Two volunteers from TIF honored for distinguished service

Don O’Neill with his mentee Gerardo Lugo. (Submitted photo)

Don O’Neill with his mentee Gerardo Lugo. (Submitted photo)

An Immokalee High School senior and a longtime supporter of The Immokalee Foundation have been honored by the Everglades Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Daniel Gonzalez-Vasquez, named 2016 Outstanding Philanthropic Youth, was honored for giving generously of his time to help others. Celebrated for being a passionate leader in fundraising, Don O’Neill was named the chapter’s 2016 Distinguished Volunteer.

Gonzalez-Vasquez, who is actively involved in The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Development program, is a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Immokalee, where he contributes in a variety of ways. For several years, he served as a catechist, teaching future members what it means to be a practicing Catholic. In the summer, he spends full days working for the church’s social services program, handing out food and clothing and meeting other needs for local families. The church is within walking distance of Immokalee High School and the foundation’s office, so several times a week, Gonzalez-Vasquez goes directly from school to the foundation to church and then home. During his first three years of high school, Gonzalez-Vasquez logged hundreds of hours in volunteer time.

“This is a small community, and people have a lot of financial problems, so I’m happy I can help,” Gonzalez-Vasquez said. “Volunteering makes a difference. By extending my hand, I can offer help to others.”

“We are very proud of Daniel and excited that he is receiving such a tremendous honor,” said Noemi Perez, The Immokalee Foundation’s program services director. “He is certainly a great example for our students and the community. We are always encouraging our students to give back to the community in any way possible.”

Daniel Gonzalez-Vasquez. (Submitted photo)

Daniel Gonzalez-Vasquez. (Submitted photo)

Students like Gonzalez-Vasquez benefit from outstanding philanthropic role models at The Immokalee Foundation, including Don O’Neill.

O’Neill’s strategic planning helped launch the nonprofit 25 years ago; today, he remains a driving force. O’Neill was one of the organizers of the inaugural Charity Classic Pro-Am golf tournament – now in its tenth year – and hosted the first major gala fundraiser, the Charity Classic Celebration. He is a board member and has served as a Take Stock in Children mentor. When praised for his work, O’Neill invariably credits others, yet his particular dedication and vision continue to benefit foundation students and programs.

The Everglades Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals will honor Gonzalez-Vasquez and O’Neill at a National Philanthropy Day celebration on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, at Hodges University in Naples.

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 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 www.immokaleefoundation.org.

The Immokalee Bulletin is published every Thursday.

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