The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Collier County Commissioners selected Friends of Rookery Bay as the Business of the Month for February 2019.
Each month, the award is presented to an organization that has enhanced the community through financial, volunteer and active involvement in organizations and programs that assist in creating a better quality of life for all citizens in Collier County.
The Board of Collier County Commissioners and Bethany Sawyer, the director of membership at The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, presented Athan Barkoukis, executive director, with a commemorative plaque at the Feb. 12, 2019 at the County Commission meeting.
Founded in 1987, Friends of Rookery Bay connects people to Southwest Florida’s dynamic coastal environment in support of the 110,000-acre Rookery Bay Research Reserve, one of the few remaining undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America.
Today, Friends of Rookery Bay play an instrumental role working directly with the Research Reserve staff to help ensure that enough resources continue to be available to help accomplish the Reserve's important mission.
More than 1,000 Friends’ members from the Naples and Marco Island communities serve as trained volunteers, assisting staff with everything from sea turtle monitoring and shark research in the Ten Thousand Islands, to teaching young students about estuaries in the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, as well as aiding the Reserve’s Coastal Training Program providing science-based education to individuals who make professional decisions that affect our coastal resources.
Members also act as a critical voice at the local, state and federal level advocating on behalf of Rookery Bay Research Reserve and the nationwide 29-Reserve system. In 2017 and 2018, the federal budget zeroed out funding to the entire Reserve system, with dire implications locally. Letters and calls of support from members led to the re-instatement of federal funding necessary for the Reserve to continue its important work managing the reserve.
Recent additions to leadership at the board and staff level, along with expanded strategic partnerships and a growing membership, ensure the Friends of Rookery Bay will play a vital role supporting Collier County and the Reserve, in 2019 and beyond.