The Southwest Florida Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association kicked off its 35th anniversary with a tree-planting ceremony at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida on August 22, 2019.  The statewide professional organization was chartered a chapter in Southwest Florida on January 16, 1985.

More than ten past chapter presidents and fifteen members of the incoming leadership team participated in the surprise ceremony which included the reading of messages submitted by leaders from the state organization and other past chapter presidents.

Attendees planted a Longan Tree, a fruit tree similar to the Lychee. Incoming chapter president and president-elect Randy Mitchelson, APR and Heather Doane, APR unveiled a plaque planted alongside the tree which reads “Planted August 2019 in honor of 35 years of enhancing the public relations profession in Southwest Florida. 1985 – 2020”



History of the Longan Tree at Edison and Ford Winter Estates

In March 1938 Mina Edison for the 4th annual garden tour, along with other prominent gardeners here in Fort Myers had the Longan tree on the tour.  Thomas Edison passed away in 1931 so the historical record is unclear exactly why he was interested in the tree and whether he planted it for fruit just as he planted the Lychee tree.

The original Longan tree is growing along the pathway where the Edison Ford Site Historians greet visitors to begin their audio wand tours. The tree is aging and declining, and it is has been the hope to always sister (plant a new tree) next to the old one. The original tree fruits in late July, and the fruit is similar to Lychee, but much smaller. Most fruit trees take up to 5 years or more to begin fruiting.

Just like other fruit trees, growers are always trying to improve flavor and the amount of meat on the fruit compared to the seed.  The old Longan has more seed than meat. Not sure about this new variety yet since it isn’t fruiting yet.

The variety of this new Longan is called Biew Kiew.  This is a new cultivar developed from Thailand. It is great for subtropical climates with cooler winters.  Southwest Florida experiences cooler winters than Thailand. With all the research the horticulturists at Edison Ford have done on the new varieties of Longan with larger meat to eat, and smaller seeds, the Biew Kiew was preferred by most.  The Edison and Ford Winter Estates is happy to get a new Longan for future visitors to enjoy.


Testimonials Received for the Tree Planting Ceremony

On this 35th anniversary of the founding of your chapter, I wanted to offer my personal congratulations to you and your members on reaching this significant milestone. I did a little research and found out that 1985 was also the year the Polaroid camera, Macintosh computer, Sony Discman, Nintendo gaming system, and M

icrosoft Windows operating system were first introduced. While some of these products have gone by the wayside, the Southwest Florida Chapter continues to shine bright within our Association. Thanks to the past presidents and boards of your chapter who continue to pass the torch of leadership, and to your members who contribute both locally and across the state. Here’s to the next 35 years!

Chris Gent, APR, CPRC
FPRA State President, 2014
LeadershipFPRA Chair, 2020

Wow! Thirty-five years! Your Southwest Florida Chapter is now as old as I was when I chartered it!!! (I guess I should take some consolation in the fact I’m still around to watch you celebrate.) But more than that, I have always admired the energy that your chapter has brought to the entire association. The dedicated leaders and members of your chapter put me in mind of the Energizer Bunny. You just keep going and going and going …

Through my forty-one years as an FPRA member I’ve watched chapters explode with enthusiasm and sadly, implode with the lack of it. Through it all, for the past three and a half decades, from my perspective the Southwest Florida Chapter has set the example for professionalism and leadership.

The fact that I had some small part in your founding during my presidential year makes me very proud.

Best of luck to each of you.

With every best wish for continued success,

Bob Gernert, APR, CPRC
FPRA President, 1985

As much as I would like to, I cannot attend this special meeting. I do appreciate you extending the invitation and I wish you a wildly successful year as president. It’s at once a treasured privilege and a serious responsibility. Please extend my sincere congratulations to all those present!  Best regards,

Ginny Cooper
FPRA SWFL Past President, 2009

I can’t tell you how much I LOVE this idea. What a fabulous way to commemorate the milestone and kick off your board year with enthusiasm. I wish I could join you, it would be completely worth the drive, but I’ll be flying to Wisconsin Thursday morning for work.

Please let your board know that I’m looking forward to a fabulous year with them and I’m here to support you all in any way I can.

Hope to see you soon!

Lindsay Hudock


Passages Shared at Tree Planting Ceremony

Incoming chapter president Randy Mitchelson, APR read the following passages to attendees to connect the symbolism between the tree and the goal for the chapter leadership team to grow stronger together as it embarks upon its first-ever three-year strategic plan to grow chapter membership, promote professional development and enhance operational excellence of the chapter. 


The individual leaves represent the uniqueness of all of us. Like the leaves, we are all different shapes, colors and textures but we can all coexist peacefully.


The branches reach and represent our potential to grow and improve and become stronger


The anchor of the tree symbolizes strength, a consistent reminder of what we are made of while the roots remind us that our actions in this life have deep meaning. 


“Be Like a Tree” by Joanne Rapits

– Stay grounded.

– Connect with your roots.

– Turn over a new leaf.

– Bend before you break.

– Enjoy your unique, natural beauty.

– Keep growing.