The Immokalee Foundation, celebrating its 30th year, presents the Charity Classic Celebration and Fund A Dream Auction on Friday, November 5, at The Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort, Naples. Sponsorship and ticket information is available by visiting ImmokaleeFoundation.org/Events. Event Co-Chairs are Janet and Jerry Belle and Carol and Tom Joseph.
We caught up with the Belles in their beautiful Aqualane Shores home to talk about entertaining, home sweet home and why giving back is so important.
NL: Your home is lovely!
Jerry and Janet Belle: Thank you. We are “year-rounders” living in Aqualane Shores. We bought property in 2007 when Jerry retired. Janet oversaw the design and construction of our home, which was completed in 2010. We were familiar with Naples through many personal and business trips here, and fell in love with the community of Aqualane Shores. Jerry is currently president of the Aqualane Shores Association and Janet is Chair of the social committee.
NL: Your kitchen is gorgeous!
Jerry Belle: We enjoy cooking together, so the kitchen was designed to facilitate two “chefs.” Wine is a part of our everyday life, so our 2,500-bottle wine cellar has a 12-foot-high glass wall so that it is visible from the kitchen. (Full disclosure: There is less inventory than that after a year of Covid seclusion!) As for the rooster, he is a special part of the family. The day he was acquired, he came home in the front seat of Janet’s BMW Z-3 with the top down and a seat belt securing him. Needless to say, Janet and the rooster got a lot of attention from other drivers! Our rooster has reigned regally and colorfully since 1998.
NL: We heard you are wonderful hosts. What are your secrets?
Janet Belle: We do like to entertain.Jerry is known for grilling fish and pizza and prefers to be in the outdoor kitchen with the TV tuned to sports. I prefer to be inside and have a few specialties such as roasted pork loin with bourbon sauce (perfect when accompanied by a Southern Rhone wine), black rice salad with shrimp, and raspberry cognac sauce over ice cream.
For special events, we call in a pro. Michael Madsen, the Executive Chef at the Naples Sailing and Yacht Club, hails from Denmark and has created some spectacular cuisine prepared in our kitchen. We also keep a fully stocked bar hoping to never disappoint one of our guests.
NL: What made you get involved with the Immokalee Foundation's Charity Classic event and what makes this year's event something not to be missed?
The Belles: We first became involved with The Immokalee Foundation after Hurricane Irma. We stayed in our house through the storm (we live on the water which made it really exciting!) and had no damage. When we heard and saw what happened to the Immokalee community, we wanted to help in some way. Through a friend with Lipman Family Farms based in Immokalee, we were put in touch with the Foundation. We were exceptionally impressed with what the Foundation does to support students in a variety of ways. Our involvement expanded over time: Jerry became a mentor and also was asked to join the Board, and now serves as the Board Chairman. Jerry and Janet volunteered to co-chair the annual Charity Classic Gala in 2019, 2020 and again this year.
The Charity Classic will once again be held at The Ritz-Carlton at the Beach on November 5. The Charity Classic has a long history of being the kick-off event of the “philanthropy season” in Naples. We look forward to bringing together friends and supporters of the Foundation to “raise paddles,” not for live auction items, but rather as an opportunity to help fund a selection of specific programs that support our students. It is a unique format that ensures that donations are maximized for both the Foundation and the donors.
NL: And, tell us a little about yourselves. How did you decide to make Naples your home?
Jerry Belle: We have been married for 53 years. Our three children, now very successful adults, roamed the world with us for almost 20 years as my career took the family to various assignments in Asia, Europe, Canada, as well as numerous cities in the U.S. When I retired (for the second time), we lost no time setting our sights on Naples, the only location we ever considered for retirement. The six grandchildren from Boston, Seattle and Dallas enjoy spending time in Naples.
Janet is a retired cardiovascular nurse (if a nurse ever really retires). She is a member of Greater Naples Leadership, Inc. She is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Naples Sailing and Yacht Club and Chair of the Captain’s Table.
We are long-time supporters of my alma mater, Xavier University in Cincinnati. I am a member of the President’s Advisory Council. Janet and I established a speakers’ series in the Business School titled, “Heroes of Professional Ethics.”