Caring For the Community
Written by Timothy Jacobs, Jacobs Writing Consultants
If there is one thing about Julie Ferguson, it’s her passion for the community of Cape Coral. Only six months after moving to Fort Myers, she and her husband moved one last time and it was to Cape Coral.
Born in New York with a Texan Accent
Julie was born in New York, but has no recollection of time spent there. Her parents were missionaries, and she was a preacher’s daughter. Originally from Texas, her parents moved to New York to start a Church of Christ. The family moved back to Texas after the birth of their daughter.
When asked ‘Where are you from?’ she gets a laugh out of saying “New York.” Then people always reply ‘How did you get your southern accent?’
Julie says she doesn’t have a hometown. “My parents moved around a lot and I lived in many places, mostly in Texas,” she says. Besides being in New York for a brief time, she has also lived in New Jersey and Greenville, Mississippi.
For a while the family lived in Villanova, Pennsylvania, where her father served as president of Northeastern Christian College which merged with Ohio Valley College in West Virginia some years ago. The family moved back to Texas again, this time to Lubbock, where Julie graduated high school and went onto Lubbock Christian University.
College & Marriage
“After I graduated from Lubbock Christian University, I went to Wichita Falls, Texas and got my masters in counseling from Midwestern State University,” says Julie. It was also while attending school there she met Clay Ferguson, the man who would become her husband.
The couple married, spent nine years in Wichita Falls where they also had their daughter, Adrienne, who on the day of this interview, was returning from a long study-abroad trip to Scotland and other European countries. Adrienne is a senior at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.
The family ended up in Southwest Florida after Clay’s position with Youngquist Brothers transferred him to Fort Myers in 1998. “We only stayed in Fort Myers for six months,” says Julie. “We moved to Cape Coral because of all the canals. We wanted to have access to the water and got in just before the prices went crazy.”
That was their last move, they’ve been in the same house since 1998 and according to Julie, “it’s paradise.”
The Cape Coral Caring Center
Julie held a couple of different jobs after finishing her studies, but for the past 16 years, she has been with the Cape Coral Caring Center. “I started out as their volunteer coordinator and two months later the operations manager left and I was asked to fill that position.” Julie says, “I happily took that position and performed in that capacity for 12 years.”
Four years ago, Fred Cull, director for the Center for many years, retired and Julie was asked to fill his shoes. “It’s hard to believe I’m sitting in his chair, at his desk,” she says. Sadly Fred passed away last year.
The Center is staffed by three employees, over 100 volunteers, and has provided for families in the Cape for the past 26 years. When Julie began her career there, the volunteer count was only at 15. “We now have a waiting list of people who want to volunteer with us,” she says.
When it comes to her time spent at the Center, Julie says “I enjoy sharing with people. I like being a part of filling the need that some people have.” She further says, “It’s the success stories of people getting back on their feet.”
She pointed out that some people even come back and try to repay the Center. “In no way are they obligated to repay us, but in some cases it’s what they want to do. It’s their way of giving back when their life gets better.”
The Functions of the Center
The main operation of the Center is feeding families in need, but Julie is quick to point out “we do a lot of things beyond food. We are an emergency food pantry, but we also help people with some clothing, and their electric bill in some cases.”
A person or family can visit the Center, request help and then go through what Julie calls “a gentle interview process.” From there, you’re directed around back to pick up enough food to usually last about a week. The volunteers even take the groceries out to the car for the clients as many people that are seen have health difficulties. Julie said “We want to treat people in need with every kindness possible, just as we would want to be treated if we were in their situation.”
There are income qualifications that the center follows, but are lifted in certain situations, one such time being after Hurricane Charley hit in 2004. “We had a bunch of people at our door and they needed food,” recalled Julie. The grocery store shelves were empty, but the Cape Coral Caring Center had food, so we gave what we had. I think our community as a whole is little better prepared and now we have a generator, so even if we should lose power our freezers and refrigerators will continue to work, so we are prepared to help when needed”.
The center accepts donations all year, both perishable and non-perishable food, as long as the food has not been opened. There are drop off locations throughout Cape Coral.
The S.O.S. Program
When Julie saw a trend over the summer months of donations going in a downward slope, she took action. Knowing that turning people away is never an option; she, along with partners created the S.O.S. program – Save Our Summer: Feed the Cape.
“It started four years ago,” she says. “We reached out and partnered with the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral, the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association, Spiro & Associates and Fox 4.” Every year the S.O.S. campaign kicks off at Rumrunners in Cape Harbour. During
this drive, the community comes together and the Center ends up with a large supply of food to get them through the summer until winter residents return for the season.
Her efforts for the center do not go by unnoticed. Julie was recently awarded the Paul Harris Fellow Award from the Rotary Club of Cape Coral Sunset. She went through the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program and would encourage everyone to get involved and be a part of it. “I loved every minute of it and I’m still active in the Leadership program.”
Down the Road
When it comes to looking ahead, Julie has traveling ambitions. “I’d love to travel out to Yellowstone National Park and spend some time in and around Wyoming.”
When she is not being active with Center, Julie can be found scuba diving with her husband or driving along the beaches of Florida. She also loves to cook and bake. Julie and her family are active members with Gulf Coast Church of Christ.
Julie has a drive and passion for the Center as well as for life in general. Be sure to donate and help a family out, and a simple ‘thank you’ to Julie will win you a wonderful smile.