Kristen Coury Awarded 2023 Murray Hendel Civic Achievement Award

Kristen Coury

The Collier Citizens Council is pleased to announce that Kristen Coury – a stalwart of the arts in Collier County – is the winner of this year’s Murray Hendel Civic Achievement Award, given annually for extraordinary contributions to the community.

Ms. Coury, previously active in New York theater, came to Naples in 2004 and founded, then served as CEO and Producing Artistic Director of the Gulfshore Playhouse. She has directed over 40 productions for the Playhouse.

Recognizing the need for a larger arts center, Ms. Coury recently led efforts to raise funds for a new and expanded complex in downtown Naples. The Baker Theatre and Education Center, a major addition to the local arts scene, is now under construction and scheduled to open in 2024.

Nina Gray Awarded 2022 Citizen of the Year Award

Nina Gray was named the recipient of the 5th annual Murray Hendel Achievement Award for her tireless work in aiding the needy of Collier County.

The award was presented by the Collier Citizens Council at the Naples Hilton on February 23rd.

Established to honor Murray Hendel, the Collier Citizens Council’s cofounder and first president, the award is given annually to a county leader who has made extraordinary contributions to the community.

Nina Gray fits that description.  She has served the county professionally and through volunteer work for over 40 years, helping to establish several organizations to aid the ill and underprivileged.

She helped launch Avow Hospice and became its first CEO.  She later served as president of the Neighborhood Health Clinic and most recently as founder and CEO of the Collier Resource Center, a broker for the needy that puts hundreds of struggling people a year in touch with volunteer professionals who can provide help.

Holding a BA in education from Arizona State University and an MS in counselling and rehabilitation from the University of South Florida, Ms. Gray says, “Service is the rent we pay for living.  I am committed to improving the quality of life for our residents.”

Previous recipients of the Murray Hendel award were Carrie Kerskie, for her pioneering work in fighting identity theft (2017); Judge Janeice Martin, for her relentless work for the mentally ill in the county’s treatment courts (2018); Nancy Lascheid, cofounder of the Neighborhood Health Clinic, for bringing health care to the less fortunate (2019); and Sheriff Kevin Rambosk, for his enlightened law enforcement to safeguard the residents of Collier County (2021).

Sheriff Rambosk Receives 2021 Hendel Award

Kevin Rambosk, was presented with the Murray Hendel Civic Achievement Award at the Collier Citizens Council (CCC) Holiday party on November 10,2021

Honoring our cofounder and first president of the CCC, the award is presented annually to Collier County leaders who have made extraordinary contribution to the community.

Past winners were….
2017 – Carrie Kerskie, for her efforts in combatting identity theft
2018 – Judge Janeice Martin, for her work to advance mental health services
2019 – Nancy Lascheid, for her leadership in providing medical care to the underprivileged

Mr. Rambosk, our sheriff, is a New Jersey native who arrived in Florida in 1978 and has served as the City of Naples Chief of Police & Emergency Services and City Manager. He was elected Sheriff in 2008 after serving in leadership roles since 2003.

In addition to his public safety service he has served in both Board and Leadership positions for multiple community and civic organizations. Among his many civic achievement recognitions he’s been the recipient of the “Man of Distinction Award” from The Education Foundation, the Excellence in Leadership Award from the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce and the NAACP Humanitarian Award.

Nancy Lascheid 2019 Murray Hendel Award Winner

Published in Florida Weekly on 11/7/19


By Dave Trecker

A longtime provider of health care to Collier County’s working poor, Nancy Lascheid has been chosen to receive the Murray Hendel Civic Achievement Award for 2019. She will be honored at a ceremony in December.

Named for Mr. Hendel, a Naples icon and cofounder of the Collier Citizens Council, the award recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the community.

