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Supporters ensure the show goes on for students in Immokalee

Southwest Florida loves a gala… The social aspects. The food. The décor. The ability to help a charitable cause.

Southwest Florida’s nonprofits love galas, too. Fundraising events amplify awareness for their causes and generate financial support that fuels their programs and services year-round.

One year ago, COVID-19 abruptly put an end to in-person gatherings. Today, the fundraising gala – a staple of high season in Naples – still hasn’t returned, at least in large gatherings.

Last spring, Guadalupe Center adopted a rallying cry of “The show must go on.” Education cannot stop because our children’s futures are riding on it. That’s why our teachers, staff and mentors immediately began connecting virtually to continue preparing students for the future.

Guadalupe Center’s annual fundraising gala, held every January, raises more than $1 million each year to fund education programs. Canceling the gala wouldn’t just cut $1 million from the budget; it would cut 1 million dreams and possibilities from the lives of students who depend on a high-quality education to overcome poverty. We couldn’t do that to our children, so, as we had been saying, the show must go on!

Circtacular was held Jan. 21 under the virtual big top. Going into it, there were questions about how the technology would work, whether guests would “attend” an event on their smart TV or tablet, and if attendees would donate in a less personal environment.

The livestream itself was entertaining, educational and enlightening. Circtacular played off its circus theme with special effects, circus acts, augmented reality and comedic performances. I was “volunteered” to take pies in the face if we met fundraising goals. We did, students gladly tossed cream pies at me during the livestream – nine times! – and I would gladly do it again to help raise money that supports our mission.

Circtacular was all about the unexpected. We didn’t know whether a virtual format would resonate with supporters, and they didn’t know exactly what the program would entail. We certainly didn’t want this to be just another Zoom presentation, so we set out to create a memorable, highly entertaining show that kept supporters on the edge of their seats.

During Circtacular, Guadalupe Center introduced its new “This is Me” campaign, which will tell the stories of Immokalee students whose lives are being transformed through education. “This is Me” stories showcase students’ determination, resilience and perseverance, and their stories prove that possibilities, opportunities and potential impact are endless.

The transformation in Immokalee has begun. It’s starting with education, and it’s starting at Guadalupe Center.

In-person galas typically feature live and silent auctions where guests can bid top dollar for exotic trips, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and unique gifts, but a livestreamed event presented too many logistical challenges. In-person galas also feature table sponsors, but that, too, couldn’t be part of a virtual event.

Instead, Guadalupe Center amplified its Jump Up for Education, which allows guests to make a donation and “jump up” to show their support. Unlike an auction, Jump Up supporters receive nothing in return. No trips to Europe. No dinner cruises. No jewelry. “Just” a donation to help transform a student’s life forever.

What were the results? Sixteen businesses and foundations stepped forward as Circtacular sponsors, and our virtual Jump Up for Education set an all-time fundraising record. In all, Guadalupe Center raised $1 million.

Our supporters stuck with us because they’re passionate about our cause and mission. Proceeds will allow Immokalee parents to send their children to a nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program. It will allow elementary-age students to attend the reading- and math-focused After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program. It will allow high school students to participate in the Tutor Corps Program, which not only prepares teens for college, but also provides scholarships so they can afford tuition.

Support helps students like Immokalee High School senior Marc Dorcin, whose family moved to the U.S. from Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Thanks to Guadalupe Center, “my future is filled with possibilities, including a college education,” he said.

Former Tutor Corps student Erika Arvizu, whose parents were migrant workers, received a full-ride college scholarship through Guadalupe Center and attended an out-of-state, private institution.

“It changed the trajectory of my life, and that is why I came back to Immokalee,” said Erika, who is now a first-grade teacher in Immokalee. “I know what Guadalupe Center did for me and I want to make sure other students have the same opportunities.”

Our team, our students and our community are incredibly grateful that the show did go on. The impacts of Circtacular will be felt for generations to come.

– By Dawn Montecalvo, President of Guadalupe Center

Guadalupe Resale Shop needs volunteers for high season

Guadalupe Resale Shop is in need of volunteers to help process donations, price items, stock shelves, create displays, assist customers and ring up purchases at its North Naples showroom.

The nonprofit organization typically has more than 100 dedicated volunteers who lend their services during the year. However, some winter residents are staying up North this season because of COVID-19 while local volunteers are limiting their outside interactions.

“Volunteers typically only ‘work’ a few hours each week or month, so it doesn’t feel like a ‘job,’” said Kat McNabb, store manager. “To them, it’s important to continue giving back to the community, and volunteering at the Resale Shop allows them to help enhance educational opportunities for the next generation of students.”

Proceeds from the Resale Shop help Guadalupe Center create endless possibilities through its nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program. Guadalupe Center’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

In 2020, Resale Shop volunteers logged more than 12,000 hours of volunteer time.

Since the pandemic began, Guadalupe Resale Shop has introduced a series of safety measures to keep volunteers, shoppers and donors safe. The list includes:

Encouraging shoppers and donors who are experiencing a fever or cough, or recently displayed any symptoms, to delay their visit.

Providing hand sanitizing stations throughout the showroom floor.

Requiring staff, volunteers and customers to wear protective face masks and maintain six-foot social distancing.

Sanitizing changing rooms after each use.

Holding all clothing donations for a minimum of 24 hours and thoroughly cleaning other donations before offering them for sale.

