Tibetan Monks Highlight FSW International Education Week

A group of Tibetan Monks will highlight a series of events held during International Education Week, Nov. 14-18, at the Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW) Thomas Edison Campus.

For over 25 years the Mystical Arts of Tibet tours by the monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery have crossed the globe to offer these authentic, sacred Tibetan arts to enchanted audiences in major cities and smaller communities alike. Endorsed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Richard Gere, these events are part of a tradition that dates back 2,500 years.

Mandalas constructed from sand are unique to Tibetan Buddhism and are believed to effect purification and healing. Typically, a great teacher chooses the specific mandala to be created. Monks then begin construction of the sand mandala by consecrating the site with sacred chants and music. Next, they make a detailed drawing from memory. Over a number of days, they fill in the design with millions of grains of colored sand. At its completion, the mandala is consecrated. The monks then enact the impermanent nature of existence by sweeping up the colored grains and dispersing them in flowing water.

The Tibetan Monks will begin at noon on Monday, Nov. 14, in Building J, Room 117/118, and will continue Tuesday-Thursday from 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. The closing ceremony will be held at noon on Friday, Nov. 18, and will feature the destruction of the Mandala and polyphonic chanting as the sand is poured into the flowing waters on the FSW Thomas Edison Campus.

Other events will be held throughout the week are:

A performance by Sultan’s Dreams dancers on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 3-4 p.m., in Building J-103.

A movie screening of the film He Named Me Malala on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 5-6 p.m., in Building U -102.

Performances by the Kuumba Dancers & Drummers on Wednesday, Nov. 16 1:30-2 p.m. & 2-2:30 p.m., on the Building I lawn.

A performance by Raaga Indian Dance on Friday, Nov. 18, 6:30 -7:30 p.m., in Building J-103.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Dr. Laura Weir, Executive Director, FSW International Education, at (239) 433-6941. 

Food for Sharing offers a way to show you care this Thanksgiving

The Publix Food for Sharing drive is on now through Nov. 23 at all Publix Super Markets in Southwest Florida.

Thanksgiving is Nov. 24, and in the weeks leading up to the holiday, Publix offers donation cards for various levels of giving that customers may choose from. This offers an opportunity for them to continue showing they care by helping those who may not know where their next meal is coming from.

The cards show the different “recipe” of food items each level of giving will buy. The customer chooses a card and gives it to the cashier, where it will be scanned and the amount added to the total order.

The giving levels are Bronze, at $4.67; Silver, at $10.46; and Gold at $13.74. Each level has a different “recipe,” or combination of products from this list: Plumrose Ham, Starkist Tuna, fruit cocktail, peanut butter, grape jelly, green beans, rice, Dinty Moore Beef Stew, macaroni and cheese, Idahoan Mashed Potatoes, and fruit and grain bars.

Publix then sends the orders to the Harry Chapin Food Bank and other participating food banks across the chain’s operating area.

For more information or to make a donation, call (239) 334-7007 or visit harrychapinfoodbank.org.

River District Farmers Market has a new look 

The River District Farmers Market, open every Thursday, is now held in Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers.

Previously located under the Caloosahatchee Bridge at 2000 West First Street, the Farmers Market’s new location frees up more than 40 parking spots for customers and park goers.  

“We are really excited about this change in venue because it not only frees up parking under the bridge for our customers but also allows for seating under the pavilion and gives us a fabulous back drop of the river,” said Betsy Ventura, who, along with Jean Baer, owns Local Roots, LLC and will run the market each week.

The market is held on Thursdays and be open all year except for Thanksgiving Day but will open on Wednesday, Nov. 23 for a make-up market. Vendors begin setting up at 7 a.m. with everyone in place by 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

According to Ventura and Baer, there are plenty of lunch options available including area favorite food trucks as well as fresh flowers, local fruits and vegetables, Greek olive oils, dog treats and more. Complimentary Jimmy Java’s coffee will be given to the first 100 shoppers starting at 9 a.m. 

