Welcome to the AAUW Fort Myers/Lee County Website

We hope that you will browse all the pages of our website and enjoy learning about the activities and events that our branch organized and supported to further the AAUW mission, proving, once again, that “Women working together have no limits.”

September 2017

Our scheduled meeting was cancelled to allow members and guests to concentrate on pulling together and helping our community recover from the devastation of Irma. We hope to see all of you in October. Please check the Meetings Page for dates and program information.

May 2017
Membership Meeting: Year End Celebration

Marilyn Myli, president elect, presented outgoing President Shelley Siriano with an orchid as a thank you for her leadership during the 2016-17 year. Laughter erupted as it was revealed that Shelley is not a “plant person.” Members urged her to bring the orchid to the first meeting of the 2017-18 year or at least take a photo of it with that day’s newspaper so that we could see if the orchid only survived or thrived.

The first meeting of 2017-18 will be on Saturday, September 16, 2017. This site will be updated with specific information as soon as it becomes available. Members – please keep an eye out for your September Torch.

April 2017
Membership Meeting: Naomi Bloom – My Half Century on the Road

Recently retired from a career in the enterprise technology industry, Ms. Bloom advised many large corporate clients on their HR technology strategies and consulted with three generations of HRM software vendors and outsourcing providers on everything from business strategy to product/service design. Naomi built and maintained the only vendor-neutral HRM object model and implied application architecture “starter kit,” which she licensed and consulted on across the industry. Ms. Bloom received IHRIM’s Summit Award in 1995 and HRN’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. Naomi holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her MBA from Boston University where she is also a Fellow of the Human Resource Policy Institute at Boston University’s Graduate School of Management. Naomi shared the lessons she learned about getting to the top and staying there, lessons that are applicable to any career or field of endeavor.

It was a jam-packed meeting with the annual presentations of the Eleanor Roosevelt awards. Recognized for their service were Suzan Harden, immediate past president; Peggy Drennan-Cihi and Kathy Jones, chairs of two consecutive fashion shows and current membership co-chairs; Tina Hoegler, Reservations Chair for 4 years; Jean Kohart, frequent fashion show model and Greeter for 11 years; Mary Jane McDowell, Lifetime member since 1995 and volunteer extraordinaire.

Our annual election and installation of officers for 2017-18 also took place. Pictured below are members of the Executive Board Phyllis Wayco, VP Programs; Marilyn Myli, President; Kathy Jones, President-Elect; Jacqueline Kloess, VP Membership; Elizabeth Foster and Cathy Chapman, co-Secretary. Not pictured is Mary Kellner, completing second year of her term as Treasurer.

March 2017
Membership Meeting: From Bolt to Boutique

Nannette Cotto, Chico’s Senior Director of Concept and Trend Research and Development, took members and guests through the process of creating a Chico’s fashion. Behind their fashions is the belief in women and the power of friendships. They are committed to learning and understanding what the Chico’s woman is about. The fashions are designed to be interesting and unique like her.

Meeting our scholarship recipients is always a highlight of our membership year. In March we welcomed Erol Brenes, Emily Young and Ashley Shilling pictured here with President Shelley Siriano. The membership heard how crucial the scholarships were to being able to complete their education. We were inspired to continue our fundraising efforts for our many annual scholarships and awards (See Philanthropy-Scholarship page).

Roberta (Bobbie) Balmer of our Fort Myers/Lee County AAUW chapter participated in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held in New York City in mid March. The CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The priority theme was women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. The body reviewed the challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls, agreeing with the conclusions of the 58th session. An emerging issue is the empowerment of indigenous women.

Bobbie, who lives in Ottawa during the summer months, was part of the 20 member delegation of the Canadian Federation of University Women. She feels that this commission is a wonderful opportunity to  meet women from around the world, discussing matters of common concern and bringing back information and new perspectives on issues that affect women and girls in our communities.

February 2017
Membership Meeting: Lee Health Wellness

Sarah Mitchell, the Health Wellness Coordinator for the Lee Health Wellness Center enjoys helping members, employees, as well as the community, navigate the best possible resources for their individual health and well-being. She is certified through Wellcoaches School of Coaching as a Health & Wellness Coach. In this role, her goal is to empower, motivate and guide clients to healthy behaviors to achieve optimal wellness. Sarah is the facilitator for Lee Health Brain Booster
Workshops and Lee Health Weight Management Exercise Program.

Congratulations to Janet Schwenn.
This is Janet’s fiftieth year being a member of the AAUW Branch of Lee County Florida.

January 2017
Membership Meeting: JoAnn Elardo, CEO and Owner
Wicked Dolphin Distillery and Big Blue Brewing

In November of 1990, JoAnn Elardo watched the Berlin Wall come down and quickly recognized the huge market for American goods in Eastern European countries. The following year she opened a sporting goods retail shop in Warsaw. The company was so successful that in 1996, Elardo won Distributor of the Year and Converse’s Licensee of the Year. Many other awards and rewards followed and the company expanded to 60 retail locations in several countries.

JoAnn, and her husband, Robert Elardo, moved to Cape Coral full time in 2008. In 2010, while reading about the Florida sugar industry, JoAnn started thinking about manufacturing a Florida product, using Florida ingredients. She wanted to create something that would be distributed and sold in Florida and would bring people to SWFL—so began Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery.

