A number of children in Southwest Florida will have a Christmas present to open this year thanks to the generosity of the Southwest Florida Yacht Club members.
Members were asked in advance to bring unwrapped toys to the club's monthly meeting, which was held Monday night at Palmetto Pine Country Club, and donated to the U.S. Marine Corps Toys For Tots campaign.
"We got flooded," said SFYC member Rich Weiner. "We filled four large plastic bags of toys, plus someone donated a bicycle and I was told there were a couple of antique dolls in there."
Weiner and several other members delivered the collection to the Sea\\Tow office on Del Prado Boulevard Wednesday, which is serving as a collection site for the Toys For Tots drive associated with Cape Coral's Holiday Boat-A-Long this weekend.
With 80 percent of its membership residing in Cape Coral, SFYC will celebrate its second anniversary next month and move into a building with 45 yacht slips near the Edison Ford Estate in Fort Myers. The club was founded in January 2012 by three friends who wanted to strike out on their own.
"We had been cruising together for a while," said Weiner. "Everyone just wanted to maintain our friendships. Once we incorporated we joined the Yachting Club of America, which gives our members reciprocity access to slip space at 85 yacht clubs in Florida and more than 750 nationwide."
The club soon grew to 23 members and now stands at 298.
"We kind of knew each other from doing a lot of cruising in the past," said Weiner. "It was all by word of mouth. We didn't go out and advertise for members. There are some new people, too. We got one member from Cape Harbour, they told their friends, and now we have several from Cape Harbour. We've opened up our membership and expect it to keep growing."
The club just elected new officers that will be installed at the January monthly meeting. Gary Tapken is the new commodore, replacing Terri Natale; the new vice commodore is Jim McKinley; fleet captain Kris Weiner; read commodore Chris Burger; treasurer Len Zych; recording secretary Jo Nelle Schrapper; financial secretary Barbara Greco; directors Kay Smith and Pete Partilo; and Rich Weiner is the club's webmaster. The club's website is www.southwestfloridayachtclub.com.
The Toys for Tots campaign is not the club's only charitable function of the year. SFYC is conducting a fundraiser on Feb. 28 at the Burroughs House in Fort Myers called Downton Abbey, which consists of a dinner and entertainment. Proceeds from the event will benefit Uncommon Friends.
The club stages up to four cruising events each month ranging from two days to a few longer ones that last two weeks. The initiation fee for membership is $300 with annual dues at $200, which covers two people.