July 27th marks the one-year anniversary I left my roots in Cleveland and planted new ones in Naples, accepting a position as the Friends of Rookery Bay’s first full-time Executive Director. Nearly coinciding with the Friends’ fiscal year, I reflect on the past and look forward to our 32nd year in support of Rookery Bay Research Reserve.
Coming into my new role, I was excited to build on past success while also recognizing the challenge and growing pains transforming a 30-year old organization led by a Board to one that includes a full-time Executive Director. Little did I know that five weeks into my position life would forever change. Yet, for all the terrible impacts of Hurricane Irma, its outcome resonated clear - my new community is strong, resilient, caring and steadfast. Countless actions displayed by Reserve staff left me feeling part of an incredible extended family, a feeling that resonates each and every day at Rookery Bay Research Reserve.
Wary and still healing from Irma’s impacts, the community entered the 2018 season. Half my time focused on embracing Collier County, meeting community leaders, attending events, learning about the extraordinary organizations working daily to better our community, providing support to the Reserve and helping host numerous Reserve/Friends events and activities. The other half of my time I worked with Board President Paul Tateo, Friends’ staff, and Reserve staff to internally evaluate the organization. The evaluation identified the need to update protocols, implement new accounting procedures, strategically strengthen board composition, enhance customer service, clarify our brand, and solidify the Friends overall so that we are better positioned to advocate on behalf of and fundraise to support the Reserve.
The Friends kicks off the 2018-19 fiscal year eagerly embarking on a new era. A Board ready for action and led by retired CEO, Tom Marquart, is already underway with new committees established to guide the organization in the coming years. Recent additions to the Board, Kathy da Silva, Mitch McLeod, and Charlie O’Connor, are leveraging their expertise to chair the Finance, Development and Governance committees, respectively. A welcome addition to the Friends’ Board last year, Milda Vaivada spearheaded our 2018 Bash for the Bay and is eager to take the helm as Events Committee Chair. In order to best position the Friends, our Strategic Planning Committee will be working tirelessly throughout the year to develop and implement a master plan. Expect nothing shy of great success from this year’s collective Board.
What does this mean to you as a member and friend?? It means every dollar you contribute, every letter you write to your local, state and federal representatives, and every volunteer hour you give will be maximized to manage and protect YOUR backyard, Rookery Bay Research Reserve. Continue sharing this special place with your friends and family. I hope to see you at events and activities throughout the coming year so that we can celebrate the Reserve’s special 40th anniversary together!