ABWA Sanibel Captiva Charter Chapter

Sanibel Captiva Charter Chapter - Professional Development & Networking

The Event Leadership Sponsor Sanibel Captiva Community Bank Team

ABWA Sanibel Captiva Celebrates 40 Years with '70's Gala

The American Business Women’s Association celebrated 40 years with a Back to the 70's Gala at Sundial Beach Resort & Spa. Sanibel Captiva Community Bank was a Leadership Sponsor of the event and was represented by Gaby Bell, Mona Strasser, Kirk Williams, Melissa Stolt, Lynn Hoops, Rodd Bell, Lisa Williams, and Sheri Prange.

“With the support of Sanibel Captiva Community Bank, we are delighted to be able to bring back our local continuing education scholarship initiative ,” said ABWA Officer Mary Bondurant of Kingfisher Real Estate. “The gala commemorates forty years of progress for business women on the islands. All proceeds will go to supporting our mission.”

"This event signals the exciting beginning of the next 40 years." said Gloria Garrett of HMG, chapter President. "We expect innovation to drive the chapter's future growth, but always in concert with our goals to provide the best professional development opportunities and networking for women working on the islands."



Join us June 25th at the Women in Leadership Speaker Series. Networking at Sundial Beach Resort & Spa  starts at 11:30 followed by lunch and the speaker from noon - 1:00 pm. Everyone is invited to participate,  members and non-members alike.

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About Us


ABWA is the place to connect, learn, and grow!

The Mission of the American Business Women's Association is to bring together businesswomen of diverse occupations and to provide opportunities for them to help themselves and others grow personally and professionally through leadership, education, networking support, and national recognition. 


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To celebrate 40 years as a chapter, in  August 2018 we launched a 24-month Women in Leadership Speaker Series.  The whole community, women and men alike, are welcome to join in the discussion with women leaders making a difference on the islands.  Date: The 4th Tuesday of each month, except third Tuesdays in Sept, Nov and Dec.  Time: Networking starts at 11:30 am, with lunch, speaker, and discussion noon - 1:00 pm for $25.  Location: Sundial Beach Resort & Spa, 1451 Middle Gulf Dr, Sanibel, 33957.  Register:  https://ABWASanibelCaptiva.Eventbrite.com


NEW THIS YEAR! ABWA Connections After Hours


Connections After Hours is an exciting new program! Watch for announcements! We had "Appy Hour, discussing networking apps while enjoying appetizers and more. Upcoming events will range from a sunset cruise to poolside pizza. It's good times with good people...after hours!

ABWA offers professional development, networking, education, and recognition opportunities to women who live, work or play on the islands near Ft Myers, Florida. Learn more about us on this website and find our activities at https://ABWASanibelCaptiva.Eventbrite.com





The community is welcome to join us June 25th for the Women in Leadership Speaker Series featuring Beth Oliver, Director of Marketing at Offshore Sailing School (R), popular at  Captiva's  South Seas Island Resort and throughout the Florida Gulf Cost and Caribbean.  “It’s important that trials and tribulations do not define our careers,” said Oliver.  “One can wait for something to happen, or one can choose to make something happen.” 

Networking starts at 11:30 am, with lunch, speaker, and discussion noon - 1:00 pm. Charge for  lunch: $25.  Location: Sundial Beach Resort & Spa, 1451 Middle Gulf Dr, Sanibel, 33957.  Register:  https://ABWASanibelCaptiva.Eventbrite.



Would you like to participate in chapter administration?  All members are welcome to attend or call in to the monthly Executive Board Meetings. We meet during lunch at the Sanibel Captiva Community Bank conference room at  2475 Library Way on Sanibel. If you prefer to call in, call the Bank's main line at 239-472-6100 and request the conference room speaker phone.

On June 13th, the meeting is noon - 1:00 pm with informal discussion until 2:00pm. Topics include July Meeting Chapter Appreciation Awards and the Best Practices 2018-2019 wrap up. Next meeting is August  at noon.



 Everyone is welcome to join ABWA for lunch July 23rd for a discussion with Emile Alfino, Executive Director of the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village. The Museum was founded in 1984 with a mission to preserve and share Sanibel history. The story of Sanibel is told from the Calusa and Spanish eras to the early pioneer families who settled on the island in the 1800s. It tells of warriors, adventures, fishermen, farmers and proprietors. Networking starts at 11:30 am, with lunch, speaker, and discussion noon - 1:00 pm. Charge for  lunch: $25.  Location: Sundial Beach Resort & Spa, 1451 Middle Gulf Dr, Sanibel, 33957.  Register:  https://ABWASanibelCaptiva.Eventbrite.


