The Literacy Council of Bonita Springs is merging with Literacy Volunteers of Lee County to create the Literacy Council Gulf Coast.
The non-profits serve more than 3,100 children and adult students in programs including basic reading and writing, computer literacy along with GED and U.S. citizenship test preparation courses. The Moms and Tots family literacy program has parents learning English side- by- side with their children.
“We work very hard at the literacy council to try to reach those children while they’re still preschoolers and their mothers who may have come from countries where they had very little education or where literacy was not a very important part of it,” said executive director of the newly-formed council, Susan Acuna.
“Reading to their children, for example, might not have been an important part of their parenting,” said Acuna. “We send books home with the families where they can develop a library so that the children and their siblings will be encouraged to read and to learn to love reading.”
Resources and classes are all provided to students free of charge. The organization is funded through grants and donations.
Before the organizations joined forces the Literacy Council of Bonita Springs was already one of the largest literacy organizations in the country.
A recent national assessment of adult literacy finds about 13 percent of adults in Lee County read below a basic literacy level. The number is 17 percent in Collier County and 20 percent statewide.
Acuna said the merger will help expand the number of students served.
The Florida man perhaps best known for infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s died Friday in St. Augustine. Stetson Kennedy, also known as a folklorist and historian, was born in Jacksonville in 1916.
In 1937, Kennedy joined the WPA Florida Writer’s Project, travelling the state with African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston, recording oral histories. The discrimination Hurston encountered led to Kennedy’s involvement in civil rights.
In the 1940s, he infiltrated the KKK, gained the leadership’s confidence, then provided information about the group to the Washington Post and Anti-Defamation League. Kennedy’s friend, former state lawmaker and historian Vernon Peeples said Kennedy exposed the Klan for what it really was.
“It took a lot of courage for him to do that but it was something he felt strongly about and I think he did it successfully and his contribution for unveiling the Klan was significant, “ Peeples said.
Kennedy wrote a number of books including Palmetto Country, based on material collected for the WPA. He also spent time living on a bus with Woody Guthrie and kicked up his heels in Paris. Kennedy died at the age of 94.
A ceremony marking the opening of the new Page Field General Aviation Terminal in Ft. Myers Thursday included a tribute to the past.
Mail planes began flying of out Page Field in 1926. National Airlines established passenger service between New York and the City of Palms in 1937. Then, came World War II. Truman Wilson was a teenager in 1939 when pilots began training at the field.
“The first military plane that came here was a B17. I was in highschool and saw it fly over downtown Ft. Myers. I jumped in my Dad’s car and followed it over here and it landed in the sand spurs,” he recalled.
Lee County Commissioner and Port Authority Chair Frank Mann – a native son of Ft. Myers -- says one his first memories is of Page Field.
“I remember as little boy coming out here going through the MP gate and being flabbergasted by all the excitement of the planes and the noise and the activity,” he said.
After the war, commercial passenger service resumed but ended when Southwest Florida Regional Airport opened in 1983. Page Field then became a hub for general aviation. But, the old terminal fell into disrepair.
Today, in its place, there’s a state-of-the-art facility with amenities to appeal to travellers flying in private Lear jets and Gulfstreams.
A new report from the AARP assigned an economic value to family caregivers in the U.S. The study estimated their unpaid contributions to be approximately 450 billion dollars a year.
But there is no way to quantify the physical and emotional costs of their care. The burden of caregivers can apparently be so stressful at times it can cost them their lives.
Bonnie Dominguez became family caregiver in 2006 when she got “that dreaded phone call at work.” Her eldest son was injured in Iraq.
He survived an IED blast, but was burned on 85 percent of his body. Dominguez and her youngest daughter Maline had to move to Texas for a year to care for him while he recovered in an army hospital.
“The year after that, I came home and I encountered a different kind of situation here,” said Dominguez. “The caregiving continued, just in a different way.”
Dominguez sits at the dining table in her Lehigh Acres home beside her 81-year-old mom, Marie Bem. It’s her day off from work, but it hardly feels like a day off.
She takes away the half-eaten plate of food when her mom signals she’s done.
“Mom always said, ‘I don’t care if I have a heart attack and die, I don’t care if I have this, I just don’t want to get Alzheimer’s.’ And that’s the one thing she got blessed with,” said Dominguez.
When Bem was diagnosed in 2007, Dominguez became her full-time caregiver. The single mom juggles her job at the local airport, running the house, and caring for her mother.
She is one of the 62 million Americans each year caring for a family member. While their work is unpaid, it does come at a price – not to their loved ones or the health care system, but to the caregivers themselves.
Gary Barg is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Today’s Caregiver based in Fort Lauderdale.
“The most frightening statistic is, according to Stanford University, 40% of caregivers dealing with cognitive disorders in their loved ones will die before their loved ones do –solely due to the stress of family caregiving,” said Barg.
He was inspired to start the magazine after an experience helping his mom care for his grandparents.
“And those were the most intense, painful, life-and-death experiences, around-the-clock, never-sleeping two weeks that I lived as a helper to a family caregiver.”
Studies show that caring for an ill family member or friend can be harmful to the person’s own health. The job is stressful and it takes a mental, physical, and emotional toll.
Bonnie Dominguez says she knows that very well.
“Sometimes I would just start crying, I was at my wits end,” she said.
