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Behind the Smiles: Meet Johnny

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At age fifty-eight and a diagnosis of intellectual disabilities and autism, Johnny was navigating life independently, with the assistance of neighbors and friends. However, Johnny’s independence was threatened when the condo he was living in was sold. With no formal life plan in place, Sylvia, his sister, and guardian, were at a loss for how to best assist her brother. Then she received information about Protected Harbor from a family friend.

Sylvia and Johnny visited Protected Harbor and met with the Case Management team. This team, partially funded by the Golisano Foundation, embraced Sylvia and Johnny, and set out to assist. They helped by finding resources, establishing life plan goals, and providing information for various funding opportunities.

Upon learning of a potential living situation suitable for Johnny, the Protected Harbor Case Management Team shared the information with Sylvia. Johnny’s family support system was able to make the living situation a reality. Johnny moved into his new house with a roommate, on August 1. This allows him to remain independent, meet new friends, have new community opportunities, and be safe. Additionally, he was able to expand his community integration by attending an Adult Day Training Program.

As a client, Johnny will continue to receive assistance and the Case Management team will remain an advocate for him. Johnny and his new roommate will also join Protected Harbor during events and outings. Today, Johnny embraces his increased opportunities. Knowing Johnny is safe and well cared for, Sylvia can rest easy with the freedom to take care of her own needs.

This is just one family; however, it is the same story for hundreds of families in Southwest Florida. There is an intense need for services and funding in our area. Families need a place to find resources and direction. Maneuvering through governmental and agency channels can be a difficult task. The Case Management Team at Protected Harbor embraces families and loved ones with the expertise to avoid crises, navigate the channels and provide hope and a better life.

Board Member Spotlight: Meet Joe Gandolfo

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Joe Gandolfo was introduced to Protected Harbor while attending the weekly Men’s Ministry meetings at First Baptist Church of Naples. There he met Jeff Buchholz who spoke about Protected Harbor with such conviction and enthusiasm that his interest was piqued.

He attended a few Prayer Breakfast events before finally visiting one of the homes. It was on that occasion that his eyes were opened to the incredible work being done in service to a group of very special people needing compassion, love, and a safe haven in which to live and flourish. He initially became a “Friend of the Board” and shortly after, a full Board Member.

Joe was born in Rome, Italy, and raised in a Christian family with faithful parents. His father served as a Pastor as well as a missionary. After the family moved permanently from Rome to New York Joe attended secondary school. He pursued his university studies to become a teacher of English and taught in NYC Public schools for three decades. During this time Joe also became involved in the travel industry, a role he still holds after retiring from teaching.

The teaching experience, coupled with his Christian upbringing, gave him a sense of empathy toward those who are vulnerable and incapable of caring for themselves. He feels that the segment of the population served by Protected Harbor is deemed by some to be unimportant, but in God’s eyes, we are all created equally in His image. Joe has loved joining the Board of Protected Harbor because it is not an anonymous governmental institution. It is a faith-based ministry run by a staff that loves God and the clients they serve. The residents are not just a number but part of a family.

Joe feels he can contribute to the ministry by introducing his vast network of friends, co-workers, and acquaintances to the mission of Protected Harbor. His success is evident in the growing number of people who have volunteered their time and generously contributed financially. Seeing the smiles on the residents’ faces is the ultimate reward.

Joe says that what excites him most are the plans for future growth and expansion first introduced by Loretta Mottram and now continuing full throttle by Robin Antone, the current Executive Director.

Deuteronomy 6:5 is one of his favorite verses. ‘You shall love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Behind the Smiles: Meet Deb

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Meet Deb

Like each of our clients at Protected Harbor, Deb brings her own unique personality and experiences to the group. As a native Floridian, who has never lived elsewhere, she loves the beauty and the weather, except of course during periods of heavy storms.

Deb enjoys the camaraderie with the other ladies and living at PH2 fills her with joy as they share smiles and laughter. She also appreciates the help she receives from the staff, admitting she particularly needs guidance when it comes to sticking to her budget!

Her daily routine consists of a morning cup of coffee, playing games on her phone, working out with online videos, and helping with house cleaning. Her TV choices are Cup Cake Wars on the Food Network and watching Game of Thrones.

As an avid animal lover, the surrounding area gives her plenty to keep her occupied. Bird watching particularly intrigues her; she enjoys researching the species of birds she observes. Spending time with her family and walking through weekly Farmer’s Markets round up the spectrum of her interests.

Deb was born on December 1st, so it’s no surprise Christmas is by far her favorite holiday. The beauty of living in Florida is that she can enjoy her birthday month swimming at the beach or in a pool. She was able to do a lot of swimming at the last Trailways Camp, an event she will always remember. This past year she also asked to be baptized, a decision she is very proud of.

Her aspirations include traveling to Alaska one day and having the opportunity to see animals not normally seen in Florida. Learning Latin and Greek are two other ambitious goals she has expressed achieving. Deb doesn’t have a favorite Bible verse but loves reading all the Gospels.

