Growing Our Scholarships–The Kai Fuhrmann College Scholarship Focuses on Cape Students

Kai Fuhrmann was extremely dedicated to helping area youth to achieve success in school and on the soccer field.

Our Community Foundation has at least a dozen scholarships available to students seeking higher education. Behind each scholarship is a story of passion, not only for our youth, but also for the precious gift that education can provide. Kai Fuhrmann, who passed away from cancer in 2011, embodied this spirit of giving.

Kai not only believed in the power of education, but he also put it to practice through mentoring high school students and through volunteering as a soccer coach for the Cape Coral Soccer Association. Both of Kai’s daughters, Kari and Kelly, played under his guidance.

Kai graduated from the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany as a Diploma Engineer specializing in Architecture. He relocated to Miami and became a registered Architect. In 1998, Kai, his wife and two daughters moved to Cape Coral, where he worked as a registered Architect and Certified Building Contractor as Vice President of HKS, Inc.

“When it came to education, Kai’s motto was that there is no option for failure,” recalls Kai’s wife Donna Fuhrmann. “Education always came first in our house.”

For his daughters, that meant taking homework on soccer trips, taking time to study before competing on the field. Donna is convinced that Kai was able to fight colon cancer for an unprecedented 10 years because he absolutely wanted to see his daughters finish high school and go off to college.

Both girls attended Ida Baker High School in the Cape. 27-year old Kari excelled in college, graduating from the University of Tampa with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, working as an adjunct professor at Hillsborough Community College and also working at the University of South Florida.

Kelly, now 24, played varsity soccer for all four years at Ida Baker High School and earned an academic and athletic scholarship to Wingate University in North Carolina as a result of her hard work. She is now almost finished studying for her Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

The Fuhrmann Scholarship fund awarded its first $500 scholarship in 2012, upping its generosity to give scholarships to two students in 2015 and one in 2016. One key component of the application process asks Cape Coral high school students to write an essay describing a hardship that the student has faced and how they worked to overcome the difficulty. The deadline to apply for this scholarship is April 1st.

Donations to help grow this important fund are also encouraged.

For more information and to apply for the Kai Fuhrmann scholarship, visit:

To contribute to the Kai Fuhrmann scholarship fund to help in making more scholarships possible, go to: Once on this page, click on the arrow at the far right under “Donations to Endowed Funds” and select Kai Fuhrmann College Scholarship Fund from the drop-down menu. Then enter the donation amount, your email address and any special instructions before making payment. Checks to this scholarship fund are also welcome, care of Cape Coral Community Foundation, 1405 SE 47 St., Unit 2, Cape Coral, FL 33904. Questions? Call 239.542.5594.

To see an overview of scholarships available through our Foundation, visit:

It has been a pleasure serving you with occasional posts about some of the remarkable people, projects and events that make the Cape Coral Community Foundation extraordinary.  It is inspiring and exciting to see what is possible when generous and compassionate souls unite.

With gratitude,

MerriBeth Farnham

Learning Character Along with ABC’s

Growing Self-Esteem

Pegler spends time teaching in classrooms throughout our region.

Pegler spends time teaching in classrooms throughout our region.

Recently, our Foundation awarded the Learning for Life program with a $3,000 grant to help bring their character-building education program to more schools and students throughout Cape Coral.

This program provides resources and materials to support educators and counselors in teaching students to build character–to learn to respect themselves and others. In addition to the core confidence building classes, the program supports tolerance, anti-bullying and substance abuse prevention.

For Program Director Tina Pegler, becoming involved with the Learning For Life Program felt like a natural progression, a way to change a corner of the world that she found especially challenging in her own youth. Pegler lost her mom when she was 8-years-old and found herself caught on the bad end of a Cinderella story when her dad remarried the following year. The marriage lasted just six years and was filled with arguments and angry words. As if this wasn’t enough, Pegler’s brother was then killed in a drug-related tragedy.

Today, Pegler works to give children the kind of confidence-boosting childhood messages she wished that she had experienced – that everyone is different (and that is beautiful) – that it’s what your character is on the inside that counts.

She started the Southwest Florida chapter of this national program nearly 13 years ago. “I don’t think of this as a career, but as what I need to do in life to help children who went through what I went through as a young girl growing up,” said Pegler. “It is beautiful to see the self-esteem in these kids as it begins to emerge.”

The program offers age appropriate materials for students from kindergarten through high school, with a new online component for 8th to 12 graders. The goal is to make this program available in all schools, but, so far, there just haven’t been enough funds to make this possible.

I’m happy to see that donations like ours are truly having an impact. This became especially clear to me in a story Pegler shared about a young boy with braces on his legs who was getting ready to perform in their annual talent show. The boy had problems with the microphone just as he was getting ready to sing. His dad, who was watching from the front row, began to rush forward to help his special needs child when the boy stopped him. “No, Daddy,” he said. “I’ve got this.” The boy then fixed himself up and sang a song that “blew the roof off” the school where they were performing. He received a standing ovation.

