Teacher draws energy, motivation from students

Teacher draws energy, motivation from students

There are many reasons an employee might call out sick, like a cough, fever, cold or allergies. Or perhaps a child or spouse is ill and they need to provide care.

Certainly, having kidney dialysis is a valid excuse to miss work.

Not for Pam Goldsmith, though.

“As long as I can get to work, let me work,” said Pam, an early childhood educator at the Joseph H. Messina Children’s Center in Fort Myers. “I’ve been working since I was 16 years old. That’s all I know.”

Two years ago, Pam suffered kidney failure. At first, she went to the hospital for dialysis three times per week, but found the environment depressing. It also meant missing work. Instead, she began an at-home dialysis program. Although it lasts longer – eight hours nightly for seven days a week – the at-home treatment means she doesn’t have to miss work. Pam works a 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift at the early learning center, which allows her to schedule any doctor’s appointments before she starts work.

In addition to a failing kidney, Pam also has diabetes and high blood pressure. Kidney dialysis is a physically and mentally exhausting process, and some have wondered how Pam can muster up enough energy to teach a class of spirited toddlers.

“They give me the energy,” she said. “The children motivate me to keep working.”

And she has. Through cold and flu season, the pandemic, family health issues and other challenges, Pam has been showing up to work nearly every day since Child Care of Southwest Florida hired her in June 2000.

Pam’s commitment to showing up to work every day, as well as the dedication of her colleagues, also means parents can show up to work every day. Working parents need reliable child care, and Child Care of Southwest Florida implemented numerous safety protocols early in the pandemic to help protect the health of students and staff. Florida law requires specific student-to-staff ratios, so healthy, reliable employees are critically important to maintain daily operations.

A kidney issue isn’t the only challenge Pam has overcome. She doesn’t drive. Her family, friends and colleagues gladly step in, though, knowing how important it is for her not to miss work.

“Pam gives us energy, too,” said Yolanda Vargas, director of the Messina Children’s Center. “For eight hours every day, she pours her heart and soul into the children here so they can receive a high-quality education. It’s incredible to think that after Pam leaves in the evening, she still has to go through eight hours of kidney dialysis. And then she’s back again the next morning for another day.”

Pam overcame a learning disability to graduate from North Fort Myers High School in 1988. She attended vocational school to earn a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential and later completed the early childhood education program at then-Edison Community College.

Today, Pam leads the Lions class at Messina Children’s Center, focusing on reading, math and social skills to help students prepare for kindergarten.

Pam is beginning the process of qualifying for a kidney transplant while continuing dialysis at home and working full-time. Although she occasionally needs “a minute or two” to catch her breath or get a drink of water, Pam said the overwhelming support from her colleagues and Child Care of Southwest Florida’s leadership team has helped fuel her desire to keep teaching.

“That’s why I am sticking with them,” she said. “They’ve stuck with me.”

About the Author

Chris Hansen is CEO of Child Care of Southwest Florida, a nonprofit early childhood education provider with five accredited learning centers in Lee and Hendry counties. For more information, please call 239-278-1002 or visit CCSWFL.org.

5 Things To Do This Weekend in SWFL (April 29 – May 1)

5 Things To Do This Weekend in SWFL (April 29 – May 1)

Concert, fair, food, rodeo, veterans, and more.

Making weekend plans?  Check out these 5 things to do this weekend in SWFL:

SW Florida Ag Festival & Rodeo

It’s the 1st Annual SW Florida Ag Festival & Rodeo. Two nights of Wild Rodeo action & a jam-packed family festival, both at the Collier Fairgrounds! Rodeo both nights, with gates opening at 5:30 pm. Rodeo start time each night is 7:30 pm. Our Festival & Farmer’s market on Saturday is open from 11:00 am till 4:00 pm! Festival & Market also includes the Children’s Fun Zone! Bounce Houses, Obstacle Courses, Rock Climbing Walls, Giant Slides, Bungee Sling, Mechanical Bull & more! Come hungry & thirsty, we’ll have plenty of unique food vendors & adult beverages. Tickets: Rodeo general admission $25. Kids 5 and under FREE! Festival Tickets: Ages 6-12 $10. Ages 13 & up $15. Kids 5 & under FREE! For more info or advanced tickets, call 205 790-3452.


