There are events on the horizon for the Greater Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce - the 26th annual American Sand Sculpting Championship that starts this weekend and Spirit of the Holidays auction on Dec. 4- but the real focus for President Bud Nocera appears to be "better value" for membership.
With the "Buy a Bambi" project in its second phase and a new website called "The Catch" that targets Chamber businesses, Nocera made his pitch to Chamber members to contribute and financially support the project at the non-profit organization's monthly luncheon meeting at Nauti Turtle Thursday.
"I need you to get behind the Bambi project. We still have a long way to go in fundraising," said Nocera. "The road ahead is about delivering customers to our members and delivering visitors and residents the latest information on Fort Myers Beach. It's about the success of our website and how well it functions for our members."
Beach Chamber Chairman-elect Norma jean Peavey (far left) and President Bud Nocera (second from left) welcomed new members to the business family. They are Katrina Solotar of Paradise Advertising & Design, John Rowland of VizMarket Mobile Network, Ruthann O’Brien of Affordable Decorating and Sis Berube of The News-Press Media Group.
The "Buy a Bambi" fundraising campaign reached a high point recently when a large contribution was made to allow chamber officials to purchase a classic 1967 Caravel Airstream travel trailer (which was dubbed "Run Around Sue" when it was built many years ago) to convert into a mobile visitor information center.
The $12,000 "gift" from Dan Baggot from Southwest Florida Distributing & Publishing in Fort Myers (who has pledged $12,000 a year for five years) coupled with more than $3,000 in local donations allowed Nocera to buy the future kiosk-style service structure located in Charlotte, N.C.
Extra fundraising is needed to outfit it. The endeavor to get visitor information back on the Beach needs roughly $5,000 to get an opening in the side of the Caravel and other associated costs and another $5,000 to finish the interior design and outfit it.
"We do not have the money to do that right now," said Nocera. "We want to vend information on the Beach. I'm hoping, if we can raise the money quickly, we can get this done and get this on the Beach by peak of season in February."
To raise the needed $10,000, the Beach Chamber has begun holding "Bambi nights" at member restaurants that volunteer 10 percent of their gross sales for a particular day. Shoals Restaurant & Wine Bar began the series Tuesday, Nov. 6 and Parrot Key Caribbean Grill hosted a night on Tuesday, Nov. 13. Nervous Nellies may be next.
"We need everybody that is a chamber member to show up and have dinner those days," said Nocera. "We need to get this information out far and wide so that we can raise as much money as possible. Our success as a chamber of commerce is going to be very much tied to how well we get these small information centers on the Beach as quickly as possible."
While the first trailer is set for the north end of the Beach, a second trailer is still being pursued for the south end.
Nocera referenced a recent banding of business members and Town of Fort Myers Beach officials as what could happen if everyone pitches in. The Beach businesses' timely cohesiveness and Town officials "bending-over backwards" approach in taking over the near-fallout of the Pirate Fest was called the "Miracle on Old San Carlos."
Regarding the newly launched website, Nocera gave a nod to Katrina Solotar of Paradise Advertising & Design.
"(Paradise Advertising) took on developing our website on the promise that there actual investment on it would be paid out of future revenues," he said. "This website is all about the Chamber businesses and insider information about the Beach."
Nocera's push for fundraising was readdressed.
"It's really, truly a matter of how much our chamber and community gets behind doing this," he said.