Each year the Greater Naples Leadership Distinguished Leadership Award Committee selects for Board approval the GNL alumnus whose contributions to the community best exemplify the mission of GNL. This year the Committee has selected and the Board has approved giving the Distinguished Leadership Award to Jim Barton (Class XIV).

Building a senior center in an impoverished area had long been a dream of many local nonprofits, but Jim Barton turned that wish into a reality.

The original concept of Collier Senior Resources (CSR) came from a study conducted by the Community Foundation of Collier County and the Women’s Philanthropic Network (now the Women’s Foundation of Collier County). This study determined that seniors were the neediest and most underserved group of adults in Collier County, and Collier Senior Resources opened their doors in 2010.

In 2010, Jim offered his skills to help this young organization. Experienced in managing significant projects from his Aramark and Union Carbide days, he put together a strong team (including many GNLers) to see what could be done to find CSR a permanent home. After 18 months of negotiations with the county, they acquired the little-used Golden Gate Library through a long-term lease from the county.

However, the building needed a great deal of work to make it suitable for its new function. Thus, a massive effort began to renovate and repurpose the structure, and in 2014 the Golden Gate Senior Center opened. Linda Penniman noted, “Much of the funding for the initial cleanup and the salary for the new director (Tatiana Fortune) came through Jim’s significant efforts. His passion for the organization was palpable, and people responded to his requests for support, whether it be time, talent or treasure . . . or all three!”

Fast forward to today, with over 1,400 seniors on modest fixed incomes being served. These Golden Gate visitors, the majority of whom speak Spanish or Creole, receive nutritional meals, take a broad array of classes, enjoy a weekly food pantry, get periodic health screenings, exercise and play a variety of games. The end result is a group of local people who are now leading more meaningful lives through increased social interaction and general activity at this center that is open five days a week.

And without the efforts of Jim Barton, none of this would have become a reality. Our sincere congratulations, Jim!

Please join us for the Distinguished Leadership Award Luncheon on Thursday, March 12, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at Naples Sailing and Yacht Club.   Members may sign up here.  If you are not a member of GNL and wish to attend please email gnloffice@gnlwebsite.org.