill Rahe @Club AssemblyScot Congress @Club Assembly

Once a funding application is brought before the committee a member is chosen as an internal Rotary club sponsor with responsibility for making sure necessary paperwork supporting request is in place, requests are reviewed by the committee, following status of request, and following-up on grants approved.

Rotarian, Chet Sadler, also serves on the committee as Rotary Foundation representative basically centering in on partnering projects that seek matching funds from Rotary District #6960 or Rotary International.

Health Screening Program

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary welcomed Kurt Peters, Sanibel Captiva Lions Club President, to our podium last week to give us an overview of the club’s Health Screening Program. I don’t know if many Islanders are aware of this program but believe me they should know. This is a one-stop FREE health screening opportunity to have your-blood pressure checked, blood glucose checked (primarily for diabetes), peripheral visual fields checked, testing to determine your intraocular pressure of the eyes (glaucoma), muscular degeneration screening, and a hearing test. These are painless tests that provide a quick easy preventive check for health issue that are unfortunately so common for many of us, especially as we age.

The Lions Club wants everyone on Island to take advantage of this program and has setup five various dates and locations for these Lions Club Health Screening opportunities …Sanibel Senior Center for Life-Nov. 18th, Sanibel Community House-Nov. 21st, and the Sanibel Rec. Center-Jan. 14th, Feb. 15th, and March 14th…all screenings will take place from 9:30AM TO 12:30PM.

Sanibel Planning Department

With just over a month to go, hurricane season in the US is just about over for this year. It’s been a pretty  quiet year on the home front for any kind of bad weather on Sanibel; but many of us still remember Hurricane Charley in 2004.

Why bring that up now? Well those memories might include how we felt returning to Sanibel and Captiva and looking at all the damage done during this major storm. We were lucky but we also had to cleanup, restore, and in some cases, rebuild our properties. On Sanibel we had an amazing team of City employees, led by Sanibel’s remarkable City Manager, Judy Z tackling the job to reopen the Island, clear the roads, evaluating and securing properties that were damaged, getting utilities going again, and setting in place recovery plans.

City of Sanibel Planning Department Director, Jim Jordan, was Rotary’s guest speaker on Friday morning.

Jim Jordan

Jim is almost a native of Sanibel having lived on the Island, since he was three years old. He has witnessed the incorporation of the City and all of the changes the city has gone through over the years. The fact is he has worked in the Planning Department for the last thirty year becoming its Planning Director in 2009.

It’s been an incredible 10-year’s plus on Sanibel, since Charley  With the City Council and City Manager improving on rebuild and redeveloping codes, non-conforming building regulations, Sanibel’s density plan, resort area rebuilding and improvements, etc.

Five years after Charley, the Island itself was looking better, trees were finally growing along Periwinkle and things were getting back to a normal routine but it had become obvious during this recovery process that some of our non-conforming buildings on Island particularly in our resort areas were in need of improvement and some of the City regulations in place had discouraged resorts and short-term rentals from reinvesting money into these properties and the time to do this was at hand.

The City Planning Department has certainly been kept busy with these important improvements and changes to City codes and regulations keeping in full view the: Sanibel Plan, Federal Emergency Management and National Flood Programs, State Building codes and the important value of the natural environment on Sanibel and the very reason people visit and move to this unusual Island.

Transparent and open Planning meetings have improved the understanding and value of changes to Planning Department codes, ordinances, and regulations particularly to pre-existing non-conforming properties on Island. Exploration of this topic was thoroughly addressed and pre-existing non-conforming property owners now feel comfortable investing in the updating of their properties particularly in resort and short-term rental unit areas.

Things do change in time, these are good changes, and Jim and his staff are doing an incredible job. Yes, I know they are a pain sometime but… No pain, No gain…as they say.

SCCF – Sanibel Tides

“Limitless and immortal, the waters are the beginning and end of all things on earth.” – Heinrich Zimmer, Historian.

Kristie Anders, SCCF Education Director, Kristie Anderswas our guest speaker last Friday morning.  Kristie’s talked about the influences the Moon and the Sun have on our Tides.

As the Earth rotates, the Moon orbits our planet. The distance between the Earth and Moon changes slightly during rotation and the strength of the gravitational pull on Earth also changes. The gravitational pull causes our oceans to bulge out in the direction of the moon and on the opposite side of Earth another bulge occurs because the Earth is being pulled toward the moon. The ocean bulges create our tides. High tide when the pull is greatest. Now add to this land mass and breaks in large landmasses, inlets, bays, rivers, estuaries, etc. Add positioning of the earth in its rotation, distance from the equator, and topography of the landmasses, weather, and currents. Now we’re talking. Here on Sanibel the water masses originate in the transition region of the Loop Current and the Florida Current.