Spring Fair at Fenway South

The Spring Fair at Fenway South — thru May 8! All the rides, shows, games and food you love!! Thrilling new state fair rides, plus a huge kiddie park! Fabulous FREE shows included with admission, and of course, all your favorite fair food!! You’ll be amazed by our high-flying Pirate Thrill Show, award-winning Magic, Illusion, and Hypnotist Shows, Racing Pigs, Petting Zoo, Transforming Robot Car, and more GREAT family entertainment — all included FREE with admission! Find all the info you need, a full entertainment schedule, and HUGE SAVINGS at www.fairatfenway.com!! Tickets are just $10 per person, with 2-for-1 coupons available online.


Concert in the Park

Join the City of Cape Coral Parks and Recreation department for a FREE Concert in the Park on Saturday night from 5 – 8 pm at Four Freedoms Park. Bring a date, a group of friends, or even fly solo if you enjoy live music, dinner, drinks, and a breathtaking sunset! Blankets and lawn chairs are encouraged. BYOB (21+) Music starts at approximately 5:30 pm, but get there early to enjoy dinner from our on-site food trucks Nickle City Red Hots and Rita’s Italian Ice! For more information, call (239) 573-3128 or visit www.capeconcerts.com.


Honor Flight Mission #22, Welcome Home Celebration

Please join Collier-Lee Honor Flight in greeting 85 World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Veterans, as they return from their trip to Washington, D.C. with this Welcome Home Celebration! FREE admission and FREE parking! We gather at the American Airlines terminal at Southwest Florida International Airport. Bring your family and friends! Arrive early and get a good spot. By far the most Patriotic Event you will ever participate in.


Taste of the Beach

The 26th Annual Taste of the Beach will be held on Sunday at Salty Sam’s Marina. Restaurants will offer samples of their signature dishes available for purchase and compete for top Taste of the Beach Award honors in the categories of Best Appetizer, Best Beef Entree, Best Seafood Entree, Best Chicken Entree, Best Vegetarian/Vegan, Best Dessert, Best Decorated Booth, and People’s Choice. Gates open at 11:00 a.m. Food will be served until it runs out or at 4:00 p.m. The event will also include vendors, live music and our famous server competition. Admission is $5 for adults and children over 12. Children under 12 are free. Food tickets will be $1.00 each, with a $5 average food serving price.



Lee County Economic Development and community partners offer workforce and technical assistance programs

Lee County Economic Development and community partners offer workforce and technical assistance programs

The Lee County Economic Development Office, in collaboration with community partners, offers Workforce Training and Certification programs and a Small Business Technical Assistance Program to assist people, businesses and organizations in response to COVID-19.

The programs were developed under the direction of the Lee Board of County Commissioners and are funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

The Workforce Training & Certification Program will offer micro and rapid credentialing programs in response to the education and skills deficiency for disproportionately affected communities exacerbated by COVID-19.

Tuition assistance and scholarships paid through $3 million in ARPA funds will be available for in-demand programs in areas such as health care, real estate/construction and technology offered by:

  • Florida Southwestern State College
  • Florida Gulf Coast University
  • Hodges University

The Small Business Technical Assistance Program will be funded by $475,000 paid to local partners offering technical assistance to small businesses and nonprofits such as business mentoring, organizational development, capital access planning and more.

Partners for the assistance program include:

  • Small Business Development Center
  • Southwest Regional Manufacturers Association
  • SW Florida Impact Partners
  • Goodwill SWFL – MicroEnterprise Institute

For a full list of programs and services offered, as well as contact information for community partners, visit www.leegov.com/ARPA.

