Meet our 2021 Women of Initiative

 

When Bev Cherry moved to Naples 17 years ago, she wasn’t sure how to get involved in the community until she attended a luncheon presented by the predecessor of the Women’s Foundation of Collier County, then joined its steering committee “learning about all that Collier County has to offer,” Cherry recalls. Cherry gained a profounder perspective through the Greater Naples Leadership Class of XXI. The Women’s Foundation became a 10-year board commitment that included terms as president and governance committee chair. She’s currently on the board of the Guadalupe Center and was a Southwest Florida Children’s Charities executive board member and Junior Women of Initiative mentor. Cherry has served on gala-planning committees for the David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health, American Cancer Society, The Shelter for Abused Women & Children and Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “I started volunteering as a young girl, guided by my mother, who devoted herself to helping those in need even though she grew up in the projects of Boston,” Cherry says. “She was orphaned at the age of 19 and went on to raise her four younger siblings. I think it’s important for us all to be role models.”

Heather Dockweiler was selected as a woman who rocks philanthropy alongside her mother, Simone Chassin Lutgert. “It’s such an honor to be honored with her because she gave me the conviction to stand up for what I believe, for what I’m passionate about,” she says. Dockweiler was raised in Memphis, Tenn., and earned her MBA from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. She is the marketing and communications director for Linville Ridge Country Club in North Carolina and moved to Naples in 2003 to be near family. She and her husband, Jamie Dockweiler, are co-chairing the 2022 Collier County Heart Walk for the American Heart Association. They have two children, which influences her volunteer work for youth-centered organizations such as Community School of Naples and the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (CMON). “Children really are our future. They mimic what you do and what you say,” Dockweiler says. “I think it’s important to show them: Work hard, give back.” She has participated in gala planning for CMON, American Cancer Society, and Naples Botanical Garden. She also supports the Naples International Film Festival, Naples Performing Arts Center, and Naples Children & Education Foundation. “Community service was ingrained in me; I was raised that way,” she says.

“Nothing is too much to do for a child” defines Barbara Frank’s passion as a 13-year volunteer, board member and past president of Christ Child Society of Naples. The multi-denominational group focuses on underserved children from crib through school to young parenthood. Franks has a bachelor’s degree in special education and is a Eucharistic minister in church and at the hospital. “In Naples and Collier County, you wouldn’t think there’s poverty, but there’s a great amount of poverty,” she says. Through her leadership at Christ Child of Naples, it has continued extensive collaborations with Fun Time Early Childhood Academy, Grace Place for Children & Families, Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, Golden Gate and Herbert Cambridge elementary schools, and local food pantries. She spearheaded the Kids Kare initiative, purchasing clothing, basic needs and portable baby cribs for children who have been removed from their homes due to neglect or abuse. Her devotion also is apparent at the Immokalee Foundation, Gulfshore Playhouse, and foundations raising funds for cancer and healthcare. Franks and her husband, George, co-chaired Gulfshore Playhouse’s 2019 gala. They are guided by Jesus’ conviction, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you also do for me.”

Donna S. Hall’s heart is in the environment, conservation, and water quality in Collier County, where she has been an ardent supporter of The Everglades Foundation and serves on the board. She also supports the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, earning its 2017 Eagle Award with her husband, John, and is on the Naples Botanical Garden’s board and Sustaining Leadership Council. Hall is no stranger to philanthropy and voluntarism. Her commitment to regional, state, and national organizations in Lexington, Ky., and Washington, D.C., has been focused on the humanities and breast cancer. She serves on the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ National Committee for the Arts, and on many boards in Kentucky, earning several honors since 1988 for her civic engagement. “The arts and humanities have a major importance in our society. They feed the soul, and we need that now more than ever,” she says. She and John work in tandem and individually to support their interests, including funding a chair position at Vanderbilt University for breast cancer research. They have both focused on the environment for 20 years. “Education plays a major role in all of the organizations that I support,” she says.

