The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association’s Gulf Island Coast Chapter held a festive oceangoing fundraiser — its 2019 Sunset Wine Cruise — aboard the 127-passenger Charlotte Lady of King Fisher Fleet.

Social distancing wasn’t a thing back then.

In today’s unpredictable environment, it seems that fundraisers, holiday celebrations and locals aspiring to culinary careers have never had things tougher.

But three resilient chapters of the FRLA have come up with a creative solution for all of them.

From now through Dec. 3, Gulf Island Coast Chapter representing Charlotte and Glades counties, Lee Chapter representing Lee County, and Paradise Coast Chapter representing Collier County will run a Love Local On-Line Auction to fund classroom equipment, food, supplies and scholarships for local culinary and hospitality students — including those at Charlotte Technical College and Charlotte, Lemon Bay and Port Charlotte high schools.

“The restaurant industry can use all the support it can get for those coming into our industry during these challenging times,” said Laurie Farlow, the Gulf Island Coast Chapter’s incoming president. “There are jobs for us here in Florida, which is so important.”

It’s a local win-win-win for businesses who’ve sold items to fill gift baskets, for hospitality industry students and for holiday gift givers.

Bidding is open on nearly 100 different items — from up-to-$1,500-value luxury hotel stays, Naples Botanical Garden Night Lights, and dinner cruises to a Fort Myers brewery tour and tasting.

A private waterside table for two at Edgewater Beach Hotel, or a dinner for eight served in your home by Brian and Nicole Roland’s Crave Culinaire could start the holidays off just right.

Englewood restaurant gift certificates are available from Farlow’s on the Water, Lock ‘N Key Restaurant & Pub, Mango Bistro, Ricaltini’s Bar & Grill, and SandBar Tiki & Grille.

And if you’d rather party at home for the holidays, bid on gift baskets like “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” barbecue baskets with bourbon, Bloody Mary fixin’s, gin and tonics, gin martinis, even collections to stock a whole bar.

Whoever’s on your gift list — golfer; coffee, chocolate or cigar aficionado; shell hunter; craft beer buff — there’s something to bid on for them.

After just one day’s brisk bidding, the auction was more than a third of the way toward its $15,000 goal.

To jump in and start bidding, go to

Scholarships will be awarded at the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor and Convention Bureau’s 2021 Tourism Luncheon, to be held at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center in Punta Gorda, provisionally on May 6.


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