Gloria Garrett, President


GLORIA GARRETT is a newcomer to ABWA and is delighted to bring her corporate and consulting experience to the Sanibel Captiva Charter Chapter as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. Gloria believes the exceptional concentration of women in leadership on the islands makes it an ideal location for ABWA to thrive. Gloria runs HMG, a company that specializes in helping small businesses innovate and grow.

Kira Dworkin, Vice President


KIRA DWORKIN brings four years ABWA experience to the Executive Board. Kira is the creative and entrepreneurial engine of the leadership team. She owns KMGems, is a professional jewelry designer by trade and performance artist by training. Kira will drive the efforts of the Sanibel Captiva Charter Chapter towards, growth, best practices, and new ideas to keep the chapter energized as it enters the next phase.

Gabriela Bell, Treasurer


GABRIELA (GABY) BELL, is the Sanibel Captiva Charter Chapter Woman of the Year.  Gaby agreed to serve a second term as Treasurer this year, making it her second year in an ABWA Executive Board position. Gaby is a three year member of ABWA and is quickly making a mark on the chapter’s future. A resident of Sanibel Island, Gaby is Assistant Manager at the Sanibel Captiva Community Bank.  

Mary Bondurant, Secretary


MARY BONDURANT celebrates her 10th year with ABWA and fourth year serving on the Sanibel Captiva Charter Chapter Executive Board. Mary is a multiple year Past President, a Past Woman of the Year and a Top Ten Candidate. Mary is well known and highly regarded in our region, and has been a candidate for regional office. Mary is a 22 year resident of Sanibel Island, is President- Elect of the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce, and leads the Bondurant Realty Group at Kingfisher Real Estate.

Sanibel Captiva Charter Chapter Mission and Goals


The Chapter Vision is to inspire all business women on the islands and all within our network to learn, grow, and make a lifetime of new  connections. 

The 2018-2019 Chapter Goals are to present a premier Women in Leadership Speaker Series and offer the highest quality professional women's networking on the islands.  

The chapter adheres to the National ABWA  proud code of conduct and core values.




NANCY BARNES  was an early advocate for business women on Sanibel, first joining ABWA in 1984. Nancy served as chapter President twice, won Woman of the Year, and has held countless leadership roles over a 35-year association with ABWA. Today Nancy chairs the History Committee. Nancy and  husband Ed ran Sanibel Island Graphics for decades, and Nancy continues working  part-time with the new owners of Arthur Printing. 

Chapter News



The Sanibel-Captiva ABWA Chapter Women’s History Month logo honors the memory of recent president Gail DeHaan Garland, and showcases ten year plus members Lisa Cochrane-Newmeyer of Dorado Property Management, Nancy Barnes of Arthur Printing, Rose Byrne of Sundial Beach Resort & Spa, Mary Bondurant of Kingfisher Real Estate and Julie DeBord of Kennedy Construction

click here for more on women's history month



ABWA installed nine new local members at the February meeting. “We are delighted to welcome this remarkable group of strong, smart and capable women to our chapter,” said Membership Chair Lisa Newmeyer-Cochrane of Dorado Property Management. “We expect to see ABWA leadership spring from this group!”  

  “If you work, would like to work or used to work, you will find a lively conversation with island leaders on relevant local topics at ABWA."  says Gloria Garrett of HMG, chapter president.

“Those interested in chapter governance are warmly encouraged to consider membership, but everyone is welcome to participate in lunches with US on 4th Tuesdays at Sundial."



ABWA Chapter 2018 Woman of the Year Winner, Gaby Bell, spoke at the Southwest Florida ABWA Council Woman of the Year Luncheon in February. The program recognizes leadership supporting women's professional development in the five-county Council area.

“Gaby is a major force in the progress of ABWA on the islands,” said Gloria Garrett, local chapter President. “She encourages participation across the community, sponsors new members and has played a critical role as treasurer for two years. Yet, she spoke movingly about  how ABWA has supported her," continued Garrett. "She inspired the entire gathering with her comments."

Chapter Milestones

ABWA Sanibel-Captiva Celebrates Women's History Month at the Sanibel Public Library



Gala Leadership Sponsor Pinocchio's Original Ice Cream Ran a 70's Style Ice Cream Stand at the Event


Click this Photo to See the Facebook 70's Photo Gallery


Chapter Receives 40th Anniverssary Proclamation from Sanibel Mayor


2018-2019 Professional Develolopment Programs

May 28 - Alicia Tighe, Executive Director F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva "Neighbors Helping Neighbors"

At the May 28th meeting, Alicia Tighe, new Executive Director at F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva, affirmed that people and the policies that serve them are more important than politics in her presentation “Doing the Right Thing." 

