Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Spirited Winners of the 2016 Spirit Award

Tarik Ayasun holds his 2016 Spirit of Marco award certificate, while flanked  by Kathy and Ian Small, left, Linda Sandlin and George Abounader of the Noontime Rotary Club. PHOTOS BY AL DIAZ

Tarik Ayasun holds his 2016 Spirit of Marco award certificate, while flanked by Kathy and Ian Small, left, Linda Sandlin and George Abounader of the Noontime Rotary Club. PHOTOS BY AL DIAZ

By Don Manley

Exemplary commitment to public service is again being recognized and celebrated by the Noontime Rotary Club of Marco Island’s annual Spirit of Marco Island Awards.

This year, three couples and two individuals are being honored with spirit awards, which are presented to individuals and organizations that are civically involved in the community through their contribution of time, talent and financial support to the community.

The 2016 Spirit of Marco Island Award winners are Ron and Pat Rutledge, Tom and Lori Wagor, Tarik Ayasun, Ben Farnsworth and Dr. George and Mary Baron.

They learned of their selection from Noontime Rotary officials while going about their daily lives, in some cases, while they attended meetings of the community organizations in which they are members.

A formal presentation of the awards will occur at the 8th Annual Spirit of Marco Island Gala Awards Dinner and Silent Auction, to be held Feb. 21 at the Bistro Soleil Restaurant. The proceeds from the event and silent auction are used to support local charities and scholarships. For more information and tickets, you may contact Al Diaz at 239-438-5285 or by email at royalmarcoway@marcocable.com.

The recipients took a moment to address questions regarding their selection and their dedication to community service. The Barons could not be reached for comment, however, the Club notes the reasons for their choice:

Dr. George & Mary Baron were recognized for their numerous contributions to the community through their generous contribution of their time, talent and treasure. They are actively involved with the Center for the Arts having served as Board Members and Chairman of the Advisory Committee.

Additional volunteer positions include past President of the American Cancer Society, Founder of Collier Senior Resources, Vice Chair of the Children’s Museum, Shelter for Abused Women and Children and the Guadeloupe Center to name a few.

The responses of their fellow award winners can be found below:

RON AND PAT RUTLEDGE: Ron is a board member of the Island Country Club Charitable Foundation and the Marco Island Code Advisory Board, while Pat is president and executive director of the Marco Island Historical Society. They are also members of the City of Marco Island’s Police and Fire Rescue Foundations, as well as Marco’s Center for the Arts and Chamber of Commerce. Over the years, they have volunteered countess hours with the Historical Society and to various civic organizations.

The Rutledges split time between homes in Connecticut and Marco for three years, before moving to the island, full-time, three years ago.

Pat Rutledge:

The Spirit Award is a very special recognition by an organization that is dedicated to service above self. I am honored that the Noontime Rotary would consider me to be worthy. I follow in the footsteps of many dedicated Marco Island volunteers.

I was attending a MIHS Campaign Council Meeting. I was stunned by the presentation and thrilled by the honor. It was so gratifying to have the award presented in front of my peers.

Tom and Lori Wagor and Pat Rutledge hold their 2016 Spirit of Marco Award certificates.

Tom and Lori Wagor and Pat Rutledge hold their 2016 Spirit of Marco Award certificates.

Linda Sandlin and the Rotary group did an excellent job of describing the “spirit” behind the award and why it was being presented to me. I must say that I blushed!

I believe that I am being recognized for my involvement and service to the community. I began my volunteer “career” on Marco Island with the Greater Marco Island Family YMCA and the Marco Island Center for the Arts. Five years ago I volunteered for the Marco Island Historical Society. After serving as a gift store volunteer and a volunteer coordinator for the Rose History Auditorium, I joined the MIHS Board of Directors, where I have served for the past three years as marketing and communications chair, president-elect, president and executive director. For the past two years, I have volunteered my time, energy and passion by spending five to six days and more than 40 hours per week as president, executive director and marketing director for the Society. Performing three roles simultaneously on a voluntary basis has enabled us to build a world-class museum on Marco Island. I truly love the community of Marco and its rich history. Volunteerism allows me to give back in various ways to my adopted home.

Ron Rutledge:

Most of my volunteer work is done behind the scenes and to receive this recognition is an affirmation of the value of my contribution to the various organizations that I support.

I was working in my home office on MIHS program flyers when I received a call from Linda Sandlin informing me of the bestowing of this honor. I can say that I was absolutely stunned!

Apparently my community involvement is more visible that I imagined. I started out doing event setup and audio-video support for the MIHS Rose History Auditorium. Subsequently, I moved to website support and became the website manager. The Island Country Club Charitable Foundation heard about my web work and asked me for an opinion on their site. My input led to an appointment to the ICCCF board of directors and another website to manage. Gradually, my scope expanded to include graphics work and electronic communication to MIHS members, graphics work to support the ICCCF’s two annual events, the Joy of Giving and the Charity Golf-Tennis Classic, and the American Cancer Society’s annual “Shoot Down Kids Cancer” event. In addition, Pat and I both work the “Joy of Giving” event at Walmart each December. I take great satisfaction in being able to assist all these organizations to the best of my ability and see tangible effects.

