Guadalupe sets another record

NAPLES, Fla. (Feb. 2, 2016) – Guests at Guadalupe Center’s signature fundraiser event, “aqua,” gathered for another record-setting evening, raising $1.2 million to benefit more than 1,100 Immokalee children in the organization’s Early Childhood Education, After-School and Tutor Corps programs.

Entertainment led by the soulful sounds of the Robert Williamson Band and a sea of ocean blue, turquoise and indigo décor inspired by the creations of event co-chair Mary McCabe, greeted the sold-out crowd of nearly 400 guests who gathered to celebrate the transformative power of education.

Guests were also welcomed by nearly 40 students from Guadalupe’s Tutor Corps program – a comprehensive college-preparatory program developed to increase high school graduation rates and provide academic and financial support. The students shared their personal stories of hope, determination and gratitude.

Opening the evening festivities dressed in a floor length “aqua” hued gown befitting of the theme, Krista Fogelsong introduced guests to one of the first live auction items of the evening – a custom pair of 8.31 carat pear-shaped artisan aquamarine waterfall drop earrings designed in platinum and round 1.41 carat brilliant-cut diamonds designed and generously donated by William Boyajian of Port Royal Jewelers.

The evening continued with top bids for experiential auction lots that included a Tuscan getaway and private wine tasting, a Galapagos Island trip for two, an exclusive royal dinner prepared by Chef Darren McGrady, former chef to Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana, and two exclusive VIP packages to the 2016 Grammy’s and Primetime Emmy awards.

Evening festivities continued with the generous donations from nearly 100 patrons who helped raise more than $500,000 through on-the-spot donations during the annual “Jump Up” fundraiser and scholarship raise. A $150,000 match-gift from the board of trustees and another $100,000 match-gift added to the evening excitement and funding for early learning.

“Each year, I am amazed at the overflow of support from members of this community and the board of trustees who see the immense need there is in our community for high-quality, educational programming, and reach deep in their hearts and in their pockets to help fulfill that need,” said Guadalupe Center President, Barbara Oppenheim. “Because of their generosity, and the leadership of event chairs Linda Yost, Sue Sherwin and Mary McCabe, we are impacting lives for the better and breaking the cycle of poverty through education.”

Help bringing to life the story of change in Immokalee, former Tutor Corps student, Joane Pierre shared with the crowd her personal testimony of the childhood struggles and adversity she overcame to become a college graduate.

At the age of seven, Pierre and her family left all they knew behind in Haiti for the possibility of a better life in America.

“School was a big struggle at first. I couldn’t communicate with the other students or do my homework, and was teased because of how I spoke. Entering my freshman year of high school, I decided to look for a job to help support my family. What I found through Guadalupe Center was so much more,” said Pierre. “I loved working in the after school and summer programs as a tutor, helping with the early education program and having the opportunity to help these children grow. The program exposed me to things my parents could not, like how to prepare for a job interview, SATs, ACTs, or maneuver through the college application process.

“Being a part of Tutor Corps meant not only being able to help my family financially, but having the support, guidance and opportunity to make the dream of a college degree become a reality.”

Today, Pierre is a graduate of Jacksonville University and a successful business analyst at a mortgage servicing company.

“It’s remarkable to see stories like Joane’s come full circle. Not that long ago, she was a high school student struggling with the decisions of how to pay for school, support her family and start a new life away from home. And today, she is a successful college graduate inspiring others to follow their dream,” said Jim Ledinsky, chairman of the board of trustees for the Guadalupe Center. “Investing in the youth of Immokalee is one of the most wonderful opportunities I have been given. Guadalupe Center’s programs are truly changing lives through education.”

For nine consecutive years, 100 percent of the high school seniors in Tutor Corps have graduated and been accepted into a post-secondary education program.

Additional community support of “aqua” was provided by more than 50 individual and corporate sponsors including The Moglia Family Foundation on behalf of Amy and Paul Heuerman, Arthrex, London Bay Homes, TD Ameritrade, Ametek Foundation, City Mattress, David Meyer Trust, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch Private Bank, Luma Capital, Publix Super Market Charities, Naples Dailey News, Naples Illustrated, Life in Naples, Port Royal Jewelers, and the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort, Naples.

Guadalupe Center is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty. For more than 30 years, the nonprofit organization has been serving the children and families of Immokalee. To make a donation, or for more information, please visit www.GuadalupeCenter.org or call 239-657-7158.

The Immokalee Bulletin is published every Thursday.

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