Jenni Fogle is trying to get a chapter of Toastmasters International off the ground in Naples.

Jenni Fogle is trying to get a chapter of Toastmasters International off the ground in Naples. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

NAPLES, Italy — Gumption could be Jenni Fogle’s nickname.

When she’s not at one of her two jobs — flying dignitaries around Europe and putting other peoples’ lives in order — she’s busy launching the Naples chapter of Toastmasters International.

Just for kicks.

Well, that and to meet “new and fascinating people,” said the 37-year-old pilot/life counselor/group president.

Fogle likes working with people. She flies dignitaries, admirals and other VIPs in a Learjet for her job as a pilot with Flight International, which is contracted by the Navy to ferry U.S. and NATO military and civilian bigwigs throughout Europe from the Capodichino base in Naples.

When she’s not doing that, she’s running a part-time business as a “life coach.”

“You know, like someone who wants to improve as an athlete hires an athletic coach, I’m the person they hire to help improve their life, to set goals, to prioritize things,” Fogle said.

“Who doesn’t need more time and less stress?” she asked, laughing.

The desire to ease the stress of public speaking is what led Fogle to organize the Napoli Toastmasters Club, which she began in October. She sought members by putting up fliers, placing ads in the Naval Support Activity Naples base newspaper, and spreading the news by word-of-mouth.

She netted nine initial participants, a number that fluctuates as members face other commitments. In order to be recognized as an official chapter by Toastmasters International, the group needs a minimum of 20 members.

Patience, persistence and perseverance are what it will take to reach the goal, she says.

Toastmasters International was started in California in 1924 by a group of men looking to get “practice and training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings, and to promote sociability and good fellowship among its members,” according to the group’s Web site, Members work on various speech projects to build skills in areas from breaking the ice at gatherings to learning how gestures can communicate meaning.

Today there are nearly 10,000 clubs with nearly 200,000 members in about 90 countries. There are about 43 military-sponsored clubs around the world, a number that has remained fairly steady during the past couple of years, according to Toastmasters International spokeswoman Kelly Murphy.

Soon that number may include Naples. And that would suit member Van Reeves just fine.

As the deputy comptroller for the Naval Computer Telecommunication Area Master Station, he at times has to deliver budgetary speeches to large groups. That makes him nervous.

“The club helps me build my oral communication skills and gain confidence in speaking before a crowd,” he said. He spoke without interjecting any of those awkward “ahs” or “ums” that fellow Toastmasters who gather for the weekly Tuesday meetings would be sure to count and point out — all done as constructive criticism, Fogle says.

Why, they’d never poke fun, she insisted, even though laughter is not only allowed, but encouraged, at meetings. Especially if members guffaw at the designated joke of the meeting.

During one recent meeting, it was Fogle’s turn to deliver that joke.

She was well-prepared, both in delivery and content. Her joke went like this:

So, there are twin brothers, identical in every way but personality. One’s a pessimist, the other an optimist. On Christmas Eve, the father gives new toys to the pessimist, hoping to improve the boy’s attitude. The other gets a huge pile of manure slopped on the bedroom floor.

The next morning, the pessimist is no happier than before. But the optimist is happily digging through his pile.

When asked what he was doing and why he was so happy, the boy replied: “With all this poop, there must be a pony in here somewhere.”

Yes, her audience chuckled, at the content and because of her delivery, which they said was exquisite and error-free.

It was another success for the pilot who is trying to get a new project off the ground.

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