NAPLES DAILY NEWS

 

 

Jubilation's Harvest Cafe to offer a sense of community

By MIREIDY FERNANDEZ, mmfernandez@naplesnews.com
December 29, 2003

 

In the heart of Immokalee, the blueberries abound.

 

There's dozens of jars with blueberry jams and jellies.

 

And very soon, blueberry bread and muffins, blueberry-flavored eggs and blueberry smoothies

will become a permanent staple at the Harvest Café.

 

Jubilation, a low- to middle-income residential community in Immokalee, soon will offer those goodies

to the public at Harvest Café when it officially opens Jan. 5.

 

Teachers on their way to school or store clerks en route to their posts can stop by and buy some

 fresh home-made breakfast made of — what else? — blueberries.

 

"The goal of Harvest Café is to continue to spread the news about fair food and fair trade," said Dick Nogaj,

co-founder of Jubilation with wife, Florence. "The purpose is to offer the community a place to come f

or breakfast before work to relax, socialize and read the newspaper or watch CNN."

 

But those having breakfast at Jubilation's 6,600-square-foot Harvest Activity Center have

the opportunity to do more. Jubilation is the Nogajes' latest venture in Immokalee. The couple

already runs the nonprofit Harvest for Humanity Farm comprising 110 acres in the rural town.

 

Log on to the World Wide Web on any one of the 11 computer stations in the computer lab.

Spend some quality time with your tots reading a Disney book in the children's library.

The upcoming Café is among the amenities offered in the activity center.

 

The center, inaugurated Nov. 8, has been a hit with the children living in Jubilation and their parents.

 

Eleven-year-old Joe Buenrostro logs on to the Internet to play online games or surf the Web.

 

"It's nice and peaceful," he said. "I really like it a lot; it's fun."

 

Grisel Aguilar, a 20-year-old expectant mother for the second time, is a housewife who cares for

her 21/2-year-old son, Ivan. She enjoys surfing the Net to look up pregnancy tips. When she's not

doing that, she joins Ivan in the children's library. She reads him Disney classics, shows him how

to count and teaches him the colors of the rainbow.

 

"I think this center is so good and useful for all the people here," said Aguilar, who is originally from

Mexico and arrived six years ago. "We don't have to go to the library downtown.

We can walk over and do things here."

 

In fact, Aguilar moved to Jubilation four months ago. She and her husband bought a two-bedroom,

two-bath condo. They're first-time homeowners and they are thrilled.

 

"What Jubilation has done is provide a safe place and a clean place and calm place for people,"

she said. "It makes you feel like you're in you're own town. It makes you feel like it's a family here."

 

Carmelita Zapata moved into her three-bedroom, two-bath residence at Jubilation in September.

She, too, is enjoying the benefits of owning her first home.

 

"I feel so safe here because it's hard to be renting," said Zapata, 22, who lives with her husband

and two children ages 4 and 7. "We used to live in a trailer and we didn't like it at all."

 

IF YOU GO

 

To visit Jubilation's Harvest Café — opening Jan. 5 — or to purchase blueberry products at the

Blueberry Harvest Store, stop at Jubilation at the intersection of Lake Trafford and Carson roads in

Immokalee. For more information, call 239-657-4888.

When Harvest Café opens in a few days, Zapata said, "it'll be great to get breakfast here."

For the Nogajes, longtime philanthropists in Immokalee, building Jubilation and its amenities for

residents has been a labor of love.

"We want to build a connected and integrated neighborhood and community," Dick Nogaj said.

"We believe neighborhoods today are separated by income, ethnic background and age.

 

"Our goal is to build a neighborhood where people of all economic backgrounds, ages and ethnic

backgrounds would feel comfortable and be connected to each other," he said.

 

Florence Nogaj added, "People who are interested in buying here are interested in making life better for their children."

 

Jubilation's resident make-up is already diverse and comparable with Immokalee's demographics, Nogaj said.

 

About 70 percent of Jubilation homeowners are Hispanic, while 20 percent are black or Haitian.

The other 10 percent is white. Among those who have purchased a home at Jubilation are teachers,

police officers, service-field workers, store owners and farmworkers and farm supervisors.

Dick Nogaj said the community is in the transition years. The Nogajes are running the place and

training the future leaders who will run the community when the couple step aside in a few years, he said.

 

The Nogajes own a condo at Jubilation and reside there year-round.

 

"We're developing and training the leadership to operate Jubilation and Harvest Farm

without our day-to-day involvement," he said.

 

Harvest Farm, established in 1999, pays seasonal farmworker families a living wage

and provides educational opportunities for workers such as English classes. The plan

for the near future is to sell Harvest Farm to the employees running it through an employee

 stock option plan and a no-interest, no-profit loan from Harvest for Humanity.

 

There is already a Homeowners Association up and running at Jubilation. Residents are

expected to adhere to the rules and regulations such as limiting noise and keeping their

homes up to par with the rest of the community.

 

Dick Nogaj said Jubilation's success depends on a couple of key missions.

 

"We're never too busy to reach out and help people," he said. "We're not giving them a handout;

it's a hand up to the community."

 

For more information about Jubilation's Harvest Café or the Blueberry Store, call 239-657-4888

or log on to www.aboutharvest.org

.