Each year, the Women’s Foundation of Collier County, a field-of-interest fund at the Community Foundation of Collier County, honors ten local women leaders who, through their leadership styles, are an inspiration to all women seeking to make a difference through philanthropy and civic engagement. The 2018 Women of Initiative were honored at a luncheon event on April 6, 2018, at Naples Grande Beach Resort.
The 2019 Women of Initiative event will be held on April 5, 2019, at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples. The Women of Initiative event will return every other year after the 2019 event so that we can bring you something fresh and new.
Congratulations to the 2018 Women of Initiative
The 2018 Women of Initiative- back row (l-r): Judy Hushon, Emily James, Patricia Jilk,
Amanda Jaron, Bunny Brooks, Brenda Melton, Jeanne Nealon
Front row seated (l-r): Alice Arena, Wynnell Schrenk, Debra Haley
Photo by Reagan Rule Photography
|Alice has been involved with the Guadalupe Center for 9 years and is a current Trustee. She has also served as Advisory Board President; was Chairperson of the annual fundraising gala for 3 consecutive years and is a mentor to students of Guadalupe Center’s Tutor Corp. In addition, she serves on the NCH Healthcare Foundation Board and is a graduate of Greater Naples Leadership and currently serves on the GNL membership Committee.
Alice and her husband, Angelo, have been married for 50 years and have 5 daughters and 8 grandchildren. Her primary focus was home and raising her girls; always focusing on “be the best that you can be.” Her interest in volunteer service began with The Junior League in 1970. She has served on a variety of boards including; The Dallas Symphony, Art of Institute of Chicago, Field Museum of Natural History, The Goodman Theater, Chicago Historical Society, New York City Ballet. Founded, together with Prima Ballerina Maria Tallchief, The Chicago City Ballet. Also Vatican Art Council, Baltimore Museum of Art, The Washington Ballet and is a graduate of LEADership Baltimore.
A native Californian, Alice graduated from Pasadena City College and attended the University of California at Irvine with a focus on Business and Marketing. Her early career was department store retailing. Subsequently in keeping with “do what you like and like what you do,” she founded an interior design business and sold residential real estate. Together with her husband, she is involved in commercial real estate. Personal interests are tennis, bridge and “playing at” golf.
|Bunny is from Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan where she was very active in the Junior League of Detroit. In 2000 she and her husband, John, moved to Naples where John owned an Allstate Insurance Agency. Between the two, they have four sons and one daughter and six grandchildren.
Almost immediately upon arriving in Naples, she joined The League Club knowing it was the best way to make new friends, become knowledgeable about the various non-profit agencies and be trained in the best way to help the community.
Among her interests, besides The League Club, Bunny joined The 100 Club to help aid the families of the First Responders. Became a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the Colonial Dames. Some of the projects she headed were reading to the children in grade schools and helping families of the severely injured troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
She also made time to be an active member of the Players and Gulfshore Playhouse, not only helping with fundraisers but enjoying all the plays the theatres have to offer.
|Debra Haley is currently serving as Executive Director of New Horizons of SW FL after serving on its board of Directors for six years. Under her leadership, the organization has grown to reach over 500 at-risk students in Lee and Collier Counties at seven locations.
Debra is a Bonita Leadership alum and a Paul Harris Fellow. She has led over 20 mission trips locally, nationally and internationally to include Haiti, Dominican Republic and Cuba. Debra chaired the mission committee at Estero UMC for 10 years and is currently a member of the committee.
Debra is a retired senior executive with the U.S Air Force with over twenty-nine years’ experience in a wide range of management and leadership positions. She has nine years of senior executive experience in information technology to include hardware and software acquisitions and operations.
Her education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering, Purdue University, Master of Science degree in logistics management, Air Force Institute of Technology and Master of Science degree in management as a Sloan Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
|Dr. Judith Hushon graduated from Brown, Harvard, and George Washington Universities and worked as a consultant to industry and governments for many years on environmental and toxicological problems. She moved to Southwest Florida 16 years ago and has put her expertise to work to help define the nature of the chemical-related water problems and to work toward solutions to reduce them.
She has put in well over three thousand hours of volunteer time at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida as a Policy Volunteer and serves on the Board of Directors. She helps evaluate issues of potential concern and prepared an in-depth study of the risks from pesticide use and fracking. She also works as a naturalist on the Good Fortune cruises in Rookery Bay, assists with special education events, and Chairs the Environmental Advisory Committee. She has been working to increase awareness of local Sea Level Rise issues in conjunction with the League of Women Voters’ Environmental Committee, and the Conservancy.
