Gulfshore Business Daily: Sept. 11

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Michelle Happer


Collier and Lee counties have been ranked in SmartAsset’s top 10 Places Social Security Goes the Furthest in Florida. Collier Country took second place in the report, with a recorded cost of living at $22,298, annual social security of $23,009, no social security tax, and an Annual Social Security index of 89.38. Lee County followed in third, with a recorded cost of living of $20,705, annual social security of $21,794, no social security tax, and an Annual Social Security Index of 81.64. Charlotte County came in at No. 8 on the study. The research is a key factor in SmartAsset’s annual Social Security study, which also analyzes cost of living data and taxes, in addition to the annual payments. The full study results, methodology and interactive map can be found here



Collier County ranked No. 10 among the best places to own a home in Florida, according to a new SmartAsset report. Collier County was recorded with an average monthly mortgage payment of $2,146, average monthly rent of $1,910, average home price of $512,684, and a breakeven year of 2.9, with resulting in a Rent vs. Buy Index of 89.56. SmartAsset’s study compares average rent and home prices in counties across the U.S. to determine the places where buying a home can be most advantageous versus renting. Places, where the cost of buying a home became more cost-effective than renting in the shortest amount of time, ranked highest in the study. For more details, click here.


Michelle Happer


Michelle Happer has joined Lee Health as its newest system director of diversity. She will oversee and lead Lee Health’s diversity, patient care civil rights and language services. Happer has more than 10 years of health care, education and community relations experience in diverse settings. Happer most recently served as the manager of compliance and cultural diversity for the Sentara – Optima Health Plan in Virginia Beach. Before that, she was a physician relations executive for Inova Health System in Falls Church, Virginia. Happer has a doctorate of education in organizational leadership from Nova Southeastern University. She also earned and a Master of Arts degree in communication and public relations and Bachelor of Science degree from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia. She is completing her Master of Arts in Health Care Law from Regent University.



The United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee is seeking volunteer tax preparers, interpreters, and greeters to help its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites during the 2019 tax season. With the support of trained, IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers, VITA sites provide free tax preparation to individuals and families earning less than $66,000 per year throughout the five-county area of Lee, Hendry, Glades, Okeechobee and Charlotte counties. Volunteers of all ages and levels of experience are welcome, though all volunteers need to be comfortable working with a computer. There is a special need for bilingual Spanish speakers. Flexible hours are available from January through April. Volunteers will receive specialized IRS certified training. Experienced agents, certified financial planners, and non-credentialed tax return preparers can earn continuing education credits when volunteering as a VITA tax preparer. Orientation and training class for new volunteers will be held on Nov. 16 at Florida Gulf Coast University. For tax professionals or experienced volunteers, an online training and certification tool is also available. Register at or contact Patrice Cunningham at (239) 433.7206 for additional information.



The Young Professionals of Naples announced its incoming board of directors, elected to serve through 2020. The board of directors will be led by president, Emily Budd, David Lawrence Center; vice president, Jury Paulson, Habitat for Humanity; treasurer, Peter Michaels, Halstatt; secretary, Moira Larkin, David Lawrence Center; event director, Madison Alger, Sunshine Kids Foundation; event director, Laura Richardson Bright, American Cancer Society; development director, Hannah McManis, Spavia; membership director, Kelsey Brown, Gallagher Lutgert; and communication director, Samuel Spaiser, Discovery & Innovation LLC. The mission of Young Professionals of Naples is to connect, engage, and empower the young professionals of Naples for the enrichment of the community through business, leadership, philanthropic and social activities. For more information, visit


Joe Cimilluca


Stevens Construction expands operations with the launch of a special projects division, announced Mark Stevens, company president. The Stevens Construction special projects division serves projects ranging from $100,000 to $1 million. Within the new division, Stevens Construction provides self-performance with a team of skilled craftsmen, allowing more flexibility with schedule, an ability to perform tasks on demand, quality and cost control. Special projects include tenant improvements, additions, renovations, repairs and specialty projects. Joe Cimilluca, a Florida certified general contractor, leads the South Florida special projects division, bringing 20 years of commercial construction experience.



Shy Wolf Sanctuary has been named a “2019 Top-Rated Nonprofit” by GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews of charities and nonprofits. The Top-Rated Nonprofit Award is based on the rating and number of reviews that Shy Wolf Sanctuary received from volunteers, donors and visitors. Shy Wolf Sanctuary Education and Experience Center rescues and rehabilitates un-releasable wild and captive-bred exotic animals. Additionally, the center provides educational outreach programs, therapeutic animal experiences through Healing Hearts Program, and volunteer opportunities. Shy Wolf Sanctuary was founded in 1993 by Nancy and Kent Smith.



JDRF South Gulf Coast Chapter to host annual Hope Gala

More than 300 guests are expected to attend this year’s annual Hope Gala in support of JDRF, the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Proceeds from the event will go toward research focused on curing, preventing and treating T1D. Scott and Jennifer O’Dell will be presented with the JDRF Southern Florida Honoree Award at the Hope Gala, held on March 7, 2020 at the Naples Grande Beach Resort. As the Hope Gala Honorees, the O’Dells will be recognized for their support of type 1 diabetes research and commitment to JDRF’s mission. Gala chairs Julie Danner, Ashley Gerry, and Nathalie Ralton will present the honorees with the award. Individual tickets to the black-tie optional evening are $400. Sponsorships are available. For more information and event details, visit, call (239) 591.2825 or email


Deafies in Drag headline January fundraiser 

Tickets and sponsorships are available for the Sally J. Pimentel Deaf & Hard of Hearing Center’s Deafies in Drag fundraising event, to be held from 6-9 p.m. on Jan. 11 at the Collaboratory in Fort Myers. The event will feature Selena Minogue and Casavina, two drag queens who make up the deaf comedy duo Deafies in Drag. All parts of the show will be professionally interpreted for both deaf and hearing patrons. Proceeds from the event benefit Sally J. Pimentel Deaf & Hard of Hearing Center. The event with limited seating, drag queen bingo, a VIP meet-and-greet, and a photo booth, is expected to sell out. An after-party will be sponsored and hosted at Millennial Brewing Co. after the show from 9 to 11 p.m. All tickets include beer from Millennial Brewing, wine, and food from Glory Days Grill. Individual tickets are $50 for the show, $60 for the show and bingo, and VIP tickets are $70. To purchase tickets, visit For information on sponsorships, call (239) 461-0334 voice phone, 239-247-5821 video phone, or visit 


New porsche among prizes planned for Charity Golf Tournament

Participants of Taste of Immokalee’s upcoming Charity Golf Tournament will have a chance to win a two-year lease for a 2019 Porsche Macan, sponsored by Porsche Naples. The car will be awarded to the hole-in-one prize winner. The Charity Golf Tournament takes place from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 21 at Vineyards Country Club in Naples. All community members are invited to participate in the cause. Proceeds will directly benefit Taste of Immokalee’s youth entrepreneurship program, which equips high school students with crucial business skills needed in today’s market. Hole-in-one prize rules and regulations apply. See event registration page for details here


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