TOM AND LORI WAGOR: The Wagors have been Marco residents for almost 40 years and during that time, they have been involved in a multitude of civic organizations, literally volunteering thousands of hours to community causes. Tom is a member of the Sunrise Rotary Club, the Greater Marco Family YMCA and a past president of the Chamber of Commerce and the Historical Society. He

Ron and Pat Rutledge hold their 2016 Spirit of Marco award certificates. PHOTO BY DON MANLEY

Ron and Pat Rutledge hold their 2016 Spirit of Marco award certificates. PHOTO BY DON MANLEY

was honored with the Chamber’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. Lori is a Leadership Marco graduate and over the years she has co-chaired the Christmas Island Style Tree Lighting, served on the Chamber of Commerce board, co-chaired the YMCA and Marco Island Film Festival golf tournaments, and chaired numerous other charitable events.

Tom Wagor:

We feel honored and privileged to be recognized by the Spirit Award Committee. It means that the citizens of this wonderful community that we live in have recognized what humble contributions we may have made to it. Of course, it feels really nice to know that our friends and neighbors know about how we’ve been involved and then to recognize our efforts in a public way means a great deal to us.

We were in a Marco Island Historical Society Campaign Council meeting at the Marco Island History Museum. I recognized the Noon Rotary Spirit Committee members that came to do the presentation and immediately asked myself, “Well who is being recognized this year?” Needless to say we were caught completely by surprise!

Lori and I have been involved in the community almost since we first moved here in 1976, but I think that our involvement with the MIHS (past president for two years, a past finance committee chair, plus Lori’s four years as enterprise manager) had a lot to do with the selection. I started my involvement years ago as a means to help build business for the bank I worked for at the time. I found my involvement so enjoyable over the years that it became more of a passion for helping than a business effort. Today, I find it hard to say no and rarely do, although I have. When I do say no it is more because I am concerned about spreading myself too thin and thereby compromising my value to an organization.

Lori Wagor:

Honored and humbled to say the least. My hope in receiving the Spirit Award is that it resonates to others within our community who can likewise make a difference by volunteering their time and talents to the many worthy causes that we have on Marco.

It is a labor of love and something that you do because it’s a way of giving back to this wonderful place we live.

Whether it was co-chairing, or judging events and competitions for school scholarships, amateur photography or participating in Leadership Marco, you always get back more than you give.

I was called back into the Campaign Council meeting thinking they needed clarification on my report. Then things got crazy when a group of “folks” came in the room with big smiles on their faces and Linda Sandlin stood up and announced that the Wagors and Rutledges were receiving the Spirit Award. Pandemonium followed, with all of us in shock and the boardroom erupting in cheers. Priceless and such a surprise!

I’ve been involved as a volunteer on numerous committees and

Dr. George and Mary Baron receive the Spirit of Marco award certificate.

Dr. George and Mary Baron receive the Spirit of Marco award certificate.

as a member of the Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors. I have had the opportunity to experience the inner workings of our island and become aware of the needs and challenges that we face as a community.

Before the doors opened at the museum, I was asked to design and outfit the gift store, which led to my role as enterprise manager, overseeing and booking the Rose History Auditorium, chairing fundraisers, and building the visibility and attendance at the museum. This also led to understanding what an amazing history Marco Island has and how important it is to share this knowledge. For me, this was another example of how volunteering can lead to great accomplishments for worthy causes.

TARIK AYASUN: A Marco resident for 31 years, he has been a member of the Marco Island Charter Middle School board for 15 years and currently serves as its president. He is a past president of the Chamber of Commerce and the Police Foundation’s president-elect. He has acted as chairman of the city’s Code Enforcement Board. In 2012 he was awarded the Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Service to Community. Ayasun has also served on the boards of the Noontime Rotary Club and the Forum Club of Collier County, and is currently a member of the Physicians Regional Hospital board.

I live my life on the basis of “giving” and therefore I am not very comfortable “receiving.” I do all I do with love and without the slightest expectation of any rewards for myself. I was very surprised to get this award and it means the world to me.

I was asked by Mr. George Abounader, principal of Marco Island Charter Middle School where I serve as President of the Board, to join him on campus in order to enjoy the Christmas performances of our school bands. Upon arrival, he handed me a box and asked me to go around collecting money from the parents in the audience. I enjoyed doing that and returned back to where Mr. Abounader was. Standing next to him, I was surprised to see four or five members of our Rotary Club walking in. I let them through. Then Rotarian Linda Sandlin took the microphone and started talking about me. I was shocked!

I am not sure why I was given the award. However, since moving to Marco Island thirty years ago with my young family, I have tried to be a part of this great community and give back as much as I can. From serving as president of the Chamber of Commerce, to attending Leadership Collier, serving for ten years on the Code Enforcement Board, serving as vice president of the Marco Island Police Foundation, working with my fellow Rotarians on many projects and finally, serving first as a member of the board then as the president of the Marco Island Charter Middle School may have contributed to my

Tom and Lori Wagor, and Pat Rutledge hold their 2016 Spirit of Marco award certificates while flanked by Noontime Rotary Club members Ian and Kathy Small, John Scott, LindaSandlin and Rachel Dehanas.