Staff Spotlight: Athena & Mark Priquette

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Mark and Athena

Mark and Athena Priquette joined Protected Harbor in August as our newest Direct Support Professionals working with the clients residing in our homes. They met and married while living in Italy. After their first child was born, they discovered an intimate and personal relationship with their Savior; a realization that changed their lives forever.

Mark served in the Air Force, which demanded they often move geographically. During this time they began fostering children and caring for people in need. Since retiring from their careers, they prayed for an opportunity to do mission work. The answer arrived when they read about a need for staff at Protected Harbor.

Their prior experience as house parents for several years gave them the impetus to learn more about our ministry, eventually joining our staff. Their love for people with special needs, coupled with a keen ear to listen for God’s direction gave them confirmation that this move was God’s plan for their lives.

Since arriving, Mark and Athena have treated this less as a job and more as becoming part of an extended family. They can love one another, enjoy communal meals, laugh, play, teach, learn, and engage in the many activities that fill our clients’ daily lives.

When they have time off, the Priquettes will continue to pursue interests they had before moving to Florida: traveling, working on their home and land in Kentucky, attending their home church, and visiting family. In fact, there are five grandchildren anxious to vie for their attention at home in Bowling Green, Kentucky!

Their favorite Bible verse can be found in I Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We are all thankful for this couple and grateful for their service to the Protected Harbor family.

Behind the Smiles: Meet Tiffany

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Meet TiffanyProtected Harbor is blessed with a governing Board that includes directors from varied backgrounds, professions, and life experiences. Similarly, the clients residing in our supported living homes represent equally diverse backgrounds and life histories.

Tiffany is one such resident who despite being reluctant to share much about herself verbally, expresses herself beautifully through art. She absolutely loves drawing, painting, and crafting mosaic pieces, which she is very proud to display. Tiffany’s talent inspires her roommates to emulate her and create their own art pieces.

Additionally, Tiffany enjoys the outdoors and is especially happy to live in Florida, where she enjoys perennial spring or summer, void of the cold brought by winter! She also enjoys attending classes at Goodwill where she experiences an environment outside her home, with different people, that expands her social sphere.

When asked about her favorite food, Tiffany’s immediate response is pizza. She’s certainly not alone in that! She also enjoys the Japanese restaurant Kumo, where she delights in observing the chefs create interesting dishes right before her eyes.

Tiffany has many other “likes”; she loves Christmas (her birthday is coincidentally in December), and she mentions the Bible as her favorite book. Her current wish is to visit an art museum where she could gather new inspiration for her own creations.

Friend of the Board Spotlight: David Hammerstrom

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Meet David Hammerstrom

David attended a yearly event held at First Baptist Naples a couple of years ago. This was pivotal and the beginning of his engagement with Protected Harbor. The event titled Missionary Sunday is when worldwide and local missions are showcased, and one that Protected Harbor regularly participates in. Dave spoke with our board president, Jeff Buchholz, that day. Jeff introduced him to our ministry and our purpose for being. His interest was immediately piqued, prompting him to become a “Friend of the Board”. A year later, he became a full board member and serves on the Governance and Executive Committee.

David came to us from a brilliant career in banking. Most recently, he worked as Executive Vice President and Senior Loan Officer at a prominent bank in Connecticut. Joining Protected Harbor helps to fulfill a deep and different urgency in his soul: the call from God to assist and care for those less fortunate, coupled with the need to give back to God’s Kingdom. Through his involvement with Protected Harbor, David sees how the mission impacts the lives of many people. He smiles, knowing that Protected Harbor helps with physical needs but, most importantly, their spiritual growth in an environment where the love of Christ is shared and demonstrated daily.

When asked about some recent fond memories, David shared that last year’s Protected Harbor Olympics event, as well as the Trailways Spiritual Camp, were opportunities to see close-up the ways our clients are encouraged and stimulated as they participate in group activities, individual challenges, and socialization. The opportunities to speak one-on-one with participants, learn about their likes and dislikes, and hear their personal stories were enlightening.

David desires to help Protected Harbor achieve its ambitious goals of expanding and evolving the ministry to serve a growing population. These goals include creating additional, specialized living environments and a greater variety of social services. All will be accomplished with God’s help, never neglecting the ethical principle of striving to provide an environment and safe harbor for our clients physically and spiritually.

David’s favorite verse exemplifies these standards: John 3:16, “As God loves us, so we love our neighbors.”

Behind the Smiles: Meet Cleo

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Cleo was one of the original residents of our first Protected Harbor home. In that role, she has developed deep friendships and paved the way for all newcomers. She feels this is truly her home and her friends are her family. She happily states, “When I came to Protected Harbor, my life changed for the better”. She is particularly grateful to the staff who help her develop new skills. Currently, Cleo is helping prepare meals and learning to cook new dishes.

