Gulfshore Business Daily: March 27

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A record number of unemployment claims were filed in Florida last week, amid the coronavirus. Florida had 74,021 initial claims filed during the week ended March 21, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s 67,558 claims more from the prior week, which had 6,463 claims. Nationally, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 3.28 million in the week ending March 21, an increase of 3.0 million from the previous week’s revised level. This marks the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series, according to the report. The previous high was 695,000 in October of 1982.


Sprouts Farmers Market will soon finish construction on its new store in Estero and is bringing approximately 110 full- and part-time career opportunities to the area. Sprouts will host a virtual hiring fair with interviews for potential team members who are encouraged to apply online at Sprouts will schedule video interviews with candidates on April 22 and 23. Employment opportunities include department managers, assistant department managers and clerks, cashiers, courtesy clerks, backup receiver, administrator coordinator, and scan coordinator. Sprouts’ “Healthy Living for Less” approach to grocery shopping means potential team members should share a passion for healthy eating and the fresh, natural and organic products offered throughout the store. The 30,000-square-foot store at 19990 S. Tamiami Trail will open at 7 a.m. on June 3. Details about the grand opening celebration will be announced at a later date.


A Naples-area businessman wants medical professionals to know that his local wholesale restaurant supply store has disinfectant, gloves and other hard-to-find supplies such as toilet paper and paper towels. “We just want to get the word out because they need it and we have it,” says Rudy Ambrosi, owner of Pro-Edge Paper and Sclafani Imported Italian Food Market, 3910 Domestic Ave., East Naples. “I had a couple of doctors come in and said they can’t get supplies. They need everything. We have tons for everybody.” Ambrosi said he also has an order of masks and hand sanitizer scheduled to come in next week. For more information, visit


The Department of Health has started screening Southwest Florida International Airport passengers arriving from New York City and the tri-state area, a hotspot for coronavirus cases. Earlier this week, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order requiring those traveling to Florida from the New York City area, New Jersey and Connecticut to self-quarantine for 14 days when they arrive. This information originally appeared on WINK News. More details here.


Brooks Burgers in Naples has taken the initiative to support healthcare professionals during the coronavirus pandemic by providing complimentary burgers to more than 800 nurses and doctors at NCH hospitals in Collier and Lee counties. Owner Todd Brooks and his staff will be setting up their food truck for four days at four different NCH campuses now through April 2 for lunch and dinner breaks. The initiative is sponsored by a private donor, Brooks Burgers and B3 Marketing.


Publix employees soon will clearly have an extra layer of protection from the coronavirus. The Lakeland-based grocer is installing plexiglass partitions at the registers, customer service desks and pharmacies at all of its 1,200 stores. This information originally appeared on WINK News. More details here


Many people are ignoring the advice to stay home, so the Collier County Medical Society is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to issue a stay-at-home order to curb the spread of the coronavirus. This information originally appeared on WINK News. Details here.


Video courtesy of WINK News



They serve and protect, but police officers in Southwest Florida are changing the way they do their jobs because of the coronavirus. The biggest change: less face-to-face contact. In addition to taking extra precautions, officers are especially careful to wash their hands more often or to use hand sanitizer frequently. But responding to serious offenses, like domestic violence, requires officers to suit up differently. They have face masks and gloves to protect themselves. This information originally appeared on WINK News. More details here

Video courtesy of WINK News


A Cape Coral restaurant that was forced to lay off its employees is helping them make it through a tough time. Metro Diner had to let go 30 employees because of the coronavirus, but they’ve chosen to give daily meals to those employees and their families. The managers of the restaurant said the customers who have been continuing to get takeout from the diner have been extremely generous with their tips, and that money is going into a pool that will also help the employees. This information originally appeared on WINK News. More details here



The Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce has launched a new website at, offering resources that will support the local business community in its response to the coronavirus, or COVID-19. Offering unprecedented business resources for unprecedented times, the Chamber’s “Business as (Un)usual” website serves as a hub for information and latest updates spanning the business, community, education, health, hospitality and service industries. Visitors can find information on loans and tools for employers to prepare and respond to the coronavirus; access support services including employment resources, job listings and food assistance; discover local educational programming; stay in-the-know on COVID-19 health updates from the CDC and other health authorities; view a running list of restaurants and breweries offering to-go services; and see what companies are currently open for business. New information is being added daily, and local businesses can submit their information for inclusion through a submission form on the website or by emailing For more information, contact the chamber at (239) 332-2930.

