Marta Howell is nothing if not a team player.
She has been working to knit Boca Grande nonprofits even more closely together ever since she arrived on the job as executive director of the Friends of Boca Grande last year.
And it's working.
The new logo for the bocagrandehappenings.org website, which will go live Oct. 1.
Howell shares how island organizations are working together to maximize scarce resources and avoid wasteful duplication of efforts in this era of lean work forces, what she is looking forward to next season and how Boca Grande can become an even nicer slice of paradise.
QUESTION: Do you remember what you said you wanted to do when you arrived in Boca Grande last year?
ANSWER (From Gasparilla Gazette's files): In these days, where funding is limited, I'll be curious to see how I can help generate support for the community center. From everything I've learned and seen of the BGCC, I'm astounded what they're able to accomplish, really, with so little. I'm also looking forward to getting to know all the many volunteers that help make this all work. I'm also really interested - there are numerous not-for-profit groups in the area - and I'm really interested in finding out how I and the BGCC can work with all of them.
Marta Howell at a glance
Occupation: First executive director for the Boca Grande Community Center in 25 years.
Birthdate: Sept. 24, 1953.
Married: 30 years with twin daughters.
Hometown: Port Huron, Mich.
Residence: Just off Boca Grande
Qualifications: community development professional for numerous not-for-profit organizations with expertise in management.
Education: bachelor's degree in urban planning from Michigan State University.
Q: How is your plan working? Is it working?
A: Last February, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation did a meeting with all the not-for-profits to get together to talk about what we need, how could we help each other? One of the things that came out of the meeting, was, oh my gosh, if we had a community calendar that everybody could use that would be the greatest thing in the world. And I'm sitting in the room thinking, we've (Friends of Boca Grande) already got a community calendar.
Q: What was the matter with your community calendar?
A: What's the matter with it is nobody knows about it. It's buried on our website like it belongs to Friends. So I got together with Sharon McKenzie at the Barrier Island Parks Society and Mary Anne Hastings at the Boca Grande Health Clinic and we kind toyed around with what kind of calendar we wanted. We looked at a whole bunch of different calendars and I discovered the name Boca Grande Happenings had not been taken. Isn't Boca Grande Happenings kind of intuitive?
Q: Yes it is. What was your next step?
A: I quickly bought Bocagrandehappenings.com and Bocagrandehappenings.org so that we could have a community calendar.
Q: How many organizations will list their events on Boca Grande Happenings?
A: Fourteen so far: Art Alliance, BIPS, Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce, Boca Grande Camera Club, Boca Grande Child Care Center, Boca Grande Duplicate Bridge Club, Boca Grande Health Clinic, Boca Grande Historic Preservation Society, Boca Grande Woman's Club, Crowninshield House, Gasparilla Island Community Improvement Association, Island School, Lee County Parks & Recreation and Royal Palm Players. All of the island not-for-profits that have an executive director have been involved in meetings and development.
Q: When will it go live?
A: Oct. 1, just in time for season.
Q: How will it work?
A: It's cool. It will have links that will take you to all the not-for-profits. And they'll all be able to post their own information on it. Everybody has gone through training and we've created a manual on how to use it. It allows you to really market your events.
Q: How interactive is the site's information?
A: You can Tweet it, you can share it, you can do every kind of social media, your Facebook pages and things like that. It's going to be so great for the public. You can do RSS feeds and you can subscribe to it and have the events flowing into your online calendar. I think it feeds 20 events at a time when you subscribe to the feed.
Q: Can you sort the information by event rather than organization?
A: Yes. Oh, let's say I want kids-only information. You can call in all information for kids-only events. Games? We got games. And as the cornerstone here, we have tarpon tournaments for next year already. (Laughs)
Q: Lots of community input on this resource?
A: Yes! I talked with the Boca Grande Camera Club and they are going to provide us pictures so we can keep the site fresh every month.
Q: How can other community organizations help launch this site successfully?
A: What we're hoping is that all of the not-for-profits will put our badge on their website with a link to the calendar. We're hoping the Gasparilla Gazette will put it on their site.
Q: We will. How did the website logo come together?
A: It was a committee process. I would have been happy with just a graphic of Boca Grande Happenings but several people in our group said, no, this artwork of a lightouse and tarpon is iconic to Boca Grande and we have to go there. I think it looks fun and feels like Boca Grande
Q: Are there any rules governing what organizations use your site?
A: It's not a commercial site. If your business is having a sale, you're not going to find out about it here. This is about all of the events that support our volunteer community.
Q: It looks as if you are really pulling Boca Grande organizations together with this.
A: I have always believed it serves no purpose for an organization to work in isolation when there are so many helping hands if you reach out and accept them and not feel as if your own ship has to rise above everybody else's. So I'm all about collaboration.