Saturday, February 4, 2012

Using your Greek ties to network

Running to the sorority house on Bid Day or accepting your bid to your fraternity is often based on friendships made in the process — and when you finally make it to senior year, those friends can help you in the networking process if you know how to utilize your Greek benefits.

“One of the recommendations I always tell people is to tap into your alumni network locally or nationally,” said Natalie de Rojas, assistant director of the University of Miami’s Toppel Career Center.

De Rojas, a member and adviser of the Florida International University Phi Sigma Sigma chapter, said these alumni associations are willing to help recent graduates. She suggests hosting an event with your chapter to bring current students and alumni together. Her chapter hosts a yearly career panel during which members come in and speak about their chosen career path.

“It’s a great way to contact recent alumnae and older alumnae as well,” de Rojas said.

Christian Garcia, executive director of the Toppel Career Center and founding member of the FIU chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha adds that it’s also helpful to start making contacts at events where alumni will already be attending.

“Tap into current events like Homecoming and create events during that week, since they’ll be here already,” Garcia said.

Networking has also moved to the Internet and members are connecting using Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media outlets. The organizations are creating pages and groups on these new sites to keep members connected.

“We’re first, finest, forever and if the forever component is not there, we’re not doing our job,” said Ashlyn Stallings, marketing and communications coordinator for Alpha Delta Pi.

Stallings said she’s seen an increase of members using social media to contact other members. Alpha Delta Pi is an international sorority with more than 140 active college chapters and its LinkedIn page boasts over 6,000 members, double from where it was a year ago.

Stallings said that Alpha Delta Pi is on par with other sororities in the National Panhellenic Conference, an organization of support for 26 sororities.

“Ours is a reflection of what most NPC groups are trying to do right now,” Stallings said.

Garcia said LinkedIn’s search feature is especially helpful in these types of connections because one can search members by group affiliation.

“If students are looking for specific alumni, LinkedIn is a good way to find them,” Garcia said.

Chris Levin, a recent UM graduate and member of Phi Delta Theta said he’s used LinkedIn to connect with his fraternity brothers.

“I know Phi Delts have gotten jobs or internships from other Phi Delts, so I’ve seen it happen,” Levin said. “It’s a great network to have.”

He said the Greek community as a whole is a great opportunity. He found his current job because of a connection to a woman in Sigma Delta Tau via Facebook.

Garcia said students should be prepared before networking with potential contacts, which means having a complete LinkedIn profile and appropriate social media profiles. He also stressed that one should follow LinkedIn etiquette while using the group.

“Once students get a hang of it, then they should get involved with the discussion board,” Garcia said.

He suggests not only using the group to look for positions but to also use the discussion boards to post helpful articles, which will heighten your online profile and increase the chances contacts will assist you in the future.

“People will start seeing your name more and more,” Garcia said. “It’s more of a conversation.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kiwanis Club: What it can't sell it recycles

The bags pile up day by day into a mountain that almost touches the ceiling. The bags, full of books, electronics, toys and clothes, get sorted with most going out onto the sales floor of the Kiwanis Club thrift stores. But that’s only the beginning.

“We get a huge amount of items,” said Sam Huber, president of the Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral. “The sheer amount of clothes we get is phenomenally more than could be sold.”

This is when a little creativity comes into play for the organization. The Kiwanis Club is using some unique recycling tactics to get the most money for charity through their thrift stores. These techniques have saved the organization $75,000 over the past year, according to Huber.

One of the main recycling strategies comes into play when the volunteers sort out clothing. Huber estimates that the stores receive on average two tons of items each day, with most of that being clothing.

Volunteers such as Jackie Kahlke and Fran Leer spend countless hours sorting through the unending mounds of blouses, pants, jackets and skirts. These women have been volunteering for 12 and 25 years, respectively.

“It goes to a great cause. We work as quickly as we can,” Leer said.

Kahlke added: “We’re just happy people donate. We don’t care how high (the pile) is.”

Most of the clothing goes out onto the sales floor. Those that do not make the cut get tossed into red bins waiting to be salvaged. The club takes these bins and two-thirds of the remaining surplus gets sold to salvagers at a per pound weight. Huber said this earns the club $20,000 to $25,000 a year.

The other one-third of the items are shipped off in box trucks to local charities such as the Guadalupe Center of Immokalee. The club also donates to the center all of the thrift stores’ excess shoes.

“The last thing we ever want to do is be wasteful,” Huber said. “It’s not just about the money. It’s about the creative giving.”