Video courtesy of WINK News


D. Lacquaniti Bespoke, a place you might have gone a couple of weeks ago for a custom men’s shirt, is now making special medical masks. Domenic Lacquaniti’s clothing shop is now a mask-making factory, putting leftover pieces of fabric to good use. This information originally appeared on WINK News. More details here.



Amid the coronavirus pandemic, restaurant dining rooms in Florida were forced to close, leaving many to do curbside pickup and delivery as alternatives to keep their businesses going. Many say they’re not nervous, at least not as much as they were a week ago when the beaches shut down. For instance, Nervous Nellies is busy with takeout orders, and the manager told WINK News that after a slow start business is starting to take off. In these uncertain times, the restaurant business on Fort Myers Beach and throughout Southwest Florida is changing and hoping to survive. This information originally appeared on WINK News. Details here.



Norman Love Confections is offering Love-to-Go, a new at-your-door delivery. Click here to view the menu, then call (239) 561-7215 to place an order. Orders placed by noon will be delivered same day. Orders placed after noon will be delivered the following day. Delivery fee is $3 for orders up to $50 and free for orders over $50. Delivery service is available within a 30-mile radius of Chocolate Salon locations. Updated store hours, locations and phone numbers and online shipping ordering are available 24/7 at LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort’s restaurant BALEEN has implemented a curbside and drive-thru model with select menu items. Bottles of wine will also be available with these options. The curbside pick-up is available daily from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and customers can even call in and place their order for curbside pick-up at the Club valet entrance. To order, call (239) 598.5707 To view the curbside menu, click here. A drive-thru option is also available daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for customers to drive-thru the club valet entrance to place their order. A slightly varied menu is available for drive-thru purchases. To view the drive-thru menu, click here.


Meals of Hope to start “drive-up” food pantries

Southwest Florida’s largest food pantry provider, Meals of Hope, is continuing to help people in need of food assistance by maintaining its eight regularly scheduled weekly mobile food pantries with one important difference: Starting Monday, March 30, the pantries will be “Drive Up”-style. Typically, Meals of Hope’s mobile pantries allow anyone who needs assistance to mingle on-site while choosing from a varying selection of frozen meat, fresh produce, canned goods and dry food, feminine hygiene and adult incontinence products, and diapers. Now, Meals of Hope is keeping participants and volunteers safe in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social distancing recommendations. Mobile pantry patrons will be asked to remain inside their vehicles, and Meals of Hope volunteers will bring bags of presorted food to the vehicles. Participants are asked to have their identification or scanner cards ready. Visit for “Drive Up” mobile pantry details.

Inaugural Generous Lee Event raises nearly $80k

The Rist Family Foundation’s inaugural Generous Lee event, held at the Burroughs Home & Gardens in Fort Myers, raised nearly $80,000 to benefit Valerie’s House and the Cape Coral Community Foundation. The event also crowned its most philanthropic individual, Dr. Carol Rae Culliton of the Gunterberg Charitable Foundation, for her generous contribution. The gala kicked off with a cocktail reception and silent and live auctions. More than 240-plus guests enjoyed a full bar, four-course dinner, and live entertainment by Soapy Tuna. A 501(c)(3) organization, The Rist Family Foundation was established in 2018 by longtime Lee County philanthropists Brian and Kim Rist. 

