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‘Pine Island Cares’ event June 20

By Staff | Jun 12, 2009

Few are the people who go through life without experiencing hardship at one time or another, and oftentimes through no fault of their own. It may be due to a weather disaster, injury or illness, or a loss of job, the latter not a rarity in this current economic situation affecting the entire country.
In some cases food is needed, or there may be a need to learn new skills or arrange transportation.
Whatever the need may be, where can one turn to learn of organizations providing the help, whether it is for oneself, a relative or a friend?
To find out, the Beacon of H.O.P.E. Thrift Store at Pine Island Center is the place to be, Saturday, June 20, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. That is when the first “Pine Island Cares” event will take place. There will be live music by Cindy Walsch and Dogfish, and the public will have the opportunity to learn where help of various types can be found.
While residents and visitors are learning about the island organizations and programs, Walsh will perform from 10 a.m. until noon, and Dogfish will follow until 2 p.m. Both are donating their time and talents.
Also assembled at the Beacon of H.O.P.E. Thrift Store will be job services, care vendors and service organizations, all with representatives ready to answer questions, according to Betsy Haesemeyer, who serves on the board of directors of Beacon of H.O.P.E. The participants will explain where and how to find such essential necessities as food, jobs, housing, transportation, medical care, daily living skills and other support to get over all types of situations.
For information, call (239) 283-5123.
There will be free meals to eat there or to take home, door prizes, raffles, goody bags and a “Free Bicycle Give-a-Ways!”
In addition to Beacon of H.O.P.E., which also provides “Meals on Wheels,” other participants include the Pine Island Food Pantry, FISH, Red Cross, Southwest Florida Workforce, Connie Mack’s Office, Small Business Administration, Lee County Emergency Management, Creative Coast Day Care, and Operation Open Arms.
Also on hand will be Lee County Parks & Recreation, Pine Island Library, Pine Island Printing, Matlacha Mariners, Matlacha Hookers, Stephen Ministries, Bootstrap Ministries, and Pine Island Community Church.
Abundant Grace Fellowship of Fort Myers and A Life in Christ Church of Cape Coral will help serve the meals. Also much involved in the event will be Heidi Grusser of Pine Island Community Church and Sheri Dube.
These organizations also will offer volunteering opportunities, according to Haesemeyer.
Both the organizations and the concerned individuals involved came together to produce this first “Pine Island Cares.” They saw the need, they met together and they decided it would be beneficial to the island community to have this type of public orientation.
“The Beacon of H.O.P.E. and others got together in meetings, and they believed there were folks on Pine Island who were going hungry,” Haesemeyer said.
Also involved in the preparations is Debbie Cundall, a member of the Matlacha Hookers, an organization involved in activities benefiting the community and individuals. She said Robert Hippert will bring his “Lee County Bicycle Ministry,” and will be responsible for the food.
“Robert feeds as many as 200 people at a time,” Cundall said.
For this event, his assistant cooks will be Toni Logan and Allen Kibby.
Through his “Bicycle Ministry,” Hippert provides free bicycles to people who have no other means of transportation. He gets donations of old bikes. Then, Dave Axler of Pine Island Cycles Inc. repairs them and supplies the parts needed. At “Pine Island Cares,” Hippert plans on giving away 50 bicycles, according to Cundall.
“And we have wonderful bike paths on Pine Island,” she added.
Haesemeyer, who is the owner of Pine Island Growers, said there was total agreement on trying to identify the need of every one on the island, because the participating organizations do provide different types of help for a person living alone or for an entire family.
“We hope that at the end of the day, we’ll have a better understanding of what the needs are,” Haesemeyer said, emphasizing this is not a fund-raising event, although organizations raise money on their own.
Help has also come from merchants, such as Publix. At Winn-Dixie, Manager Don Louhgren also promised to bring a large cheese cake decorated with the name “Pine Island Cares.”
The donations will provide for the prizes given away and fill the “goody bags.”
Parks & Rec is donating a full-year family memberships and another good for six months.
“We could not do this without everybody’s support,” Cundall said.
Hurricane guides from the Beacon of H.O.P.E. also will be handed out. Since it was printed in 2006, an insert will bring it up to date with one important fact:
“Pine Island has officially established a hurricane evacuation plan with the county’s emergency office,” Haesemeyer said. “The county will provide a bus. It will go around to different spots in the island. The stops will depend on the surge and winds of the event.”
The recipients of this guide will also learn to carry aboard the bare necessities.
Haesemeyer said, “People are amazing and most giving.”
She mentioned a mission of the Pine Island Community Church where volunteers, on Wednesdays, go to people’s home to help them with yard work, painting and cleaning.
And there are so many others.
“The Matlacha Hookers give much of their time volunteering on the island,” she said. “If there is a problem, they find a long-term plan, they help find jobs. If someone suffers from depression, they take them out to change their social environment.”
To plan this inaugural event, the organizations had an initial meeting in February, followed by another in March.
“It is not competitive, it is cooperative,” Haesemeyer pointed out. “We want to let people know what is available, if not for themselves, for someone they know.
“It is not new things, we just work together. We are re-introducing ourselves to the community. It is a family day. We’ll have people help kids to make crafts and Father’s Day cards.”