VOLUNTEERS AT THE IMMOKALEE FOUNDATION RECEIVE AWARDS
by Steven Kissinger
Winning must be contagious!
Recently, two longtime adult supporters of The Immokalee Foundation and one student were honored for their selflessness as volunteers and philanthropists. Combined, they represent decades of support to the community and commitment to the future of youth in Immokalee.
The Immokalee Foundation board member and mentor Louise Penta was named a 2016 Woman of Initiative by the Women’s Foundation of Collier County. Every spring since 1998, the foundation has honored women who are leaders and who inspire others through their civic engagement and philanthropy.
Penta has mentored five students for The Immokalee Foundation and has been a board member for seven years. Still, she was surprised to be named a Woman of nitiative. “It’s a wonderful honor – and quite a club to belong to,” she said. A celebration in April will feature video presentations of Penta and several other women, each talking about the greatest influences in their lives.
TIF’s Board Chairman Joseph Zednik recently was named a Distinguished Volunteer by the Everglades Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
It was a complete surprise, Zednik said. “I certainly thought it was very nice, but really, I’m not in it for honors,” he said. “I’m in it for what we do for the students.
My passion in charitable work is education. I think it’s the most important thing we can do.”
Through the TIF mentor and mentee relationship Salvador Preciado recently spent a day meeting the veterinarian at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, animal care professionals at the Naples Zoo, and Zednik’s own doctor, so Preciado could learn more about possible careers in medicine. The junior at Immokalee High School is interested in pursuing a career in a medical field, and Zednik hopes that exposure to different types of jobs will help him make a more informed decision.
Zednik’s nomination for the award read: “Through his volunteerism and mentoring, Joe warmly opens a world of possibilities to these young, eager students and mentees – who lovingly call him Papa Joe.”
TIF’s Take Stock in Children scholarship recipient Alfredo Villalobos-Perez was named one of two Outstanding Philanthropic Youth by the Everglades Chapter of AFP.
Now a student at Grinnell College in Iowa, Villalobos-Perez has done more in just a few years to improve his community than many others do in a lifetime. He founded the first Earth Day celebration in Immokalee last April, after an internship with the University of Florida’s Agriculture and Science Center, where he participated in experiments on water quality.
He was a volunteer and then a board member of Immokalee Little League. Villalobos-Perez also volunteered in a surgical infectious disease unit for Lee Memorial Health System. He was young for the assignment, but since he was dual enrolled in high school and college – at FGCU – he was allowed to participate.
Villalobos-Perez also worked with other young adults to create a company called Taste of Immokalee, which sells items made from locally grown produce.
The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and post-secondary preparation and support, mentoring and tutoring, opportunities for broadening experiences, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about TIF, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239.430.9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.
Steven Kissinger, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation, can be reached at email@example.com.
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