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Where big hearts turn little things into miracles

December 31, 2015
By JOAN CUNNINGHAM , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Welcome to Lehigh Acres, where big hearts have proven how to turn the little things into miracles. There is always a lot of press on what's happening in Lehigh, but so many of the good deeds seem to fall by the wayside and not get shared.

As the center of the community, the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce is often viewed as a town hall and is the first point of contact for many events that are happening in the community. With everyone preparing for 2016, it's a perfect time to share some of the accomplishments that started as ordinary and became extraordinary.

This unassuming community has done amazing things to reach out and help each other. There are people every day that work to help out the community and never expect recognition. From the police officers that carry teddy bears in their cars to ease the fears of a young child, to the fireman that gives a sticker to a little boy who now wants to grow up just like him.

With the connection of social media, there are more and more ways for us to be the change that we want to see in Lehigh. We have more than 50 churches, not-for-profits and clubs in the area that work to give back to Lehigh for the purpose of serving others.

Here are just a few of the numbers from the events this year.

- The Lehigh Acres Community Initiative, in partnership with the LCSO, fire department, code enforcement and Keep Lehigh Beautiful, sponsored several "Clean Up" days with more than 300 hours of volunteer service.

- Healthy Harvest Farms has distributed more than 20 tons of fresh fruits and vegetables to the community at no charge. There is also the opportunity for residents to come out and work on the garden and more than 20,000 hours have been volunteered this year.

- Local Boy Scout Troops collected back to school supplies and, with the help of Lehigh Community Services, provided 300 backpacks to the schools. LCS also has sponsored more than 300 boxes of holiday meals last month in partnership with other groups.

- The Rotary Club distributed over 1,200 dictionaries to every third-grader in Lehigh. They also provided more than 600 Thanksgiving meals to those who wanted to come together and were set up to do the same next week on Christmas Day.

- The Kiwanis Club gave out over $75,000 in scholarships to local students, handed out more than 250 turkeys with all the fixings for Thanksgiving and have partnered with other local agencies to provide for the needs of over 200 local families.

- Pay It forward Lehigh Acres and Reliance Bank worked together to gather over 300 Halloween costumes and distribute them back out to the family's in the community.

- El Tarasco's and Beef O Brady's - two of our local restaurants - showed the community spirit by sponsoring family nights and donating the funds back to local students and teachers in need of school supplies.

- There were more than five different toy drives in the area to help assure that our children woke up to a wonderful Christmas morning. They were on target to provide toys to more than 800 children.

Becoming a united town isn't based on how many "big" stores or movie theaters we have. It's based on how well we take care of each other and build each other up.

Paying it forward doesn't mean that there has to be money spent and a lot of planning done. It can be a smile at the right time, opening a door for a person who has their hands full, picking up a piece of trash that has landed on the ground or waving to the crossing guards who help our children.

The Chamber of Commerce would like to wish each and every member of our little town a very Happy New Year. We are looking forward to a great 2016 and know with citizens like we have, there is no doubt we are well on the way.

Joan Cunningham is the interim director for the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce.



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