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Next week’s Night Market in Downtown Fort Myers will feature celebrity readers and activities to mark International Literacy Day.

The event, to be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 8, on Collaboratory’s campus, marks the fourth Night Market since the event started last year as a means for Collaboratory to engage with the community.

“We created the Night Market that would be cool, fun and people come to, but also to give us an opportunity to expose the community to the work of Collaboratory,” said Collaboratory Systems Sites and Experience Lead Kim Williams.

“To have a fun party with the philanthropic social vibe,” she said. “It’s really kind of cool to see people on the campus just hanging out and chatting. It’s a solid community event where people are connecting and making connections.”

The events, which include community and business partners, are held quarterly.

“It’s very family friendly,” Williams said.

The event will include live music and food trucks.

“We have partnered with the Line Up Band from the beginning,” Williams said, adding that she heard the guys play years ago and loves their vibe. “They are perfect.”

Food trucks an vendors will include Vesuvius Wood Fired Pizza, Caritos Gourmet Empanadas, Forever Grounded Coffee, Southern Snoballs, The Dawg Pound, Brookes Nugget Wagon, Flying Eagle Kombucha and Dynasty Guacamole.

As far as retailers, vendors will include Amorist Jewelry, Love Muffins, Wajoli African Wear, Chaotically Copeland Creations, Henna Magick, Groovy Growing, Willow & Hitch, The Adventuring Nerd, The Herb Appeal, SummaVitaLinx, Sugar High Cotton Candy, Jayce’s Freeze Dried Candy Shack, Citrus Circus, Personalized: by Lilly, Rabbit Paws – Art and More and Wild at Heart Flower Truck.

“We have a couple youth entrepreneurs,” Williams said.

Lee County Library Bookmobile will be on site, as well as Building Talent Foundation and Patty’s Place.

FutureMakers will have an activity room setup for children and their families with people who are extremely passionate about reading and literacy.

“There will be some celebrity guests reading books. The Fort Myers fire chief and chief of police will be there to do some reading,” FutureMakers Coalition Director Tessa LeSage said. “There are a lot of ways to have fun and engage around literacy.”

The Night Market also provides an opportunity for Collaboratory to support small businesses in the community, as spaces are provided without charge.

In addition, the event provides resident partners that are doing socially aligned work in the building the opportunity to also engage with the community.

The previous three events have been successful, as Williams has seen an upwards of 400 people attend.

The Night Market is typically aligned with Music Walk. However, this quarter’s Night Market, instead of being held during Music Walk, will be held on International Literacy Day.

Collaboratory’s campus is at 2031 Jackson St., Downtown Fort Myers.

International Literacy Day

LeSage said there is a real struggle throughout Florida and definitely in Southwest Florida with the literacy rate. She said less than 50 percent of third graders are proficient in reading.

“Our school-aged children and families have been through so much with COVID and Hurricane Ian. We are at a critical point where we need to come together as a community to start to shift the tides on our reading proficiency outcomes,” LeSage said. “It is going to take all of us to turn this around. There is a lot of work to be done. We really are all responsible for making sure our students are achieving their education outcomes, so they can become part of a skilled workforce and have a really strong community going forward.”

With the Night Market, the idea is to help folks understand this is an issue, as well as bring together community partners that are willing to help students increase their reading proficiency, she said.

“There are opportunities for folks to invest in programs and some of the work FutureMakers is doing to try to create opportunities for partnerships with our schools and other nonprofit organizations to support the level of enrichment that is needed right now to increase reading proficiency,” LeSage said. “Night Market is a great place to come and get involved.”

They are trying to raise funding to create opportunities for public, private partnerships with schools. They also want to train volunteers so, when they enter the schools, they can address the needs of students.

“FutureMakers is working with partners to see what organizations would want to go into the schools on a regular basis as volunteers and be trained and support the students’ additional reading needs,” LeSage said. “Ideally, if we get the funding we need to do this, we are looking to have a volunteer coordinator to help support this effort and support our local schools If enough people are interested and raise enough money, FutureMakers Coalition could take on the administrative work of making sure the volunteers are connected with schools and get the training they need.”

To get involved with FutureMakers’ Reading Support Initiative, contact Kaleigh Rodden at

LeSage said FutureMakers is a regional five-county coalition made up of about 150 cross-sector organizations working together to transform the Southwest Florida workforce.

“We believe the workforce development starts before kindergarten,” she said.


Collaboratory, Southwest Florida Community Foundation, has been in the region for nearly 50 years.

“The foundation has evolved so much since I started,” said Williams, who started 12 years ago. “We have grown leaps and bounds. There continues to be new opportunities and space for growth. The work, what we are doing, you can devote your life to and be proud of it. There’s a lot of passionate people here putting everything they have into it above capacity.”

Collaboratory evolved over the years. While they do all the granting of funds to nonprofits and scholarships, they also spend time on systematic changes that need to happen.

“For example, our granting has shifted to support coalitions, cross-sector organizations working together to solve a particular issue versus organizations that are working in silos,” Williams said.

Collaboratory also has the physical space as a resource for the community. The last fiscal year they had approximately 140 different organizations use the space.

Organizations can come in, sit down and get to work in a business space.

“They can get a great cup of coffee on us. The Collaboratory team is all about hospitality and supporting the work of the nonprofits using our space,” Williams said.