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‘So Long 2020 No Mask-Querade Ball’ under way

By MEGHAN BRADBURY / news@breezenewspapers.com - | Dec 18, 2020

The community is invited to the first ever “So Long 2020 No Mask-Querade Ball,” a benefit for Keep Lee County Beautiful throughout the month of December.

Keep Lee County Beautiful Executive Director Trish Fancher said although they had to cancel multiple events this year, which affected its sponsorships, the nonprofit, thankfully, is doing OK.

“Normally we do a golf fundraiser in October and that is the biggest fundraiser of the year. With the pandemic, we had to cancel that,” she explained, adding that they began brainstorming how to incorporate a fundraiser while keeping everyone safe.

The idea, hosting a benefit gala without actually holding a physical event, was developed by one of Keep Lee County Beautiful board members. The “So Long 2020 No Mask-Querade Ball” started Dec. 1 and runs through Dec. 31.

“We decided to incorporate with Giving Tuesday and the end of year giving, helping anyone trying to accomplish their goals,” she said.

The invitation, and how to contribute to the cause, can be found at https://bit.ly/KLCBGala2020.

“There are sponsorship levels, but the reality is anything is acceptable. There is a place for $1 (donation) and we appreciate that,” Fancher said. “We thought this is our best way. We are asking board members and anyone that gets it (the invitation) to do peer-to-peer fundraising and hope for the best.”

She said the event is great for anyone who has a passion for the environment and what Keep Lee County Beautiful does.

The invitation adds a little comedy, such as it being held at the beautiful “Sapphire Ballroom at Hotel Aquamarine Downtown” featuring the “Ta-Ta Twenty Twenty,” a jazz tribute band, playing its hits: “The Girl From Quarantina,” “Fly Me to My Zoom” and “Let’s Call the Whole Year Off.”

Fancher said the fake menu is also pretty comical with the 2020 signature dessert, the “Dumpster Fire,” similar to everything but the kitchen sink.

Although it has been an unpredictable year with many things coming to a complete stop due to COVID-19, Keep Lee County Beautiful was able to create smaller events, such as Coastal Cleanup with only 700 volunteers as opposed to more than 2,000, to make sure each site was safe.

Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, Fancher said they were able to squeeze in 208 events with just shy of 2,000 volunteers contributing more than 1,700 volunteer hours. Those events and volunteers were able to collect more than 10,000 pounds — 5 tons — of trash.

Fancher said they still have a couple of events planned, smaller private events consisting of 10 people instead of 100.

“It’s a testament to our community. When we had to cancel the events at the beginning, people said can we go out on our own. We arranged for contact-less pickup — trash bags, litter sticks and buckets. It’s a testament to our community on how committed they are to staying as clean as possible,” Fancher said.

In addition, Keep Lee County Beautiful also managed to plant 160 trees.

“We have been blessed this year. We worked through our challenges and grow and hopefully get our name out there, (so people) can learn about what we do,” Fancher said.

Keep Lee County Beautiful also spent time doing grant writing, cleaning, organizing and preparing for a better 2021. They were able to bring on an additional staff member, due to a grant, who will focus on education next year. She said starting in January the staff member will be doing presentations virtually in the first quarter and if life permits, in-person as the year shakes out.

The funding from the gala will go toward building more “Classroom in a Box,” which includes environmental education materials for educators, which Fancher said can be used for youth group leaders, 4H leaders, Girl Scouts to teachers. The “Classroom in a Box” is a curriculum module that an educator can pick up, or check out, to teach an entire lesson with a class or group.

With only four employees of Keep Lee County Beautiful, they wanted to reach more children, providing education, without staff having to physically be present.

“I come from a family of teachers. I know the struggle they have and the amount of expenses come out of pocket. There is no fee for them. I want them to be able to use us as a resource,” Fancher said.

For more information, call 239-334-3488 or visit www.klcb.org, Facebook @KLCBInc or Instagram @keepleecountybeautifulfl.