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The Heights Foundation/The Heights Center’s 16th Annual Love Your Neighbor Event Raises

Record-Breaking $1,000,000

Event Benefits Families in Harlem Heights

(Fort Myers, Fla. – February 1, 2024) The Heights Foundation/The Heights Center’s 16th annual fundraiser, Love Your Neighbor, on January 23, raised a record $1,000,000 to support the organization that works to build strong, self-sufficient families in The Harlem Heights neighborhood of Fort Myers. The event was held at The Heights Center.

“We were amazed by the outpouring of support by our friends and donors to fund our impactful work,” said Kathryn Kelly, Founder, President and CEO of The Heights Foundation/The Heights Center. “Historically, residents of Harlem Heights were farm workers, and as the farm fields gave way to beautiful neighborhoods, families lost their livelihood and fell into poverty.  Since 2000, we have been here to come alongside families, to meet them where they are, to give them hope. To help them through an emergency so it doesn’t become a crisis. And we continually focus on their children.”

“We believe a decent education allows at-risk kids to meet, challenge, and raise the bar on the world’s narrative of them,” said Kelly. “Our enriching preschool, charter school, afterschool, and summer camp programs ensure parents can work while their kids learn, are safe, and have fun. In addition, our adult and family programs provide opportunities for self-sufficiency. “

Guests enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres by Gloria Jordan of Jordan’s Wine Bar & Cellar and an auction preview by Gina Birch of Sunny 106.3 on the Heights Education Building’s rooftop terrace. Guests then proceeded to The Heights Center auditorium and were greeted by emcee Kellie Burns of NBC-2.

Chef Harold Balink of Harold’s prepared a four-course dinner featuring celeriac, roasted pear, and ricotta amuse, a crab courgette with cucumber and apple gel, mustard-crusted king salmon with mushroom risotto, and zinfandel sauce, and tenderloin wellington, with grilled zucchini, garlic confit, and cabernet reduction. The meal was paired with wines from Mauritson Wines. Norman Love Confections provided dessert, local mango cheesecake, with raspberry sorbetto.

Children from The Heights Center’s education programs entertained the guests with two songs. 

Scott Robertson of Champion Fundraising Auctions conducted the fund-a-need ask and live auction to support the organization’s educational programs. Donors met a $100,000 donation challenge match by Gaye and Jim Pigott, raising more than $640,000. 

Top auction items included a one-of-a-kind necklace featuring a 19 carat Ethiopian Opal created and donated by Mark Loren Designs, in-home dinners by Chef Melissa Donahue of Sweet Melissa’s and Chef Benjamin Voisin of Black Salt Culinary, The Eagles in Chicago, Havana for Eight with Chef Gloria Jordan, and a trip to Tuscany, Italy. In addition, a sign-up dinner at Harold’s with Harold and Gina raised $15,000.

Guests enjoyed live music by Randy and Lori Thomas.   

Event sponsors include Bill and Caroline Bloomhall, Cheryl and Dave Copham, Dede D’Arcy, Tom and Geralyn Donovan, Gaye and Jim Pigott, Cliff and Georganne Williams, everhart advisors, FineMark National Bank & Trust, Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, Owen-Ames-Kimball, RG Architects, The Sanibel Captiva Trust Company, and SKANSKA.

Event supporters include Chef Harold Balink of Harold’s Restaurant, Gloria Jordan of Jordan’s Wine Bar & Cellar, Chef Melissa Donahue of Sweet Melissa’s Café, Chef Benjamin Voisin of Black Salt Culinary, Mark Loren of Mark Loren Designs, Norman Love Confections, Gina Birch of Sunny 106.3, Creative Sound and Lighting, Elly Hagen Marketing & PR, Randy and Lori Thomas, Mix Marketing/Jeannie Cummings, Kellie Burns of NBC-2, Scott Robertson of Champion Fundraising Auctions, R.S. Walsh Landscaping, Floral Artistry, Violette Productions/Photography, events committee, event volunteers, The Heights Foundation/The Heights Center staff, and The Heights Foundation Board of Directors.

For more information about The Heights Foundation/The Heights Center, visit or call (239) 482-7706. To donate, visit

About the Heights Foundation and the Heights Center

The Heights Foundation works to build strong, self-sufficient families in the Harlem Heights neighborhood.   Our mission is to support education and wellness, promote family and community development, and provide the benefits of enrichment and the arts.    The Heights Center, supported by The Heights Foundation, is a place for Education, Opportunity, and Enrichment.   

Heights Early Learning serves more than 85 babies through 4 years old.   The Heights Center serves 163 children in AfterSchool and 153 children in SummerCamp.    The Harlem Heights Community Charter School serves 200 children from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Harlem Heights was originally settled as a rural agricultural community.   Approximately 780 children live in a mixture of single-family homes and multi-family apartments.    Demographically, the population is approximately 70% Hispanic, 20% African-American, and 8% Caucasian.    The poverty rate for children in Harlem Heights is more than twice the county average, with family income 40% below the county average. As a result, families cannot easily access family support services in downtown Fort Myers and benefit greatly from programs within the neighborhood.

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