The 2023 Naples Winter Wine Festival begins on Saturday, Feb. 4. During last year’s festival, nearly $22 million was raised within 4 1/2 hours to help the children of Collier County. Here’s a look at how and why the group behind the festival makes it happen.
“It is the largest charity wine auction in the world,” said Maria Jimenez Lara, CEO of the Naples Children and Education Foundation. “And we bring together 600 people that love our mission and care about our community and our wine and food aficionados.”
Every penny raised during the auction—big bucks spent on lavish vacations, expensive cars and fine wines—helps children in Collier County.
“There isn’t an independent tax base support for children’s social services,” Lara said. “So a group of very caring people came together and thought, ‘We need to raise money because there’s no extra money to help kids.'”
2023’s focus, with the COVID-19 pandemic waning and after Hurricane Ian’s crushing impact on Southwest Florida, is mental health and for every child to have a “healthy mind, body and soul.”
“I have volunteered at just about every actual wine festival,” said Lisa Morse with CCPS.
Morse also works with the Collier County School District. She sees the need firsthand and also how the foundation helps.
“I consider a good part of my job working with all of our nonprofit partners, particularly a lot of them that are NCEF-funded, to try and solve problems and create solutions,” Morse said. “And I get to share in the needs of the students and the outcomes and successes. That’s great.”
Once the wine has been turned into dollars, it’s distributed through grants to 50 nonprofits across the county.
The Naples Winter Wine Festival’s online auction opened Friday morning at 8 a.m. The auction runs through Feb. 7.
WINK News and Gulfshore Life are co-sponsors of the festival. Next Thursday, you can join WINK anchor Lindsey Sablan at 7 p.m. when she spotlights the year’s theme and takes a closer look at the festival, where the dollars raised go and the children it helps.