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“Help Bring the Green Back to Sanibel & Captiva” – support island businesses

By Staff | Sep 10, 2018

When times get tough, the community comes together to help one another.

Sandy Stilwell, of Stilwell Enterprises & Restaurant Group, said her businesses are among those that have been affected a great deal since the red tide outbreaks.

“My staff has really felt the lack of the business. They are not making the tips they once made,” she said. “My friends in Fort Myers have gathered together to support my staff during this hard time. Of course, it helps me, too. It truly has been an amazing display of love. We all help one another through hard times, and in good times. Our community is amazing.”

Her businesses started to feel the impact the last week of August and all of this month.

“The Labor Day weekend was almost nonexistent,” Stilwell said.

Stilwell employs approximately 125 people among her eight businesses.

She said she is honored that people started the #SWFLChallenge, which encourages people to stay, play, dine and shop. It is helping her servers.

Now, in addition, Marc Collins has spearheaded the “Help Bring the Green Back to Sanibel & Captiva: No Algae, Just Money,” event to be held on Saturday, Sept. 15.

The event encourages area residents to come out and help island businesses by spending a little money and tipping well.

Collins, whose family used to own the Holiday Inn on Sanibel, said he started the campaign to encourage people to come out and spend money on the island.

Advance response has been good.

“We have a pretty huge social media presence. We’ve had a great response. People are booking rooms and going out for the weekend,” he said. “We want to give back to the community and have a bigger impact.”

Collins said they are simply encouraging people to go out and be a part of supporting businesses.

He said he did some philanthropic work, similar to the “Bring the Green Back” campaign at Bubba’s Roadhouse Grill & Saloon. One hundred people showed up at Bubba’s because of a social media campaign.

Service personnel rely on tips and customers for much of their earning; they just need to have people come to the restaurants, Stilwell added.

With the decrease in foot traffic, Stilwell said she has had to cut back some hours, but has found other ways to keep her employees busy. For example, some of her employees have helped paint her cottages.

“I’m working with my staff as much as I possibly can,” she said.

Some of her other employees have decided to take their vacation right now. Others have applied to get help from F.I.S.H., or have sought help from the Harry Chapin Food Bank for food.

“It’s nice that the community is there,” Stilwell said.

She is hopeful that the Island Hopper Songwriter Fest, Sept. 21-Sept. 23, will bring some more customer traffic to the island.

In years past the festival is usually huge for her businesses.

“It will show that there are other things to do than going to the beach . . . hanging out on the island, going to restaurants,” Stilwell said of the festival.