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Group to recognize ‘20 Who Made A Difference’

By Staff | Jan 5, 2009

Later this month, the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida will recognize 20 individuals and businesses who made a difference with keeping local children drug free since the coalition started 20 years ago.
The coalition’s motto is “to empower the children of Lee County to lead drug free lives,” and throughout the community the organization has hosted a number of events to drive this message home.
On Jan. 14 there will be an open house at the coalition’s offices at 1490 N.E. Pine Island Road, where those chosen will be recognized.
Keral Kronseder-Vogt, executive director for the coalition, said it has been fortunate to have a lot of community involvement.
“These people have had key roles and put their heart into it and have done things that have really helped the coalition move forward to make progress,” said Kronseder-Vogt. “They assisted with conferences, volunteer tasks, fund raising and some direct staff assistance.”
Jim Nathan, coalition founder and president of the Lee Memorial Health System, is the star of this year’s “20 Who Made A Difference.” In 1979 Nathan and others across the county founded the coalition to deal with the growing problem of drug abuse.
“This is a committed individual,” said Kronseder-Vogt. “He epitomizes the finest of the people who are involved.”
Since its inception, the coalition has evolved into one of the largest anti-drug organizations in Southwest Florida. In its first 10 years, the coalition worked to create the Vince Smith Treatment Center for adolescents addicted to drugs and Our Mother’s Home, a treatment center for pregnant mothers.
Five years after that the coalition began introducing science-based prevention programs directly into the community. Kronseder-Vogt explained that each of the proven programs were tied in with more than 6,000 children in the school system.
“For the last five years we’ve provided large scale drug abuse prevention and education initiatives,” said Kronseder-Vogt.
Recently, she said it has hosted the Drug House Odyssey — a 45-minute walk-through drama about making positive choices — for 3,000 participating parents and students.
Last month, the organization hosted the Red Ribbon Community Celebration at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre. Students were recognized for their works of art, PSAs and door decorating contests, and for leading a drug and substance free lifestyle.
The Florida Addictions Institute also was founded to certify local mental health workers to help others through drug addictions.
The “20 Who Made a Difference” are:
— Jim Nathan, Lee Memorial Health System president
— A.W. “Chic” Bancroft
— Marshall Bower, The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools executive director
— Cape Christian Fellowship
— Dr. Ann Cole
— John Dietz, Elks Lodge 2596
— Luis Hernandez/WGCU Public Radio
— Harry Horn (posthumous)
— Karen Krieger, Lee Memorial Health System’s Public Affairs system director
— Lee County Sheriff’s Office
— School District of Lee County
— Lee Memorial Health System
— Steve Maher
— The News-Press
— Al Oerter (posthumous)
— Laura and Bruce Ragain
— Carol Thomka
— Thomas Scarantino
— Charlie Stiles