Baer’s son, Tyler, a graduate of the University of Florida, and Ventura’s daughter, Sims, will be joining the duo this season to assist in managing the markets.

In addition to the downtown Fort Myers location, Ventura and Baer also operate the Sanibel, Bonita Springs, Coconut Point, Fenway South, Lakes Park, FSW and Boca Grande (beginning Jan. 6) Farmers Markets.

They added that the goal of each of their markets is to strengthen the surrounding community by showcasing vendors who are selling produce and artisan products that are grown or produced locally. Products are packaged by owners in an environmentally friendly way, and the locations of markets are clean, safe and reflect a community atmosphere.

Anyone interested in becoming a vendor or providing live entertainment may visit www.BuyLocalLee.com.

PHOTO: Tyler Baer and Sims Ventura

Southeastern Guide Dog: Anchor

The Calendar Girls recently introduced their new sponsored Southeastern Guide Dog puppy Anchor. He is the 17th sponsored puppy by the Calendar Girls and will be raised up here in Lee County by his puppy raiser, and will be attending some of the Calendar Girl events. The Calendar Girls would like to thank SW Florida for their generosity in helping change veterans lives in a positive way one paw print at a time.

Learn more at www.calendargirlsflorida.com and for Southeastern Guide Dogs www.guidedogs.org.

High Honors for Cypress Lake High School Orchestra Director

Kayla Lisa, the Orchestra Director of Cypress Lake High School, is the Florida American String Teachers Association (FL-ASTA) Beginning Teacher of the Year.

Ms. Lisa fell in love with the violin when she was 8 years old.  “Music has been an integral part in shaping who I am.  My passion in life is teaching, developing and encouraging strong string musicians. Every day, I teach to share my love for strings with future generations and I am honored to receive this award.”

Ms. Lisa was nominated by her college professor, Judith Evans, Adjunct Professor at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Bower School of Music & Arts.

“Since she was hired, Kayla has doubled the enrollment of the orchestra and added a beginning orchestra class at Cypress Lake High School Center for the Arts,” explained Evans.  “Under her leadership, the Cypress Lake Orchestra received Superior ratings both years at the Florida Orchestra Association (FOA) Music Performance Assessment. Kayla is a fine musician and cares about providing a quality program for her students.”

Angela Roles, Principal of Cypress Lake High School is proud of the recognition. “This is a very big deal and we are so proud of this honor and the commitment it represents to having the finest program in the county!  Way to go, Ms. Lisa!”


ASTA is a national, non-profit organization devoted to enhancing the future of string teaching and playing in the United States. ASTA pursues its mission through an open sharing of ideas; benefits, services, and activities responsive to the needs of all members; development of strong state leadership and chapters; enhancing the image and visibility of string teaching and study; advocacy for string education; and an inclusive community of string teachers and players.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank vouches for turkeys this Thanksgiving

The Harry Chapin Food Bank will provide gift cards for clients to purchase turkeys or other food for Thanksgiving this year.

The food bank is spending $45,000 for 4,500 gift cards, valued at $10 each, to be distributed among clients at its partner agencies, said Kari Lefort, director of programs.  The cards are designated for the purchase of food at either Publix Super Markets or Winn Dixie stores, and cannot be used to buy tobacco or alcohol, she said.

Switching to gift cards is both more economical and efficient because when the food bank purchases turkeys in bulk it must pay full price instead of at the sale prices offered by various super markets. So a 10-pound turkey that would cost the food bank about $11 could cost just under $7 when purchased at the pre-Thanksgiving sale price by a client using a gift card.

This approach also helps clients who do not eat turkey for their holiday purchase other food and partner agencies that have no refrigeration to store turkeys at their sites, Lefort said.

The food bank also is taking holiday bird donations from the public. The donated turkeys will be given to agencies that did not receive all of the gift cards they requested. Agencies requested 16,000 gift cards, but the food bank could only afford to purchase 4,500 cards.  

