SCCF CEO James Evans recounted the amazing recovery, regrowth, and resilience the organization has achieved over the past year at the Dec. 5 Annual Membership Meeting, where five new trustees were elected to the board.

“We are extremely grateful for our members and donors who have shown extraordinary generosity in supporting our mission-driven work and made our hurricane recovery possible,” said Evans. “The last year has also shown us that our community as a whole believes in our mission and is united to protect and preserve the unique nature of our sanctuary islands.”

He also thanked the board of trustees and the SCCF staff for taking the time in such a challenging year to engage in strategic planning to map out the next five years. As part of that planning, he shared SCCF’s new vision statement:

A Southwest Florida where wildlife and natural habitats exist in harmony with people and are protected by science-based policies.

Veteran News-Press photographer Andrew West was met with a standing ovation when he was recognized as this year’s SCCF “Ding” Darling Brush of Excellence Environmental Art Program prize recipient. A video of his work was screened, followed by a Q&A session with Brush of Excellence Committee Chair Sandy Gross.

Board President Anne Nobles joined Evans in expressing deep gratitude to the five outgoing trustees, including Nik Khakee, Dick Pyle, Chip Roach, Laura Shaffer, and Christine Szymanczyk.

“I’d like to acknowledge everyone who has contributed to SCCF’s success this year — staff, donors, volunteers, and the community,” said Nobles. “I’d especially like to thank our trustees for their accomplishments, including submitting a balanced budget despite the loss of our usual fundraising events.”

She also thanked the four trustees who extended their term of service at the end of last year — Don Rice, Tom Libonate, Ran Niehoff, and Sandy Gross — for pitching in to help the board during a challenging time.

“All of these trustees have been so generous with their time and expertise. Their contributions were critical to our strategic planning efforts and the oversight of operations following Ian,” said Nobles.

Members then elected five new trustees to join the board: Bob Adams, Scott Dinger, J.D., Scott Hendershot, Rachel Pierce, and Kate McDonald Sergeant, J.D.

As testimony to a successful year, Treasurer John Raho reported on the financial health of the organization.

“The overall financial strength of SCCF has improved over the past year despite the challenges from Ian, continuing uncertainty in equity markets, and ongoing political conflicts,” he said. “New program opportunities are on the horizon and SCCF will continue to lead.”

Updates on the recovery of facilities and preserves, as well as new acquisitions and program area accomplishments were also highlighted by Evans.

“We are moving into the next five years with our program areas collaborating more than ever to take us on a well-defined and ambitious path thanks to our strategic initiatives,” he said.

The three new strategic initiatives include:

  • Inspire and engage our communities to act in ways that preserve and enhance the land, water, and wildlife in the face of changing natural and human-driven conditions.
  • Expand and leverage SCCF’s expertise and voice to improve water quality in Southwest Florida and beyond.
  • Lead Sanibel and Captiva in becoming a nationally recognized model for resilience and sustainability for coastal communities.

“SCCF has led our islands in conservation efforts for more than five decades. As these initiatives suggest, we will continue to adapt and broaden our scope to ensure that we fulfill our mission to protect and care for all of Southwest Florida’s coastal ecosystems,” said Evans.

Learn how you can become a member of SCCF.