Monday, October 18, 2021




Donna Fiala

Soon you’ll see changes in advertising and promotion from the Convention and Visitors Bureau. For the first time, the Florida and Collier County bureaus will be promoting “Brand USA.” This is a national tourism program to advertise in other countries that come to the United States; countries like England, France, Germany, Sweden, and Brazil. The program is just kicking off now, so it will be interesting to watch as it moves forward, and see what impact it will have in our particular part of Florida.

Recently I attended the 10th Annual Tourism Awards held at the Marco Marriott Hotel. There were 97 nominations for different categories. I’d like to highlight the Marco tourism awards, being just a little biased for leaving out the others. The Rising Star award for a newer employee who has made a great impression on staff and visitors alike was: Ilsa Acevedo, a Housekeeper at the Marco Marriott. There were 13 nominations for this category with 3 of those nominations coming from Marco.

For the category of Outstanding Hotel Sales Employee, Cliff Dworkin from the Hilton on Marco was the winner. There were 5 nominees for this category. Marco also had 4 nominees in the Approachability category and 4 nominees in the Outstanding Hotel Employee-Support Staff category. This gives you an idea of the quality of staff members and hotels we have here on the Island.

I was invited to give a presentation before the Lely High School AVID student government educational program held in the courthouse. I wish you could have seen these delightful, educated, sophisticated and enthusiastic young people. To me, each one looked like a rising star, smart enough to rise to a higher level, smart enough to be a leader someday in the not too distant future. They were bright, dressed properly, respectful and a joy to see. GREAT JOB Lely High School!!!

I heard from my friends in Ohio that there is a big oil exploration going on right now. If you’ve ever been up in the farm country of Ohio you see oil pumps in every field. Now the oil companies are paying people and companies who have 10 acres or more, which include condo developments, etc., a sum to allow them to explore on their property. The landowners have a fixed time with which to respond. If they don’t respond they will not be included if oil is discovered. If they find anything, then the negotiations begin. Somehow I never considered Ohio as an oil state, but there you have it.

Tuesday, May 15th, I shadowed Principal Jory Westberry at Tommie Barfield.

Mac Chaudhry with Donna.

Mac Chaudhry with Donna.

Jory is one of the best principals I know, and we are lucky to have her right here on Marco Island. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a principal care as much for the students and the staff!

Sheriff Kevin Rambosk was a speaker recently at one of the clubs to which I belong. Some of the interesting things I made note of were: 1) the jail is the largest mental health facility in Collier County. 2) Collier County crash rate is down from previous years. I asked whether that was directly related to the red light cameras, and the Sheriff agreed that the crashes are down since then. 3) Collier County has the highest seat belt usage of any county in the State of Florida! 4) Collier also had the most tax fraud victims in the State of Florida – over 600 just in Collier County! 4) Another startling item he mentioned was about Prescription Drugs – Florida dispenses 3 doses of prescription drugs versus 1 dose of pres. drugs in the rest of the Continental USA!!! 5) A good news item to end this column with is that the Sheriff’s Office will again be working with underprivileged children in Collier County over the summer, which will include fishing, camping, special programs, etc. I asked if he would be working with the kids who reside near Eagle Lakes Community Park and he said it was almost impossible to gather the children there for programs because there is no community center. (The only community park in the entire county without a community center for the children.) I’ve been working for six years trying to find the dollars to build one for these most deserving, underprivileged children. Yes, I’ve finally found the grants to build one, but it will take two years before a building can be built. Thank heavens for the Marco YMCA. They reach out to a number of these kids during the summer to help get them off the streets and into healthy youth programs. Now the next thing to work on is a pool for that area. Immokalee has one and has had one for years, River Park in the City of Naples has one, Golden Gate has one, as does North Naples. The place we need it the most doesn’t even have a community center, much less a pool. I won’t rest until these children have the same benefits that other kids in the county have. The best way to keep the kids out of gangs and crime is to give them something to do, but I’d better get off my soap box and end this column.

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