Our goals were to present an overview of Human Services in Collier County emphasizing the importance of the private sector and inspire Class XX to become involved.

The primary venue, Naples Sailing and Yacht Club, a setting of comfort and privilege, contrasted with our topic. Quickly, we all moved out of our comfort zones.

The first speaker, Mary Ellen Barrett, a GNL Board Member, spoke about “Understanding Poverty.” Her outlined comments were based on the book, “A Framework for Understanding Poverty,” by Ruby K. Payne. Eileen Connolly-Keesler, President/CEO of the Community Foundation of Collier County, presented some disturbing demographics on poverty in our area.

Next we presented a panel on Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction.   Kathryn Leib-Hunter, Executive Director/CEO, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Collier County (NAMI), spoke and shared a video, “Changing Minds, Changing Lives.” Another speaker, Scott Burgess, President/CEO David Lawrence Center, presented information about their work. Lastly, The Honorable Janeice Martin, Judge of the Collier County Court, discussed her role as judge for the county’s Mental Health and Drug Courts.

A second panel addressed “At Risk Children.” The speakers were Jane Billings, Executive Director, Friends of Foster Children Forever; Marianne Kearns, Executive Director of PACE Center for Girls, Collier; Tim Ferguson, Executive Director of Grace Place for Children and Families; and one of his clients who gave a moving testimonial.

After lunch, everyone boarded a bus for a short trip to St. Matthew’s House. There we had a tour and heard about Homelessness and Hunger. Our speakers included Joe Trachtenberg, Board Chair, St Matthew’s House; Vann Ellison, President/CEO, St. Matthew’s House; and Miriam Pereira, Director of Development, Harry Chapin Food Bank of SW/FL. An inspiring resident of St Matthew’s house spoke as well.

Our last stop was the Shelter for Abused Women & Children to address the topic of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking. We toured the shelter and heard talks by Linda Oberhaus, Executive Director, and Board Member Christy Carpenter.

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