Tighe shared what she learned from ten years on Senator Bill Nelson’s team and why she was delighted to join F.I.S.H. last January. “It all comes down to people,” said Tighe. “In Washington D.C. I learned to work for those who voted for us, those who voted against us, and those who did not vote at all. It’s public service over politics.”

Tighe urged us to stay engaged in public policy discussions despite the turmoil of politics. “I believe it’s not healthy to live without talking to people with diverse opinions,” said Tighe. “We don’t always have to agree on politics, but we do need to be advocates together for policy that serves people.”

“The community is welcome to participate as a beneficiary of our services, a donor or volunteer," said Tighe. "In the summer we go from 200 active volunteers to 50, so right now we can use everyone’s help – even one day per week or one day every other week would make a difference.”

Maggi Feiner, F.I.S.H. President and CEO, participated in the meeting and praised Tighe’s impact on F.I.S.H. “Alicia is a great addition to the team,” said Feiner. “Thanks to Alicia, I have been able to take my first vacation in ten years.”

April 23 - Melissa Donahue, Award Winning Executive Chef at Sweet Melissa's Cafe

At the April 23rd meeting, Melissa Donahue, Award Winning Executive Chef at Sweet Melissa’s Cafe presented “Conversations with Melissa – Sweet, Savory and Skillful” and engaged the American Business Women’s Association in a lively discussion. 

Donahue shared the steps to her success as a James Beard Award Semifinalist, emphasizing hard work and what she learned from others along the way.

“Women who have built a career are responsible for mentoring younger women coming up,” said Donahue, noting that women are still fighting for equal footing in many professions. “In the culinary industry today, only 20% of kitchens are run by women,” she continued.

“As a younger woman, be a sponge,” urged Donahue. “Ask. Learn. Take advantage of women who want to share knowledge.” Donahue had the opportunity to build her career in high profile restaurants, including the Union Square Café in Manhattan and the Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, but never stopped seeking to learn and always brought commitment to the job.

Donahue emphasized that learning can take you out of your comfort zone. She admitted that in order to represent her brand, she had to learn to find her voice as a public speaker. “Find your passion and work hard for it,” Donahue recommended. “If you’re not growing, why do it?”

March 26 - Robin Cook, Executive Vice President, The Sanibel Captiva Trust Company

At the March 26 meeting, ABWA member Robin Cook, EVP at The Sanibel Captiva Trust Company presented “Don’t Get Caught in the Dark!"  Cook highlighted the importance of financial planning for all ages, engaging the group is discussion of common pitfalls and solutions.

“Estate planning is a woman’s issue; be active in your financial life.” urged Cook. “The average age a married woman is widowed in the US in 56.  We all need to know the vital steps to take now to feel confident when it’s time to pass the baton,” Cook continued. 

Cook listed 42 essential documents everyone should assemble. “The most important item is your list of trusted advisers,” said Cook. The list of ten Cook reviewed includes your investment adviser, estate attorney, accountant, executor, banker and insurance agent.

Cook discussed issues effecting us at all ages of life, covering the best way to handle student loans, the importance of starting financial planning in your 20’s, and the goal of saving 20% annually for retirement. 

Cook hails from Wisconsin and began vacationing regularly here as a child. “Robin approaches these serious financial planning issues with mid-western common sense, incorporating a lighthearted tone that had us laughing,” said Gloria Garrett of HMG, ABWA president. 

February 26 - Birgie Miller, Executive Director, Ding Darling Wildlife Society

 At the February 26 meeting, Birgie Miller, Executive Director, “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society – Friends of the Refuge discussed "How the Power of Philanthropy Shapes Us", highlighting the impact on our lives, careers and communities of being a power for good. “Of the $400 billion given in the US in 2018, 87% came from individuals,” said Miller. “America is built on people helping one another and making a difference through philanthropy.”

Miller highlighted reasons generous investments in good have transformed America and become part of the American way of life. “Giving defines an inclusive community,” Miller continued, referencing the ongoing and pressing activities on Sanibel and Captiva that shape the community for the better. The current Wildlife Society priority is the Wulfert Bayous project, targeted to conserve and restore the largest unprotected property on Sanibel. 

