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2nd Annual Taco Cook-Off

Competition to be held at the Burroughs Home & Gardens October 15, 2019

The Uncommon Friends Foundation is pleased to support the 2nd Annual Taco Cook-Off between Lee County’s high school culinary programs.  The event is sponsored by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. The Foundation is hosting the event for the second year in the row. It will take place on Tuesday, October 15, 2019, starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Burroughs Home & Gardens, 2505 First Street in Fort Myers, Florida.

Enjoy a fun filled evening while supporting our students with great food, music, raffle and silent auction items.  ProStart/Culinary high school instructors and students from four or five Lee County high schools will prepare a signature taco and a side dish. Guests will help select the “fan favorite” and celebrity judges will select the overall winner.

Tickets are $30 per person and can be purchased on Eventbrite.  Proceeds from this event will go towards scholarships, classroom supplies, classroom equipment and state competitions to prepare students for the workforce.  Non-alcoholic beverages will be included in the ticket price.  Cash bar available for attendees 21 and over.

Get involved… (CLICK HERE to download event flyer/order/donor form) Sponsorships for each school team are available at $500 each.  Donations are also welcome for the raffle and auction.  Food and beverage sponsorships are also available by contacting Lois at LCroft@FRLA.org.

Call for nominations for Uncommon Friends Foundation 2019 Business Ethics Award

Winner to be announced Nov. 14 at the Uncommon Evening Gala

PBS Contractors - Business Ethics Award

PBS Contractors, Inc. (last year’s Business Ethics Award winner) – L to R: Russell Budd, Bart Zino, Kimberly Ortegon and Mark Simmons

The Uncommon Friends Foundation has opened nominations for its 2019 Business Ethics Award that are due by September 1. Businesses in Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Hendry and Glades Counties who consistently demonstrate a system-wide commitment to high ethical business practices are eligible. Businesses can nominate themselves or be nominated by a third party. The online nomination form and detailed submission guidelines are available here.

Finalists will be announced after the close of nominations and will be honored guests at the annual FGCU Business Ethics Roundtable to be held on Wednesday, October 30 jointly hosted by Florida Gulf Coast University’s Lutgert School of Business and the Uncommon Friends Foundation. The recipient of the Business Ethics Award will be announced at the annual Uncommon Evening Gala to be held on Thursday, November 14 at the historic Burroughs Home & Gardens in downtown Fort Myers.

Celebrating its 26th anniversary, the Uncommon Friends Foundation is dedicated to lifelong character building among today’s youth and business leaders, as it inspires future leaders toward excellence of character, a spirit of innovation, and a sense of purpose. It is located at the historic Burroughs Home & Gardens on the waterfront in downtown Fort Myers that offers a sheltered pavilion and dazzling water views for public and private events and tours year round. To schedule events or tours, call Executive Director Jennifer Nelson at 239-337-9503 or email events@burroughshome.com or tours@burroughshome.com.

Board Member Dr. Aysegul Timur Joins Florida Gulf Coast University Leadership Team

Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) President Mike Martin has added Aysegul Timur to his leadership team as the assistant vice president of strategic initiatives, strategy and program innovation. Dr, Timur worked at Hodges University for the last 20 years, most recently serving as dean of the Johnson School of Business and senior vice president of academic affairs.

She started at FGCU in April. In her new position, Timur will develop innovative services and experiences that drive improved academic performance for students. She will increase interaction with private and public entities to expand the impact of FGCU in Southwest Florida and across the state.

Timur, who will also work with FGCU’s Regional Economic Research Institute, was recently honored by the Florida College Access Network as one of its first Workforce Education Innovators.

Dr. Michael Martin to be the keynote speaker at the Uncommon Evening Gala – November 14, 2019

Dr. Michael Martin, President of Florida Gulf Coast University

Michael V. Martin, Ph.D., President of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) will be the featured keynote speaker at the annual Uncommon Evening Gala to be held on Thursday, November 14, 2019. The event chair is Alexandra Bremner, who will be assisted by co-chair Donna Lovejoy. Save the date and plan to arrive before sunset to enjoy mingling with dignitaries and guests as the sun sets below the horizon and the dinner and awards program begin at 7:00 p.m. and run to 9:00 p.m. Read more

Waterfront Food and Brew Festival Here May 25

Lush law and gardens stretch out to the Caloosahatchee River in downtown Fort Myers

Food, beer and live music enthusiasts are invited to the first-ever River District Food and Brew Festival on Saturday, May 25 from noon to 8:00 p.m. at the historic Burroughs Home & Gardens located right on the waterfront at 2505 First Street in Fort Myers. Tickets are available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/river-district-food-and-brew-festival-tickets-60146051459?aff=ebdssbdestsearch for $30. All guests must be at least 21 years of age to attend. 100% of the proceeds from the event will benefit the Uncommon Friends Foundation.

