April 2022 Meeting of the ECCL

April 8 at 10:00

Estero Park & Recreation Center
9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd, Estero, FL 33928
(239) 533-1470


Summary of April 8, 2022, Monthly Meeting


In the absence of ECCL president Jim Gilmartin, Communication Chair Allan Bowditch welcomed the attendees, followed by the “Pledge of Allegiance.” He referenced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and encouraged the support of organizations such as the Red Cross and other humanitarian aid groups.

Allan then introduced Dr. Krzysztof Biernacki – Director of the Bower School of Music & the Arts at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Dr. Biernacki first summarized his background. He was born in Poland, emigrated to Canada and then Florida to become director of FGCU’s nationally recognized Bower School. Dr. Biernacki spoke of the program’s expansion to include an art gallery, theater, music education, and music therapy.

Bower students have a very high placement rate after graduation, and music students have performed nationally. Recipient of a $10 million endowment, the current center was built ten years ago and is now considered inadequate. There are 200 students in the music program, and the student demand for more places in this and other courses is limited by space.

During the pandemic, the Bower school adopted virtual approaches to teaching, which have been very successful in helping existing students and attracting new ones. The Digital Media Design courses have attracted considerable interest and have seen a significant increase in student intake. Dr. Biernacki indicated that virtual approaches to teaching would continue to play an important role in conjunction with traditional teaching procedures because of their success.

The school plans to expand its facilities by 30,000 square feet. The expansion will include a new multipurpose performance theater, which is anticipated to seat 400-500, making it a needed medium-sized theatre providing a valuable local Arts amenity. Fundraising will be necessary to reach the $40 million to $50 million estimated cost. The current 2021-22 program for student and professional performances is still available. The new program for later this year and 2023 will be released shortly. Dr. Biernacki also mentioned that many performances are streamed and can be viewed online. For more details, log on to  https://fgcu360.com/category/fgcu-360-now/bower/

The next speaker was Kim Gaide, Founder and Manager of Lee Health’s Military Support Program. Also present was Karen Krieger, Director of the Outreach Program.

The Lee Health – Military Support Program helps active military members and veterans, including WWII and Vietnam vets. The team provides a wide variety of support and assistance, including behavioral health, employment, and even vehicle repair guidance.

The mental health staff is trained at Massachusetts General Hospital, and veterans with severe issues can get a two-week no-expense stay there for treatment. There is a veteran’s visitation bedside facility at Cape Coral Hospital, and there are plans to expand the service to Health Park. The program is a collaborative initiative between the Red Cross and Lee Health. It also represents the first venture of this type in the USA because the Red Cross usually works with VA hospitals.

Another mission is to update veterans on the many new benefits available to them and their families. The program also supports active-duty troops by sending monthly care packages with personal hygiene and comfort items and clipping and sending coupons to military families for their “on-base” stores.

Brochures were distributed highlighting their services and contact information, including their Facebook page: Military Support Program of Lee Health, militarysupport@leehealth.org, and the telephone number 239-343-2045. Additional help is available from Mission United – connect at 211 or 239-433-3900 in Lee county

The third speaker was Jodi Walborn, Blue Zones Project SWFL

Jodi served six years with Safe Routes to School, an initiative that works to make it safe, convenient, and fun for children to walk and bicycle to and from schools. She taught pedestrian and bicycle safety to students in grades K-8 and trained teachers and community members on how to teach ped/bike safety to others successfully. Jodi advocated for safer streets for all road users. She also works with Blue Zones, a community-led health initiative.

Safe biking is one of the Blue Zone goals -using streets correctly, safely sharing streets, and training the trainers. Volunteers work with children in groups and hold kid bike rodeos. May is Bike Month, and she noted a program in which you bike to a local business, take a selfie adding the hashtag #bikemonthswfl. At the end of the month, each business will draw for prizes.

“Real Age” is another community health program. Data is compiled anonymously and securely by zip code to determine communities’ physical, social, and mental well-being. Community agencies can use the data to apply for grants to assist local communities if there are health issues that require addressing. Jodi shared essential data from a recent survey that provided some important insights.

The ECCL will help publicize this ongoing project and the importance of taking part in future Blue Zones’ health surveys. Details of the information provided can be accessed using the following links.

Blue Zone –

News coverage on Real Age –  

Allan Bowditch presented the President’s Report.       

Water quality is the number one concern to residents in greater Estero. The ECCL collaborates with the Calusa Waterkeeper organization and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation on water quality issues. This affiliation will help to convey a more comprehensive message, when necessary, to bring attention to water quality issues at a local and state level.

Learn how your community can help. A Special Meeting is scheduled to be held at Estero Park Recreational Center on Wednesday, April 20, at 10. John Cassani, The Calusa Waterkeeper, will share “What we Know About Southwest Florida Water Quality: It Isn’t Pretty!” The meeting is open to everyone with interest in our water quality.

