The North Fort Myers Civic Association saw a bit of a renaissance in 2016, with membership growing to levels it hasn't seen in years, with more growth expected in 2017.
In short, membership exploded. From the beginning of the year, when the organization wasn't sure it would make it through the year, to the end, membership tripled to almost 90 thanks to a concerted effort to get their name out through word-of-mouth, public outreach, and traditional and social media.
Michael Land, president of the civic association, said this allowed them to take on more activities than they had in previous years, such as the Farmer's Market, which had mixed results caused by horrible weather and a difficult location.
"It rained almost every Friday this winter, but it was the nucleus. It was something that could be done and gave us outreach into the community," Land said, adding that this year's Farmer's Market will take place at the Shell Factory on Saturdays starting Jan. 7 and going to the end of April.
The group held its annual hurricane seminar, the Fall Fun Fest and three candidates' forums at the rec center during election season.
It also tried something new in the Fourth of July celebration held at the community park. Land said they learned a lot about throwing a party. Biggest lesson; plan early.
"Someone said offer free food and everyone will come. Well, we forgot one thing. We had a late start and every purveyor of food said it had to be done months ahead of time. So, we learned from that," Land said. "We're going to do it again and get an earlier start. It was a nice venue."
The year ended in style as the North Fort Myers High School chorus came to assist in the annual carol sing and tree lighting at the rec center.
The civic association was also a big player in the new library as zoning and everything else was approved. There will be a town hall meeting in January to discuss the issue.
Among the main needs for 2017 right off the bat is to hold a fundraiser so the civic association can pay the liability insurance it needs. Last year it held a flapjack breakfast at Applebee's, which was a success, although it was mostly members who came. Land said he would like to have something to involve the entire community.
Last year the group created a pamphlet on the organization as well as a brochure on North Fort Myers (which started in late 2015, but was delayed after Land was involved in a car accident) that is still being fine-tuned. It also updated its website.
Land said they were looking for volunteers to continually update the website and their Facebook page, and taking on some other things as well.
"We're also doing a complete map of North Fort Myers. We're going to list all the communities, the parks, the civic center, houses of worship and points of interest like the Shell Factory," Land said. "Many people in the area don't know those things exist."
Land has also asked the county to create some welcome signs at the end of the major bridges to let drivers know they are in North Fort Myers.