As a full-time professional artist, Amy Moglia Heuerman draws on her talents to support several organizations. “My gift is creativity,” she says. At Guadalupe Center, Heuerman created a vibrant family resource center and botanical hallway mural that inspires with “Reading: Let Your Imagination Bloom.” She funded the project through the Moglia Family Foundation on behalf of Paul and Amy Heuerman, as well as Guadalupe Center’s library, Smart Start pilot program, and 2018 Welcome Aboard and 2020 Be Flamazing galas. She also created a 12-foot flamingo that served as Flamazing’s centerpiece. With two art galleries, Heuerman has licensed her artwork to major corporations, including Toys “R” Us and Tervis Tumbler, created menus for the Waldorf Astoria New York, and donated artwork for charity auctions. After earning her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, Heuerman taught a couple of years before launching an illustration company 20 years ago. She supports Legal Aid Service of Collier County and American Cancer Society and serves on the Naples Botanical Garden Sustaining Leadership Council. “Since I was in elementary school, I’ve always been thinking, ‘What can I do to help?’” she says. “You don’t even need money to do that. There’s so much you can do—even giving a smile, compliment or blessing to someone.”

Fourteen years ago, Lee Kraus joined the Naples Woman’s Club, where she has made a tremendous impact that has rippled throughout the community. During her four-year stint as president, club membership tripled. Kraus also negotiated the sale of the club’s thrift shop and parking lot, which made the organization solvent and allowed the group to remodel the downtown Naples clubhouse to create revenue-generating event space. She is especially proud of starting the Empowerment of Women scholarship program for mature women and chairing successful Kitchen Tours. Kraus is active at Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ and is a board member Bible study facilitator at Windstar on Naples Bay. These days, she’s also focused on her role as Florida district director of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. “For years, I worked full-time, so I never had the opportunity or the time to do philanthropic fundraising,” she recalls. Joining the woman’s club opened her eyes to endless possibilities for putting her professional sales and management career to good use. “When you’re involved in one large organization, you see where you can take your passion and bring it to fruition,” she says.

Jody B. Lippes is fulfilled by “a much stronger sense of belonging when I’m involved in the community. I believe philanthropy is about looking outside of yourself and helping others. Hopefully, I will leave the world a better place than when I arrived.” She has been actively involved in the Naples Botanical Garden, where she serves on the board and Sustaining Leadership Council executive committee and chaired the 2019 Hats in the Garden. She co-founded and co-chaired the 2017 and 2018 Naples Zoo galas, which raised funds for its veterinary hospital and education center. She’s also involved in New York, where she is a council member emeritus of her alma mater, State University of New York College at Buffalo, and serves in leadership capacities for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and supports the Western New York Women’s Foundation. Lippes is impressed with conservation and cultural outreach initiatives at Naples Botanical Garden. “A botanical garden as glorious as ours is in Naples is a true gem,” she says. Lippes and her husband, Gerald, moved to Naples in 2011. They are also “very passionate about the arts, music and education,” she says.

Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (CMON) had an illustrious start, in large part due to the dedication of Simone Chassin Lutgert, who served as a seven-year board member and chair of the successful $30 million capital campaign that launched the educational museum’s construction. Since retiring to Naples in 1996 from her career as a sales and marketing executive, Lutgert has embraced a commitment to the community. She was a five-time steering committee member for the Magnolia Ball steering committee, which benefits NCH’s Lutgert Cancer Center, committee member for Naples Botanical Garden’s Hats in the Garden and is an emeritus trustee of the Naples Children & Education Foundation. She and her husband, Scott Lutgert, have hosted 17 vintner dinners as part of the foundation’s Naples Winter Wine Festival. She co-founded the Women of Means outreach program at The Shelter for Abused Women & Children. Lutgert earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Memphis State University and has had a passion for children all her life. “I believe things in the country and the world can be changed through education,” she says. Earning this honor alongside her daughter, Heather Dockweiler, “is really special to me. As a mother, I couldn’t be prouder.”