That young boy demonstrated courage, self-esteem and self-control. While my kids will tell you that I’m a big proponent of good grades, I can’t think of a better foundation for anyone who wants to build a strong and happy life.

To learn more, visit:

Our Chance to Go ‘Dancing with the Dolphins’

–Cape Coral’s First Public Arts Project

IMG_4307This giant dolphin statue greeted me as I walked into the city’s public works building this week—the first statue of what will hopefully become a whole pod of colorful dolphins spread across Cape Coral over the next two years.

It’s all part of our city’s first public arts project with proceeds going to the Cape Coral Art League as it celebrates its 50th Anniversary. “As the Cape Coral Art League turns 50, we want to create a big celebration, not only to raise funds for things like a new roof, but to recognize local artists and how much we value having the arts as a backbone in our community,” says Suzanne Sims, Art League President.

“Dancing with the Dolphins” is modeled after “Cows on Parade”, a popular public exhibit that took place in Chicago in 1999. Closer to home, the City of Venice recently celebrated its arts through “Sea Venice”, featuring statues of sea turtles. In both instances, the statues became a popular draw for tourists.

Each dolphin stands 62” tall and weighs in at 65 pounds. Local artists, in partnership with “dolphin” sponsors, will create unique designs for each fiberglass fish, with a goal to design at least 20 dolphins. The statues will appear in approved locations throughout the city and will be featured at a number of city events.

Each artist will be paid $600 to paint or embellish one sculpture, and new artists can still participate. To date, local talent has submitted 25 designs. Sponsors can pick a design, pick an artist to work with on a new design or bring in their own designer to create a unique dolphin masterpiece that truly represents the sponsor.

Sponsorships come in two flavors:

1) $2,000 allows you to claim a dolphin for two years, at which time it will then be auctioned off, or
2) $5,000 allows you to buy a dolphin outright that will be yours forever.

The first sponsor to step forward was Kindness Animal Hospital—which explains why this brightly colored dolphin is adorned with so many small animals. “One of our veterinarians, Arlene Salcedo, is a member of the Cape Coral Art League,” says Kindness Hospital Administrator Linda Morris. “So, for us, sponsoring a dolphin was a perfect fit.”

Another statue will stand proudly near the Big Johns parking lot—a joint venture between two retailers: Razzle Dazzle and John Michaels Diamond and Jewelry Studio. You can be sure that dolphin will be adorned with jewelry and clothes befitting its ‘flashy’ sponsors.

Money raised will go into an endowment set up at our Community Foundation, and our board is also excited to be a Dolphin Sponsor. I’m intrigued to see how the essence of our Cape Coral loving Foundation is captured as dolphin art. Wouldn’t it be fun if we had enough dolphins to create a visitor’s dolphin guide for Cape Coral?

At least two of the decorated statues will be on display this weekend at:

Cape Coral Art League 2016 Annual Art Fair
This Saturday and Sunday, January 30th and 31st
516 Cultural Park Boulevard
Cape Coral Florida

If you are interested in becoming a statue sponsor, you are welcome to call or email the Cape Coral Art League. Artists interested in participating can visit the website to learn more.


For me, any action that I can take to help grow our cultural community is positive. My Mother is an artist; my children show artistic talent and creativity is something I treasure. For Cape Coral, I believe the arts represent a chance to grow in a direction that would be both wise and fulfilling. Hope you make this weekend’s show! Let me leave you with this quote from President Lyndon Johnson, on signing the National Endowment of the Arts into existence:

“Art is a nation’s most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves and to others the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.”
–Lyndon Johnson

25th Season for Holiday Giving at Cape Coral Caring Center

Volunteers with the Cape Coral Caring Center gave away 92 tons of food last year to help 5,400 families.

Volunteers with the Cape Coral Caring Center gave away 92 tons of food last year to help 5,400 families.

During this holiday season, my thoughts turn to those who, for whatever reason, aren’t quite able to make ends meet, to bring enough food to the table or to provide wished-for gifts for their children. This can be heart breaking for parents who are working to make for a better life.

That’s one reason that I’ve come to love the Cape Coral Caring Center. The Caring Center is celebrating its 25th year in business, which has included a partnership with our Cape Coral Community Foundation from day one.

“We are so blessed to have such a wonderful organization serving those in in need in our community,” says Cape Coral Community Foundation Executive Director Beth Sanger. “The Caring Center is very resourceful, accomplishing a great deal with limited dollars.”

Julie Ferguson has been with the Caring Center for 15 years, the last three as the Executive Director. Counting her, the Caring Center operates with an official staff of just three people, supported by more than 100 generous volunteers from our community.

“These incredible volunteers allow us to keep our overhead costs very low so that donations go right where they are needed,” says Ferguson. “Our philosophy is to give people a significant amount of food so that families have breathing room, a little time to get out of the emergency mode.”

