Naples Children & Education Foundation

OVERVIEW: This funder hosts an annual wine festival and awards grants to Collier County, Florida, nonprofits in the areas of children, education, early learning, child advocacy, and children’s healthcare.

FUNDING AREAS: Children, education, early learning, child advocacy, child healthcare

IP TAKE: At first glance, grant seekers may be confused whether NCEF is a grantmaking foundation or a wine festival host: it is both. All grants support helping kids in this one Florida county.

PROFILE: The Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF) is based in Naples, Florida, and prioritizes the two causes specified in its name. It seeks to support “effective, disciplined charitable programs that significantly improve the physical, emotional and educational lives of underprivileged and at-risk children in Collier County.” The foundation established the Naples Winter Wine Festival to do this.

Recently, NCEF had 63 auction lots that raised more than $15 million to benefit local kids. The funder has helped over 200,000 children through investments in education, advocacy, early learning, healthcare, and more. The funder has raised over $191 million through grants and strategic initiatives since 2001 to benefit more than 40 nonprofits in the area.

Historically, grant funding has been fairly evenly divided between the four categories of child advocacy, early learning, medical/healthcare, and out-of-time school programs. Child advocacy grant recipients include PACE Center for Girls, St. Matthew’s House, and the Shelter for Abused Women and Children. Early learning grants have gone to Collier Child Care Resources, First Book Collier County, and Immakalee Housing and Family Services. Health and medical grants have gone to Florida’s Vision Quest, Catholic Charities, and the Naples Equestrian Challenge. Out-of-school programs receiving support include the Gargiulo Education Center, Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, and the Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board. Other issues that NCEF has been concerned with over the years include children’s mental health, children’s hunger, children’s oral health, and children’s vision.

In a recent year, NCEF made grants of $15.1 million to improve the lives of local kids. Of this total, $5.8 million was granted to 30 nonprofits and $9.3 million supported six initiatives with multiple partners and multiyear plans. Poverty has increased by about 10 percent in Collier County over the past decade, the county does not receive any county funding for social services for children, and 64 percent of students here are on free/reduced lunch programs.

Learn about the current year’s vintners and chefs on the foundation website. NCEF typically has around 30 wineries and 18 celebrity chefs participating in its annual fundraising festival. It has also featured 17 of the world's 236 Master Sommeliers. Sponsors and corporate partners for NCEF’s festival include Naples Daily News, Willian C. Huff, NetJets, Ave Maria University, John R. Wood Properties, BMO Wealth Management, and Wells Fargo.

Grants are made through a selection process involving 11 trustees on the grant committee. Valerie Boyd chairs that committee and Sarah Zaiser is the grants director. The application process is completely online, typically due in mid-August; grant commitments for one year only.

Dave Gibbons is chairman of the board at NCEF, and Maria Jimenez-Lara is CEO. General questions can be directed to or (239) 514-2239. The address is 4305 Exchange Ave, Naples, Florida 34104. Keep up with foundation news here.


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