The Greater Estero Virtual Information Center (GEVIC), championed by a team including the ECCL, Estero Forever Foundation, and the Greater Estero Chamber of Commerce, and chaired by Barry Freedman, is reaching the final steps. Bank accounts have been established, legal documents have been prepared, and the application for 501c3 nonprofit status has been submitted. GEVIC will provide visitors, residents, and potential businesses with a “one-stop-shop” to know what greater Estero offers.

Local businesses have committed over $80,000 to help kick-start the project, and this could reach $100,000 shortly. These commitments confirm the high level of interest. It is hoped that the Village of Estero will respond positively with additional financial support to help enhance the attractiveness of greater Estero to visitors, businesses, and residents.

Mark Novitski, ECCL’s Chief Operating Officer, provided an update from the COO and Councils:

  1. The Environmental Council, Septic to Sewer Committee, is working with the Village on a detailed timeline for the Village of Estero Implementation.
  2. The Safety Council is working with the Village to detail the Village CIP into a timeline chart for:
    1. Road construction.
    2. Bike/Pedestrian safety and connectivity.
  3. Change in Speakers and topics for the monthly meetings is a result of member comments.
  4. Provided details about future ECCL Monthly Meetings:
    • May 13, 2022
      1. Mary Gibbs, Village of Estero, Community Development Director, will talk about developments in the Estero Area.
      2. Alex Greenwood will give a Lee Health Update.
    • June 10, 2022
      1. The League of Women Voters will recap the Florida 2022 Legislative session on critical areas of education, environmental, and elections changes.
      2. Dr. Paul Simeone, Lee Health, will provide insight on Children’s mental health considering the last two + years.
    • The ECCL will not meet in July, August, or September.

John Quin, ECCL’s Chief Financial Officer, provided a short update.

The ECCL is now a 501(c)3 organization, enabling the organization to help community projects financially. A newly established Financial Advisory Council will oversee the priorities and needs of the community and, where needed, allocate funds for legal, financial, fundraising, and communications requirements. You can find ECCL’s financial reports on our website www.esterotoday.com.

Allan Bowditch, ECCL’s Chief Communications Officer, concluded the meeting.

Allan thanked the communications team of Kim Dailey, Mike Wasson, and Karen Katz for their support in helping to produce a wide range of essential articles for the residents in greater Estero.

March, the ECCL sent 15 mass emails, including three newsletters, an action alert, and five emails for two ECCL sponsors. Many of the items communicated received open rates of between 40-and 50%, which is far higher than the norm. The ECCL website was viewed extensively (4,041 pages). The updated Estero Development Summary was visited more often than the home page, highlighting the topic’s importance to greater Estero. These included details of the March Monthly Meeting, Estero’s Developments Update, Adopt A Highway, several Newsletters, plus information from Lee Health and FGCU.

The Next ECCL Monthly Meeting is scheduled for May 13, 2022, at 10:00 am at the Estero Recreational Center.        

Dr. Krzysztof Biernacki

Dr. Krzysztof Biernacki

Director FGCU Bower School of Music & the Arts

Before joining FGCU, Dr. Biernacki held the position of Professor of Voice and Director of Opera at the University of North Florida, where he distinguished himself as an award-winning professor, international performer, opera stage director, and academic administrator. 

Dr. Biernacki is a frequent recitalist performing a wide range of art song repertoire in numerous European languages. His recent engagements include solo recitals at international music festivals in Spain, Italy, Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, France, Norway, and Canada. He is a recipient of numerous grants and an experienced organizer of successful community partnerships.

Kim Gaide

Kim Gaide

Founder and Manager, Military Support Program at Lee Health

Since 2003, the Lee Health Military Support Program has been assisting, encouraging, comforting, and supporting Lee County’s servicemembers and their families. In addition to supporting Wreaths Across America, the program also supports active-duty troops by sending monthly care packages with personal hygiene and comfort items and clipping and sending coupons to military families to use at on-base stores. Ms. Gaide was honored by the American Red Cross with the Service to the Armed Forces Volunteer of the Year award! Karen Krieger, Lee Health Military Support Program, will join Kim.

Jodi Walborn

Jodi Walborn

Blue Zones Project SWFL

Jodi joined Blue Zones Project after serving six years with Safe Routes to School, an initiative that works to make it safe, convenient, and fun for children to walk and bicycle to and from schools. She taught pedestrian and bicycle safety to students in grades K-8, trained teachers and community members how to teach ped/bike safety to others successfully, and advocated for safer streets for all road users. A Minnesota native, Jodi has enjoyed her spare time cycling here in the warm Florida weather over the past 15 years and participated in several triathlons. Jodi will present the Bike Safety program and the “Real Age Test.”