“The Loop Current is an ocean current that transports warm Caribbean water through the Yucatan Channel between Cuba and Mexico. The current flows northward into the Gulf of Mexico, then loops southeastward just south of the Florida Keys (where it is called the Florida Current), and then just west of the westernmost Bahamas. Here, the waters of the Loop Current flow northward along the U.S. coast and becomes the Gulf Stream”.

The ebb and flow of the tides in and out play an important role in our ecosystem. High tides bring nourishing sediment and sea life into the estuaries. “Estuaries are coastal areas where freshwater mixes with ocean water that is delivered by the tides. Estuaries are home to biologically diverse and unique plant and animal communities.”  High tides bring in nutrients that create food for our fish, birds, and other wildlife. Shallow water pools provide nursery areas for fish and shellfish. Mangrove areas thrive along our island estuaries where many birds breed and nest.

Birds plan their feeding patterns on the tides. Long legged and taller birds have a longer feeding timeframe when the water is deeper and as the tide goes out; shorter legged birds feed in shallower water. Tides provide transport for organisms that begin life protected in the shallow areas of our estuaries and when mature use the tide to transport them out to the sea. Seagrasses are pollinated by water flow. Tides affect coastal shorelines in many ways…loss of beach sand and changing shorelines. Seashells are distributed along our shorelines, so much so, that Sanibel & Captiva are called the Shell Islands, known for the best shelling in the world.

When the sea level is rising or falling, water is flowing to and from the ocean. This flow causes currents called tidal currents. Tides enter San Carlos Bay threw three narrow water passageways under the Causeway Bridge and one in Red Fish Pass. Depending on water flow restrictions and wind tide times can reach different locations within our area and with as much as three hours difference. High tides drive ocean waters to our shores and along with wind drives currents through our water passageways and when the tide recedes causing low tide, leaving sediment behind with nutrients that our environment and wildlife thrive on.


We are extremely lucky to have many opportunities on Sanibel and Captiva to learn about the environment that surrounds us. The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation spearheads a number of research projects that provides information and research findings not only for Island residents but extends these findings to numerous scientific agencies across the globe. Sanibel-Captiva Rotary recently asked SCCF visiting research scientist and Rotarian, Dr. E.J. Neafsey, a research scientist on the faculty of the University of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Sciences, concentrating in Southwest, Florida on the inventory and health assessment of local mangrove ecosystems to speak to us about Island mangroves.

Dr E J Neafsey

So, let’s start with the basics. There are three types of mangroves on our Islands…red, black, and white. The red mangroves are closest to the shoreline, black centrally located behind and elevated slightly, and the white farthest away from the shoreline. EJ’s research is looking at each individual mangrove species to quantify the health of the species and the contribution it is making to our environment. Believe it or not, that contribution is immense; mangroves protect us from storm surge, floods, and provide screening from wind and waves. They are central to stabilizing our shorelines. Mangroves provide protected nursery locations for many fish species, crustaceans, and shellfish. They provide food for our local marine species and nesting/rookery areas for our island bird population.

The studies include observations about the stresses on our mangrove species. EJ stated that there is good news on that front; three-quarters of our Island mangroves are intact. Stress does come from storm surge and travels inward through the old mosquito drenches/canals doing harm. Refuse gets caught in the mangroves along the canals. Vegetation growth and impoundment from constructed blockades form a barrier disallowing water flow and nutrients to reach some of the inland mangrove areas. EJ’s example of this was Wildlife Drive at Ding Darling…right side of Wildlife Drive healthy because of great tidal flow…left side impounded by road deficient of nutrients, less vibrant.

Salinity, water temperature, tidal fluctuation, and soil also affect mangroves. High rain events and submerging for a length of time is definitely harmful to the mangroves.

EJ’s research extends beyond Sanibel and Captiva to Estero, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Naples, and Marco Island. There was a question regarding the coloration of the water close to the mangroves…EJ told us that if the mangroves are healthy the surrounding water will be clear; unhealthy mangroves present that sulfur smell and brownish in color.

Gift of Life

The Gift of Life program was designed to identify and qualify young children from impoverished areas of the world in need of heart surgery the chance to receive this surgery here in the U.S.

Each of these surgeries costs between $5,000 to $10,000, even with doctors and other medical professionals donating their time and talent. Although this program was highly successful, it was evident that the cost of these life-saving surgeries and money spent to bring these children and their families to the United States could be better used if facilities and medical training for doctors and other medical professionals were available closer to areas in need where more children could be helped through Gift of Life. Rotary District 6960 assisted 600 children in the last year and a half.

