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Generous Cape: Doherty earns Tabor Award

March 30, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Michel Doherty has spent the last 35 years helping to make Cape Coral a better place to live, work and play through her tireless efforts in being a trusted mentor to many of the movers and shakers in the area.

Thursday, at the Generous Cape Reception at the Cape Coral Yacht Club, Doherty earned yet one more accolade by being honored with the Elmer Tabor Generosity Award, given to someone from Lee County known for their years of service to the community, generosity with their time, talent and treasure, leadership and inspiration.

Doherty, 92, was chosen from among other notable nominees including Marc Collins, Marc Devisse, JoAnn Elardo, Lesley Hill and former Cape Coral mayor Joe Mazurkiewicz.

And of the awards she has won, and there have been many, she said this one is most special.

"I was overwhelmed, and it's probably one of the most important awards I have ever received because it's from my hometown," Doherty said. "I'm so honored to be selected because it has Elmer's name attached to it."

It's a long path since she danced at the Copacabana and Latin Quarters in New York City, performing with the likes of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.

Doherty's accomplishments since she moved to Southwest Florida in 1984 are numerous. In 2012 she was recipient of The Paulette Burton Citizen of the Year Award, the highest honor Lee County awards. That same year, she was named Grande Dame Honoree by the Pace Center for Girls, a school for at-risk girls.

She also earned the Lee Republican Women's Club Soaring Eagle Award, and was on the American Biographical Institute list of 2,000 Notable American Women.

Among her greatest achievements have been to help bring the Veterans Administration Clinic to Cape Coral and obtain grant funding for Four Mile Cove Ecological Park.

Over the years. Doherty has been a member of the Cape Coral Civic Association, Fort Myers Women's Community Club and Impact Initiative, which works with Lee Health on giving people more healthy eating choices.

Doherty was also founding member of Tiger Bay Club of Southwest Florida, chaired the American Red Cross "Simply Red Gala," Voices for Kids, Lee County Homeless Coalition, Giving Heart for Cancer, Abuse Center for Women, Downtown River District Art Walks, Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Florida, Hope Hospice Planning Committee, which brought hospice services to the city and Pace Center for Girls.

She ended her performance career when she married and, when her husband died of cancer, she said she spiraled into alcoholism. She sought help, which was very rare for women to do in those days, and it changed her life.

"I was a widow with two children to raise and my sister-in-law told me I needed some help. Or I'd have two children without a mother or a father," Doherty said. "I needed to get healthy."

In later years, she would change the way women's substance abuse was handled, using her influence and personal experience

Doherty went to school and worked her way to become an administrator two hospitals, one of the first in the state of Pennsylvania. Among her accomplishments was to.

Cape Coral Community Foundation CEO Michael Chatman said while all the finalists were worthy, Doherty exemplifies the meaning of local philanthropy through the body was work she has built.

"It's not about who gave the biggest check, but someone who is rolling up their sleeves and best exemplifying neighbors helping neighbors," Chatman said before the dinner. "What she has built in Cape Coral, like the Cape Coral Hospital, the political roles she has played at city hall, her work with the Salvation Army and being on the front lines and giving to the feeding the homeless."

Tabor said every year it seems they find people who have done a lot more than he has, which makes him more honored the award is named after him.

"I feel superior, and seeing what Michel has done in this community and it's endless. You don't ever look at yourself the same way," Tabor said. "For me it was easy. We had dirt roads when I came here."

Tabor said he never wanted this award to be about the "good ol' boys club" but, despite what newer residents like Elardo have accomplished, there simply are people who have been around longer and so rise to the top in terms of recognition.

"No matter how much we fight that.," Tabor said. "It honors the people of Cape Coral who have been here 20, 30, 40 years and who have done more than just write a check."

Mazurkiewicz agreed Doherty was very deserving of the honor..

"She's a great choice. She's been one of the grand dames of Cape Coral for 30-plus years. I'm very happy for her," Mazurkiewicz said.

Generous Cape was put on to "cast a wide net" to invite the community to celebrate generosity, according to Chatman, whose organization put on the event as part of its effort to position itself as the center of community generosity.

Donors and contributors and grantees all came together to celebrate this inaugural event Chatman hopes will become annual.

The event featured an ensemble from the Southwest Florida Symphony and a panel discussion with local philanthropists David Gomer and Ivan Gorr about the importance of local philanthropy. Chatman also bade farewell to some of the board members.

The Cape Coral Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization created through financial gifts from civic-minded companies and individuals to help donors make a positive impact on their community.

For more information, call 542-5594 or visit

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include quotes that came in after our deadline for print.



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