Lavern Gaynor understood the importance of an education and how transformative it can be. Her personal passion and leadership around education and the difference it makes for individuals, families and our entire community was evident in all she did.
Mrs. Gaynor made such a positive impact not only on Champions For Learning, but also Southwest Florida. It is because of Lavern’s heart and dedication that we honor her on December 20th, her birthdate.
This December 20th, Champions For Learning encourages those in Collier County to #LeadLikeMrsGaynor. The idea of leading like Mrs. Gaynor came about last year as a way to honor her memory and everything she has done for the community. Leading like Mrs. Gaynor can look different for everyone, but all are encouraged to participate in acts of kindness, just like Lavern would.
Some examples of acts of kindness are below:
- Bake cookies for the elderly
- Help at a veterinarian office
- Give someone a compliment
- Make dinner for a family in need
- Hold doors open for people
- Thank a teacher with a gift
- Plant a tree
- Walk a neighbor’s dog
- Donate some of your clothes
- Write an encouraging note to someone you know
The list of acts of kindness is endless. Whatever act of kindness you choose to display on December 20th, be sure to use the hashtag #LeadLikeMrsGaynor when posting on social media.
Lavern was a supporter of the Champions For Learning Take Stock in Children scholarship and mentoring program. This program continues to have an impact on students within Collier County to this day through Mrs. Gaynor’s estate gift.
The impact of Mrs. Lavern Gaynor’s leadership and the legacy is seen today throughout Collier County. It is because of Mrs. Gaynor that Future Ready Collier (FRC) partners have the opportunity to collaborate and strive for the collective success of our entire community. Champions For Learning is the backbone organization facilitating the collaboration of more than 60 partners in education through FRC.
Read more about Lavern Gaynor:
Lavern Gaynor’s generous spirit, keen intellect, and natural curiosity, combined with the small-town values instilled by her parents, was a recipe for living a purposeful life.
Her parents, Lester and Dellora Norris, primarily raised their family in the small farm town of St. Charles, Illinois.
Her father, Lester, was a renowned cartoon illustrator and the family had the opportunity to travel quite a bit.
While a family of means, giving was always at the heart of what her parents did. Their lesson was, if you think enough of a community to live in it, you should do what you can to support and invest in that community to make it a wonderful home for all.
That lesson, along with honesty, fairness, understanding, and volunteerism, guided Lavern in her life.
While attending Northwestern University in 1942, Lavern volunteered on the south side of Chicago, tutoring and mentoring teenage boys whose fathers were drafted into WW Il and mothers had to go to work. She began to understand the struggles children were facing and without volunteer support, they had a higher chance of being negatively impacted.
The Norris family has very deep ties in Naples. In 1945, Lavern joined her parents on her first trip to Naples where they invested in the Keewaydin Club and later bought five miles on Key Island to preserve it.
Lavern was proud of her family’s efforts to help shape the entire community of Naples.
Lavern married George Gaynor in 1946. When George was promoted at Texaco, he transferred to Belgium with the entire family, their son was four and daughter six.
Lavern’s experiences as a foreigner living in Europe helped her understand firsthand, the challenges of immigrant parents trying to educate and raise their children in the U.S. when English is not their native language.
In 1976, after many years overseas, Lavern and George returned to the U.S. and settled in Naples permanently.
Lavern has watched Naples grow from a sleepy fishing village to a fast-growing and thriving community.
Just as her parents taught her, Lavern dedicated herself to making Naples a wonderful home for all.
Having grown her own understanding and advocacy for children through her experience as a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, her passion for education, and the opportunities it brings, is one that has made the difference for thousands of children.
And, her value for learning, and listening to understand one another’s perspectives, has been a significant influence on the culture of our community.
“I know in my heart,” said Lavern, “that these children, teenagers, and families are well prepared to be successful in their future educational endeavors, careers and lives, and will eventually be the ones giving back in a meaningful way and ensuring the future success of the community.”