By Lee Pitts
The mere idea of it. The background of the creation of the new Quality Life Center Way in Fort Myers. For those who are not aware, Cuba Street in Dunbar was recently renamed Quality Life Center Way. This is huge to have a street named for one of the finest youth development programs in the country and the pride of Dunbar which is largest minority community in Southwest Florida.
What you may not know is I am a former board member and swim instructor for QLC long before their building even existed. You may also not know that the naming of QLC Way was an idea sent to me from God.
Here is how it went down. My good friend Abdul'haq Muhammed , executive director, Quality Life Center is always keeping me in the loop on QLC. So, about two years ago, he sent me an artistic rendering of the new look of QLC with the addition of a new building that will be for the teens who have out grown the first building and need their own space to accommodate more teens.
As I was reviewing the rendering on my computer, I was casually trying to figure out which street would the teen center face? Where will the entrance be located: Cuba Street or Dr. M.L. King Blvd? See, the rendering did not have the streets labeled. When Abdul'Haq told me the entrance was on Cuba Street, out of nowhere it hit me that QLC should be on the corner of Dr. M.L. King and QLC Street. This would be perfect as QLC and Dr. King go together perfectly because one of the Q's missions is to transform children and families for the better.
So, I said casually to Abdul'Haq, why don't we get the name of Cuba Street changed to QLC? He thought about it for a second and said ok only if you champion it. You take the lead. Use your goodwill. Now, I had no idea how street name changes worked, but I had seen it done and couldn't think of a better institutions in Dunbar worthy of a street name. Abdul'Haq suggested I contact our good and longtime friend Fort Myers City Councilman Johnny Streets about it.
I got Streets on the phone and immediately he liked the idea and told me the process to do it. This outstanding councilman, a man of the people, said he would take it from here and keep me posted. I was like, this idea from God just might come to a reality. I was still skeptical because I knew how the wheels of politics can turn. So we stayed quiet and let the process work.
Anyway, we chilled for about a year and low and behold Quality Life Center Way was officially named. Councilman Johnny Streets deserves the credit for this historic naming which adds more pride to an underserved community. Quality Life Center deserves praise for being a beacon of hope in Fort Myers that we can rally around and is there for all to benefit. Thanks to all the mayor and city council members for seeing the vision and voting in favor of moving forward with the new name.
Yes, I believe the names of the streets were left off that artistic rendering, in error, for a reason. It was so God would place the idea in my head. So, now when you pass this street remember this story and understand that good things can happen when they are conceived the right way.
Congratulations QLC for all the good you have done in our community for almost 30 years.
Long live the “Q”!
The launch of “Shades of Pink” was to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month on Saturday October 5, in collaboration with Partners for Breast Cancer Care, Inc. at Miromar Outlets. It was to be a part of breaking the record of forming the largest “Human Pink Ribbon” by holding identical pink umbrellas.
The 2019 record breaking event kicked off with the largest group of African American Women to ever participate in Southwest Florida formation of the “Human Pink Ribbon”.
“Shades of Pink” organizer, Toya Felston, felt it was neccessary to invite ladies of color to bring some inclusion and diversity to this year's event and make of all the ladies aware of the resources available for Breast Health. Another goal was to show that representation matters.
The group is looking forward to 2020 to bring more awareness and resources to women of color in the fight against breast cancer
The Human Pink Ribbon and all donations from the Shades of Pink Ladies benefited Partners for Breast Cancer Care, Inc.
Lee Pitts pondered the architect’s rendering of Quality Life Center’s building expansion project. He was sitting down with Abdul’Haq Muhammed, the executive director of the Q, discussing the wait list and the need for the teens to have their own – and more – space. The streets weren’t labeled on the drawing. Trying to figure out where the new Teen Center would face, it struck him: Quality Life Center should be on the corner of Dr. ML King and QLC Street. As Lee wrote, “This would be perfect as QLC and Dr. King go together perfectly because one of the Q's missions is to transform children and families for the better.”
A few phone calls, a bit of advocacy, some heavy lifting by Fort Myers City Councilman Johnny Streets, it happened. The City Council voted to rename Cuba Street to Quality Life Center Way to honor the Q's work in the community over the last 29 years. The new signs went up, and a renaming ceremony took place with Councilman Streets, Q leaders, parents, children and community members on October 7, 2019, nearly 29 years to the day after Quality Life Center started providing programs for underserved youth in Fort Myers.
The official opening of the Teen Center for Leadership Development took place November 1st during Quality Life Center’s annual gala. And it happened right there on the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard and Quality Life Center Way..
Photos by Jacquie Matthews Williams.
Jubilee Brainerd, Senior Librarian and Branch Manager of the Dunbar Jupiter Hammon Library, will turn in her keys and enter the world of rest and relaxation as a retiree, effective Saturday, November. 9, 2019.
Born in Rotifunk, Sierra Leone, West Africa, Jubilee came to the USA in 1970 to pursue her Bachelors in English at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, VA. From Norfolk, she attended Atlanta University, obtained her master’s in library science and later hired as the Dunbar Jupiter Hammon Branch Manager, where she has been for the past 14 years. She has also held positions with the Maryland Department of Education Correctional Library and the Boston Library in Massachusetts.