This festival is the only area festival set on the waterfront and is expected to become a popular annual event. Guests will enjoy live music from Steve Farst’s acoustic guitar and other performers, with unlimited cold beer samples and great food from eight or more independent Southwest Florida craft breweries and restaurants. Just pitch a lawn chair or blanket on the lush, shaded lawn and relax as you enjoy the expansive waterfront views, craft beers, food, and fun activities. There will be onsite seating and tables for mixing and mingling. Free parking is available across the street behind the historic Langford-Kingston home at 2500 First Street. Please visit www.rdfoodandbrew.com for the latest details and information.

The Uncommon Friends Foundation is celebrating its 26th anniversary in 2019 and is dedicated to lifelong character building among today’s youth and business leaders. It strives to inspire future leaders toward excellence of character, a spirit of innovation, and a sense of purpose. Through character education, business ethics programs, scholarships, and historic preservation of the Burroughs property, the Foundation carries on the generational values of Fort Myers businessman Jim Newton and his friends Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Dr. Alexis Carrel, and Charles Lindburgh. For more information, call 239-337-9503.

Distinguished Speakers Series - An Evening of Heroes and Inspiration

“An Evening of Heroes and Inspiration”

The Uncommon Friends Foundation’s Distinguished Speakers Series presents “An Evening of Heroes and Inspiration” on April 10, 2019, featuring three courageous military heroes who have 77 years of military service among them. Two were also captured, imprisoned and tortured, requiring them to summon immense courage and fortitude to outsmart captors and survive captivity. All three went on to successful careers of leadership and service to their country.

Honored speakers will be retired Army MG James L. Dozier, retired, Air Force Lt Col Gary L. Peppers, and retired Air Force CPT Wayne O. Smith. Hear each officer relate his own compelling story of strength and perseverance and how they survived very difficult experiences and eventually returned home and continued to serve others for good. The program will run from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Gale McBride Pavilion at the Burroughs Home & Gardens, located at 2505 First Street in Fort Myers, FL 33901, preceded by a social hour from 5 – 6 p.m. Appetizers and beverages will be served. For reservations, call Executive Director Jennifer Nelson at 239-337-9503 or at jennifer@uncommonfriends.org. Ticket prices are $50 for adults and $15 for students.

Purchase Tickets >

James L Dozier portrait

James L Dozier

General Dozier is an international terrorism expert who served 35 years in the Army from 1950 to 1985. He was stationed in Italy in 1981 when he was kidnapped at gunpoint and held by terrorists of the Red Brigades who were known to maim and kill high value captives. He was rescued by a special operations unit of the Italian police after 42 days of interrogation and torture.

Gary Pepper

Gary Peppers

Colonel Peppers served 33 years in the Air Force (1971 – 2000 and 2009 – 2013) as a military pilot with over 4,000 hours of high-stress air combat missions in a wide variety of helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and remote-controlled MQ-1V Predators in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the campaign to overthrow Gaddafi’s government in Libya in 2011.

Wayne Smith

Wayne Smith

Captain Smith flew 90 air combat missions over Vietnam before being shot down and taken prisoner on January 18, 1968. He was a captive for over five harrowing years in the notorious prison camp known as the “Hanoi Hilton” where he, Navy Lt. Cmdr. John S. McCain 3d, and countless others were malnourished and severely tortured. He was among 108 prisoners who were freed on March 14, 1973 during “Operation Homecoming.”

Major Gray Davis

Gray Davis

Uncommon Friends Foundation board member and past president Gray Davis, Agency Executive and Senior Vice President of McGriff Insurance Services will moderate the panel discussion. Major Davis retired after 21 years in the Navy and Marines, earning the Marine Corps Commendation medal as the Commanding Officer of the largest Enemy Prisoner of War facility in Marine Corps history.

