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Blues by the Bay fundraiser making a difference in lives

By Staff | Apr 20, 2016

(L to R) Tim Youngquist, Sandy Stilwell, Boots Tolles and Harvey Youngquist Jr. PHOTO PROVIDED

The “Blues by the Bay” fundraising event for the Heights Foundation, which benefit the Harlem Heights community, is doing more than just raising money for a quick fix.

The event will be held Thursday, April 28, at a Sanibel beachfront home, at 1253 Anhinga Lane. The residential home is currently up for sale and will be geared up that evening to entertain all the guests with a spectacular view of the Sanibel bay view.

Festivities run from 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. and a VIP pre-party will be held at the Sanibel Sea School an hour before the event.

The funds which drive the School Success programs through the Heights Foundation and the Heights Center, stretches the dollar to its fullest, providing educational opportunities to those willing to take advantage of them, ultimately resulting in a longterm solution in many lives.

“We are not just feeding the people fish to eat, we are teaching them how to fish to provide lifelong opportunities,” said Cindie Barker, a Heights Foundation board member and one of the organizers of the Blues by the Bay event. “We have had many success stories, as well.”

(L to R) Dan Schuyler and Karen Bell. PHOTO PROVIDED

Just in the Heights Foundation culinary program alone, there have been 71 graduates from Harlem Heights, with 70 work placements. The lone one who hasn’t been placed after culinary school, is attending college full-time.

“Our School Success program includes academic tutoring, after school and summer camp programs, scholarship and college access assistance, school supplies, and tuition support,” said Kathryn Kelly, President and CEO of The Heights Foundation. “Each program is geared to meet the specific needs of children and young adults who seek to further their education.”

The Heights Foundation works to build self-sufficient families in the Harlem Heights neighborhood. The mission is to support education and wellness, promote family and community development, and provide the benefits of enrichment and the arts.

The Heights Center, supported by The Heights Foundation, is a place for education, opportunity, and enrichment.

Approximately 780 children live in a mixture of single-family homes and multi-family apartments.

(L to R) Ron Fitzgerald, Debbie Ringdahl, Wayne Wiles and Randy Mercer. PHOTO PROVIDED

The poverty rate for children in Harlem Heights is more than twice the county average, with family income 40-percent below the county average.

Families are not able to easily access family support services located in downtown Fort Myers and benefit greatly from programs located within the neighborhood, which is where the Heights Foundation comes in.

The “Blues by the Bay” fundraiser is an important one for the Heights Foundation and this year’s festivities will include samplings from Sanibel’s finest restaurants, fine wines, a signature Blue Bay Martini, champagne and live music.

Participating restaurants include Blue Coyote Supper Club, Cantina Captiva, Key Lime Bistro and Sanibel Catering Company by Bailey’s. The beverage sponsor is The Lighthouse Resort & Tiki Bar.

Live auction items will be offered and all proceeds will benefit the School Success programs for at-risk children in the Harlem Heights neighborhood in Fort Myers.

Kathryn Kelly and Sandy Stillwell. PHOTO PROVIDED

Chico’s is the presenting sponsor. Additional sponsors include Edison National Bank & Bank of the Islands, Gretchen and Mark Banks and the Sanibel-Captiva Islander/Island Reporter.

“The Heights Foundation is such a worthy cause and Harlem Heights is a great community to help,” Barker said. “Many of the people who have graduated from the culinary school, work on Sanibel. The volunteers who help the foundation are selfless, it’s such a blessing to be a part of such an organization.”

This is the third year for the event, with the first one being held at the Blue Coyote Restaurant on Sanibel. The second year was held at Sanibel residence Sandy Stillwell’s residence.

“There will be 100 people maximum able to attend, thus making it an intimate night,” Barker said. “There will be a live auction, live entertainment, good food and champagne for people at the door. One hundred percent of the proceeds goes back to the community of Harlem Heights.”

An important project which will come to fruition in the fall, is the start of a Charter School in Harlem Heights. There will be two kindergarten classes, along with one first-grade class at the school.

Entertainment last year for the “Blues by the Bay” was performed by Randy and Lori Thomas. PHOTO PROVIDED

“We want to grow it each year, as well,” Barker said. “We are never status quo, we will always try and keep rising above (our goals).”

Tickets are now on sale for $125 each and space is limited. Purchase tickets at www.heightsfoundation.org/blues or call Karen Lesza at (239) 482-7706.