GNL’S ROLE IN THE NAPLES COMMUNITY
Like any organization, GNL’s self image and perceived role in its community changes over time. However the core mission does not. The mission of GNL has essentially remained the same since 1999: “To provide proven leaders with a unique opportunity to learn first-hand about the issues and needs in Collier County and to encourage the use of these skills in bettering the community.”
Our constituency is the successful and newly retired senior citizens who are interested in getting involved in their new community and in using their skills and experience to improve the general welfare of all. Our role is essentially to be an educator of select and accomplished newcomers and to assist in finding them a vehicle to use their talents. Financially, we are self-contained. We do not seek funding outside of our membership and new Masters Class candidates.
The role of the Community Services Committee (CSC) is to monitor the non-profit and civic groups in Collier County and to assist interested alumni and new Master Class graduates to identify the organizations that meet their interests and that need their skill sets.
Over the last three years, an increasing number of members have begun to advocate that GNL goes beyond the role it has played and additionally, seek an outside public image as an active community leader. What does this include? An involvement in public policy-not candidates-of general interest to the community. For example, advocating on behalf of adequate social services for the County’s low-income elderly population; our focus would be public policy not candidates, legislation, or regulation.
Surveys of the membership in 2015 and 2016 indicate strong support for assisting low-income senior citizens, who have been “hidden” within this rich community we live in. The Board accepted these recommendations and has made this focus the target for GNL’s initial outreach effort.
As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization under the Internal Revenue Code, GNL is prohibited from engaging in any form of political advocacy but is permitted to engage in issues of neutral political education. With Board approval, CSC has created a few new programs that concentrate on the low-income senior population
We have entered into collaborative agreements with coalitions in Naples already involved in these areas.
The principal commitment is a collaborative agreement to work in partnership with the Leadership Coalition on Aging, a broad coalition of the major non-profits and corporations whose focus is to serve this group.
The initial joint project is to promote the formation of a Senior Citizens Affairs Advisory Committee by the Collier County Board of Commissioners. Senior citizens, particularly low-income senior citizens, are one of the few constituencies not represented by a formal advisory committee at the County Commission level. The partnership will continue to advance the interests of low-income seniors in the areas of affordable housing and improved access to public transportation and medical services.
In parallel with our efforts in the public policy area, we are ramping up our involvement outside of GNL in the civic arena. We are scheduling “brown bag” lunches for GNL members with the elected leaders at the City and County level. These informal and off-the-record sessions with County officials are intended as free exchanges between GNL’s members and the officials and have proved to be quite popular. The schedule will be announced in the monthly “Connection”. And all interested members are invited to attend.
Finally, we are working with “Leadership Collier” – our sister organization- which focuses on younger, working executives with programs like those of GNL. We are creating joint seminars for citizens interested in running for public office. The seminars are intended to be “how to” training based on the experience of our members and others in running for public office. All GNL members with this background and an interest in sharing are encouraged to contact Sheila Harris on the CSC Committee.
These are but a few of the GNL efforts to reach beyond our membership. Their scope is specific and designed to complement our main focus on education and community service.