News | February 05, 2019

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Champion for people in need earns top Alumni Award

Jessica Goodall has spent her professional career trying to lift up people who are at the lowest points of their lives financially, emotionally and physically.

It’s her unyielding dedication as a champion of the underserved and underappreciated in the Southwest Florida region she calls home that has made Goodall, founder of Eva’s Closet & Foundation, the 2019 Alumna of Distinction at Florida Gulf Coast University. Along with five other alumni named Soaring Eagles, she was honored Feb. 1 at the annual Alumni Awards, which recognize achievements by FGCU graduates in their communities and careers.

Photo shows FGCU Alumni Award winner
Alumni Relations Director Kim Wallace, 2019 Alumna of Distinction Jessica Goodall and Alumni Board of Directors Chairman Jesse Bouchard.

Goodall started her career in 2004 as a child-welfare case manager, then spent time working with foster children. She has administered to teens and adults struggling with substance abuse. She completed internships working with elderly clients, some with dementia; and with adults dealing with the dual diagnosis of substance-abuse and mental-health issues. She has reached out to grandparents who had become surrogate parents to their grandchildren as a group facilitator for a nonprofit grief-support agency.

Goodall also is a member of several local boards and committees, has been a mentor with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and has used her skills as a certified yoga instructor to teach that discipline to people with dementia and children diagnosed on the autism spectrum. She is a founding member of the Social Work Society, a networking group for social workers and mental-health professionals; and her efforts as a social worker were celebrated at the Social Work Recognition Ceremony at FGCU last year. She also has been honored by the Cape Coral Community Foundation and was named to the Naples Herald’s 40 Under 40 list.

While she was still working on her 2016 master’s degree in social work with a clinical concentration at FGCU, Goodall brought together all of her knowledge and experience to start Eva’s Closet & Foundation.

Eva’s Closet has provided free assistance in every way imaginable to Southwest Florida’s neediest residents and schools by addressing clients’ needs with necessities such as food, clothing, housing, school supplies, utility bills and transportation. Eva’s Closet assists more than 1,000 people each month with clients ranging from children and families living in poverty to domestic-violence victims, foster children and those aging out of foster care, homeless individuals and families, migrant farm workers, victims of natural disasters, low-income mothers and newborns in need.

The organization works with no paid staff members — mostly interns and volunteers from FGCU.

“I have received unconditional support from my social work professors and the social work department from the onset,” Goodall said. “The FGCU MSW program allowed me to strengthen my professional skills and aided in providing the building blocks for the establishment of Eva’s Closet. In addition, Eva’s Closet’s success is due also to the wonderful FGCU social work and psychology interns, as well as FGCU volunteers, who assist in daily operations. I am forever thankful for the amazing impact FGCU has played in my life.”

Besides Goodall, the FGCU Alumni Association honored graduates from each of the university’s five colleges as 2019 Soaring Eagles for their accomplishments:

College of Arts and Sciences

Photo shows FGCU Alumni Award winner
Dr. Meghan Finley

Dr. Meghan Finley first prepared for her veterinary career working as a certified assistant at Angel Animal Hospital in Bonita Springs while she was an Honors student at FGCU earning her bachelor’s degree in chemistry with minors in biology, interdisciplinary studies and music. After graduating from FGCU in 2013, she studied veterinary medicine at Ross University in St. Kitts, West Indies, and served a clinical year at Texas A&M before returning to Angel Animal Hospital’s Naples location in 2017 as an associate veterinarian. She is FGCU’s first chemistry graduate to become a doctor of veterinary medicine.

Lutgert College of Business

Photo shows FGCU Alumni Award winner
Wally Crane

Wally Crane makes the best sandwiches of any alum in FGCU’s history, and if you don’t believe it, you haven’t visited nearby Wally’s Deli on Alico Road. Armed with a degree in business management after his graduation in 2012, Wally’s entrepreneurial skills kicked into action when he couldn’t find a decent breakfast sandwich. He gave up a promising career as a financial representative to open a mom-and-pop style deli in 2015, and has quickly built a loyal following. In the past year, Wally’s Deli has expanded to Southwest Florida International Airport.

Photo shows FGCU Alumni Award winner
Joseph Marro

College of Education

Joseph Marro has made a huge impact as a music instructor since he earned his master’s degree in education at FGCU in 2011, first in Southwest Florida school districts and most recently in New York. He was a band, orchestra and choral director and instructor at Cypress Lake Middle School and High School Center for the Arts in Lee County, then Golden Gate Middle School and High School in Collier County. During that time, Marro also was strings director for elementary students with the Music Foundation of Southwest Florida. Since moving to New York in 2012, Marro has been an innovator and award-winning musical leader and educator, primarily with the New York City Department of Education and the Wyandanch Union Free School District, for which he currently serves as district music supervisor and administrative intern.

Photo shows FGCU Alumni Award winner
Dustin Chisum

U.A. Whitaker College of Engineering

Dustin Chisum graduated magna cum laude in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering after a five-year tour in the Marine Corps and three years in the private sector. He’s now a project manager for AECOM Technology Corp. in Fort Myers, where he works on initiatives that focus on water and wastewater infrastructure. He has been selected for that company’s ELEVATE program for employees considered to be in the top 1 percent of a workforce than numbers 90,000 globally. Chisum also leads the Southwest Chapter of the Florida Water Environment Association (FWEA). He was heavily involved with activities while at FGCU, most notably as founding director of the Southwest Florida Go-Kart Challenge (now the SunChase High School Solar Go-Kart Challenge) and founding president of the FGCU Colony of Theta Tau, the national professional engineering fraternity.

Marieb College of Health and Human Services

Photo shows FGCU Alumni Award winner
Danielle Visone

Danielle Visone earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2014 and a master’s in social work with a clinical concentration in 2016, both at FGCU. She has a passion for helping grieving children cope. Since becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in 2018, Visone has served as program director of the Blue Butterfly Grief Center for Tidewell Hospice in Sarasota, where she develops and facilitates children’s grief curriculum, recruits and conducts assessments of children and families, and networks with community stakeholders. She formerly was a program director for Valerie’s House, growing the nonprofit’s reach from 20 children in one location to 150 in three Southwest Florida locations in her two years there. Visone also worked with clients at Sunshine State Counseling Center, Eva’s Closet & Foundation, and the Rainbow Trails Children’s Grief Camp of Hope Hospice in Fort Myers.