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Local celebs play waiter for a day to benefit NFM Chamber Foundation

By Staff | Aug 16, 2016

They sang country music, danced the “Cotton-Eyed Joe” and competed to see who ruled the hula hoop.

And it was for a great cause.

The North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday brought back its celebrity waiter event at the Faith Assembly of God Church for the first time since 2010.

The event benefitted by Chamber’s Foundation, which provides scholarships for high school students who live in North Fort Myers.

Wendy Murray of Direct Access Home Health chaired the event, which she hoped would raise thousands for the chamber, thanks to the all-star cast members who donned aprons.

“We have a lot of local community leaders, a wonderful silent auction with almost 30 baskets, and the fire department is here,” Murray said. “We sold out, so we’re hoping to raise over $5,000.”

Chamber President Jeffrey Houfek said Murray approached him six months ago to revive the event as a way to raise money for the foundation.

“It gets a lot of public relations out and a great way to get the chamber to raise some funds and help us to continue to grow and serve North Fort Myers,” said Houfek, who worked in the restaurant business for 20 years.

Also on hand was U.S. Olympic icon Bob Beamon, gold medalist of the 1968 Olympics in the long jump and whose 29-foot, 2 -inch jump is still an Olympic record. He came to make himself available for pictures, for a price.

Peter Busch of NBC-2 emceed the event, which featured a lot of fun and games. Waiters were challenged by the diners to sing country, or if you’re State Rep. Matt Caldwell, you donned a cowboy hat and danced the “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”

“I don’t even know the Cotton-Eyed Joe,” Caldwell said as he hopped around like a cartoon hillbilly. It wasn’t the Cotton-Eyed Joe. Not even close.

“I couldn’t be more excited to help. I’ve done a few of these in Lehigh and they can get pretty goofy,” Caldwell said. “I’ve had to hula hoop and do the Chicken Dance. It depends on what they crowd wants.”

Among the celebrity waiters were Caldwell, County Commissioner Brian Hamman, Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington and one of her opponents, Carmen Salome, Honorary Mayor Doug Dailey, North Fort Myers Fire Chief David Rice, Lt. Angelo Vaughn, who represented the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, and many more.

“Anything I can do to help the business community. The business climate is looking up and I want to be sure to be part of it,” Hamman said. “I have no idea what I’m getting myself into. My goal is to not spill anything on anyone.”

Hamman performed a stand-up comedy routine as his challenge. Chris Quackenbush, running for the Lee County school board, did 50 push-ups, Vaughn sang Willie Nelson (He thought it was Johnny Cash), and Houfek and Al Giacalone had a hula-hoop duel at high noon. Anything to help the community.

Rock Star Realty donated the aprons, while Edible Arrangements supplied the centerpieces.