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Bonita & Estero Magazine

She Sells Sea Shells: Storm Shan’t Sink the Shell Show

Jan 13, 2023 04:00PM ● By Andrea Stetson

There are a wide variety of things created by volunteers with the Bonita Springs Shell Club. Photos by Andrea Stetson

There might not be many shells on the beach after a devastating hurricane, but there are plenty at the Bonita Springs Shell Club. That’s where a group of volunteers are gearing up for the annual February show and sale. This year all the money raised will be donated to Lovers Key State ParkDelnor-Wiggins Pass State Park and Turtle Time to help restore the beaches that were devastated by Hurricane Ian.

The group has also invited shell clubs from Sanibel and Marco Island to join them for the show and sell their wares, too. This year the Bonita Club is using shells that they had in storage and are buying shells.

“I have been to the beach three times and the shells are all buried,” said Alice Rhoads, craft director. “We were planning on three or four outings to go collecting, but we will have to buy shells instead unless people have shells and don’t want them and want to donate them to us.”

Creations like these are being sold by the Bonita Springs Shell Club. They make items for holidays, along with things like flowers, animals, mirrors, scenery and more. This tree is made from sea glass. Photos by Andrea Stetson

Rhoads said they usually like to use local shells found along Barefoot Beach, Bonita Beach, Lovers Key, Fort Myers Beach and Englewood Beach. But those places have been closed since the storm.

The local shell club also has a new home. After years of being bounced around from the Beach and Tennis Club, to Brookdale, to the American Legion building, they now have a spacious room at The Sanctuary RV Park in eastern Bonita Springs.

“This is just a beautiful spot we hope we can stay here forever,” said Dani Korson, shell show chairwoman.

The 27 members of the club work year round to create a variety of objects to sell at the show. The club, that began in 1983, has had yearly shows since 1986. Some of the most popular items are the pussy willows, chrysanthemums, orchids and decorated mirrors. There are delicate dragonflies made from sea spines and ladybugs created from cowrie shells. Scallops have been transformed into crabs and seals are made from olive shells. Cockles create flop eared rabbits and dogs. Holiday ornaments fill one table, while shell wreaths, jewelry and shadow boxes are featured nearby. Rhoads also uses her artistic talents to paint scenes on large scallops and other shells. Then there are the flowers, hundreds of them, made from shells of all colors and sizes. There are usually 300-400 items on the tables. Prices range from $2 to $100. "After the Storm" is the theme of this year’s show.

“I am telling everybody that we did survive it and we are going to continue,” Rhoads stressed.

Shell club members Lisa Glenn and Kim Hagins hang shell ornaments on a tree. Photos by Andrea Stetson

But surviving is a bit harder this year, not only because of the lack of shells, but because of the lack of volunteers. Rhoads said some of their snowbird members had their homes damaged in the storm and won’t be coming to Florida this year. That’s why they are always looking for new volunteers to join the club. Every Thursday morning the ladies chat, laugh and even giggle as they use hot glue guns to turn ordinary shells into elaborate creations. Some are painstakingly intricate with hundreds of little shells, while others are easier with just a few larger items. Korson said volunteers don’t need experience to join. 

The Bonita Springs Shell Show is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. February 3-4 at The Sanctuary, 13660 Bonita Beach Road, in Bonita Springs. The show is free to attend. For more information or to join the shell club contact: Dani Korson 317-431-4605 or [email protected]

Andrea Stetson has written for local newspapers and magazines since 1995. She and her family live in North Naples.