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Sanibel visitors collect family legacy out of shelling

By Staff | May 28, 2010


They can’t talk. They can’t walk. But the slippery invertebrates seem to be good at bonding relationships and creating memories.

One family vacations every year at the Ocean’s Reach Beachfront Condominiums on Sanibel in order to go shelling.

Judy Jenkins still explodes with excitement when she finds an unusual shell along the island beaches.

“It’s like finding a buried treasure,” Jenkins, 68, said. “No two shells are the same.”

Jenkins became addicted to shelling after her mom Sally Israel got her into the habit during their years spent in Ocean City, N.J.

“She made it so fun and accessible to shell,” Jenkins said. Yep. There was no bad or sub standard shells in Jenkins’ mom’s eyes. Her gentle encouragement and excitement with each uncovered shell drew Jenkins further into becoming a shell seeker.

This love of shells spread to Jenkins daughter Debby Dalfonso.

In the 1970s Jenkins and her then very young daughter started joining her mom and dad for visits on Sanibel where they vacationed.

They stayed at Oceans Reach and became enamored with the shelling opportunities. “I am so grateful they [parents] found the Ocean Reach,” Jenkins said. “There’s just no other place like it.”

Like mother like daughter

Debby Dalfonso became an avid sheller due her mother and grandmother’s zeal for the hobby.

“I am kind of shelling obsessed,” Dalfonso, 40, said.

She is always on the hunt for interesting shells and one specimen in particular. “The junonia still eludes me,” she said.

Dalfonso, a school teacher in Ocean City, said she looks forward to her annual treks to Sanibel with her husband Jim — whom she has now hooked on shelling, too — and her mom.

Much to some of Dalfonso’s friends’ surprise, she prefers shelling adventures on Sanibel with her husband and mom to strolling around some hot, trendy spot.

“Coming down has always made us close as a family,” she said. “One of the things I like the most about Sanibel is I like to see families shell there.”

The family plans to come to Oceans Reach around Christmas this year.