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About Naples

Living in the Greater Naples Area of Southwest Florida

Welcome to the Paradise Coast

Vanderbilt Presbyterian Church is located in North Naples, an unincorporated portion of northern Collier County, the largest county in Florida by land area. Nearly 90% of the 365,136-person population lives in unincorporated Collier County, with Naples, Marco Island, and Everglades City being the only three incorporated cities. Some VPC members also reside in Bonita Springs, an incorporated town of nearly 48,000 in southern Lee County, just 4 miles north of the church.

Earning its nickname “The Paradise Coast,” Collier County boasts more than 10 miles of white-sand beaches accessible to the public. Blue-green waters and spectacular skies draw swimmers, sunbathers and sunset gazers every day of the week. Boating, fishing, and watersports are readily available at shore-side spots and marinas, too, stretching from family-friendly Bonita Beach in the North down to historic Everglades City and the remote Ten Thousand Islands and Everglades National Park in the South. Many beautiful parks provide more opportunity to enjoy the outdoors; both North Collier Regional Park, with its Sun-N-Fun Lagoon waterpark and the Children’s Museum of Naples, and Veterans Community Park, with facilities for a wide variety of sports and family activities, are within an easy bike ride from the church. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Naples Botanical Garden, the Naples Zoo, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and the new Gordon River Greenway are also community treasures.

Famously providing many residents a different type of paradise is golf, as the area is known as the golf capital of the world. Greater Naples is home to the most golf holes per capita in the United States, meaning endless oppotunities to get on the green year-round. Naples also offers plenty of tennis courts, several calm stretches of shady roads for cycling, and more.

Greater Naples is a shopper’s haven as well, with a great group of picturesque and walkable centers. The booming Mercato is less than 5 miles south of the church, with a luxury movie theater, growing list of popular eateries and diverse stores. Waterside Shops, an upscale spot featuring Saks, Nordstrom and many boutiques and restaurants, is just a bit farther south, and even more shops and restaurants await in downtown Naples’ lush Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South districts and charming Tin City. Naples also has a multitude of antique and thrift shops and design-centric stores tucked away in all corners of the city. If you journey a bit farther north, you’ll additionally find the large outdoor malls of Coconut Point and Miromar Outlets.

Next door to the Waterside Shops is Naples’ cultural gem, Artis—Naples, complete with The Baker Museum of art; the Daniels Pavilion for chamber, jazz and cabaret events; and Hayes Hall featuring the renowned Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, visiting orchestras, and touring musical theater, world-famous entertainers and dance companies. In addition, two professional theater companies and a high- quality amateur group produce local plays and musicals that delight crowds from September to June, and two local opera companies, a comedy club and several music series fill the calendar with more choices. Naples is also peppered with countless art galleries and several historical museums, as are our neighboring towns to the north, and hosts many a fine art festival during the tourist season.

Naples is steadily making a name for itself as a culinary gem of Florida, with all the aforementioned shopping destinations—plus many other locations—housing world-class dining options. Beyond fresh seafood from local waters, residents enjoy authentic cuisines of all kinds in atmospheres ranging from kitschy and cute to elegant and romantic.

Importantly, top-quality health care is also always just up the road. (In fact, NCH North Naples Hospital is 1.5 miles due west of VPC.) Naples is known for exceptional medical services in specialties across the board, ranging from pediatric care to nursing home facilities to physical rehabilitation to oncology. Fitness gyms and workout studios are plentiful as well.

Naples is home to two centers of higher education: Hodges University is located just 2 miles east of VPC, and Florida SouthWestern State College is in southeastern Collier County. Many Collier residents also support the fast-growing Florida Gulf Coast University, which at less than 20 years old has nearly 15,000 students in 53 undergraduate, 23 graduate, and three doctoral programs. It’s winning Division I men’s and women’s basketball teams attract thousands of fans to Alico Arena in southern Lee County.

There are many options for an adventurous or relaxing staycation or day trip, but getting out of town is easy, too. Southwest Florida International Airport is a smooth 25-minute drive north of VPC, with ample affordable parking, and 14 airlines providing service throughout the U.S. and direct flights to Canada and Germany. Its current state-of-the-art terminal was opened in 2005.

A Closer Look at Our Demographics

Greater Naples is blessed with generous people. Our Community Foundation, with $150 million in assets, distributed a record $12,726,338 in grants in the year ending June 30, 2016. Additionally, the Naples Winter Wine Festival, which funds the Naples Children and Education Foundation, has raised more than $161 million since its 2001 inception. Furthermore, there are over 400 nonprofits in Collier County serving diverse needs, all supported by volunteer time and treasure.

The county is growing rapidly. Despite the severe housing bust in 2008 and the years following, the population increased by almost 28% from 2000 to 2010 and another 6.9% through 2015. Bonita Springs grew even more rapidly, adding 60% since 2000. Our population is older than the U.S. average, with a median age of 47.9 vs. 37.7 and has the fourth-highest per-capita income in the U.S. at $73,879. These statistics are driven by the area’s attractiveness as a highly desirable place to retire. More than 83% of our population consider themselves Florida residents, even though many maintain homes elsewhere, and the county population swells by more than 60,000 residents during high season from January through April. At VPC, we add another worship service, as do most churches, to accommodate these welcome snowbirds.

The population is nearly 90% white, with the next-largest racial group being African-American at 7.2%. Almost 26% of Collier residents identify as Hispanic or Latino; Bonita Springs is 31% Hispanic. More than 52% of our public-school students live in homes where English is not the first language or sometimes isn’t even spoken. Collectively, our students speak 85 different heritage languages and hail from 121 different countries of origin.

The School District of Collier County serves more than 47,000 total students in 29 elementary schools, 10 middle schools, eight high schools, and a preK-thru-12 school (Everglades City School). There are also 13 Alternative School Programs and two technical colleges. In addition, there are 29 private schools serving more than 5000 students; many of them are sponsored by or affiliated with religious institutions. Even though Collier County has among the highest per-capita incomes in the country, the gap between rich and poor is wide, with 66% of our public- school students qualifying for free or reduced cost lunches. Affordable housing for our workforce and for poor seniors is a pressing issue currently under intense study by leaders of both public and private sectors.