The gentleman at the monthly meeting of the Southwest Florida Historical Society had a twinkle in his eye as he shared the mischief he had created on the grounds of the historic Atlantic Coast Railroad Depot when he was a young boy growing up in Fort Myers.
I am not going to divulge his secrets, but he did get run off the property a time or two when he commandeered a freight cart for things other than moving arriving or departing luggage at the Depot. It dawned on me after I left the group’s Thursday night meeting that if I had videotaped him it would have been a perfect post for #throwbackthurday on social media.
If this hashtag is new to you, don’t worry it’s a simple concept. On Thursdays people of all ages take to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to look back at something from their past and share it with others. It’s a great chance to reflect on memories of days gone by and sometimes share really funny pictures of people from their high school years (the longer ago they were in high school the better the photos!).
Ever since the Southwest Florida Community Foundation announced our partnership with the City of Fort Myers to lease and renovate the historic train station on downtown Jackson Street as part of a 10-million-dollar community investment project, my days have been wonderfully filled with stories about the community treasure. Lately I feel like every day is a #throwbackthursday. Although the plan is to create a state-of-the-art collaboration space we call the Collaboratory, most folks want to talk about the Depot’s past lives before moving on to the future.
The Atlantic Coastline Railway Depot opened in the 1920s and there are plenty of residents around who remember the days when the rail connected Southwest Florida to the region and beyond. I have heard stories of kids dropping letters in the mail car, fathers leaving the station to head off to war, shipments of citrus from the packing houses that lined the rail, and class trips that provided students their very first train rides. One of our board members was in the class that took the last train trip out of the depot.
And of course, there are stories like the one I heard at the Historical Society meeting, in which the depot was the backdrop to childhood memories.
This week we are hosting the ultimate #throwbackthursday moment when we invited the community for the construction kick-off and ever since the invitation hit the mailboxes, the stories of days gone by have been flowing. But people are equally excited to learn more about what lies ahead in this reimagined space.
We coined the kickoff “History in the Re-Making” to highlight the depot’s glorious past and its promising future. Just like the original intention of the railroad, we are committed to using the space to bring people together. We will use data, conversations, experts in residence and strategic funding all powered by the latest technology to create regional change for the common good. Join us in creating some exciting future #throwbackthursdays of the future. And, if you have stories to share, email me at [email protected] because the foundation will be finding ways to collect them all.
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.