Jubilee said, "I came to Fort Myers not knowing anyone, but because of the friendliness and support I received from the community, I now consider it my second home."
Jubilee Brainerd is a U.S. citizen, but has always supported her homeland. For over ten years, she has given much of her resources to help build a refuge for young girls in Sierra Leone, West Africa, protecting them from the worst cases of violence perpetrated on females. Because of her generosity, the school located in Sierra Leone, is named The Jubilee Preparatory School for Girls.
When asked about future plans, Jubilee says, she will travel to Sierra Leone, to spend time with her family and return to Fort Myers. She is married to Theo Brainerd and they have a daughter, Jasmine Brainerd.
We celebrate Jubilee and wish her well as she retires and enters the next phase of her life. Enjoy!
Closing in on the end of my first year as a member and chair of the School Board of Lee County, there have been victories, disappointments, happiness, and sadness all for the love of the children of Lee County. I feel I would be somewhat premature to do my review of my first year before it is actually completed, so I will save that for my next article.
The School Board has been an interesting and challenging place in the last few months. We have been involved with budgets, attorney appointment decisions, board auditor decisions, employment issues, and trainings regarding diversity and inclusion, strategic planning, finance, team branding and much more.
The plan that guides our daily work is the Strategic Plan, Envision 2030. It is the map for completing our goal “to ensure that each student achieves his/her highest potential.” We have instituted a plan that involves everyone, including Board members. We each have a segment of the plan that we work on with staff, the community, and all stakeholders. This process gives all board members a specific, focused way to help reach our goals.
How can YOU help us help children? There are four major areas we are addressing:
• College/Career Academies – We need to prepare our students for their best futures. That future could be college or directly into a career. We are working with colleges and universities to make sure we are properly preparing our students for success.
◦ How Can You Help? We need mentors in the areas our students want to pursue. Are you a business owner or a retiree? Would you like to volunteer your time and expertise? Give back to students and the future of our community.
• Pre K/Early Childhood – Our standing with early childhood learning is one of the lowest in the state. We must improve in this area or we are setting up so many of our students for struggles in their educations.
◦ How Can You Help? Invite our team to your church, event, or community group so we can spread the word. Think about ways you can help preschoolers be ready for success in kindergarten and beyond. Check the district website www.leeschools.net or call the district office.
• Community Engagement – We are working on developing a business incubator program, and before and after school programs, and we want to amplify the community voice in education.
◦ How Can You Help? Attend a board meeting and learn and speak about community issues and collaborative suggestions. Attend the School Advisory Council (SAC) meetings at local schools to find out what is happening and how you can help. Contact your school board representative. There are opportunities listed on www.leeschools.net.
• Proximity Program - We have staff continually working on long-range proximity-based school assignment. How can we improve transportation issues, get students closer to where they live, hire more drivers, and continue to improve our service to the community?
◦ How Can You Help? Follow our progress, offer suggestions, and spread the word that we need drivers. Be mindful of your driving habits during school bus drive times.
Never forget that it really does take the entire village to raise a child. All of us together can ensure that all students achieve their highest potentials.
Antoine Williams has joined the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) as Assistant Director. Antoine is a Fort Myers native, and previous to joining the Fort Myers CRA was employed with the Miami’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA), where his principal focus was on providing leadership in the areas of small business development and retention. In similar scope, Antoine will be involved in all facets of the organization including policymaking, project management, budgeting, planning, personnel management, and public relations.
His achievements while with the Miami DDA included:
* Spearheaded a 3-month strategic business outreach and retention campaign with the Small Business Development Center at Florida International University that produced the following results: 16 new jobs; 2 new business launches; and $670,000 increased revenue and $150K secured commercial contracts for participating businesses
* Authored recommendations report helping streamline the permitting process for City of Miami
* Handled site-selection and permitting services in Miami DDA’s recruitment of 500 Startups, a $400M venture fund founded in Silicon Valley
* Nominated to Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Miami XL
With nearly 16 years’ experience, the breadth of Antoine’s broad career experiences has allowed him to rapidly join our CRA team as a valued asset and administrator.
About the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA)
The Fort Myers CRA was created in 1984 by the City of Fort Myers, Florida, under Florida Statute Chapter 163, to formulate a plan and strategy for the revitalization of the downtown River District. The Fort Myers CRA has continued to grow, and redevelopment areas have been added throughout the city.
Today, the Agency oversees 12 different redevelopment areas within the Fort Myers city limits. The Fort Myers CRA, along with the City’s Community Development Division, prepares plans for the revitalization of each area and coordinates the implementation of the plan’s recommendations. Tax Increment Funds (TIF) generated by each area, combined with other funding sources, are used to upgrade the public infrastructure and to stimulate redevelopment in the same area where it was generated. The Fort Myers City Council members, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, oversee the Agency’s divisions and their operations. The office of the Fort Myers CRA is located at 1400 Jackson Street in the City of Fort Myers’s Downtown River District. Contact: 239-321-7100