Those who wish to donate birds can drop them off at the food bank’s Fort Myers warehouse or Naples warehouse. Here are the addresses and drop-off hours:


3760 Fowler St.

Fort Myers, FL


Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday

(Please bring donations no later than 3:30 p.m.)


2221 Corporation Blvd.,

Naples, FL


Hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday & Friday

8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday & Thursday

Community Cooperative Full Plates Project

To ensure there are no empty plates this Thanksgiving, Community Cooperative kicked-off its Full Plates Project earlier this month and is seeking help from the community.  The organization plans to feed hundreds of families and elderly shut-in’s through The Soup Kitchen, Meals on Wheels and Healthy School Mobile Pantries and needs to secure 1,500 frozen turkeys and Thanksgiving side items.

“Our goal is to ensure that not one man, woman or child in Lee County has an empty plate this Thanksgiving and we need the support of our local community to make this happen,” says Tracey Galloway, CEO of Community Cooperative.  “There are more than 100,000 people at risk of being hungry every day in Lee County and its important to our agency to make sure that no one is alone and hungry during the holidays.” 

Businesses and individuals interested in being a part of the Full Plates Project can donate turkeys and family sized, traditional, Thanksgiving sides or the funds to help support the purchase of such items. Food donations can be dropped off to the main office located at 3429 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. no later than Friday, November 18th. Checks can be mailed to P.O. Box 2143, Fort Myers, FL 33902.

For more information, to host a “Full Plates Project” food drive or to make a donation, please contact Nicole Rieg at Nicole@CommunityCooperative.com or call (239)332-7687 ext. 101. 

Community Cooperative is an innovative nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization made up of social service entrepreneurs fighting to end homelessness and hunger in our community. The agency provides more than 14,000 meals each month through its Community Cafés and Marketplace and Meals on Wheels programs. Community Cooperative offers homeless and comprehensive case management services through its Social & Education Resource Centers and oversees emergency mobile food pantries as well as Healthy School Pantries and Food Literacy in Preschool (FLIP) through its Growing Health Kids Programs.

A proud United Way partner, Community Cooperative serves Fort Myers and the greater Lee County area, including Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres and Fort Myers Beach. Community Cooperative works in close partnership with, The Harry Chapin Food Bank and The School District of Lee County as well as collaborating with fellow community and service groups, churches, businesses and community support organizations.

For more information, call 239-332-7687 or visit www.CommunityCooperative.com.

Craft Fairs & Plant Sales & Annual Shows

Botanica Lakes Craft Fair

Botanica Lakes community located off Treeline and Daniels is having a Unique Crafts Fair on Saturday, November 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Guests are invited to come and shop as well as enjoy lunch at one of the food trucks that will be on site. Brookshire residents and outside vendors will be selling homemade sewn goods and quilts, home decor items as well as personalized gift items. For more information find Botanica Lakes Homeowners on Facebook.

Bonsai Society Annual Show

The Bonsai Society of Southwest Florida, Inc. will hold its 35th annual Show and Sale on Saturday and Sunday, November 5-6, at the home of the Berne Davis Botanical Garden, 2166 Virginia Avenue, Fort Myers, adjacent to the Edison Home. This is the home of the Fort Myers-Lee County Garden Council. The show is open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The show will include an exhibit of bonsai trees created by society members, demonstrations of bonsai techniques, sales of bonsai and related materials, and raffles. Experienced members will also be available to answer questions about any trees that are brought in.

Admission and parking are both free; handicap parking is on Virginia Avenue only. The garden is the home of the Lorelei statue that was recently part of the old Fort Myers Library. For more information visit bonsaiswfl.org or call 239-560-3275.

Craftie Ladies Annual Fall Show

The Craftie Ladies of the St.John xxiii Villas meet every Monday to work on various projects as a group. Over the years, they have become a family, helping those in the community that are less fortunate. Last year, the group made over 170 comfort blankets for Gulf Coast Medical Center, 200 heart pillows for those patients having heart surgery, and over 200 hats for adults and children having chemo to help them stay warm.