Miller was joined by Toni Westland, Supervisory Refuge Ranger and liaison to the Wildlife Society. “The Wulfert Bayous project will protect water quality, benefit up to 70 species of birds, and provide amazing visitor opportunities,” said Westland. “Hopefully, one day, we can add trails and get people out onto the property.”

“Giving is magic,” said Miller with a smile. “Brain research shows that giving triggers the pleasure response in the brain, reducing stress and increasing longevity. Ultimately, giving is like eating chocolate cake

2018-2019 Professional Development Programs (continued)

Jan 22nd - Kay Casperson, Founder, CEO, Author & Lifestyle Expert

At the January 22 meeting, Kay Casperson, Founder and CEO of BeautifuLife, delivered an inspiring message on “Simple Steps to Living Your Most Beautiful Life Every Day.” Casperson focused on the power of positive affirmations. 

“Affirmations make a world of difference,” says Casperson. “And remember that nice girls really do finish first.” Casperson reinforces the importance of not worrying about opinions that discourage or stop you from accomplishing your goals. But she advises, “Be kind. Stay organized. Have faith. Believe in yourself.” 

This affirmation-based philosophy and a strong business savvy built Casperson’s multi-category brand BeautifuLife. “My philosophy is centered on simplicity, effectiveness and affirmation, while using the highest quality ingredients in products we can use every day,” said Casperson. “My mission is simple -- to inspire all people to live their most balanced life every day.”

Dec 18th - Melissa Rice, Executive Director, Community Housing and Resources

On December 18th, Melissa Rice, Executive Director of CHR, presented the perfect Holiday topic:  "When Business and Compassion Collide."   As Executive Director of Community Housing and Resources, Inc., Rice shared inspiring stories and lessons to about leadership in the collision zone. Melissa’s business savvy is evident. She built her career in  south Florida on both coasts in commercial real estate investment. She holds degrees in finance and economics and is a member of CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment). But she also has a strong commitment to philanthropy, serving on the SanCap Cares Committee and as Treasurer for both the Sanibel PTA and CHR.

“The most important aspect of bringing philanthropy and business together is managing partnerships,” said Rice. “For example, support from the City of Sanibel, community participation in Give Back Wednesdays, generous women’s education grants from Zonta and scholarships from Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis are critical to CHR.”

Nov 26th - Sandra Stilwell Youngquist, CEO Stilwell Enterprises and Pres SWFL Children's Charities

On Novenber 27th,  Sandra Stilwell Youngquist presented  "Balancing Act - Broadening Your Reach to Others While Keeping Your Focus." As CEO and Owner of Stilwell Enterprises & Restaurant Group, and President of SWFL Children's Charities, Stilwell is an expert on this powerful topic. Stilwell’s signature advice “be honest and true in all you do” reflects her dual commitment to business success and community service. 

In business, Stilwell launched her first venture at 17, building from a cleaning business to her true calling, hospitality. Now with an Inn, shopping centers and six restaurants, Stilwell credits her success to faith and a tenacious work ethic. In community service, Stilwell also has an impressive resume. Under her leadership, SWFL Children’s Charities presents the SWFL Food & Wine Fest on February 24, 2019, an event that raised $2.9MM for pediatric health care last year. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Hope Hospice, and advises many other boards and committees.

Oct 23rd - Dorrie Hipschman, Executivwe Director, Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

Dorrie Hipschman, Executive Director of the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, delivered an eye-opening speech on  “Life on Earth: The Museums, Our Responsibility, My Journey.”  Drawing from her outdoorsy upbringing, she said, “As far back as I can remember, the world has always been a living, breathing, dynamic and fascinating place; but  if we don’t grow up outdoors and spend time learning the language of the natural world, we can become deaf to it." Hipschman explained this is a tragedy she and her team are dedicated to solving. “Deafness to nature is curable," she said. "And it’s imperative that we address it." 

To be true to her calling, Hipschman had to take control of her career in the for-profit sector and deliberately move it towards the natural world. She said, “When I started my career, I did not envision taking this path, but now I can’t imagine doing anything more important.”

September 27th - Laurie Verme, Owner of Pinocchio's and Geppeto's

Laurie Verme, Owner of Pinocchio's Original Italian Ice Cream and Geppetto's Beach Foodies, discussed "The Road to Success is ALWAYS  Under Construction."  Verme's inspiring story starts from being told she couldn't run a business as a woman and winds through exhilarating successes as a McDonald's franchisee in New York followed by devastating blows to her boutique hotel on Florida's East Coast at the hands of Hurricane Wilma. Her journey to Sanibel is a  loaded with lessons. Laurie concluded with this quote: 

“The road to success is not straight. There is a curve called failure, a loop called confusion, speed bumps called friends, red lights called enemies and caution lights called family. You will have flat tires called jobs, but if you have a spare called determination, an engine called perseverance and a driver called will power, you will make it to a place called success."