The club also donates excess linens and mattresses that can’t be sold to the Animal Refuge Center in North Fort Myers.

“Because of the nature of our giving, we’re a children’s charity,” Huber said. “We don’t have cash in the budget to spare them some money but we can give them blankets and mattresses.”

Recently, the club has started salvaging donated, non-working electronics for scrap metal. The idea was presented two years ago. The club started off small but now makes $10,000 to $12,000 a year on the scrap metal in bi-monthly hauls to the scrap yard.

“Guys were waiting outside of the store (Dumpster) for our items and pouncing,” Huber said. “There’s value in that.”

What can’t be salvaged for monetary gain in turn goes into the community as donated items.

Children’s books and small stuffed animals get piled into boxes and barrels. These items are handed out to children during events where the Kiwanis are in attendance, such as the Red, White and Boom event each Independence Day. These books are also donated to local schools. The club estimates it has donated 20,000 books this year to local children.

Ann Vaughn is in charge of the book program. She said volunteers spend four hours daily sorting through the donated books looking for items that would be appropriate for children. She said she thinks the thrift store gives as many items away as the items it sells.

“It all goes back to Cape Coral residents. It helps the community,” Vaughn said. “This is a strictly local charity and means a lot to people.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Veterinary clinic complete with pet pool

Small paintings of pugs, Labradors and other breeds dot the pale green walls of the lobby at Pet Coral. The terracotta floors and soft dark brown leather couches welcome guests of both the two- and four-legged kind.

Pet Coral is a full-service veterinary clinic, boarding and day care facility that opened in late October on Del Prado Boulevard near Viscaya Parkway. The 30,000-square-foot facility features different fenced-in yards and a doggy water park with a pool.

“We’re trying to do all in one,” owner Lorena Rapoport said.

The center also offers grooming, as well as training courses and a retail area. Rapoport said she and her business partner, Dr. Baoz Rogan, have been planning the center for three years. She said business has been steady for the first few months.

“We’re getting clients every day,” Rapoport said. “We’re trying to be very competitive in prices with good quality care.”

The veterinary clinic houses a surgery center and offers dentistry services. Dr. Vicki Scott is one of the veterinarians in residence at the center. She’s been practicing in the Fort Myers area for 27 years and has made the move over the bridge. She said her previous clients are pleased with Pet Coral.

“They think it’s great,” Scott said. “What I heard is that they’ve never seen anything like it.”

Teresa Oliver, a Fort Myers resident, was there for the grand opening. She said she loves how she can go to one facility that houses so many options. Her three cats and most of her 11 dogs have visited Pet Coral.

“They’re very clean and they’re so nice,” Oliver said. “The animals love it.”

Scott said the facility is not just for canines. She’s also seen rabbits, ferrets and felines.

“So many clients have more than one species, so it makes sense,” she said.

Pet Coral also boards dogs and cats for short trips or extended stays. The center even has suites for dogs to live in the lap of luxury. Book your pets in the Royal Suite, $55 a night, and they’ll be spoiled with their own TV to watch, premium bedding and soft music.

Rapoport said the doggy day care program has also been popular with dog owners and the pets visit the water park three times a day during their stay.

“They love to come to the water park. It tires them out,” said Renee Temporale, an attendant.

The water park area features a bone-shaped pool where dogs can jump and play in the water. Temporale said that even the smaller dogs or ones who are a little uneasy around water like the play area.

Cape Coral Festival of the Arts set for weekend

Crowds of art lovers will meander through white tent booths along Cape Coral Parkway this weekend for the 27th annual Cape Coral Festival of the Arts.

The event, hosted by the Rotary Club of Cape Coral, will feature 300 artists and craftsmen. Chair and founder John Jacobsen said the event always brings in heavy crowds with many repeat attendees.

“If the weather is nice, we’ll have about 100,000 for the weekend,” Jacobsen said. “People plan their vacations around it.”

Jacobsen said the Rotary Club aims to create a balanced show every year with different forms of arts and crafts at various prices.

“There will be sculptures or art that are eight to 10 thousand and some for $100 or $50 or even $5,” he said.

Artist Dawn Weber, a Cape Coral resident, said she is always happy with how the festival is run and the works featured.

“It has a really good variety of homespun talents like us and artists who are famous all over the world,” Weber said.

Weber and her partner, Cindylee Sly, are bringing hand-carved pens, wine bottle stoppers and other functional items using exotic woods and colored resins to the festival. Weber, a retired police officer, said the pair started to hone their craft as a way to relieve stress.