This year, once again, they will be holding their annual fall craft show to benefit those in need. In addition to their usual “staple” of quilts and crocheted items, other items will be for sale: tooth fairy pillows, reindeer food, jewelry, Barbie theme dolls, children’s crayon bags and pillowcases, flag banners, dish towels, Christmas decorations and more.

Sale and date times are: Saturday, Nov.19, 3 to 5:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 20, 8 to 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, 3 to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 4., 8 to 1:30 p.m. St. John xxiii Catholic Church is on Palomino Drive, just off Daniels.

Orchid Society Auction

The Southwest Florida Orchid Society is hosting an auction and fundraiser at 7 p.m., Tuesday, November 15, at Faith United Methodist Church, 15690 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers. Orchids, garden plants and miscellaneous supplies will be available for preview at 6:30 p.m. Contact bmurza@comcast.net or 305-298-2670 for additional information.

Brookshire Holiday Boutique

The 2016 Brookshire Holiday Boutique will take place on November 12. The annual favorite features a wide variety of unique holiday decorations and handmade gifts created by local artists and crafters. It is open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in the Brookshire development inside the clubhouse, just off Daniels at 6670 Southwell Drive, Fort Myers. Please call JJ at 239-287-3271 with any questions.

Bromeliad Annual Plant Sale Expands

The annual plant sale of the Caloosahatchee Bromeliad Society is moving to a new, larger facility in Fort Myers. The popular 2-day event will be Saturday, Dec. 3 and Sunday, Dec. 4, at the SW Florida Masonic Center, 10868 Metro Parkway, just one mile south of Colonial Boulevard.

Local growers will offer thousands of colorful bromeliad plant species and unique hybrids. The sale allows gardeners to buy directly from the growers and learn firsthand how to grow, propagate, and landscape with the versatile plants. Driftwood, baskets and other garden items will also be on sale.

The new facility is air-conditioned with ample, convenient parking. The sale is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free.

The Caloosahatchee Bromeliad Society welcomes all interested persons to attend monthly workshops and meetings on the third Sunday of each month. For more info, contact Betsy Burdette, 239-694-4738 or betsy@burdetteinc.com.

Brushstrokes from the Soul

Alzheimer’s Art Show Awareness Event

In recognition of National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, the Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer’s Resource Center will present an art auction featuring paintings by individuals experiencing the various stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairment.

This is the twentieth annual Brushstrokes from the Soul event held by the Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer’s Resource Center. A reception will be held at FineMark National Bank & Trust, 12681 Creekside Lane, Fort Myers on Thursday, November 10 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend this reception to view and bid on the artwork on display.

The artwork that will be displayed was created by individuals who receive services from area assisted living facilities, skilled nursing centers, and day stay respite programs. All of the artwork has been professionally matted and framed. Framed art will be available for purchase via silent auction at the art show event. The silent auction will be held during the reception on November 10. Proceeds benefit the Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer’s Resource Center.

The Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer’s Resource Center’s office is located at 12468 Brantley Commons Court in Fort Myers. For more information about the art show or reception, or to find out more about the services offered by the Dubin Alzheimer’s Resource Center, please call 239-437-3007.

Gateway Entrepreneur Pours His Passion into Whiskey

Ultra Smooth American Barrels Bourbon Expands Across U.S.

by Yvette Bone

Gateway resident Michael Reed is the founder and CEO of American Barrels Bourbon Whiskey. At only 25 years old, he is a proven trailblazer and well on his way to making American Barrels a household name.

Born in Tennessee but raised in Fort Myers, Michael spent his formative years chasing his ice hockey dreams all over the map, from Southwest Florida to Southern Canada to Indiana. It was during his early college years at Indiana University that the idea of American Barrels was born.

