CFI Vice Chair Named 2023 Distinguished Volunteer

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

CFI Vice Chair Melissa Congress

Philanthropists and volunteers typically go about their good works quietly without expecting anything in return.

However, the Association of Fundraising Professionals Collier-Lee Chapter (AFP) plans to honor deserving local philanthropists and distinguished volunteers, during its National Philanthropy Day Celebration on Tuesday, Nov. 14. The event takes place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at The Club at the Strand, 5840 Strand Blvd., Naples, Fla.

Melissa Congress, Sanibel resident and Vice Chair of the Charitable Foundation of the Islands (CFI), will be recognized as a 2023 Distinguished Volunteer of the Year.

Melissa and her husband Scot lived and worked on Sanibel Island for over 30 years operating Congress Jewelers. Due to Hurricane Ian, their business is now located in the Bell Tower Shops, Fort Myers.

Growing up in a military family, Melissa learned the importance of serving her community. She managed to balance raising four involved children on Sanibel, handling merchandising at Congress Jewelers and staying involved in causes important to her and the community.

Melissa Congress, second from left, presents a donation from proceeds of Congress Jewelers’ Giving Back Collection featuring Sanibel Strong pendants sold for hurricane relief. Recipients of the “Give Back” Collection include the Fort Myers Beach Foundation, SCCF, FISH of SANCAP, “Ding” Darling NWR, and CFI. Donations to nonprofits now exceed $33,000. Melissa is picture here with FISH of SanCap CEO Maggi Feiner, left, CFI Executive Director Dolly Farrell, third from left, and FISH of SanCap Executive Director Maria Espinosa.

Melissa has served on the boards of the Sanibel School PTA, BIG ARTS, Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), and the Sanibel Community Association. She was also a founding member of Sanibel-Captiva Cares, supporting the Golisano Children’s Hospital. Along with being Vice-Chair of CFI, she currently serves on the FISH of Sanibel-Captiva Board and the Advisory Board for Sanibel’s Children’s Education Center of the Islands (CECI).

After more than a decade of service with CFI, Melissa will end her term as Vice Chair in December. CFI Board Chair Chip Roach said, “Melissa’s recognition as the 2023 Distinguished Volunteer truly illustrates the difference she has made on Sanibel, but most especially with CFI.”

The mission of the Charitable Foundation of the Islands (CFI) is to inspire philanthropy, leadership, and collaboration for the vitality of the Island community.

CFI has served the Sanibel and Captiva communities since the 1990s through the Francis Bailey Society and was officially incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2011.

For more information, contact: Dolly Farrell,, (239) 322-3818

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