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 steven.kissinger@immokaleefoundation.com.

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