Letter to the Editor: A big thanks to all who participated in the OBGBBC

OBBGBCTo the Editor:

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Johann Fust Library Foundation, I want to express our sincere appreciation to the community for your generous support and your participation in our many events this season. We have so many people and groups to thank!

Thanks to all of those on the island who donated their time and literary contacts, which enabled us to showcase Paula Polk Lillard, Dr. Hank Wright, Rose Styron, Finlay Lewis, Eve Pell, Harry Anderson, Roger Mandle, Donald Gregg, Caroline Milbank and Mary Ellen Flanagan. All of those fascinating, distinguished authors and speakers appeared free to the community through the generosity of our neighbors, including Jane and Bob Geniesse, Bayne Stevenson, Peter Diebold, Mary Howell, Alice Gorman, Vicky and Bill Winterer, the Health Clinic Foundation and the Planters of Boca Grande. Poet Billy Collins, featured speaker at our Annual Benefit, appeared through the generosity of Dr. Daly Walker, the Park Foundation, Carol Stewart of Michael Saunders and Northern Trust Company.

Thanks to our Foundation Volunteers, who made and served refreshments at the events, sold books, organized and executed two massively successful used book sales, and generally made our events possible throughout the year. Betsey Hall, Joanne Hall led the Used Book Sales and Carol Wythes headed the event volunteer efforts. Helping us this year were Carol Armstrong, Mary Bess, Jo Brookhart, Melissa Csank and her dad, Paul Csank, Sarah Dressing, Barbara Edgerton, Edie Gardner, Joan Hall, Howard Hall, Carolyn Humke, Judy Ikenberry, Sandy Jacobs, Jill Klinges, Helen Mathieson, Nancy and Bob Miles, Deb Nash, Katherine Nordberg, Mary Kay Pasin, Neal Rietz, Patience Rockey, Bonnie Simons, Jean Station, Jo Van Zoeren and Pam Wham – all of whom are an integral part of the operation of the Library Foundation, and we are grateful for their sustained involvement.

Thanks to The Gasparilla Inn & Club, especially to Jon Reecher, Esmé Pitard and Tina Malascis. The Inn is a generous in-kind benefactor to the Foundation and our programs. We are indeed fortunate to have the Inn as a partner in our mission to bring quality educational and cultural experiences to the island.

Thanks to all who helped bring the first One Big Grande Boca Book Club to life in January of this year, especially Roger Lewis and Marta Howell of the Friends, Esmé Pitard at the Inn, Erica Martin, the Royal Palm Players and our stellar steering committee. A collaboration among the Library Foundation, the Friends of BGCC, and The Gasparilla Inn & Club, it was a very special program of reminiscences and readings, songs of the WWII era, and a custom video starring Island School students. Major participants were thanked in the printed program at the event, but special thanks go to Roger Lewis, Erica Martin, Linda Rollyson, Lisa Arundale, Ken Raynor, Mary and Phil O’Bannon, Honey and Sam Skinner and Margaret Bush. Our gratitude to those who contributed to the event through your sponsorships is unbounded. You and our wonderful volunteers made it possible for us to offer the program to the island for free, as a break-even proposition for the sponsoring organizations.

Thanks to the Boca Grande Woman’s Club, which just recently approved a grant to expand and upgrade our sound system and seating capacity in the loggia and gardens. Beginning next season, our growing audiences will be better able to hear our speakers. We know you have all been waiting for this!

Thanks to those who provide services to our campus. Thanks to our Executive Director, Jon Bednerik, for his unflagging support of the many activities and demands of the Foundation. And to Lee County Senior Librarian Toni Vanover, and Library Associates Mary Knight Vickers, Chris Thompson and Fran Pace, for keeping our library at the cutting edge of education and entertainment for our community. We are also grateful for Woody Thayer, Mary Ellen Flanagan and Pete Sanger for their dedication to the campus from the ground up.

Thanks to the many local businesses that support us by displaying posters for our events in their venues. Although we continue to work on improving our high-tech communication skills, we also value the low-tech, small-town charm – and amazing efficacy – of pinning news to bulletin boards.

And thanks, of course, to our many generous donors. This community supports its library to an extent that can only be envied by most towns in the United States. Founded by a resident of Boca Grande and with the help of six decades of donors, we have expanded our ability to serve our community without losing the jewel-like quality of the library experience that we all treasure so much.

The beautiful campus and gardens and our world-class programs are testament to how much Boca Grande values its library. Donors to our annual fund, launched each November, and donors to our annual benefit in February provide the bulk of the funds necessary to maintain and operate the buildings and gardens, which the Foundation provides to Lee County for use as a library.

While other libraries are failing, we are thriving. Your support enables us to make the Johann Fust Community Library relevant and enjoyable to young and old alike.

And last – but certainly not least – thanks to the Boca Beacon, which has been a vital link to the community. Week in, week out, we can email, send postcards and post posters, but we know that if our news is not in the Beacon, we’ll miss a major part of our audience. Thanks to Marcy Shortuse, Julianne Greenberg, and Dusty Hopkins.

As part of the Lee County Library System, the Johann Fust Community Library will be open all summer. Our Literary Series will resume in the fall – that lineup will be announced as it unfolds over the summer. The Second Annual One Big Grande Boca Book Club will be held at the Beach Club on Sunday, Jan. 31; the book chosen by the community is Elephant Company, by Vicki Croke. It’s a terrific, touching tale of human-animal interaction and a gripping but little-known story of World War II.

Stay tuned, have a great summer, and read on!

Candice Shy Hooper

President, JF Library Foundation