Originally from Canada, Diane McCaw moved to Naples in 2005 by way of New York. The certified registered nurse specializing in orthopedic and arthritic care naturally turned her charitable attention to the NCH Healthcare System and The Shelter for Abused Women & Children. “Because of my background, I’ve always contributed to organizations that meet people’s physical or emotional needs,” says McCaw, who realized the correlation of domestic violence with physical and mental wellbeing after attending the Shelter’s annual Mending Broken Hearts luncheon. A trustee and member of The Shelter’s executive committee, she is co-chairing the 2022 Mending Broken Hearts at Tiburón Golf Club. In 2018 and 2019, she organized successful, elegant high tea gatherings to raise funds and friends for The Shelter and co-chaired its 2017 Old Bags luncheon. She and her husband Dan, a retired CEO of a global consulting firm, are members of NCH’s Medical Diplomats Council and Banyan Society planned giving program; she is on the hospital’s Philanthropy Committee. The couple chaired the 60th Annual NCH Hospital Ball, which raised more than $1 million for cardiac care. “I’m a feeler and aware of needs in the community and just really want to help out anyway I can,” she says.

Growing up in small a Virginia town, Barbara Rhodes-Melvin dreamed of becoming a teacher, but life took a different turn after she took a job in Detroit. She went on to build a 31-year career in banking, relocating to Collier County in 2001 for her job, and is a vice president at First Florida Integrity Bank. “Everything happens for a reason,” she says. She has been committed to Champions For Learning for 13-plus years and was named the 2019 Glass Slipper Award recipient for her mentorship dedication. She and her husband, Daniel, celebrate their birthdays with “Party Hearty for Charity”—raising funds for a wide range of nonprofits, including Wounded Warriors, NAMI Collier County, and Parkinson’s Association of Southwest Florida. Rhodes-Melvin laughs when she says she has served on nine nonprofit boards simultaneously, adding, “No kids, no pets, so I have the time and resources.” She enjoys teaching financial literacy and mentoring students in Immokalee and underserved areas in Collier. “Education is so important,” Rhodes-Melvin says. “I try to teach them there’s a world outside of their world and education can help them get there.” Rhodes-Melvin also serves on the FGCU Small Business Advisory Board and on the boards of the Collier County NAACP and Dress for Success.

Julie A. Schmelzle has built her reputation through business and community leadership. The senior vice president and senior client manager at Bank of America appreciates the impact of role models during her formative years. “A lot of people don’t have opportunities or someone advocating for them, coaching them,” she says. “I feel blessed to have had people pointing me in my life.” Education, economic development, workforce housing, and women’s leadership are all areas where Schmelzle has made her mark. A longtime board member (and chair in May 2022) of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, she chaired a taskforce analyzing the county’s economy and was a lead author of the Chamber’s “Opportunity Naples,” which led to the education and workforce initiative Future Ready Collier. At the Community School of Naples, she has been a trustee and leader since 2004, serving on pivotal committees, and founding the Seahawk football program. Schmelzle has earned many awards, including the Distinguished Alumni Award from Bowling Green State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. She has a passion for delivering financial literacy education to youth and women through her bank’s Kahn Academy “Better Money Habits.” “Supporting others to get to that next opportunity is something that drives me and fulfills me,” she says.

Shirley Z. Welsh is passionate about golf, art and interior design, but her zeal for helping underprivileged children and strengthening families bring her unparalleled reward. Welsh is a trustee of the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), where she serves on the grant committee. She and her husband, Peter, took it a step farther and served as co-chairs of NCEF’s 2020 Naples Winter Wine Festival. It generated a record $20.5 million to support organizations and programs benefitting at-risk children in Collier County. “This is a charity that I am proud to be involved in,” she says. “If you give a child a step in the right direction, with hope and understanding, you open up endless possibilities.” Welsh, who has a Bachelor of Fine Art from Kent State University, was involved with the Chicago chapter of the National Association Against Child Abuse. She is a member of the Naples Botanical Garden Sustaining Leadership Council and supports the Neighborhood Health Clinic, Quest for Kids, and organizations in Barrington, Ill., where they raised their children. She reflects, “If life’s been good to you, you have to make a difference.”