Mae Greenberg is a mental health counselor based in Miami who runs a caregiver support group.
“As much as somebody really loves the person that is ill, just the constant demands can bring them to the point of exhaustion,” she said.
“There is that grieving of the loss for what their life was before their time was filled with all of that.”
A lack of support is not only detrimental for caregivers, but also the country.
The AARP report finds family caregivers to be vital for the health care system and the economy. The value of their work is approaching the amount the government spends on Medicare.
Without them, the economic costs of health care would skyrocket.
“So it’s very important that these caregivers have an outlet so they can continue to care for their loved one, “ said Nancy Green-Irwin, executive director for Senior Friendship Centers of Lee County.
Senior Friendship Centers provides services to seniors and caregivers alike. The AARP report calls for more resources for caregivers to lessen the strain of the job.
Before heading to work, Bonnie Dominguez drops her mother Marie off at the Centers’ adult day care.
It gives her peace of mind that her mom will be safe and around other people while she’s at her job. It also removes some of the pressure.
“It’s hard sometimes, [but] we make it work,” said Dominguez.
“I have to be there—which is OK. When I was little she had to be there for me.”
Dominguez worries about herself, but said it’s tough not to worry about others first. She relieves some her stress by getting a massage from her chiropractor and playing scrabble on the phone with a friend.
Dominguez said she’s glad to spend time with her mom, but is thankful for the resources that give her respite.
A four-year-old boy nearly drowned in the pool of a busy North Fort Myers apartment complex recently. The boy was underwater for nearly five minutes before a girl noticed him, and her father jumped in to rescue him.
The episode was caught on surveillance video. Miraculously, the boy is fine.
As WGCU’s Jenny Tavery reports, experts say it’s not unusual for a drowning person to go unnoticed because people have a misconception of what drowning really looks like.
Extended interview with Francesco Pia, PhD
A past member of the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District says the average homeowner’s s tax savings of about $27 a year does not justify slashing the district’s budget by 30 percent.
Nathaniel Reed said the end result is a threat to south Florida’s water supply, flood control and environment.
Earlier this month, the district laid off 134 employees due to the budget cuts. Another 123 employees left on their own or took buyouts. Also as a result of the cuts, Standard and Poor’s has lowered the district’s credit rating, citing less financial flexibility.
The South Florida Water Management District is the lead agency for Everglades restoration and also manages the water supply for agriculture in south Florida and for millions of residents. Reed, of Hobe Sound, who’s also a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said he’s outraged.
“All agencies can stand a five percent cut, but they can’t stand a cut the size the governor has set up. That’s dismantling agencies, that’s crippling agencies and it’s being done deliberately -- regrettably and in concert with the Republican legislature and they ought to hang their heads in shame,” he said.
Reed, a Republican, has led bi-partisan efforts to protect and preserve Florida’s environment for decades and remains active. He said reforming Florida’s tax laws is one way to protect the environment in the future.
“There are so many loopholes in our tax system that so many special interests have achieved that if those loopholes were closed there would not be a budget deficit,” he said. “But do you hear any courage from the governor and legislature about closing those holes – not a peep.”
Gov. Rick Scott defends his support of the legislation that led to downsizing at the district and tax savings for south Florida residents.
“What’s going on with the water district, it’s good what’s happening. We cut taxes by $210 million. They’re going back to their core mission,” Scott said.
The district is concentrating on its core mission this week – monitoring weather forecasts and adjusting operations of the regional water management system in order to reduce any potential for flooding from Hurricane Irene.
Olympic gold medalist and record-breaking track and field star, Bob Beamon, is the new chief executive officer for the Art of the Olympians Museum and Gallery in Fort Myers.
Beamon is best known for his world record in the long jump at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico, which remained unchallenged for 23 years. He has since been elected into the USA Track & Field and U.S. Olympic hall of fames. Beamon made Olympic history jumping 29 feet 2 1/2 inches, beating the previous record by nearly 2 feet and becoming the first man to jump more than 28 feet in the long jump. In a BBC interview at WGCU he said he felt like he was flying, “I don’t even want to come down. As a matter of fact I’m still up there right now as we speak. I just feel so wonderful about the accomplishments but I take my accomplishments very seriously in promoting the great vision that one needs to have in order to have an accomplishment of that magnitude.”
In 1999, he co-authored a book about his life titled “The Man Who Could Fly.” Beamon previously served as director of athletic development at Florida Atlantic University and most recently was associate athletic director at Chicago State University.
Budget cuts at the Florida Department of Health will result in less water quality testing along Collier County beaches.
For ten years, the health department has collected water samples weekly from fourteen beaches in Collier County. It’s part of the state’s Healthy Beaches program paid for with state and federal money.
Now the state money has gone away so testing will be scaled back to every two weeks and eliminated at three beaches. Health Department Spokeswoman Deb Millsap said careful consideration was given to where to cut.
Criteria included “what’s been the past water quality at the beaches; do you have any beaches that have been good the full ten years -- never had a poor water quality; the location of the site compared to other beaches that we will continue to test and the frequency of visitors to that beach site,” she said.
Millsap said if harmful bacteria are detected at one of the beaches, testing will be stepped up.
Statewide, water quality testing will be eliminated at 57 beaches. In Lee County , two beaches were proposed for elimination but health officials there said they will continue to test and will pick up the tab.