Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sanibel Sea School purchases historic Lagoon Drive building

On Tuesday, Sanibel Sea School announced that it had "tied the knot" on an agreement to buy the building at 414 Lagoon Drive, the facility it has occupied since it was founded in 2006.

The structure, which legend says began its life on Sanibel as an Army Signal Corps barracks during World War II, was later moved to the present location. It features Dade County pine floors, rustic paneling, surfboards hanging in the rafters and aquaria lining the walls.

“As most folks know, we really wrestled with what was right for us and right for Sanibel for a long time," said Executive Director, Dr. Bruce Neill. "And we feel that this is where we’re supposed to be. It’s not a big land deal and it’s not a state-of-the-art new facility, but it’s home to us and to hundreds of kids on Sanibel and we have decided that we can do more with less."

“We can stay in this place that has come to mean Sanibel Sea School to us and we can, with a little elbow grease and ingenuity, make it better suited to our programs. We also think this really maximizes our donors’ investment and their faith in us in this new economic world we’re all in. We’ve been working on this for some time. We’re going to be very smart in our deployment of the funds we receive,” added Dr. Neill.

Sanibel Sea School has grown over the years with a robust summer camp and holiday camp, programs with adults and teens, as well as scholarship programs for kids who would not otherwise be able to afford Sanibel Sea School.

One such program, the PACE at Sanibel Sea School program, has been providing marine science education for at-risk teenage girls for four years.

“I realized the other day,” said Dr. Neill, “that we have been the longest consistent presence to these PACE girls. We started working with them right after they opened. And we have seen graduates go out into the world to overcome the gravity of their lives. It’s profoundly fulfilling.”

As Gail Markham, chair of the Lee PACE Board of Directors explained, “I look at the partnership between Sanibel Sea School and PACE and I believe this is the way it should be. This is what we all envision when we invest our time and resources to grow nonprofit institutions like these two. Together, they are making a big difference in the lives of young people.”

With the Lagoon Drive real estate purchase, Sanibel Sea School has a permanent home on the east end of Sanibel to be the hub of its mission to create a world where people understand, value and take care of the ocean. And that is a fitting solution for Maureen McClintock, who previously owned the building.

“My parents loved this building. It was built with a sense of purpose," she said. "I always felt an obligation to make certain it had a rightful owner who would continue to give it meaning. I could not be happier at this moment. Sanibel Sea School’s mission is exactly the future my parents would have wanted for this place.”

So, Sanibel Sea School is nestling into 414 Lagoon Drive for the holidays and forever. And that means there will be lots of joy and crazy ideas on the east end of Sanibel for years to come. If you’ve been to Bailey’s General Store lately, you’ve seen the bins for Sanibel Sea School collecting plastic bottles with caps. During Camp Calypso in the next few weeks, campers will be building a vessel made out of these bottles and launching it into the brine!

And so, begins a season of education about plastics in the ocean. If the plastic Calypso sinks, it’s just a short walk to Sanibel Sea School’s new old home on Lagoon Drive, to tow the sodden recyclables to shore.

“We really want to thank everyone for supporting Sanibel Sea School in the past, present and future. We had over a hundred letters of support,” said co-founder Evelyn Neill. “This is a small building but a huge step. I am constantly reminded of how meaningful this simple building is for many kids. I am very proud that we have a permanent home on Sanibel now. It’s an excellent finish to an excellent year.”

Sanibel Sea School is a 501-c-3 nonprofit organization. If you would like to find out more, call 472-8585 or

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