It’s all about seeing the need/opportunity and acting on it. Her insights and vision were also passionately applied to charity work. JoAnn is a founding Board Member of Toast for Hope, an annual fundraiser for Hope Hospice in Cape Coral. She chaired events for the Animal Refuge Center in North Fort Myers and Gulf Coast Humane Society in Fort Myers. JoAnn also worked to build a school in the Congo and that area’s first hospital which was completed in 2015. In 2016 JoAnn formed the Cape Coral Animal Shelter a 501 3-c that is tasked to build Cape Coral’s first Animal Shelter.

December 2016, See Special Events page for photos of our 23rd Annual Fashion Show: Growing in Style.

November 2016
 Membership Meeting: Annette Trossbach
Artistic Director of the Laboratory Theater

annette-trossbachShe spent her career teaching theater, directing productions, trying to bring into focus social issues that concern our community. Born and raised in Germany, Annette was classically trained in London where she received a dual degree in acting and directing. In 2008 Annette founded the Laboratory Theater of Florida. Boasting almost 19,000 volunteer hours every season, the theater not only does entertaining shows, but also thought-provoking and educational shows. Annette feels strongly that theater can hold up a magnifying glass to a society and can affect social change by encouraging conversations about a variety of topics.

Congratulations go to Annette, one of five winners of the WGCU Makers Award. The award goes to women who are impacting the arts, business, education, environment, health/wellness, politics and/or social justice. Annette is also the recipient of Gulf Shore Business’ 40 under 40 award, as well as numerous grants and awards for her theater.

November brought New Members to our branch:


October 2016 – Membership Meeting: Tech Trek Experience

Janet George, center, with Sarah, Brooke and proud Moms

Janet George, center, with Sarah, Brooke and proud Moms

Brooke Turner from Varsity Lakes Middle School and Sarah Laboda from Cypress Lakes Middle School, two of the four girls our Branch sent to the Tech Trek Camp this summer, attended our October meeting with their mothers. The girls gave wonderful presentations highlighting camp activities they enjoyed most. Brooke described coding and its application and value in all technical fields especially for women. She also demonstrated the extraction of DNA from strawberries using a video she produced herself. Sarah described robotic classes and animation classes using both a power point presentation and video she made. Her narrative described how software and coding were required to make and operate a robot and create live animation like a video game. Both girls also described what they enjoyed about being on a campus, experiencing college life especially in the dorms and making new friends. Sarah and Brooke strongly recommend that girls their age attend such a STEM camp. Their experience renewed their interest in a career in the sciences.
Most sincere thanks go to Janet George, Scholarship Co-Chair, who led the monumental effort to send four students from our area to Tech Trek 2016.

September 2016 – Membership Meeting: Pennies for Community Progress (P4CP)
aauw-9-17a-muhammed-presenterAbdul’haq Muhammed, the founder and Executive Director of Quality Life Center, is a community leader and a motivational speaker with a vision for uplifting children and adults through confidence-building programs based on core values that will teach the tools of a rewarding life. He was invited to our September Membership Meeting to introduce us to P4CP, a program that seeks to create a funding source to meet the greater needs of the community, including tackling poverty and violence in Lee County.

P4CP believes that Lee County can do much more to eliminate poverty and violence. Evidence based research tells us that $1 put into prevention saves $7 in the future. Lee County’s FY 15-16 Human Services budget is only 1% of the Lee County annual budget. Recent deadly shootings reinforce the urgency for Lee County to recognize and address the causes of poverty and violence in Lee County. Lee County needs to improve the health and wellbeing of our community now. Lee County needs interventions now. Lee County needs leadership now.

Following the presentation, AAUW 5 yr. pins were awarded to Nancy Kuyoth, Cathy Tucker and Suzanne Harden, and a 10 yr. pin to Marie Glasgow. We also welcomed four new members: Geri McArdle, Jan McTeak, Wendy Wassman and Ann Spielmaker (not pictured). See Meetings page for future meeting information.

August 2016 – Adopt A Precinct
For the past 11 years, our branch has “adopted a precinct” in Fort Myers and staffed it for all local and national elections with members. Usually this entails 11-13 members attending training sessions prior to the day of election. On election day they arrive at the precinct at 5:30 a.m. to set up, work at a specified poll station for the 12 hours that the precinct is open, and then carefully account for all ballots, supplies, etc. after the last voter has exited. Most of us leave an hour later, but the Precinct Clerk, Deputy and two Voter Assistance Inspectors stay until the elections office is satisfied with all the precinct input.
August 30th our precinct was staffed by 10 members, two members of our “men’s auxiliary” and a wonderful bilingual poll worker. These photos were taken after the precinct closed and show a tired but happy bunch.


Pictured L-R: Steve Nance, Kathy Jones, Marilyn Workman, Geri McArdle, Linda Carmany, Carolyn Nance and Mary Bonnette.


Pictured L – R: Nancy Kuyoth, Judith Sims, Jinny Mendoza, Bonnie Ryan, Marie and Ron Glasgow.

Since 2006, our branch raised $27,825 scholarships as a result of these “paid volunteers” donating their pay to AAUW.


Give Grad a Gift!

You have something special to give new college grads: one year of free national membership!

It’s easy, and you can give AAUW memberships to as many recent graduates as you like.



The Actual State of My State

Every year governors across the country offer up their assessments of the state of their respective states. While each one undoubtedly claims, “The state of our state is strong,” it is unfortunately less common for governors to examine the issues that AAUW members prioritize. In 2016, of the 42 governors who gave speeches or wrote addresses, only two governors discussed equal pay. Check out where your state ranks nationally, and learn about the existing state laws.


AAUW Policy Guide to Equal Pay in the States