Lascheid’s concern for indigent workers goes back many years. In 1999, she and her late husband Bill, a retired dermatologist, founded the Neighborhood Health Clinic. It grew from a three-room start-up to a $2.6 million operation today. Housed in a 28,000 square-foot building staffed by some 500 health-care volunteers, it treated over 11,000 low-income workers last year.

The current facility on Goodlette Road opened its doors in 2003 and expanded to a state-of-the-art operation earlier this year, augmenting medical treatment with lab testing, radiology and dental service.

“We’re very much a volunteer organization,” Lascheid says in speaking of the clinic’s extensive pro bono program. The $2.6 million annual budget is leveraged to some $18 million for services actually rendered.

The clinic is unique in other ways. Not a penny in government money is accepted. It’s entirely funded by local donors. When asked how she measures financial success, Lascheid says, “The return on investment is when the patient gets better.”

Altruism is also limited. From the beginning, the Lascheids decided that patients must have some skin in the game. Today those treated must be employed, low-income Collier County residents who have no health insurance or government assistance. All pay a small monthly fee. Even with those restrictions, an estimated 17,000 patients will have qualified for treatment this year.

The clinic is still very much a family affair, with daughter Leslie Lascheid now serving as CEO. She will oversee an expansion to the south, as the campus adds specialty care, social services and education in coming years.

Drawing on its remarkable success, the Clinic has attracted international attention. Examples are path-finding neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who visited and delivered a lecture, and recent Nobel Prize Winner in Medicine, Gregg Semenza, who also came and spoke.

The Murray Hendel Civic Achievement Award is the latest of many accolades Nancy Lascheid has received, including humanitarian, woman-of-the-year, outstanding citizen, and lifetime achievement honors.

Judge Janeice Martin 2018 Murray Hendel Award Winner

Published in Naples Daily News, 11/8/18


By Dave Trecker

It remains one of Collier County’s most persistent problems. Mental health and substance abuse affects thousands (the number swollen by the opioid crisis), leads to homelessness and fills our already-crowded jails.

Treatment facilities are limited, and halfway houses for those treated and released are woefully inadequate. Qualified caregivers to help with post-discharge medications are dispersed and in short supply.

There’s not much outside help. Federal funding is all but non-existent, and Florida’s per-capita spending for mental health is 50th among states. That means, by default, the issue is a local one. It has to be dealt with here or not at all.

And it is being dealt with. County Commissioner Andy Solis has assembled a task force of key stakeholders – David Lawrence Center, Sheriff’s Office, the hospitals, the courts, EMS and others – to coordinate efforts and, more importantly, to craft a strategy to deal with the problem, to go beyond just talking about it.

Central to that effort are the Collier County Treatment Courts – Drug, Mental Health and Veterans – and its tireless leader, Janeice Martin, who runs all three courts in addition to carrying a full caseload as a County Court judge.

Judge Martin’s success rate in dealing with mental health issues has been remarkable. Over a recent three-year period, 251 participated in the courts’ rigorous treatment program. Of those, 65% “graduated,” successfully completing the program. Recidivism among the graduates was less than 30%, weighted over the three courts, an astonishing record.

But it doesn’t end there. Recognizing a need to deal with misdemeanor defendants whose mental illness was so severe that the traditional justice system offered little hope, Judge Martin founded a “rapid-response team” – a group of officials from David Lawrence, the jail and the courts that uses all legal tools available to compel outpatient treatment. Martin’s RRT approach, barely five months old, is already paying dividends – mandated treatment for those who would not otherwise receive it at a significant savings for the taxpayer.

For this pioneering work, Judge Martin was chosen to receive the Murray Hendel Civic Achievement Award for 2018. The award will be presented at a ceremony in December.

Named for Hendel, a Naples icon and cofounder of the Collier Citizens Council, the award honors individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the community.

Judge Martin has done that and more.

A graduate of Duke University, she received a law degree from the University of Florida and initially practiced criminal law, both as a prosecutor and private defense attorney. She was elected to the bench in 2009 and is now serving her second six-year term in the County Court.