Tequon Chatman

Applications Open for 2019 Scholarships

The Uncommon Friends Foundation is now accepting applications for its 2019-2020 school year student scholarships, which will be awarded to deserving individuals(including veterans, single parents, grieving youth, and the disabled) who are pursuing post-secondary degrees in education, law, technology, healthcare, technical, and other studies. The deadline for nominations is April 1, 2019.

Nominees must reside in Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Glades, or Hendry Counties, need financial assistance, excel in school and/or their personal lives, and possess high quality character traits.Scholarships vary in application requirements and commitments, duration and financial amounts, educational programs, and institutions.

Visit https://uncommonfriends.org/scholarships/opportunities/ for scholarship application forms and specific requirements of each scholarship. Completed applications and/or any questions should be directed to scholarships@uncommonfriends.org. Winners will be announced by early summer and will be honored at the Uncommon Friends Foundation’s Uncommon Evening on Thursday, November 14.

Uncommon Friends Foundation board member Susan Minaya chairs the scholarship committee that includes volunteers and community service organizations.

NEW! Cape Coral Kiwanis Club ($2,500) – for two disadvantaged students of any age to help defray tuition, books and supplies costs at any educational institution.

NEW! Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA) Hospitality Scholarship ($1,000) – for any age student seeking an education and/or career in the hospitality industry to help defray tuition, books and supplies costs.

NEW! HomeTech ($2,500)– for any age student to help defray the costs of tuition, books and supplies to attend a trade school.

NEW! Jared Basco Pay It Forward Scholarship–For any age student pursuing any career who demonstrates generosity through activities such as community service, financial giving or volunteerism that has impacted his or her life, and from which others may benefit.

NEW! Smith Family Trust Bonita Springs Charter School Scholarship ($1,000)–For students from Bonita Springs Charter School who demonstrate strong character and ethics in their everyday life.

NEW! Valerie’s House Scholarship for a Grieving Child – Two $1,000 Scholarships –For any age student who has lost a parent or sibling and participates in Valerie’s House’s grief support programs to help defray tuition, books and supplies costs.

NEW! Waste Pro Scholarship ($1,000) – for any age student to help defray the cost of tuition, books and supplies to attend any post-secondary school of their choice.

Berne Davis Future Teacher Scholarship ($5,000) – For a student enrolled in a program leading to a degree in education.

James F. Chelius, Jr. Scholarship for Disabled Students ($1,000)– For any age student with a disability such as dyslexia, hearing, sight, physical, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy who has ambition and positive character traits.

Florida Prepaid College Foundation Scholarship– Covers two years of state college tuition and fees for a freshman or sophomore who meets specific conditions and stays free of drugs and crime.

Health Sciences Scholarship ($1,000) – For any age student working toward a degree in a health field, (e.g., nursing, dental hygiene, technologist, or therapist) to help defray cost of books or education.

Hilliard Scholarships ($4,000) – Two, two-year scholarships for high school seniors residing in either Glades or Hendry Counties to attend Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU).

Single Parent Scholarship($1,000) – For a deserving single parent who has overcome difficult obstacles to further his or her education and gain skills to enter the workforce.

Special Recognition Scholarship – Three scholarships for any age student to help defray cost of books or education for one semester.

Technical College Scholarship –For any age student to help defray costs of tuition, books and supplies at a technical college.

Veteran’s Scholarship ($1,000) – For a deserving military veteran of any age to help defray costs of books or education.

For more scholarship information, visit the Scholarships section of http://uncommonfriends.org/ or email scholarships@uncommonfriends.org.

Uncommon Friends 2018 Scholarship Winners

2018 Uncommon Evening Sets New Records

The Uncommon Friends Foundation reports its 2018 Uncommon Evening held on November 8 was its most successful annual fundraiser in its history. Event Chair Caryn Smith, CEO of Driven by Design LLC reports the sold-out event had a record attendance of 260 business and community leaders and grossed a record $83,500. The evening was made possible by the support of title sponsor Storm Smart and all of the evening’s sponsors. Read more

Russell Budd Bart Zino Kimberly Ortegon Mark Simmons

PBS Contractors Wins 2018 Business Ethics Award

PBS Contractors of Naples, Florida received the 2018 Business Ethics Award from the Uncommon Friends Foundation at its annual Uncommon Evening Gala held Thursday, November 8 at the Burroughs Home & Gardens on the Fort Myers riverfront. PBS Contractors is a luxury residential and commercial builder and remodeler serving South Lee and Collier Counties and was represented by Russell Budd, CEO/Owner, Bart Zino, Kimberly Ortegon, and Mark Simmons.