She enjoys going for long walks outside with the other girls, chatting amiably about the day’s events and the many books she loves to read. In fact, she considers herself a true “bookworm”. Besides reading, Cleo loves watching classic black and white movies, often imagining herself as one of the characters, dressed in glamorous vintage clothing. Swimming is another passion of hers, declaring she can swim like a mermaid!

Cleo attends the community Goodwill program during the day and enjoys the various classes there. Her favorite activity though is going out to dinner with her parents. Culver’s is always her first choice, and she regularly orders her favorite butter burger.

At the Protected Harbor homes, every birthday is celebrated. Cleo embraces the festivities with enthusiastic glee. She also delights in the Christmas season. The excitement of the preparations, the decorations, and the festivities give her great joy.

With all the hobbies, classes, fun activities, and tasks like keeping her room neat, what else does Cleo still wish to accomplish? She would love to learn to play the guitar!

Staff Spotlight: Bob Schubring

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Bob SchubringBob Schubring has been a board member of Protected Harbor since its founding. He came to us from the world of business having worked as a project manager for a major general contractor in Collier County. Once Bob was introduced to the vision and ministry of Protected Harbor, he knew this was a call to service. His heart melts every time he sees the smiles and joy on the faces of our residents. His involvement is a special blessing.

When asked why he became involved, Bob’s simple answer is, “God told me to, is all I can say”. He affectionally refers to the residents as “the kids” and confesses having fallen in love with each of them. His wife, Pat, also gives her heart and service to Protected Harbor as a valued Friend of the Board.

Bob’s work with Protected Harbor may have slowed down lately, but his passion for its success has not. He is as excited about it now as he was years ago when he first met George Pappas at a Bible study. George and Athena Pappas are founding members of Protected Harbor. Their daughter, Cleo, became one of our first residents.

Initially serving as a board member, Bob stepped into the role of Board President and served in that capacity for several years. He tells anyone who asks that working with Protected Harbor “is the most rewarding thing I have ever done.”

He finds true enjoyment in seeing the residents grow spiritually and achieve greater independence while being cared for by the staff. Bob is particularly excited about the future goals and plans laid out by Loretta and Robin, many of which have already been realized. The idea of being able to serve so many more people in our community was unimaginable to him only a short time ago.

Bob’s favorite verse says much about his heart, ” Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” I Corinthians 10:24

Behind the Smiles: Meet Kristin

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Meet Kristin

Kristin joined us one year ago and considers Protected Harbor her new extended family. She loves her new surroundings, her friends, and especially the staff because they are always there to help her when she needs them. They also help her focus on what really matters on any given day.

She’s very proud to have lost some excess weight and has learned to eat well while remaining in good health. Her favorite activities are spending time with her family whenever possible, swimming, watching bowling, and doing chores like cleaning and wiping down tables. Her favorite food is pasta, but she had difficulty naming her favorite restaurant because “there are too many to choose from”, according to her.

Since moving to Protected Harbor, Kristin’s very favorite memory is attending Trailways Spiritual Camp last spring where she participated in fun activities with her new friends. Her future aspiration is to be able to travel. For now, she does so vicariously by viewing exotic, faraway lands on TV.

Staff Spotlight: Chris and Angela Bleier

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Chris and Angela Bleier joined Protected Harbor in May as the newest Direct Support professionals. They hailed from Denver, Colorado, before moving to sunny Southwest Florida. They each have experience in dealing with people of all backgrounds and abilities. Angela worked as a hairdresser for 25 years and volunteered in a nursing home. Chris was employed in the Denver Public Schools system for 18 years, working with students with intellectual disabilities. He also held a supervisory role in a public transportation company.

Because both had experience working with adults and adolescents with varying degrees of developmental disabilities, their move to Florida to work at a Protected Harbor home seemed like a great one. But for them, the deciding factor was our mission statement and its emphasis on the Christ-centered values it represents. Caring for people using guidance provided by Christ’s teachings in a wholesome environment is an essential component for them.

Angela’s sister had already moved to Ft. Myers. There she met and became friends with Ginny and Dennis Hicks who recently retired from Protected Harbor. Ginny informed Angela that an opportunity was open, and the rest became history. Loretta Mottram and the Protected Harbor Leadership Team met with them, reviewed their credentials, and prayed with them, they encouraged them to consider the move. Chris and Angela credit God’s guidance for their decision noting, “He wanted us there”.

Since joining Protected Harbor, the Bleier’s have experienced true joy and begun to understand the reason behind the smiles of our clients. They are beginning to understand what makes the residents happy or sad, what their emotional and physical needs are, and how to have fun with them. They have also observed that the entire staff shows the same love and compassion that God exemplifies through the Scriptures; it is true agape love.

Being “parents” to the residents is a joy. It is as rewarding as it is fulfilling; from consoling one who is crying, to accompanying another on a doctor’s visit, just being present for them is what it’s all about. In their free time, they enjoy walking their dog and playing frisbee golf.

When asked about their favorite Bible verses, Angela cited John 3:16, while Chris chose the entire Book of Psalms.