She began doubling up in 2010, taking over the Mental Health Court. In 2011, she added the Drug Court to her responsibilities, and in 2012 she founded the Veterans Court.

A past president of the Collier County Bar Association, Martin serves on the Florida Supreme Court Task Force for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues. In addition, she works with State Senator Kathleen Passidomo to draft mental health legislation, always an uphill battle in Tallahassee.

How important have Martin’s efforts been? Commissioner Solis said,

“Judge Martin’s work in the Treatment Courts is one of the most important things going on right now in Collier County.”

We agree.

The Collier Citizens Council is privileged to honor her pioneering work.

Trecker is president of the Collier Citizens Council.

Carrie Kerskie 2017 Murray Hendel Award Winner

Published in the Naples Daily News, 12/2/17


By Dave Trecker

Who among us has not been a victim of identity fraud? Who hasn’t had their computer hacked or credit card stolen, leading to unauthorized purchases or diverted tax refunds or accessed bank accounts or stolen medical records?

Maddening, costly, a bureaucratic nightmare and sometimes financially ruinous.

Identity fraud has become one of the country’s most pervasive crimes. In 2016 the IRS received nearly half a million reports from victims. And it’s particularly troublesome in Florida, where our elderly retirees are often easy prey.

In an effort to fight the problem, a task force was formed here in 2013. Spearheaded by Mike Reagen, Sheriff Kevin Rambosk and Lydia Galton, the group drew members from organizations and businesses around the county. One of the first things the task force did was to tap Carrie Kerskie to lead the fight.

And lead it she did. Under her direction, the group brought in experts, held public forums, publicized the threat, wrote educational pieces and helped many, many victims. Thousands benefitted from Kerskie’s efforts, which are continuing today.

For her tireless work to combat identity fraud, Carrie Kerskie has been chosen to receive the inaugural Murray Hendel Civic Achievement Award. The award will be presented at a ceremony in December.

Named for Hendel, a Naples icon and outgoing president of the Collier Citizens Council, the award honors individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the community.

Kerskie has done that and more. Her story is a compelling one.

As head of the Kerskie Group, a private investigating firm, she began receiving calls from identity theft victims in 2006. As more people came to her for help, she immersed herself in the growing problem and learned how the predators operated, how to recognize their scams and cyber attacks. She developed a list of precautions people should take. And, importantly, she codified how to minimize the damage – what victims should do if their identity is stolen.

Encouraged to publicize this, Kerskie wrote a book, Your Public Identity; Because Nothing is Private Anymore, which was published in 2011. That triggered speaking engagements and catapulted Kerskie to national prominence.

But work was needed at the local level, and in 2013 she agreed to lead the Collier task force. Response from the community was immediate and overwhelming. Hundreds came to the public forums, which were repeated to accommodate turn-away crowds. Over a two-year period, eight forums were held, with experts brought in to discuss an array of frauds and how to avoid them.

Kerskie says, “The work of the task force was successful. When it was formed, Naples had the third highest number of identity theft complaints nationwide. Two years later, Naples dropped to seventh.” Real progress, but more work was needed.

In 2015, Kerskie was hired to establish the Identity Fraud Institute at Hodges University. That provided an educational overlay and a base of operations. Through IFI, Kerskie estimates she assists 3-5 victims a week.

Her work is continuing on other fronts as well. She has collaborated with Sen. Kathleen Passidomo to strengthen cyber theft laws in Florida. She regularly conducts workshops for businesses and local community groups. And she has developed programs to certify professionals for mitigating privacy risks. A national conference on the subject, the Organizational Privacy Summit, is scheduled in Naples next spring.

A remarkable record of accomplishments.

It’s axiomatic that one person can make a difference, and Carrie Kerskie has made a real difference.

The Collier Citizens Council is privileged to honor her and her pioneering work.

Trecker is president-elect of the Collier Citizens Council.