Matching $500,00 Challenge: Celebrating HEST Program’s 10th Anniversary

Joyce Hagen and Don Fites join The Immokalee Foundation students Abigail and Emili at the 2019 Charity Classic Celebration.

It’s not every day you’re presented with an opportunity to double the impact of your support to The Immokalee Foundation. A new $500,000 matching gift challenge celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Heavy Equipment Service Technician (HEST) program is designed to do just that.

Thanks to the generosity of The Immokalee Foundation and HEST program supporters Don Fites and his wife, Joyce Hagen, this fundraising effort will also ensure the success of HEST students for years to come.

HEST was launched in 2010 with the guidance of Don, the retired chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc., who played an instrumental role in developing the public-private sector collaboration that raised money to create the program. That partnership included The Caterpillar Foundation, Fites Family Charitable Trust, Kelly Foundation Inc., Kelly Tractor and Collier County School District.

HEST graduates learn how to service heavy-duty, high performance vehicles specially designed for executing earthwork operations or other large construction tasks, from forwarders, backhoes and boom lifts, to skidders, pavers and pipe layers. In fact, your home likely wouldn’t be standing if it weren’t for a skilled heavy equipment technician.

The Immokalee Foundation covers the cost of tuition, training tools and equipment, and provides a foundation advocate to guide students successfully through the HEST program. The two-year, highly specialized curriculum administered at iTECH helps students work toward earning the ASE certification that provides a pathway to well-paying technician jobs.

Julio Estrella supports his growing family with a high-wage job achieved after he graduated from The Immokalee Foundation’s Heavy Equipment Service Technician program.

Because of their internships, training and experience, HEST program graduates often receive seniority within the companies they join. Don’s ongoing vision for the HEST program has been life changing for so many of our students, and we are grateful for his and Joyce’s leadership – along with the brand-new and long-time supporters who help sustain the program.

“Since the HEST program’s inception, more than 100 of its graduates have been hired by more than two dozen companies,” said Fites. “We invite the community to join us and help support the next 100 young men and women seeking the specialized training that leads to a successful career.”

Don and Joyce have offered a 100 percent match –up to $500,000 – for HEST donations made online at or by calling Melissa Phillips, The Immokalee Foundation Vice President of Philanthropy, at 239-537-8355.

Former Immokalee Foundation student and HEST graduate Julio Estrella supports his family with his job at Kelly Tractor in Fort Myers. He credits the foundation’s program with putting him on a life-changing pathway for a brighter future.

“It’s definitely had one of the larger impacts in my life,” Estrella said. “The foundation helped guide me to where I am now, entering a career. They helped me pay for the course, and the guidance and wisdom they’ve provided have been invaluable.”

The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to professional careers through support, mentoring and tutoring, and life skills development leading to economic independence.

To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, becoming a mentor, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit

Noemi Y. Perez, president and CEO of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at

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