“Probably the most common feedbak is, ‘Do we really make this?’” Weber said. “We keep our standards high. It’s our biggest compliment.”

Jacobsen said the Rotary Club started this event nearly three decades ago for the community to become acquainted with art without the intimidation factor sometimes associated with an art museum or gallery.

“It was a chance to bring art and culture to the community in a non-threatening manner,” he said.

Festival-goers walk from booth to booth on a closed-off section of Cape Coral Parkway and often communicate with the artists themselves. They often ask questions about the subject of the piece or what inspires the artist.

“Having that opportunity is rare,” Jacobsen said. “(It’s) a real chance for people to have a true one-on-one.”

The feedback is also appreciated by the artists. Cape Coral resident Gretchen Kish Serrano said these conversations help keep her motivated.

“The best part to me is seeing the pet lovers and the reaction to my work,” she said.

Serrano paints pet portraits imitating works from master artists. She has works from more than 15 master artists featuring 40 different dog breeds.

“This year I have three new art styles, Gustav Klimut, Jackson Pawlick and Salvador Doggy,” she said.

Cape Coral resident Shirley Hales also receives feedback from attendees about her watercolor paintings of nautical, beach and nature scenes.

“A lot of folks do comment on the quality of my work and that always makes me feel good,” Hales said. “If it wasn’t worthwhile I wouldn’t do it. It’s a lot of work.”

The festival picks one artist’s work to grace the posters and advertisments for the festival. This year David King’s watercolor piece Blue Heron with its muted colors and majestic pose is featured. He said he hasn’t seen the poster yet but he has seen some advertisements.

“It looked beautiful on the billboard,” he said. “It was really well done, I thought.”

King, a retired dentist, said he’s inspired by landscapes and nature scenes. He works only with watercolors and works on his paintings in sections, having the color dry before adding to the piece. The self-taught artist said it normally takes him two to three days to complete a painting and he usually works on two to three at a time. He said he’s always impressed with this festival.

“It’s one of the better ones we’ve seen quality-wise, size-wise. It basically has something for everyone,” King said.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cape beach-building begins on Monday

The city of Cape Coral will begin construction Monday on its second public beach, this one at Four Freedoms Park.

The 16,000 square-foot beach will be constructed by CW Roberts Inc. and is expected to be completed in early February. The total cost is $48,785, with the Cape Coral Community Redevelopment Agency contributing $41,785.

John Jacobsen, executive director for the CRA, said he’s looking forward to the completed project. He said that one of the things Cape Coral is lacking is more access to the waterfront.

“We are looking forward to getting this done and enjoying more activities in downtown,” Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen hopes this new project will be an attraction for people in the area and will help make downtown Cape Coral a destination. The new beach will also open up the park to water activites such as kayaking or small-craft sailing.

“The beach attracts new residents, new residents attract new businesses and new businesses create jobs and economic growth,” he said. “On any 70-degree day, you’ll see lots of people there.”

The project design will incorporate existing picnic shelters and landscaping while adding additional landscaping and access to Bimini Basin. Activities at the park will not be impacted, but the city warns visitors to be aware of the project and to maintain a safe distance from the work area.

City Councilman Marty McClain, who backed the project, is excited to break ground on the beach, which is only about three miles from the city’s other beach at the Yacht Club. He said he feels city officials took their time with making sure the project will run correctly and smoothly.

“It’s a great (addition) to the area. I think people will truly enjoy it,” McClain said.

McClain said the beach’s appeal will only grow as the city moves into the warmer months.

Joan and Tim Hanson, visitors from Connecticut, said the new beach will absolutely add to the area around the park. The couple said they already enjoy the beach area at the Yacht Club.

“We’d definitely come by to the new beach,” Joan Hanson said.

Elaine Elliott said she would use the new beach. She was visiting the park with her grandson to look for small sea animals in the exposed oyster beds.

“The kids have always liked it here,” Elliott said.

The response hasn’t been all positive.

Jim Mitchell, a Cape Coral resident, said, “I’ve been fishing here for 11 years and I enjoy it the way it is now.” He said he doesn’t understand why the city is spending the money with the Yacht Club nearby.

“I can’t comprehend why taxpayers’ money is being spent for a beach,” Mitchell said. “With that 40 or 50 thousand, it will hire a firefighter or a police officer for a year.”

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Experienced estate planning attorney joins firm

or Thomas E. Shipp Jr., some of his best days are when clients write him a note saying thank you.

