Collier and Lee Counties Edition

Southwest Florida Community Visionaries Tell their Tales

Imbedded in our desire to take a leap in consciousness, creativity and cooperation is one seriously viable solution—envisioning new ways to connect the separate parts in making a new whole. While we humans have a tendency to consider ourselves separate from Nature, we are not. According to Barbara Marx Hubbard, a futurist and author of Birth 2012 and Beyond: Awakening the Power of Our Social Potential, if we are feeling an inner nudge to be in some form of community, we are likely following an evolutionary urge to move forward and create a new story based on nature’s self-organizing systems, rather than on embattled mechanistic and industrial models.

What defines a community is always up for discussion, although the simplest explanation may be that it is the sense of cohesiveness among a group of people that interact positively, support one another and share a vested interest in a vision defined by the individual or individuals that established the group. Communities where we can connect and nurture relationships that allow for meaningful conversations and the expression of innovative ideas that lead to lasting change have been cited as the real economic building blocks of our future by visionary thinkers such as Hazel Henderson, an evolutionary economist and founder of Ethical Markets Media. Henderson’s independent media company promotes the emergence of a sustainable, green, more ethical and just economy worldwide.

In Collier and Lee counties, there are flourishing self-organizing communities that have developed around visionary ideas for providing education intended to improve mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellness, support personal growth for individuals and families, promote the prosperity of businesses and protect our precious ecosystems as well as our drinking water from overdevelopment.

HEALTHY ECO-SYSTEMS

Lee County residents Ellen Peterson and Genelle Grant and Collier County residents Bobbie Lee Davenport and John and Karen Dwyer worked long and hard on their visions for protecting and maintaining a healthy ecosystem in Southwest Florida long before they ever formed their organizations.

Happechatchee Center

In 2006 Peterson and Grant, two best friends and active environmentalists, cofounded and incorporated Estero’s Happehatchee Center, now an official Lee County Historic Preservation site. Grant, a North Fort Myers resident, continued as board president after Peterson’s death in 2011. The center began taking shape in 2005 when Peterson conceived of the five acres for preservation and use by environmentally and spiritually friendly groups. Today, 2,000 people share that vision for Happehatchee, which plays host to Florida Gulf Coast University students and volunteers, yoga classes, sacred circles, Reiki healers, kirtan, drumming circles and at present, a citizen’s committee working to protect and acquire the forested acreage surrounding the center for biking and walking paths.

Cypress Cove Conservancy

Davenport’s vision for the nonprofit Cypress Cove Conservancy has attracted a group of like-minded activists interested in acquiring land for the purpose of protecting the habitat of endangered species such as panthers and black bears. State approval for harvesting saw palmetto berries, upon which the bears rely for food, and also for hunting bears that wandered into housing developments in search of an alternative food source, incited Davenport to form the conservancy. “That’s when I knew for certain that we were losing the battle against development, and the only way to protect the land and our water supply is to own it,” says Davenport. 

Stone Crab Alliance

The Stone Crab Alliance was the result of John Dwyer’s 1974 vision to stop the construction of a nuclear power plant in Bonita Springs. Today, Dwyer and his wife Karen, a teacher by profession and human rights and social justice activist by conscience, work on their expanded vision for economic, social and environmental justice through nonviolent action. The alliance, now 1,000-plus members strong, was recently successful in blocking plans for new oil drilling and fracking in Naples and the Everglades. “When we oppose something, we persevere for a long time,” advise the Dwyers.

BODY, MIND & SPIRIT

Lee county residents Cindy Carfore, Tina Crumpacker and Silvia Casabianca developed businesses around their visions for improving the mind, body and spirit health of residents in their communities, while Jeanne Sweeney developed the Above Board Chamber of Florida to help them do all of that and secure their financial health, too.

AHA! A Holistic Approach Center for Health & Wellness

Carfore decided to blend her vision for AHA! A Holistic Approach Center for Health & Wellness with that of Health and Harmony, in Fort Myers. “Mine and the vision that Kandy Love and Suzanne Blaney passed along are synergistic ideas for a space where people could gather for yoga, educational lectures and workshops, as well as alternative or complementary healing modalities,” says Carfore.

TMC Productions

Crumpacker’s vision of, “If you build it, a community will form around it,” for personal growth training turned out better than she imagined. The co-founder of TMC Productions, in Fort Myers, acknowledges the closely knit sense of community felt among thousands of TMC graduates. “Our arena is a place where individuals can learn and champion one another’s transformational process. If one of our graduates needs something, we post it on our graduate pages, and generally within 24 hours the request is filled. This kind of support has rippled out into the larger community, where our graduates live and work,” advises Crumpacker. 

Eyes Wide Open Center

Casabianca’s Eyes Wide Open Center, in Bonita Springs, offers spaces for the healing process to occur. “From a holistic perspective, healing requires support from a community. There is only so much that you can do on your own,” she says. “My vision is that the center would give communities of like-minded people who exist out there waiting for opportunities to get together a space where they could connect.

