The Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce held its monthly business card exchange event on Oct. 20 at Knoll's Court Motel in Matlacha. A sizable crowd welcomed new members Captain Cathy Eagle and Jonna Bouchard.
"I've seen the chamber members working together," Eagle said. "It's not about one business. It's about the whole community."
Lisa Benton, the Chamber's executive director, is focusing on making local businesses more visible through emails, news releases to media, and information available at the Welcome Center.
Lisa Benton and Jay Johnson.
According to Chamber President Jay Johnson, he, Benton, and other board members are taking a hands-on approach and meeting one-on-one with business owners to encourage membership.
One method the chamber has used for the past several years to increase visibility are the Creative Coast weekends. During season, the chamber sponsors these the second weekend of each month from November through April. Gallery owner Nancy Koucky is pleased with how these weekends have evolved.
"The Creative Coast has branched out beyond the galleries and now includes more music and other activities," Koucky said. "It is versatile just like Pine Island is."
The chamber unveiled its new souvenir, the Pine Island puzzle. Created by artist Marie Cahill, the puzzle measures 24 by 30 inches. The central section is a map of Pine Island. Surrounding the map is a border made up of blocks promoting individual businesses. The suggested retail price is $21.95. The puzzle will be sold at the Welcome Center and by various island businesses.
An art form that is unique to the island is the painted pole. The chamber held a contest for the latest group of approximately 30 decorated poles. This brings the total to more than 100. The winning pole was painted by Jeannette Batko. She received $300 for her creation near the Moose Lodge of, what else, the front and back of a lady painting a pole.
"I couldn't have done it without the help of my sister Carol Christofferson who held the ladder," Batko said.
Before she moved here seven or eight years ago, Batko expressed her creativity through writing and became a member of the Pine Island Writers Group. Before long, the artistic spirit got to her and she began studying art with Florence Sansom in North Fort Myers.
Coming in second in the painted pole contest was Kacey Forstner. Her pole is in front of Island Acres on Stringfellow Road. Her artistic path was more expected. She has been creating art since she was a baby and earned a BFA degree at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Her prize was $200.
The third prize winner, David Autry, was not able to attend the event. His design at Barrancas and Stringfellow won him $100. He calls it "Spirit of Sailing."
President Jay Johnson summed it all up as he addressed those gathered at the waterside.
"We are working hard to promote our member businesses. We have a great staff and a great board to bring even more businesses to Pine Island," he said.