Shipp, an attorney with more than 30 years of experience in wills, trusts and estate planning, said he works with families dealing with difficult situations when a loved one passes.

“They’re relying on their confidence in me,” Shipp said.

Shipp, who has worked in Southwest Florida since 1980, recently joined the Martin Law Firm’s principal office in Cape Coral. He said he’s very happy with the new affiliation.

“It’s very exciting to go from a history of a solo practice and small partnerships to an organization that’s a group practice where a client can get many services under one roof,” Shipp said.

The Martin Law Firm is run by husband and wife team Steven E. Martin and Eviana J. Martin. The firm also has offices in Fort Myers and Naples. Steven Martin said he’s glad to have Shipp’s level of experience added to his firm.

“Tom’s been in practice for 30 years and we haven’t,” Martin said. “It’s exciting for us to get Tom’s depth and breadth of experience.”

Eviana Martin agreed, adding, “It’s important to get someone with experience in wills and trusts.”

Shipp, who has been at the firm for almost two months, said with a laugh that he’s getting all the old man jokes in the office. He said that in some firms, lawyers can be territorial but at the Martin Law Firm it’s more like a family.

“What’s really impressed me here is Steve and Eviana created a tight team, working together and helping each other out. I think it’s very unique,” Shipp said.

Although he jokes around in the office, Shipp is serious about his profession. He said that he focuses on the needs of clients in order to gain their trust because they rely on him to make the proper arrangements. He said you don’t get that reassurance when you prepare the documents yourself on the Internet.

“I want to be here when a person decided I need an attorney for a will or a trust,” Shipp said. “It’s part of the ability (of the client) to sit down and get personal advice from someone you have confidence in. With us, you don’t get a printed set of directions, or a toll-free number to call, you get a person.”

Shipp said some of the hardest hurdles he has to overcome are documents that were not properly prepared and he said these documents often affect the family members who have been left behind.

“It’s not just about the money the people inherit based on those documents,” he said. “It’s about the relationship of the family and how conflict can tear those relationships apart or how this moment could bring people closer together.”

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kids get gift of sight in combined effort

The Cape Coral Eye Center teamed up for a second year with the Lee County Salvation Army Christmas Cheer Program to give local children the gift of sight for the holiday season.

The center provided less-fortunate children with free refractive eye exams and glasses. The center gave away 20 pairs of glasses on Dec. 21 and another 30 to 40 pairs on Dec. 23. Some children who received the eye exams didn’t need prescription glasses.

Dr. Farrell Tyson, owner of Cape Coral Eye Center, said the goal was to help children who might not be able to get glasses otherwise.

“We decided to get involved with it because in our area we saw that the recession was hitting the families but more importantly the children,” Tyson said.

Russell Reider, resource management director for The Salvation Army, said the organization appreciates Cape Coral Eye Center’s efforts in helping needy children.

“If it wasn’t for them, there would be a lot of children who couldn’t afford eye exams,” Reider said.

The eye exams were done at Cape Coral Eye Center’s North Fort Myers office off Bayshore Road. Participants made appointments at the center and were seen by Dr. Jennifer Gallo, who specializes in pediatrics. After the exam, the children could pick out their favorite frames and the families will return soon to pick up their new glasses.

Gallo said that for some children this was their first eye exam. For Mari Kumar, 7, this was her first time getting her eyes checked. The shy second-grader said she wasn’t nervous going into the doctor’s office.

“I have good eyes,” she said.

Her mom, Laurie Kumar, waited patiently in the lobby. She said her family heard about the program through The Salvation Army.

“I have heard such great things about this eye center, I was very appreciative,” Kumar said.

Angel Moreno, 13, came with his dad because he needed a new prescription. The eighth-grader, who has been wearing glasses for three years, said the eye exam was a little difficult.

“It was a little bit hard to see the letters,” Moreno said.

He was hoping for a new pair of lenses in a black plastic frame.

Mark Geary, marketing manager for the center, said the program ran smoothly.

“Everybody seemed gracious that we’re doing this for the children and in a great mood,” said Mark Geary, marketing manager. “It’s a nice change of pace for the staff to be able to come in, work with children and give back to the community during the holiday season.”

Tyson had a similar feeling about giving back during the holidays.

“Christmas isn’t about getting, it’s the giving and it’s a great way to help out the community,” he said.

Tyson expects Cape Coral Eye Center to participate in the program in the coming years.

“Every year we’re learning how to be more efficient and help more people and I believe we will be able to continue to participate,” Tyson said.