Tom and Lori Wagor, and Pat Rutledge hold their 2016 Spirit of Marco award certificates while flanked by Noontime Rotary Club members Ian and Kathy Small, John Scott, LindaSandlin and Rachel Dehanas.

getting the award. I love and enjoy every single one of those activities.

BEN FARNSWORTH: Farnsworth and his wife Judy have been coming to Marco since his parents purchased a condo here in 1974. They purchased their own condo about 20 years ago became permanent residents of island six years ago.

I am truly grateful to the Rotary Club of Marco Island for this award. First of all, to be in the company of previous winners is humbling. To me, my selection came out of the blue. I never anticipated any recognition for volunteer work, because all I am really doing is showing up. The amazing thing is that once you show up, a lot of things happen. A small change that you think you are making in someone’s life is often very big to them. I really get much satisfaction seeing their lives improve in some way. That is the real reward. When I show up, the responsibility falls on my shoulders. If you are delivering Meals on Wheels and someone in desperate need tells you their refrigerator just died, you can’t walk away. You are the only one there. You have to do something, contact an agency that can repair or replace it, or handle it yourself. Then, depending on the complexity of the problem, you have to get it done. You showed up, you were handed the problem from someone in need and you did your best to solve it. There is no heroism here; it’s something that has to be done. But this time in my life is in some ways more gratifying than my years working and raising a family. It fact it’s really an extension of it.

A group from Rotary came to a meeting of the Knights of Columbus. It was a stunning surprise. Rotarians Lynne Minozzi, and Al Diaz and others went to the podium and began describing this person. I thought to myself, it must be this Knight or that one. When they mentioned membership in the Marco Island Waterway Advisory Committee, I thought to myself, “I’m the only member of Committee who is in the Knights.” Then it dawned on me that they were talking about me.

I was twice the Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus, one of the major fundraising organizations for the needy on Marco Island and in Collier County. Our funds support scholarships, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, the Immokalee soup kitchen, Catholic Charities, Dreams Are Free School for disabled children, Christmas Island Style, youth groups, and parish needs. I led the 4th degree of the Knights as Faithful Navigator and we set up our first Gasoline and Food gift card program for homeless veterans though the Naples Veterans Center. I am currently the district deputy for this section of Southwest Florida, in which I oversee five K of C councils in Naples and Marco. My job is helping them direct

Ben Farnsworth received his 2016 Spirit of Marco award certificate from Noontime Rotary representatives.

Ben Farnsworth received his 2016 Spirit of Marco award certificate from Noontime Rotary representatives.

fundraising, programs for the needy, and spiritual and fraternal needs, and requires visiting all five councils regularly. Eight hundred Knights in our area working to promote Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism.

For the last five years, my wife Judy and I have been delivering Meals on Wheels to the needy of Marco Island and South Naples. This is one of our most rewarding activities, delivering food to people in need. Meals on Wheels volunteers may be the only visitors to the homes of our clients that day.

I am also a driver for the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery. Our job is to transport cancer patients to their doctors, chemotherapy, radiation or other therapies. These are people stricken with a dreaded disease who have no one to drive them and can’t afford the taxi ride to and from Naples.

For three years, I have served on the San Marco Parish Outreach Committee, which develops programs and fundraising, for pregnancy centers, battered women, St. Mathews House and religious rights. We also promote spiritual retreats.

For the past six years, I have served as the president of Ville de Marco West Condominium Association. We are one of the first condos to install Ocean Restoration Initiative Marine habitats in the waters off our seawall. They served as spawning grounds for dwindling fish species, promote cleaner water, and give researchers insight in the health of Marco waters. With the support of the board we are spearheading the effort to widen the entrance of Collier Creek into the Marco River the waterway through which 40 percent of Marco’s boats reach the Gulf. Our efforts have triggered a study of the shrinking mouth of the creek, which is increasing water flow endangering boaters and marine life. There is a dredging plan underway followed by a proposed three- to-five-year study of the area.

In this regard, I am in my second year and serve as vice-chairman of the Marco Island Waterway’s Advisory Committee. On a land mass surrounded by water, I feel this is one of the most important advisory committees on Marco Island.

I have also filled in for volunteers making bread runs to migrant workers in East Naples.

Finally in the area of recreation, I have been elected to serve on the nominating committee at the Island Country Club.

As I said above, volunteering isn’t difficult. You merely have to show up and things happen. Someone once said, “Showing up is 80 percent of life.” When people ask me, “What can I do?” my answer is show up. You don’t need great skills or a towering intellect, but if you are there when someone needs you, that’s a great feeling.


These questions were asked of all winners:

  • How does it feel to receive this award/what does it mean to you?
  • How were you notified, what were you doing at that time and how surprised were you?
  • Why do you believe you’re receiving this recognition, Please discuss your community involvement and why you are so involved?


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