Kathryn Kelly

The Heights Foundation/The Heights Center’s live virtual gala raises more than $230,000 

The Heights Foundation/The Heights Center hosted a live virtual event on March 24.  The 12th Annual Love Your Neighbor event was pivoted due to coronavirus concerns. The event raised more than $230,000 to support the organization that works to build strong, self-sufficient families in The Harlem Heights neighborhood of Fort Myers. The online auction began on March 20 at noon and culminated with a live broadcast from The Heights Center on Tuesday evening.  Local media personality Gina Birch emceed the evening.  Scott Robertson of Scott Robertson Auctioneers was the auctioneer. Viewers were able to watch the broadcast live on YouTube while donating and bidding on their phones. The event featured a pre-recorded music video with the kids from The Heights Center, a performance by local musicians Lori and Randy Thomas, a fund a need, and silent and live auctions. Event sponsors included Mark Loren Designs, Norman Love Confections, Cliff and Georganne Williams, Lee Health, entech, RG Architects, Dean and Janie Schreiner, Robert and Ruth Ann Diefenbach, and Don and Andie Vogt. For more information, visit or call (239) 482-7706. To donate, visit

STARability Foundation continues serving participants and families through virtual classes, other resources

STARability Foundation is staying engaged with its participants, families and staff, by bringing them together through creative class videos, engaging social media posts and other resources. The Collier County-based nonprofit, which offers vocational and life skills training, social activities, art classes and other life-enriching opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, suspended its programs on March 16 to safeguard its participants, families and staff against the spread of the coronavirus. STARability staff have created art and fitness class videos and virtual gatherings for book club, cooking classes and other activities. Participants have shared videos of themselves practicing good hand-washing skills, helping their families with household chores and exercising, as well as photos of themselves gardening and doing yoga. Community partners have also joined STARability’s virtual outreach by sharing activities they would normally teach participants in person. For more information, visit If you’d also like to receive these resources and more information about STARability, contact to be added to its email list. 

Rotary Club of Naples provides $10,000 emergency funding donation to Meals of Hope

The Rotary Club of Naples Board of Directors voted on Wednesday to provide special emergency funding to Meals of Hope. The $10,000 gift will help Meals of Hope provide food and other supplies as the agency’s resources have diminished at a time that family needs have been rising significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meals of Hope was started by the Rotary Club of Naples more than a decade ago. Rotarian Steve Popper is president of the now-independent, nonprofit organization which provides hundreds of thousands of meals each year to hungry families through Collier and Lee counties. For more information, visit

Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida faces challenges, works on Coronavirus food distribution strategy

Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida Inc. announces it is facing some significant challenges. Its operations have been affected by the shortage of food in retail stores. This food shortage is limiting the organization’s ability to service our largest food distribution program, the Partner Agency Program. This program is a network of more than 150 partner agencies that serve Charlotte, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Lee counties. The organization has not fully transitioned into its Coronavirus food distribution strategy, but its ability to provide food kits via a drive-thru distribution model will lie squarely on fundraising. Each kit is roughly 20 pounds of food and provides a family of four for five days. The cost is $30 per kit. Its current plan is to distribute 5,000 kits, which will cost $150,000 per week or $600,000 monthly. To donate, click here. To learn more about volunteering with Harry Chapin Food Bank in this time of need, click here.

Community Foundation of Collier County ups the ante for NCH Healthcare System Matching Grant Challenge

The Community Foundation of Collier County has raised the ante for the NCH Center for Philanthropy Matching Challenge Grant to bring the total match to $50,000, thanks to a $25,000 grant from William F. Allyn – Community Foundation Donor Advised Fund holder and NCH Healthcare System Board of Trustees member. This donation is in memory of his wife, “Pretty Penny” Allyn, who lived a life of caring for others, according to a news release. NCH now has the opportunity to receive $100,000 in funding with the public’s help to provide critical resources, equipment, and supplies needed to support our doctors and nurses. Donations to the matching challenge will help provide additional ventilators, protective gear, mobile units, employee relief, and more. The original $25,000 grant was provided from the Community Foundation’s Collier Comes Together Fund to address the Coronavirus outbreak as effectively as possible. Donate at or by mailing a check to NCH Center for Philanthropy, 350 7th St. N., Naples, FL 34102-5754. Please indicate CF Matching Fund on your check or online donation.

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