As was custom, Michael and his hockey buddies would meet in the basement of their hockey house and have a few shots before heading down the street to the local bar for $2 Tuesday. The basement was home to a plywood bar decorated by his Texan friend with all things Americana. Behind the bar on the wall was a frayed poster from the movie “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” and to its sides hung a Gadsden flag and a sign that read “Come and Take It.” Early one Tuesday, Michael went skeet shooting with his 12-gauge on a friend’s farm. As a memorial, Michael slipped one of the spent shells in his pocket. That night, while standing at the basement bar with a shot of whiskey in his hand, Michael pulled the spent shell from his pocket. With his eyes locked on the signs behind the bar and the shell smooth under his fingers, he realized he wanted to bottle that moment.

“I wanted to start a movement in the form of a business: the quintessential brand for America-loving and whiskey-drinking Americans.”

Reed grabbed a napkin and began sketching out an idea that ultimately became the company’s iconic look: a bottle shaped in the form of a shotgun shell filled with fine bourbon whiskey, guarded by a rattlesnake and draped in a saluting dog tag. Reed deliberately designed the bottle to be a tribute to the past, and a logo of the future.

Michael moved back to Fort Myers and transferred to FGCU. It took two years of perfecting his brand and testing a lot of recipes before he was ready to settle on the blend in batch 1112, a number coincidently the same as his birthday. He sold his first bottle in August 2014 to the Liquor Wine & Smoke Shop at Fiddlesticks, admitting it took some creativity to get it on the shelf.

“It’s kind of a funny story,” Michael recalls. “I approached the owner and told him I’d love to tell people to come to his store to buy my bourbon. He liked my product, but didn’t say yes. He said he would give it a try when some space freed up on the shelf. So I went in and bought three or four bottles of something and told him he now had space on the shelf to sell American Barrels. He said, ‘Okay.’”

Since placing that first bottle on the shelf of Liquor Wine & Smoke, American Barrels has grown to be distributed across Florida as well as Tennessee, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York, and will expand into Texas and Indiana in 2017. All of the Total Wine stores in Florida carry American Barrels, and you can find it served at many local bars and restaurants – including Ford’s Garage, which will debut American Barrels on its new menu this month.

In paying homage to his love of hockey, Reed last month opened an American Barrels bar at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, home of the Florida Panthers, to coincide with the start of the National Hockey League season. The impressively crafted space features two columns that look like the iconic bottle, with touches of brass and Americana throughout the bar.

American Barrels is described a very fine, mellow bourbon. Reed explains, “It’s incredibly drinkable, ultra smooth, and from the beginning to end you’ll taste a perfectly balance corn sweetness and rye spiciness with flavors of caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, citrus and oak.” He also claims a good mouth heat, a soothing burn and a crisp finish. Michael’s favorite way to drink American Barrels: “Sipping it neat or a chilled shot.”

“My favorite sight is when someone tries American Barrels for the first time,” Reed says. “I get to witness them pucker up and ready themselves for what I guess they are expecting from a shot of bourbon. Once they shoot ours, their shoulders relax, and a giant grin depicting a pleasant surprise beams across their face as they tell me with a smile, ‘Wow!’”

Reed has high hopes for his pro-Americana brand. He wants to see it in every bar and store and for it to be an icon like Crown Royal or Grey Goose. When you sit with the humble and driven entrepreneur you get the feeling that might just happen. His love for America is rooted in the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Even as a kid, Reed spent his time pursuing those things by delving into multiple and varied hobbies such as competitive ice hockey, building electro magnetic engines, studying history and politics, acting in school plays, participating in Model UN, Teen Court and mock economy classes. American Barrels is his passion, but he has many things he still wants to do.

“I take notes all of the time, I think the last time I checked my iPhone I had something like 6,000 of them and most of them are ideas for projects, articles, commentaries, and the others are notes to go back and read my notes. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that being an entrepreneur, at least for me, was the best chance of realizing the many goals in life I still have on my to-do list. American Barrels is what I am passionate about, and I’m also passionate about where I can go and what I can do with the American Barrels platform.”

To learn more about American Barrels Bourbon Whiskey, visit www.americanbarrels.com or follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.