She has also served as president of the Culinary and Hospitality Education Foundation that awards scholarships to about 15 local students each year who wish to become chefs.
She has served for three years as the costumier of Opera Naples and both maintains the organization’s costume collection as well as creating new costumes for current productions. The company and their costumier were recently recognized by Opera News.
She is also a member of Greater Naples Leadership’s Class IX, Trinity-by-the-Cove, the Naples Sailing and Yacht Club, and the Brown University Club of SWFL.
Judy has been married to her husband, John for 50 years and they have two sons and three grandchildren.
|Emily James says she was “born an artist”, and has created artwork all her life. Receiving numerous awards and honors for her talent, Emily is featured in collections throughout the world. She has exhibited at Atlanta’s High Museum, selected an Outstanding American Women in the Arts, and chosen as artist for the Master’s Golf tournament. She paints landscapes, seascapes, portraits, and contemporary pieces on display at her gallery which was recently voted Best Gallery.
Emily has generously shared her art in the community in a variety of ways, working with school children at Manatee Middle school through the Champions for Learning, taught art classes at the Sara Ann Drop-in Center, and each year hosts gallery visits from the Boys and Girls Club.
She has donated artwork for fundraising for the Conservancy, The Shelter for Abused Women and Children, Naples Art Association, Harry Chapin Food Bank, Baby Basics, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Naples Woman’s Club, Young Life, St. Matthews House, United Arts Council, Florida Cancer Specialists, NAMI, and The Garden of Hope and Courage at Naples Community Hospital.
Emily and her husband John co-chaired the fundraising gala for the Marco Island Center for the Arts in 2017, and are again co-chairing for 2018.
Emily and John have two children and five grandchildren.
|Amanda Jaron is an American fashion/jewelry designer, businesswoman, and philanthropist, who has won numerous awards for her designs and charitable contributions.
Upon graduating from The University of the Arts with a BFA in Metalsmithing, Amanda moved to NYC where for over a decade she designed jewelry collections for Givenchy, Tommy Hilfiger, Nine West & Jones NY. She then lead the Fortune 100 jewelry design team at AVON Products, Inc.
After the birth of boy/girl twins in 2004, Amanda and her husband, Steve, moved to Naples, FL where she launched her namesake design studio and gallery.
As the CEO, and Designer of A JARON Fine Jewelry. Amanda is best known for her signature “BLING-OVER” fine jewelry make-overs that take old/outdated designer jewels and repurpose them over into shiny new pieces that can wear every day. Also, Amanda’s charitable collection, A JARON Cares, has sold 1000’s of $99 rings to support SWFL children in need for the past 10 years.
Amanda spends her time split between her family, her custom fine jewelry design clients and the foundation she founded in 2013, The GLITTER Foundation, Inc. which supports Art Education & Art Therapy for children in SWFL.
With the recent move to her studio/gallery to the Bayshore Arts District, in East Naples. Amanda is now a powerhouse in the movement to gentrify the neighborhood and introduce art and community programming.
|After retiring, Pat and Craig Jilk moved from Woodbury Minnesota to beautiful Naples. In Woodbury, Pat was devoted to community and public service. With her background in elementary education and desire to help children and improve education, Pat served nine years on District 833’s School Board. She also served on MN’s ESV Computer Council and Public Employee Retirement Association’s Board. Governor Carlson appointed her Assistant Commissioner – MN’s Dept. of Public Safety and to Minnesota’s Board of Medical Practice.
In Naples, Pat has served on the boards of Habitat for Humanity, Community Foundation and Grace Place for Children and Families. At Habitat, she chairs the governance committee, is a selection committee member visiting over 50 families, and has contributed many homes. At the Community Foundation, Pat chaired the education grants and the scholarship committee; established a donor advised fund and a scholarship fund. At Grace Place, the Jilks contributed the Jilk Family Center and two classrooms. Other contributions: NICU unit at NCH; Ave Maria University; and Shelter for Abused Women and Children. They received “Gulfshore Life’s” Philanthropist of the Year Award in 2010.
Their two daughters and five grandchildren fill their lives with love, pride, and joy.
|Author, columnist, successful businesswoman Brenda G. Melton is perhaps best known locally for her work as Founder and Creative Director of the Celebrity Martini Glass Auction LLC (CMGA).
