Naples Winter Wine Festival persists to raise funds for children in midst of pandemic

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
2019 Naples Winter Wine Festival – Photo via WINK News.

One of the biggest fundraisers in town needs your help in what it’s calling a “relief and recovery mission” right now. But this year, the challenge to raise money is just as great as the need.

In 2020, the Naples Children and Education Foundation raised a whopping $20 million in its largest fundraiser: the Naples Winter Wine Festival, known for bringing in bands like Kool and the Gang and extravagant auction items. All the money goes to more than four dozen child-focused local nonprofits.

“We fund healthcare, vision, mental health, oral health care, out-of-school time, summer program services, after-school tutoring,” said Maria Jimenez-Lara, CEO of NCEF.
But she knew the foundation had its work cut out for it when the pandemic hit. “We saw a 55% increase in the need for food and mental health care,” Jimenez-Lara said.

The foundation was able to fast-track money to organizations like the Harry Chapin Food Bank, Healthcare Network and the Boys and Girls Club of America, to make sure they could provide children basic necessities. And they’re helping 38,000 children in Collier County every year. To put that in perspective, there are 48,000 children in all of Collier’s public schools.

“There is always going to be a way to garner support and to take care of the children, but we must work together,” Jimenez-Lara said.

Here’s where the public comes in. The private event is pared down and virtual this year.
But there is an online auction open right now, with packages that range from $250 to $10,000. It will stay open until Tuesday. Or you can make a direct donation of any amount-right on the website.

And remember, every dollar is going directly to children in our area. Tune into WINK News at 7 p.m. Saturday for a one-hour special called “NCEF: A Community Comes Together,” in which you can meet some of the children you’ve helped.

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