Brian Rist, President and CEO of title sponsor Storm Smart, presented the Business Ethics Award to PBS Contractors before an audience of business, education and community leaders and student scholarship winners.  Other finalists in attendance were Chris-Tel Construction of Fort Myers, represented by President Howard L. Wheeler II and Priority Marketing of Fort Myers, represented by President/Creative Director Teri Hansen, APR.

Known as a concierge builder that puts people before profits, PBS Contractors has been on a mission since its founding in 1986 to build better lives for its team, its clients, and its community. At the cornerstone of PBS are 28 guiding principles that it refers to as, “The PBS Way.” Rather than defining corporate values, they instead defined fundamental behaviors that, in turn, guide the day-to-day ethical actions and choices of their 35 employees. For example, Fundamental #2 is, “Do the right thing. Always.” and Fundamental #5 is “Honor Commitments.” Everyone at PBS Contractors, from entry level to senior management, lives and practices the 28 fundamentals daily to guide decisions and actions, resulting in extraordinary customer satisfaction and superior structures. For more information, visit www.pbscontractors.com or call (239) 643-6527.

Dr. Karen Serrell and Rachel Mas

Rachel Mas was named the 2018 Character Education Teacher of the Year. She is an educator at Cypress Lake Middle School, where she teaches Spanish and Intensive Reading. She holds a BA in Education from Florida SouthWest College (2009), has served in the United States Army for 15 years, and is currently an Army Reservist in Cape Coral, Florida, serving as her unit’s Equal Opportunity Representative and UPL chairperson. She believes character education is just as important as students’ core disciplines in their overall education and development.

Marilyn Stout presents Lifetime Achievement Award to Gray Davis SWFBT

Gray Davis was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for his many years of service to the Uncommon Friends Foundation, including seven years serving as the chairman of the board of directors (2009 to 2016). Davis is Agency Executive/Senior Vice President of McGriff Insurance Services, a member of BB&T Holdings, the fifth largest independent insurance agency in the United States and the world.He was instrumental in raising donations to build the Gale McBride Pavilion in 2015 and also in establishing the Hilliard Student Scholarships to Florida Gulf Coast University. He holds an MBA in finance from Walden University and an Executive MBA from Babson College and is a veteran of the United States Navy and a retired member of the United States Marine Corps.

Board chair Marilyn Stout recognized the many contributions of both Brenda Stewart and Jody Van Cooney, who have voluntarily served in scholarship, board, PR, and various capacities over the last twenty years and who have been of enormous help to the Foundation.

Caryn Smith, CEO of Driven by Design Marketing & Publishing, chaired the 25th anniversary event. The evening’s title sponsor was Storm Smart; other major sponsors were: Conditioned Air, Florida Weekly, Home-Tech, Inc., Edison National Bank, Kiwanis of Cape Coral, and The News-Press Media Group.

UFF Announces Business Ethics Award Finalists for 2018

The Uncommon Friends Foundation is pleased to announce the finalists for its 2018 Business Ethics Award. The finalists are Chris-Tel Construction, PBS Contractors and Priority Marketing.

As part of the final judging, finalists and area business leaders will jointly participate at the 13th Annual Ethical Leadership Conference on October 23 hosted by the Lutgert College of Business at Florida Gulf Coast University. The round table discussion will focus on ethical challenges Southwest Florida executives face in business. The winner of the Business Ethics Award will be announced at the Uncommon Friends Foundation’s annual Uncommon Evening Gala to be held November 8at the Burroughs Home & Gardens, 2505 First Street, Fort Myers, FL 33901.

Past winners of the Uncommon Friends Foundation Business Ethics Award include Pushing the Envelope (2017), CPR Tools, Inc. (2016), CRS Technology (2015), Sunshine Ace Hardware (2014), Ted Todd Insurance Agency (2013), Hope HealthCare Services (2012), Conditioned Air (2011), Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Company (2010), Shell Point Retirement Community (2009), Bonita Bay Group (2008), WilsonMiller, Inc. (2007),  and HomeBanc Mortgage Corporation (2006).

For information on Uncommon Evening tickets and sponsorships, contact Executive Director Jennifer Nelson at 239-337-9503 or at jennifer@uncommonfriends.org. Visit www.uncommonfriends.org for full sponsorship details.