The Greater Pine Island Civic Association (GPICA) was created more than 60 years ago as a voice for residents and business owners, advocating for the health, safety and quality of life in our community. Our goal is to work for the betterment of the entire community — north to south and east to west — Matlacha Isles, Matlacha, Pine Island Center, St. James City, Pineland and Bokeelia. Over the decades, GPICA has worked to preserve and maintain a desirable, livable community that promotes smart growth and preserves sensitive natural areas by working with Island residents to develop a future land-use plan — the Pine Island Plan — that governs growth rules.
The GPICA Board currently has several vacancies. If you are interested in exploring the possibility of joining the Board, please email us at info@GPICA.org.
President: Helen Fox (2021-2023)
Helen Fox and her husband Jim Koopman retired to Bokeelia in 2016 after spending many delightful winter breaks in the Matlacha/Pine Island area. On the Island, Helen has become a volunteer docent at the Randall Research Center, where she gives tours of the Smith Burial Mound and assists with the training of new volunteers. She is a volunteer with the archaeology salvage team at the Center and is helping to put together an educational collection of ancient Calusa artifacts. As a member of Pine Island Writers, she is learning to write prose-poetry on topics ranging from encounters with nature, to incarceration, to ancient and not-so-ancient political history. In her former life as a faculty member at the University of Michigan, Helen taught undergraduate courses on human rights, international development, race and racism, nonviolent social movements and argumentative writing. She has written four books on educational topics as well as a training manual for Peace Corps Volunteers. She was Chair of the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission, a Board member and Clerk of the Friends School in Detroit, and a member of the Midwest Regional Board of the American Friends Service Committee. As a Quaker, Helen continues to be active on issues of social justice with the Fort Myers Monthly Meeting.
Vice President: Nadine Slimak (2022-2025)
Nadine Slimak has lived in Bokeelia since 2000 and joined the GPICA board in 2017 to help protect the coastal-rural lifestyle that drew her to the Island. She spent 15 years as a journalist in Ohio, upstate New York and Florida before joining Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fl., where she served as Director of Communications for 11 years, directing national, regional and local media activities, handling crisis communications and helping the organization develop direct communications with its members and supporters. In 2015 (tired of the long commute from Pine Island), she left Mote to develop her own communications and public relations consulting business, Vetted Communications, LLC. Her main clients are nonprofit organizations working in the marine environment and include the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System and The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature. (Membership & Communications Chair)
Treasurer: Michael Sweeney (2021-2023)
Michael Sweeney was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, and spent the first 16 years of his life traveling from Army base to Army base both abroad and in the United States. After his father retired, Michael earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in secondary Science Education from Temple University. After teaching in Philadelphia for a year he moved to the suburban Tredyffrin Easttown school district in Chester county Pennsylvania where he spent 35 years teaching science to both middle school and high school students. He coached both track and field and soccer throughout most of his tenure at the school district. He partnered with the American Lung Association yearly to record the presence of radon gas in student homes within the school district. After retirement in 2012, Michael worked for three years at an alternative school for disadvantaged youth. During that time he obtained his Florida Master Naturalist certification and moved to Florida permanently in 2015. He lives happily with his wife of 35 years in Pineland and looks forward to keeping Pine Island an oasis for nature lovers.
Cindy Bear (appointed in 2021, serving through 2024)
Cindy Bear recently retired after serving the Randell Research Center (RRC) Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, for 11 years, first as Coordinator and then Co-Director. Located at Pineland, the RRC protects archaeologically and ecologically important lands and provides various educational programming. Prior to working for the RRC, Cindy served as a Resource Teacher for Environmental Education with the Lee County School Board while she concurrently studied burrowing owls in Cape Coral with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife Ecology and a Master’s Degree in Science Education. Cindy has also served terms on the Boards of the State of Florida Nongame Wildlife Program, the Audubon Society of Southwest Florida, the Babcock Preservation Partnership and the Calusa Land Trust. Additionally, she was appointed by two Commissioners and served 20 years on the Lee County Bald Eagle Technical Advisory Committee. She is a fifth generation Floridian and has been a resident of Matlacha and Pine Island for more than 20 years. “The GPICA offers the community a collective voice in matters of importance to residents and I am particularly interested in ensuring that voice speaks for the wildlife of our community,” Cindy says. “My background means I can bring the GPICA knowledge in review of development proposals as well as experience collaborating with other organizations whose missions align with the GPICA.”
Connie D’Alessio (appointed in 2021, serving through 2024)
Connie D’Alessio was born and raised in Staten Island, New York. She and her husband, Guy, raised two beautiful children. Connie is a graduate of SUNY Empire State College and holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management. Connie’s professional career included 23 years on Information Systems teams within the cable industry. She spent the last three years of her career as a consultant traveling the country for various assignments and implementations. The mantra she tries to live by is “Be the Change You Want to See in the World” from Mahatma Ghandi.
The entire D’Alessio family has a history of being dedicated to service to others both professionally and personally, including FDNY, nursing and service in the U.S. Navy as well as serving in their local communities. Connie was a Girl Scout leader for 12 years, served on the Borough-Wide Planning Committee for five years. She also volunteered with The Siller Foundation, serving on the annual “Tunnel to Towers” event for five years. She worked with Project Home Front in Staten Island for more than 10 years and served as PTA president at McKee High School, was a PTA member of PS42, IS75 and Parents Association of Maritime College. Connie and her dog Fred served as a certified Therapy Dog Team for Pet Partners and Angels on a Leash.
Connie and her husband found our beautiful little island in 2018 while visiting friends that had relocated to Pine Island. By the time they were getting back on plane they had a closing date for their first vacation home in Bokeelia. The abundance of nature, and kindness among residents lured them to spend more and more “island time,” until they eventually transitioned to full-time status in December 2020.
Shari Perkins (2022-2025)
Shari first visited family on Pine Island in the 70s, with as many as 20 family members eventually living here. Over the years, she attended community events, meetings and enjoyed nature resources in the area. She finally retired here in 2004 from a faculty position at Ohio University. Shari holds degrees in Parks and Recreation Administration, Environmental Education and Research Methodology in Leisure Behavior from Michigan State University and Indiana University. She held many community board positions including Parks & Recreation Board President for nine years in Stow, Ohio. She has volunteered for multiple community organizations for more than 40 years, most related to community cohesiveness, environmental resources, people’s leisure lifestyles. Shari is a single mother of three and a grandmother of four.
Deborah Swisher-Hicks (2022-2025)
Deborah Swisher-Hicks was born and raised in Sacramento and retired from the state of California after 25 years of reviewing, interpreting, and applying complex and ever-changing laws. She moved to Pine Island in 2019, a place she not only calls home, but a community she embraces. While working in California, she saw how natural resources such as soil-rich farmland, and natural preserves disappeared in the name of progress. She raised her children to believe in protecting what is important, which is why her son serves in the U.S. Air Force. With the great community of Pine Island as her home — a place that she holds dear to her heart — she believes that it is important to protect the natural resources from overdevelopment, to provide smart mitigation measures to protect the community, and to provide the heartfelt service to the community that she loves and embraces.