BISSELL Pet Foundation Sponsor Reduced Adoption Fees Across the Country

BISSELL Pet Foundation Sponsor Reduced Adoption Fees Across the Country

Lee County Domestic Animal Services is part of 275+ shelters participating in the spring “Empty the Shelters” event

As shelters across the country face overcrowding, BISSELL Pet Foundation is aiming to “Empty the Shelters” by sponsoring waived adoption fees from May 2-7. This event will be hosted in more than 275 shelters in 40 states, including Lee County Domestic Animal Services.

  • Animal Services will participate May 2-7, 2022, at 5600 Banner Drive, Fort Myers, offering waived adoption fees with an approved application.
  • All interested adopters can find pets currently available at www.leelostpets.com. The complete online adoption application also is available.

“Empty the Shelters,” BISSELL Pet Foundation’s largest program, began in 2016 as an effort to encourage more families to adopt a pet into their home. More than 83,000 pets have found adoptive homes through this reduced-fee adoption event. Since its inception, this lifesaving event has expanded to organizations in 45 states and Canada, partnering with a total of 443 animal welfare organizations.

“Shelters across the country are over capacity, and highly adoptable pets are at risk as we face one of the largest crises in recent years,” said Cathy Bissell, Founder of BISSELL Pet Foundation. “BISSELL Pet Foundation is calling on people to visit their community shelters during ‘Empty the Shelters’ to save a life through adoption. Without you, there is no tomorrow for these deserving pets.”

BISSELL Pet Foundation and Lee County Domestic Animal Services urge families to do their research about the pet they are interested in adopting, as well as adoption requirements. For more information on adopting or donating to “Empty the Shelters,” visit www.bissellpetfoundation.org/empty-the-shelters as well as www.leelostpets.com.

Hurricane season is upon us – be prepared with up-to-date insurance coverage

Hurricane season is upon us – be prepared with up-to-date insurance coverage

The threat of severe weather is one of the first signs of Summer in Southwest Florida. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 and serves as a great reminder to review your coverage annually, including home, auto, wind and flood policies.

As the 2022 storm season quickly approaches, Cape Coral State Farm Agents Mike and Dawn Sullivan urge Floridians to protect themselves and their families by having insurance policies and disaster plans established ahead of storm season.

“I typically advise an annual review of home and auto policies and your family’s storm plan no later than the end of April,” said Dawn. “Many carriers require you to be insured weeks ahead of a hurricane or severe weather event to be eligible for coverage, so it’s important to establish wind and flood-related policies at least two months in advance of hurricane season.”

Storm season generally peaks during summer but can occur any time of year. Here are some steps to protect your property and family:

  • Review insurance coverage: Schedule an insurance review to make sure coverage is adequate, especially if there have been any changes, such as a move or major purchases or upgrades to your home or automobile.
  • Know the claims process: Should your property be damaged, become familiar with the claims process now to avoid added stress during an already challenging time.
  • Update home inventory: An accurate, recent inventory is one of the greatest resources for expediting the insurance claim process. Create a detailed digital record and keep a copy in a fireproof safe, safety deposit box, or secure cloud online so it does not get misplaced or destroyed in the event of a loss.

Floods are the most common natural disaster worldwide and cause millions of dollars of damage each year in the U.S. Major storms and hurricanes are a way of life in Florida, and Lee County has been especially vulnerable. Having flood and wind insurance offers protection and security.

“Homeowner’s and renter’s policies typically do not cover damage caused by flooding, but the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), administered through FEMA does,” said Mike. “Since you can’t purchase insurance directly through the government, Dawn and I will work with you to explain your options and help you purchase a plan.”

To learn more about the NFIP, go to www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program. The Sullivan State Farm team is here to help, whether you’re currently covered or looking to determine the best insurance options for your unique circumstances. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call the Sullivan State Farm Agency at 239-541-3276.

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