The cornerstone of Beverly Fanning’s philosophy on life can be summed up by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous quote: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Through her Beverly B. Fanning Foundation, the Naples resident supplies love and caring as well as capital, volunteer services, and material goods, all with the goal of easing someone’s burden and improving lives.
“My foundation gives me the opportunity to extend my charitable giving and volunteering to organizations, events, or causes that I want to support—where I have a personal connection or wherever I see a need,” Fanning says. “Giving makes me happy. When I give to charities, I like that they know it’s from me, that I care about them. I do not take donations to my foundation; it is strictly funded by me. I enjoy working with charities that I’ve connected with on different levels.”
“Miss Bev,” as many of her most ardent fans know her, is a true Southerner, having grown up in Bristol, Tennessee, which is officially designated the Birthplace of Country Music. During her teenage years, she participated in walkathons and conducted door-to-door fundraising. After college at East Tennessee State University and a brief career in sales, Fanning married and settled in Atlanta, Georgia, where she lived for 39 years. During that time, she served as president of her sons’ elementary Parent-Teacher Association and high school athletic boosters organizations, honing her already prodigious volunteer, fundraising, and organizational skills. As the boys got older, Fanning continued to volunteer and support several charities, including the Atlanta Union Mission for the homeless, the Atlanta Police Foundation, Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities, Samaritan’s Feet International, and many others.
Occasionally, her family would vacation on the Paradise Coast. “As my children grew up, we often visited Marco Island, so I knew I liked the area,” says Fanning. “About six years ago, I bought a condo in Naples. On visits, I’d open up my hurricane shutters and notice how peaceful everything was. After some life changes, I decided to make Naples my permanent home. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I absolutely love living here.”
One of her secrets to feeling at home in a new town is to participate. “It’s true that you have to make the effort to get out and get involved with organizations to feel part of any community. There are so many opportunities in the Naples area to help, so many organizations doing great work. Everybody is willing to pitch in and mesh together.”
As with many Neapolitans, she has taken up golf with a passion. She is a member at Tiburón Golf Club and Pelican Marsh Golf Club, and is also active in the LPGA Amateur Golf Association. While out on the course, Fanning often meets new people and learns about organizations or programs that might need a helping hand.
“Playing golf, I met someone who works closely with Special Equestrians of Fort Myers, which got hit hard during the pandemic,” Fanning says. “She asked me if I had any extra funding. So I got on the phone, did my homework, and made a donation. I did the same thing for Naples Zoo. During the pandemic, without visitors, they needed a donation to cover the costs of taking care of those beautiful animals. Every little bit helps these important places.”
A lot also happens away from the links, of course. Two years ago, Fanning became involved with the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), the organization raising money for area at-risk and underprivileged children through the Naples Winter Wine Festival every January. During the festival, NCEF community partners get a chance to meet the kids who benefit from the programs NCEF supports. At the 2020 event, Fanning met some young people from Rob’s Cottage, a Youth Haven group residence for homeless teens, who were dressed in their “dream career” uniforms. She spotted a young man sporting a Philadelphia Eagles football outfit.
“You have the wrong bird on your jersey,” Fanning, a dedicated Atlanta Falcons fan, remarked to Vonte Parris. He had just finished his senior football season at Golden Gate High School in Naples. Over the next six months, Parris and Fanning stayed in close contact. They collaborated with Laquentin Cotton, Youth Haven’s associate director of group home operations, to secure a spot for Parris on the post-grad football team of IMG Academy, a Bradenton-based prep school for student athletes. After one year at IMG, he received several offers to play college ball and is now enrolled at Morgan State University in Baltimore, where he is pursuing his educational and athletic goals.
“Miss Bev is truly one of a kind,” says Cotton. “She has a heart for people and a heart to transform lives. There is no price tag that can be put on genuine love and support, and then desire nothing in return. She’s still in day-to-day contact with Vonte. Because of Ms. Fanning, he has an opportunity to change the course of his life.”
In addition to the organizations mentioned above, Fanning currently supports many other worthy charities, including St. Matthew’s House, the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County, The Shelter for Abused Women & Children, Artis—Naples, Naples Botanical Garden, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society Bucket List Bash, Jingled Elves, Beverly’s Angels (no relation to Fanning), The Immokalee Foundation, Birthplace of Country Music (a nonprofit organization that seeks to perpetuate, promote, and celebrate Bristol’s rich musical heritage), the Tiger Woods Foundation, Make-A-Wish Southern Florida, and others.
In 2020, Fanning joined forces with T-Michaels Steak & Lobster House, Naples to offer free dinners to local area heroes on Veterans Day and, in a separate effort, to provide meals to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and front-line hospital workers at Physicians Regional Medical Center during the pandemic.
Ty Ernst, owner of the restaurant, says T-Michaels could not take on these initiatives without help from community-minded supporters. The restaurant, Fanning, and another Naples resident, Bruce Upchurch, covered the costs for these programs.
“Our Veterans Day dinner has become such a big event that we do it over two days now, providing more than 1,800 dinners to veterans,” says Ernst. “Ms. Fanning came in and let the vets know how much they are appreciated and really cheered them up.” She was also a key contributor, he adds, “to the gratefully received filet mignon dinners brought to the sheriff’s office and front-line hospital workers during COVID-19. I’ve never met anyone as humble and genuine in my whole life who gives as much as she does.”
The Beverly B. Fanning Foundation’s mission is to fill urgent needs, either with goods, capital, or services, along with restoring people’s faith that caring, opportunity, and relief are at hand. “I would encourage those who need to find ways to be involved to reach out to organizations where they may have interests and offer help,” Fanning says. “Start the new year off making a difference.”