The Illinois native attended Belleville Area College, IL, while working as a regional major market account representative for Datamax Office Systems, completing courses in Business, Marketing, Computer Programming and Public Speaking.
Her diverse background includes printing, cartography and darkroom work for the Southwestern Illinois Metropolitan & Regional Planning Commission; author of “Florida’s Guide to Becoming the Perfect Guest” and “U’ve Been Served”, as well as columnist with the Naples Daily News where she penned the weekly column “Company’s Coming”.
In 1994, after 17 years leading her industry, Brenda retired when her husband Phil sold his bank, the Bank of Chesterfield, and the couple moved to Naples (1996) where she put her exceptional talent, skills and abilities to use in the nonprofit sector.
In 2015, Brenda dedicated herself to WWII veteran Ray Nandal, serving as his Guardian on Collier County Honor Flight Mission 7. The two enjoyed their journey to Washington, DC, visiting the WWII Memorial and have remained close friends with Ray acting as a surrogate father for the self-proclaimed Air Force brat.
The philanthropist considers her greatest accomplishment, outside of her marriage to Phil, to be her work with the CMGA, which she founded in 2010 to support local veterans and arts charities by making a difference through the power of art.
To date, the exclusive annual auction has raised more than $2 million for charities including Collier County Honor Flight, Fun Time Early Childhood Academy, Kidz Act, Naples International Film Festival and PAWS Assistance Dogs.
|Jeanne Nealon is from a family of educators. Her father was a teacher, head football coach and eventually principal during his years in the public and parochial school systems of Ohio and Florida. His love for the classroom and dedication to his students inspired Jeanne to become a teacher. After graduating from Notre Dame College of Ohio, Jeanne started her first year teaching position in 1981 at Bonita Springs Middle School. She enjoyed teaching language arts and directing the school plays. However, it was her first encounter with a Migrant Camp that would change her life forever. She came to realize the needs of her students were far more basic than providing school supplies. Jeanne began volunteering at her church and community, hosting shoe and clothing drives for her students. Jeanne was named “Teacher of the Year” for Collier County Schools in 1994 and she is a “Golden Apple Award Recipient.”
Jeanne subsequently retired from the classroom to stay home and raise her two sons. She remained active as a school volunteer, a Religious Education teacher at St. William Church, and a substitute teacher. Eventually, she focused her efforts and channeled her energy to provide new shoes to low income and disadvantaged children in South Florida. She became Co-Founder and President of the non-profit Charitable Foundation, Laces of Love and has worked tirelessly on behalf of her kids ever since. She recently was named one of AAUW’s Women of Achievement for her contribution to the community of Southwest Florida. Jeanne has been giving spiritual and motivational talks for over 39 years. She has been the keynote speaker and presenter at many Education and Leadership Conferences. She also has been involved with many youth organizations throughout the state of Florida.
She is the author of the book, “Laces of Love” and all proceeds from the book go directly to the charity. She presently devotes much of her time to writing, speaking, and “Getting Shoes for Needy Kids.” In many schools, she is known simply as “The Shoe Lady.”
|Wynnell believes that exposure to the arts and arts education is essential for children to live up to their potential. She has seen the critical role that the arts play in stimulating creativity and in developing vital communities.
A lifelong passion of hers has been providing arts education for students. In her hometown of Dallas, she brought together the Dallas Museum of Art and the Highland Park School District and developed a district-wide curriculum-based art study program that is now in its 26th year, having enhanced the lives of thousands of children.
Twelve years ago, Wynnell and her husband George established the Schrenk Student Photography Institute at the Baker Museum of Art and it has now graduated over one hundred students. The Institute is an intensive three-year photography program aimed at highly motivated Collier County students. For the past five years, every one of its graduates has been awarded a college scholarship. Graduates have attended such prestigious institutions as Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Savannah College of Art and Design, The Rhode Island School of Design, The Chicago Art Institute and The Ringling Art School.
She has served on the boards of the Education Foundation of Collier County and the United Arts Council (which honored the Schrenk Family Foundation with a 2017 “Star in the Arts”).
She serves on the Naples Botanical Garden Sustaining Leadership Council, and on both the Photography Acquisitions Committee and the Chairman’s Council of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Wynnell is an avid photographer and a self-described “travelholic” who loves nothing more than exploring a new land with her Nikon.
See our YouTube channel for a video interview with our honorees from 2013-2016.