Homeless Coalition: Candlelight remembrance set for Dec. 21
A tribute to Lee County’s homeless who passed away this year will take place in Fort Myers.
Hosted by the Lee County Homeless Coalition, the 21st annual Candlelight Vigil will be held on Thursday at 6 p.m. on the steps of the Old Lee County Courthouse, at 2120 Main St.
“This is a time when people reflect on the past year and remember the ones that we love, so we’re taking a moment to remember the ones that society has forgotten,” Janet Bartos, the executive director of the coalition, said. “And for many of these individuals, this is the only service they will have.”
As of Wednesday, at least 24 individuals who were homeless had lost their lives so far this year while living on the streets or in shelters in Lee County. According to officials, the number can fluctuate each year.
“Twenty-four is a pretty high number, but we’ve seen that in the last few years,” she said.
The candlelight vigil is also intended to educate and inspire the public to support the need in the community for more affordable housing, shelters, living wages and accessible health care.
“It’s also intended to educate and inspire,” Bartos said.
She noted that the date of the vigil is intentional as it is the longest night of the year.
“This date is chosen to remind us of what the homeless endure,” Bartos said.
The approximately 30-minute ceremony will include remarks by Bartos and Neil Vol, board chair for the coalition. Vol will read aloud the names of the decreased, while the Salvation Army rings a bell.
“We have luminaries lit up around the courthouse steps. We have candles for everyone,” she said.
“It’s a very moving ceremony,” Bartos added.
The Rev. Philip D. Read II, of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, will present the opening prayer.
Music will be provided by the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church choir. In addition, “Taps” will be performed by Harvey Charter, commander of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA Victor Paul Tuchman Post 400.
“To honor the homeless veterans throughout the nation that lost their lives this year,” she said.
Bartos estimated that over 100 people attend the annual ceremony.
She encouraged the community to come out.
“The people that we’re mourning, they were just like any of us. They were somebody’s child at one point – they may have been fathers and mothers,” Bartos said. “These individuals died without even the basic human dignity of having a place to call home.”
For more information about the vigil, visit www.leehomeless.org.