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Common Bonds

Common Bonds

Ashley is from Lehigh Acres, and Nip is from Pittsburgh. She was born to Generation Z; he was born in the Depression Era. Ashley is petite, grinning from ear to ear, and Nip is a staggering 5 feet, 10 inches with a quick smile and twinkle in his eye. As a high school student, she started her own nonprofit called Intro to Excellence, and he is a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, exhibiting excellence in leadership defending our country. The differences go on and the two appear to be worlds apart, but were connected through the work of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

A rising college freshman, Ashley is attending the University of Florida this fall and received the G. Napier and Ellen T. Wilson Scholarship, a fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, to assist with her education costs. Nip established the scholarship fund at the Foundation in 2013. The two had lunch recently to share stories and discuss their commonalities.

“It was nice to put a face to the person making your dream happen,” Ashley said.

She has overcome the odds to earn this opportunity. Ashley watched her mother taken to jail when she was three years old and was visited by the Department of Children and Families often. When her mother was working, Ashley stayed up late to wait for her mom to get home to eat. Ashley grew up in poverty but said she never felt subjected to it.

Nip’s scholarship fund was established in honor of U.S. Navy pilots killed in Korea and supports high school students who have volunteered at a veteran’s administration clinic or hospital facility to help veterans. Ashley coincidentally worked at the VA hospital that Nip frequented when he lived in Pittsburgh, which is more than 1100 miles away.  In fact, Nip has scholarship funds in Pittsburgh for such students as well which has been granted to more than 50 students.

Ashley grew up and wanted to be a surgeon of oncology. She began work at the VA hospital with intentions to study different disciplines of medicine but instead sat in on business meetings and built relationships with residents.

“In each examination room I got one on one interviews with our nation’s greatest heroes,” she said. “I heard stories of Marines who had their friends die right beside them and a fighter pilot who escaped death by taking off ten seconds late from the tarmac.”

The stories Nip shared were more lighthearted.

He told of times taking off in his jet after someone left the air conditioner on – the instruments and windows fogged up the second he took off.  He jokes about having blind luck.  He also talked of piloting his jet from the decks of aircraft carriers and the time he landed in the water on a sudden aborted flight.  His keen memory sparks that twinkle in his eye when he remembers the “good ol’ days.”  He tells of when a sailor was arrested by two Marines and though he was inebriated, he was so big that he was able to push the Marines into Tokyo Bay.  Needless to say, the Marines were not happy, he says with a chuckle.

Ashley would like to serve her country someday.  And with this warrior as a mentor and supporter, she will develop all the right skills to lead and succeed.

The Ashley and Nip connection is one of the many stories of Southwest Florida residents coming together. Sometimes the story is about a donor and scholarship recipients; others it is about nonprofit leaders working together to solve our area’s needs. The story changes, but the theme remains: the people in our region are the most important factor to make the change they want to see.

If you are looking for ways to get involved in your community, to give back or pay it forward, please email me at [email protected].


The Southwest Florida Community Foundation has been supporting the communities of Lee, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry, and Collier counties since 1976. With assets over $80 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $60 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. For more information, please call 274-5900, or visit our web site at




Carolyn Rogers
Carolyn Rogers