Upon retiring and moving from Washington, DC, to Marco Island, I was excited to resume the volunteer activities I had previously given up due to increased business travel and work responsibilities.
Earlier in my career, I had volunteered as a tutor, working with second through sixth-grade students enrolled in Chicago's Cabrini Green Tutoring Program. My immediate focus was to find a non-profit organization with a mission aligned with my passion for education and my experience in workforce development.
After reading an article about The Immokalee Foundation in Marco Island's Coastal Breeze News, I jumped on The Immokalee Foundation's website. I was impressed to find an organization with comprehensive Kindergarten to Postsecondary education and career development programs.
I quickly noticed that The Immokalee Foundation had addressed all the pitfalls I had experienced in my career as Executive Vice President of an industry education institute. Though retirement sounds so appealing, I quickly realized I was ready to be put to the test again.
To begin, I completed my Mentor/Volunteer application, and soon I was meeting with my mentee, Jennifer, a rising ninth grader. Jennifer is following the Foundation's Business Management & Entrepreneurship Pathway.
I loved it so much; I wanted MORE! I now volunteer at The Immokalee Foundation's Naples office twice a week. I support the Philanthropy team, researching prospective donors, providing administrative assistance, helping with events, and using my years of experience in exciting new ways.
I worked registration at the Charity Classic Pro-Am Golf Tournament and the CEO Leadership Summit. These events gave me better insight into The Immokalee Foundation's talented staff and dedicated and generous board members. Every staff member has a laser focus on student success and a passion for developing and implementing programs that change children's lives. They understand they have the unique opportunity to work with students and families from elementary school through college, guiding children to become successful men and women who can achieve their dreams.
At the CEO Leadership Summit, I saw high school seniors, professionally dressed and confident, introducing themselves to high-profile local CEOs and engaging executives in conversations about internships, college and career opportunities.
My favorite event was the 2022 Immokalee Foundation Graduation Celebration for graduates and their families, with over 250 people in attendance. The pride I saw in every staff member as they interacted with graduates and families was extraordinary. Then again, "family" is perhaps the best word to describe the special relationship between this talented team and the very deserving community they so lovingly support.
I pinch myself each time I enter The Immokalee Foundation office. I cannot believe I found such a worthy and successful non-profit to support with my time. Across the entire organization, donors, mentors, and staff, I see a passion for The Immokalee Foundation's robust educational programs, pride in each student's academic and career success, and the sincere belief that there's nothing more important than improving the lives of Immokalee's youth.