While the Caring Center has given out close to 500 holiday dinners with turkeys and hams so far this season, that’s just the beginning. The Cape Coral Caring Center:

  • Provided food to over 12,000 people in fiscal year 2015
  • In summer months when students do not have access to the school system’s free breakfast or lunch program, the Center is its busiest, providing families with healthy, easy to prepare meals
  • Helped 200 families to pay their electric bills
  • Provided hundreds of holiday toys for children
  • Provided free unlimited 31-day bus passes for active job seekers.

Ferguson smiles as she shares the story of a man who took advantage of the free bus pass, found a job, and was quickly promoted to management level at his new company.

It’s those kind of stories that spark a fierce determination to build an even stronger community center. Recently, the Cape Coral Caring Center went into negotiations for a building that Ferguson hopes can be turned into a full fledged job center, partnering with Goodwill and others to provide training, help job seekers to prepare resumes and learn how to interview effectively.

“I’d love to have ten computer stations where people can learn to use the computer,” says Ferguson. “I’d also like to provide breakfast and lunch in addition to our food pantry.”

Can you think of a better holiday gift than a “hand-up” to a better life? I can’t. It will be exciting to see what happens in the year ahead.

But for today, the Center is looking for turkey and ham donations, as well as stuffing, cranberry sauce, fresh produce and, of course, peanut butter and jelly.

Donations can be brought in during the hours between 9:00 a.m. and noon Monday-Friday at: 4645 SE 15 Avenue, Cape Coral.


ECHO Global Farms — Reducing Hunger, Improving Lives, Worldwide

IMG_ECHOSIGNAt ECHO’s global farm and research center in North Fort Myers, some incredible leaps are being made in their mission to reduce hunger and improve lives worldwide. Just as the proverb states, the farm is all about education and providing seeds at Impact Centers in several countries. “Our big impact is the ability to bless people with intellectual resources so they can learn to produce a harvest of their own,” says Donor Services Manager Ali Diaz. “The heirloom seeds we give them will continue to produce new seeds and crops each year.”

The farm itself is an inspiring experiment in agriculture, testing a wide variety of approaches to growing sustainable, edible crops within the smallest footprint possible on flatlands and hillsides, in tropical, semi-arid and urban settings.

Monstera Deliciosa

Monstera Deliciosa

If you haven’t had the opportunity to take a tour, you should. Our guide/intern helped us to sample cranberry hibiscus and katuk leaves, leafy greens that work well in a salad. (But no salad I’ve ever enjoyed before—quite tasty.) We snacked on dwarf Barbados cherries and learned that the fruit produced by the tropical Monstera plant tastes like part pineapple, part banana.

But the real reason for my visit was to understand ECHO’s local work and how our Cape Coral Community Foundation is having its own impact through continued grant giving to the Echo Community Gardening Initiative in Cape Coral. The Initiative allows ECHO to dedicate a full-time intern to assist organizations in establishing and caring for community gardens of their own.

–Last year, ECHO partnered with Cape Coral High School to help in the design of a 600 sq. ft. Bella Verde Farms school garden. This garden not only educates students about food and hunger, but also allows them to take home some of the harvest.

–ECHO taught a high school team of students how to make biochar and kiln designs.

moringa leaves–ECHO helped Grace United Methodist Church to create a community garden, and is actively working with Cape Coral Christian Fellowship to plan a garden and plant Moringa trees on the church property. Moringa is sometimes called a miracle tree because its leaves contain seven times more Vitamin C than oranges, three times more iron than spinach, three times more potassium than bananas, four times more Vitamin A than carrots and four times more calcium than milk.

–ECHO farm produce goes out weekly to the Community Cooperative Ministries Inc. (CCMI) group for food distribution to those in need throughout Cape Coral. ECHO also helps the CCMI to manage its own gardens.

The idea is to encourage more community gardens in Cape Coral by providing a knowledgeable, hands-on guide to take groups through the entire process.

“Community gardens have become part of a national movement,” adds Diaz. “I especially love to see school children get involved because the more excited they are about their garden, the more interested they will be in eating the fresh vegetables that land on their plate.”

Non-profits, schools, churches and neighborhood organizations are all ideal candidates to become community gardening partners with ECHO.

To learn more about starting a community garden, visit the Resources section of their website at to download their comprehensive Community Garden Toolkit. Farm tours are $10, and are offered at 10 a.m. Tuesdays, Fridays & Saturdays through November and more frequently in December through March. Plan to spend about an hour and a half on site.  If you would like to contribute to the Community Garden Initiative of Cape Coral, click on the Donate button from our home page and note “ECHO Community Garden” where it asks for the donation purpose.

Echo Global Farms
17391 Durrance Road
North Fort Myers

Example of a local community garden designed with the help of ECHO

Example of a local community garden designed with the help of ECHO