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary presented a $5,000 check to Steve Agius for Gift of Life at a recent meeting.

Steve Agius

This $5000 donation will now provide 11 children with medical care under the new Gift of Life program.

District 6960 Governor Visit

At our Sept 4th meeting, we welcomed our Rotary District #6960 Governor, Cyndi Doragh –Rotary Club of South Fort Myers – to introduce herself to club members and focus in on a significant message from Rotary International President, K.R. “Ravi” Ravindran-Rotary Club of Colomo, SRI LANKA.

Cyndi Doragh

Each year our Rotary International President selects a motto for their year of service leading over 1.2 million Rotarians around the globe and trying to focus on what Rotarians can accomplish by working on projects to better this world. President Ravindran’s motto, “Be a Gift to the World”. What does that mean…”Be a Gift to the World”?  Governor Cyndi wants us all to take the motto personally. Ask yourself, “What gift do I have to give to Rotary?” and then she pushed a little further stating, “Everyone is gifted in their own way, use your gift to help Rotary change lives. Our time on earth is finite; make the best of the time you are given.”

Cyndi gave us some simple examples of people that weren’t sure of how they could contribute their talents to support Rotary causes. She had a friend, who although not wealthy, was a fantastic cook. Her friend decided she would throw dinner parties and put a bowl on the table for donations to support the House of Friendship at Rotary International’s annual conventions. That one gesture started a chain of events were people around the globe and restaurants followed her lead. Now Rotary International’s House of Friendship has become an essential and vital element at our annual conventions, a place where ideas are exchanged, information is distributed, and all sorts of goods are made available to attendees. The House of Friendship is a gathering place for Rotarians around the globe to meet other Rotarians, observe their individual project goals, and form partnerships with other Rotary clubs to work on projects dealing with clean water, women and children’s health issues, literacy, disease prevention and treatment, economic and community development and peace and conflict resolution.

Just about two years ago our Club was a perfect example – Rotarian and Senior Pastor of Sanibel Community Church, John Danner made a decision to celebrate his 60th birthday by challenging himself and riding his bike from Miami to Key West and challenging his friends to sponsor that ride with all proceeds going to Rotary’s Wheelchair Foundation. These contributions were then matched by a very special private donor and Sanibel-Captiva Rotary. The total amount raised was $20,000.

Another of Cyndi’s example was about a women she met at the Rotary International Convention in Brazil.  The women had brought a beautiful handcrafted African folk doll with her. Why? When she visited Kenyan, she was made aware of the fact that many women of the village she visited had to prostitute themselves to support their children. This Rotarian wanted to help these women change their lives. She taught them how to make folk dolls and now helps them sell those dolls around the globe.

“If you do nothing, there will be no result…If you do something, there is a chance.” Anonymous

Cyndi has been a Rotarian for twenty-one years, she tells us she eats, sleeps, and breathes Rotary. She admits, she has drunk the Kool Aid and it’s not just her, it’s her husband too, Immediate Past District #6960 Governor, Pete Doragh. They are the first Rotary couple in the world that have served as Rotary District Governors back to back. “Rotary has taught us how to serve. Rotary has taught us the “Power of One”. Rotary has taught us the power of a giving spirit, so recognize your gift, and use it toward making your time on earth meaningful.” Hallelujah, I believe, pass the Kool Aid.

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

San Cap Rotary Donations

The Rotary Club of Sanibel-Captiva has partnered with their Rotary District 6960 and is proud to give a $5,000  Rotary District Designated Grant to the Children’s Education Center of the Island (CECI). Funds will be used to purchase outdoor play toys for the all the students at the center.

Why has The Rotary Club of Sanibel Captiva decided to support the CECI? First Education and Child Health are two of the pillars of focus for Rotary Grants. CECI is Sanibel Island’s nonprofit preschool for children ages 2-5, a target group for Rotary. Also, Rotary Club members will have the opportunity to contribute their time by helping with a playground cleanup and trimming the many trees on the school’s campus. Many Rotarians of the Sanibel Captiva Club have had family attend or currently attend the preschool.

This grant will be used for the purchase of versatile, sturdy, wooden block play equipment for their large playground. Some of the toys are pictured below. There are blocks which will help provide all the benefits of open-ended block play with a system of interlocking blocks and planks. In a world where outdoors play is becoming a thing of the past, the need for children to play in and on natural components in a place for structured and unstructured play will provide an important early connection for children with nature and create future environmental stewards. The equipment will provide an opportunity for both physical and creative play and support the children’s physical, intellectual, and emotional development. The benefits of natural play are lifelong.

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