August 28th - Calli Johnson , Bailey's General Store Management Team

Calli Johnson, Wine Manager of Bailey's General Store, led a group discussion that inspired everyone to participate.  "We all have something to learn no matter what generation we're from," she said, a fact confirmed by ABWA participants from all around the room.   Her talk on Family, Philosophy and Wisdom from a Multi-Generational Workforce was punctuated by color commentary from her dad, Richard Johnson, GM of Bailey's. "We are a 119 year old business that embraces technology," he said. "Slowly but surely," she said, which had the group rolling with laughter. For generations, Bailey's has delivered outstanding customer experience, quality products, personalized service and value every day.  

This meeting launched our 40th year celebration by showcasing a legacy business on Sanibel supporting the development of women in leadership. We were proud to launch our speaker series with  Calli Johnson.

Selected 2017-2018 Professional Development Programs

June 12th, 2018 - Gloria Garrett & Kira Sonin-Dworkin

Gloria Garret, President, HMG Consulting discussed networking wisdom and tips for building relationships that can drive business growth. Kira Sonin-Dworkin, owner of KM Gems, led a fun and friendly bling-out session for ABWA badges. Gloria and Kira, the 2018-2019 incming Chapter President and Vice President, enjoyed discussing the chapter's interests for the coming year with both members and guests. 

April 10th, 2018 Jean Baer, Local Roots Farmers Markets

 Jean Baer is the co-owner of Local Roots Farmers Markets.  Local Roots, LLC. operates farmers markets throughout Lee County Florida. Each market offers a unique opportunity for local vendors to sell seasonal local fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, breads, nursery stock and other commodities.   Jean discussed  the launch of Local Roots and lessons learned as a woman entrepreneur.   

March 13th, 2018 - Captain Nori Ann Reed, US Navy


Captain Nori Ann Reed, US Navy spoke on leadership and country. As a woman leader who rose to the top in a traditional man's world, she has many insights to share. Captain Reed is the first woman to serve as Commanding Officer on three US Navy ships: the USS KISKA, USS WILLAMETTE, and USS DETROIT. 

Febrary 13th, 2018 - Dr. Andrea Hazim

Dr. Hazim is the president and founder of Elev8Life, an educational foundation devoted to enriching the lives of young leaders of middle, high school and college age. She is a leadership trainer, mentor, and coach in both personal and corporate settings. She led a disccuion on discovering identity and purpose in life.   

January 9th 2018 - Christine Wright, "ABWA 101"


National ABWA Ambassador Christine Wright shared her experience and knowledge on the techniques, tips, and tools that the American Business Women's Association provides to help ensure chapters remain healthy and thriving.   These same tools can be used to organize and focus any business organization or project. Christine is Lawyer/Owner of Wright Law Firm. She was Awarded 2006 Business Associate - Cape Coral Caloosa Chapter of ABWA; 2008 Top Ten Business Woman, ABWA; and 2011 Woman of the Year - Cape Coral Caloosa Chapter of ABWA.

November 14th, 2017 - Michele Spitzer, Entrepreneur

The business plan for MaidPro of SW Florida was originally developed by Spitzer as a homework assignment for a business management class. Spitzer used that plan to create her business from scratch, eventually converting it to a MaidPro franchise. In addition to founding her own company, Spitzer is also one of the founders of  MaidPro Cares, a charitable organization that focuses on serving orphanages and underprivileged children.  

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Questions or comments? Contact Gloria Garrett, President at INFO@ABWASanibelCaptiva.org

ABWA Sanibel Captiva Charter Chapter

PO Box 1037, Sanibel, FL 33957, US

Upcoming Luncheon Meetings

Meetings are normally the 4th Tuesday of the month; 3rd Tuesdays in Sept, Nov and Dec.

 June 25, July 23., August 27, Sept 17, Oct 29, Nov 19, Dec 17

Networking begins at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch, speaker, and discussion noon - 1:00 PM.

Location:  Sundial Beach Resort and Spa, 1451 Middle Gulf Dr, Sanibel FL 33957

Lunches are $25. RSVP at info@ABWASanibelCaptiva.org or register at  


For our valued 85+ members/guests, and  students, lunches are $20, pay at the door.