“People come, volunteer, learn, and experience what we offer. Classes, Reiki circles, meditation groups and yoga practice give individuals the opportunity to form small or large communities which may or may not last. Most importantly, they come together because their needs are complementary and they are energetically attracted to each other.”

Above Board Chamber of Florida

Sweeney’s God-moment in 2010 came with a vision. “Within a couple of months, we were bringing people of faith together within the community and in the workplace,” says Sweeney. “Using biblical principles, we impact our members’ lives and businesses through business programs and community outreach by making sure everyone has the necessary tools to grow in today’s economy. We meet in Fort Myers at the Harborside Event Center the second Thursday of each month and on the second Monday of each month at the Hilton Hotel in Naples.”

Salt Cave

Andrea Geresdi’s vision for her Salt Cave literally appeared in a dream. “I woke up at 2 a.m. and told my husband, ‘We have to open a salt cave,’” She says. “A week later, we were ordering 20 tons of Himalayan salt and six months afterward, I located the space with rooms for private therapies, yoga classes and lectures. Without hesitation, we used our retirement savings to do something that seven years later has grown and attracted a loving community beyond our wildest imaginings. We particularly appreciate Cathy Blair, whose own community has been coming to hear her crystal bowl concerts since we opened.”

Blair, who has been playing crystal bowls for 10 years, envisions that the frequencies of the bowls will uplift humanity to the next-higher octave of love. “This will allow us to coexist peacefully and for everyone to express their divine essence, which is a vibration of truth, beauty and peace,” she says.

House of Gaia

An only child, Lulu Carter, founder of House of Gaia, in Naples, felt the need for a community. “As I matured in my homeland of Brazil, I noted that communities formed by people gathering and communicating needs, sharing resources, planning social times and creating guidelines,” says Carter, whose learning center fosters a global perspective in order to promote a more peaceful, creative and conscientious world by educating, connecting and building community through art, culture, global citizenship and community service.

Food & Thought

Jameson Johnson, Food & Thought Organic General Store manager in Naples, is honored to carry on founder Frank Oakes’ vision. “Frank wanted this to be far more than a grocery store—a hub where people interested in a healthy lifestyle could meet, interact and learn about their options in classes and lectures. Another aspect of Frank’s vision was to help small local businesses with our buying power. We’ve been doing more of that since Frank’s son, Alfie, increased the size of our farm,” notes Johnson.

Monarch Wellness Center

Adaptability, intuition and the ability to follow her inner guidance have proven to be some of Kimberly Rodgers’ most valuable traits. The perception of her vision for Monarch Therapy, in Naples, as an unfolding process rather than something static gave her the ability to be flexible while experiencing her personal transformation. “As a licensed clinical social worker, my original concept of helping a child and their family or a single adult one-on-one began morphing as I listened to my clients’ needs. I realized that I needed to bring in other therapists and modalities, form partnerships in the community, such as the one I have with House of Gaia, and move to a larger space where individuals could comfortably interact,” explains Rodgers.

Flowing through the process of change, Rodgers discovered that when she listened to the fears of others around her that weren’t as certain as she was about what needed to be done, her vision floundered. “I chose to remain steadfast and follow my heart, which I felt was leading me along the right path to becoming a wellness center. In retrospect, it was the right thing to do. We are now an integrative team of 13 professionals who have created a cohesive community within our newly named Monarch Wellness Center,” she says.

Sometimes it takes work and a leap of faith to follow the vision that inner guidance provides. Keeping the bigger picture in mind—the one that connects separate parts to create a whole—is the best way to answer the evolutionary call to community.

SWFL VisionariesLOCAL RESOURCES

Above Board Chamber, 4540 S. Landings Dr., Fort Myers; 239-910-7426. AboveBoardChamber.com.

AHA! A Holistic Approach Center for Health & Wellness, 15971 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers; 239-433-5995. HealthAndHarmonyOnline.com.

Cypress Cove Conservancy, 239-777-0186. CypressCoveConservancy.com.

Eyes Wide Open Center, 9200 Bonita Beach Rd. SE, Ste. 202 and 204, Bonita Springs; 239-948-9444. EyesWideOpenCenter.com.

Food & Thought, 2132 Tamiami Tr. N., Naples; 239-213-2222. FoodAndThought.com.

Happehatchee Center, 8791 Corkscrew Rd., Estero; 239-992-5455. Happehatchee.org.

House of Gaia, 1660 Trade Center Way, Naples; 239-272-6152. HouseOfGaia.org.

Monarch Wellness Center, 843 Myrtle Terr., Naples; 239-325-9210. MonarchTherapy.com.

Salt Cave, 4962 Tamiami Tr. N., Naples; 239-403-9170. SaltCaveNaples.com. Stone Crab Alliance, Facebook.com/groups/stonecraballiance.

TMC Productions, 8359 Beacon Blvd., Ste. 402, Fort Myers; 239-939-4769. tmcr.com.

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