When the Leadership Charlotte Class of 2019 presents Hemingway’s Havana Night, it will mark the 30th anniversary of the program in Charlotte County.

According to the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the program, 775 people have gone through over the years, and more than $607,000 has been given away to local nonprofits, thanks to class projects.

Leadership Charlotte annually brings together community leaders from all walks of life and all sorts of professions. Monthly day-long sessions focus on environment, government, education, agriculture, arts and humanities, health care, media, the local economy and justice. Each class is responsible for a project that raises money for one or more nonprofits.

Hemingway’s Havana Night is the Class of 2019’s project to support literacy in Charlotte County. The event is scheduled to be held from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. June 8 at the Charlotte Fairgrounds. Tickets are $75 apiece and $1,000 for a table of eight. Tickets are available by going to www.charlottecountychamber.secure-mall.com/shop or by calling 941-627-2222.

Members of the class are asking those who attend to bring new or gently used books.

“We knew this year was celebrating 30 years, so we wanted the project to be very community-oriented,” said Erin Gant, a member of the fundraising committee and an agent with Riverside Realty Service in Lake Suzy. “We wanted it to be collaborative and something tangible, a legacy.”

The idea is to sponsor a bus that will make stops at community events to promote family literacy. The Charlotte County School District has pledged to donate the bus, Gant said.

“The project was presented to us among many wonderful ideas,” Gant said. “It was hard to choose, but we felt focusing on literacy was meeting the problem at the beginning. We felt rather than try to fix something, we would go to the root of where problems start.”

The focus of the project is to raise money to outfit the bus, wrap it, and pay for the first year of operation. Gant said some from the 22-member class will continue to oversee the project after the fundraiser has been held and the class’ initial responsibility is complete.

Gant said the vision is for the bus to visit two community events a week year-round.

Hemingway’s Havana Night is shaping up to be an event that will cut across age and demographic barriers as an attraction. There will be food music, a casino, raffles and auctions.

“It’s going to be a whole lot of fun,” Gant said.

Angela Hogan has been on both sides of the Leadership Charlotte spectrum. As the CEO of the Gulf Coast Partnership and former executive director of the Homeless Coalition, she has been on the receiving end of class fundraisers. As a member of the Leadership Charlotte Class of 2012, she was on the giving end.

“Leadership Charlotte is a vital part of doing business in this community,” Hogan said. “It’s not just learning about the things our county has to offer, but creating meaningful networks to access and create opportunities.

“I am so grateful to have been chosen for the amazing class of 2012. The friendship and support of my classmates have been priceless.”

Julie Mathis, executive director of the Charlotte chamber, said that over the years the economic impact of the program has been “huge. But the friendships that have been made are just as important.”


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