Maintaining the no-return policy to ensure all items inside the showroom have been cleaned and sanitized.

The Resale Shop is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays. Donations are accepted from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays from a curbside drop-off behind the store. 

LEARN MORE: How to Volunteer

‘Circtacular’ raises over $950,000 for education programs in Immokalee

Guadalupe Center’s Circtacular, a circus-themed virtual fundraising extravaganza, raised more than $950,000 to support the nonprofit’s mission of breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

Livestreamed on Jan. 21 under the virtual big top, Circtacular was filled with special effects, comedic performances, compelling videos, heartfelt testimonials and traditional circus acts, including juggling, augmented reality, circus animals and an all-time favorite – pies in the face of Guadalupe Center President Dawn Montecalvo after online donations surpassed fundraising goals.

Guadalupe Center’s signature event is the nonprofit’s largest annual fundraiser and traditionally kicks off Naples’ winter season of philanthropic formal galas. In 2021, Circtacular instead was livestreamed to smart TVs, laptops, tablets and smartphones across Southwest Florida and beyond.

“All year, our rallying cry has been ‘The show must go on,’ which refers to both Circtacular and our education programs,” Montecalvo said. “We have remained student focused and mission forward because, in our eyes, nothing can stop education as long as enough people passionately care about it. We are incredibly thankful for the unwavering support of our sponsors and donors who are helping rewrite the stars for students and families in Immokalee.”

Circtacular’s audience of philanthropists, business and community leaders, entrepreneurs and educators received patron party boxes filled with mementos, including a clown bowtie, animal crackers, locally-made custom cookies, popcorn and salsa, and Guadalupe Center accessories such as hats and face masks. The show’s interactive program featured dozens of students who are benefiting from contributions made by generous Guadalupe Center supporters.

During the show, current and former students shared their personal stories through “This Is Me,” a new campaign that introduces the talented, inspiring students of Immokalee to Southwest Florida. One of those students was Marc Dorcin, whose family moved to the U.S. from Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. He spoke no English at the time and was later assigned to remedial classes as a freshman at Immokalee High School. Now, after hard work under the tutelage of his mentors and staff at Guadalupe Center, Dorcin is enrolled in the rigorous Cambridge AICE program at school. Last year, his father passed away, and again Guadalupe Center stepped in to help, making sure he was still on track to graduate and pursue a college degree.

“Adversity is no longer my task-master; it will not control my future,” Dorcin said. “Instead, my future is filled with possibilities, including a college education.”

Circtacular’s primary fundraising mechanism was the Jump Up for Education, a lively interactive drive that allowed attendees to make a donation and “jump up” to show their support for Guadalupe Center. Donations large and small began pouring in, including a $100,000 match challenge from an anonymous donor.

Proceeds from Circtacular will support Guadalupe Center’s three educational programs: the nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program.

Circtacular’s Big Top Sponsor was the Mary & Patrick McClain Foundation. Additional sponsors included Gamble Family Vineyards, Moorings Park Grande Lake/London Bay Development Group, Northern Trust, Priority Marketing, The Indium Corporation & Macartney Family Foundation, Heatherwood Construction, Waterside Shops, Carter, Elite Jets, Ficarra Design Associates and Infinite Professional Center. Media sponsors were Gulfshore Life/WINK, Life in Naples, Naples Daily News/LocaliQ and WAVV 101.1-FM.

Sharing co-hosting duties with Montecalvo was WINK News anchor Lindsey Sablan, who served as emcee. Auctioneer Greg Quiroga led the Jump Up for Education. 

WATCH: Circtacular

Tickets still available for Guadalupe Center’s ‘Circtacular’ on Jan. 21

Community members wanting to enhance education and create endless possibilities for students in Immokalee still have an opportunity to purchase tickets for Guadalupe Center’s Circtacular fundraising extravaganza.

The Jan. 21 virtual event will be livestreamed and help generate proceeds to support Guadalupe Center’s three educational programs: the nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program.

“Our virtual event will be like one you’ve never seen before,” said Guadalupe Center President Dawn Montecalvo. “Far from the experience of a Zoom call, Circtacular will be a lively production filled with special effects, comedic performances, compelling videos, heartfelt testimonials from our students and interactive ways for the audience to make a difference.”

Circtacular also features Jump Up for Education, a lively interactive drive that allows attendees to make a donation and jump up to show their support for Guadalupe Center.

Three ticket options are available: Big Top Patron ($500 per couple), Ringmaster Patron ($250 per couple) and Entertainer Patron ($100 per couple).

Guadalupe Center also has announced this year’s generous sponsors for Circtacular. They include:

Big Top Sponsor: Mary & Patrick McClain Foundation

Ringmaster Sponsors: Gamble Family Vineyards, Moorings Park Grande Lake/London Bay Development Group, Northern Trust, Priority Marketing and The Indium Corporation & Macartney Family Foundation

Rewrite the Stars Sponsors: Heatherwood Construction and Waterside Shops

Circus Troupe Sponsors: Carter, Elite Jets, Ficarra Design Associates and Infinite Professional Center

Media Sponsors: Gulfshore Life/WINK, Life in Naples, Naples Daily News/LocaliQ, Spotlight Magazine and WAVV 101.1-FM

Ticket and giving opportunities are available by visiting GuadalupeCenter.org/Circtacular. For more information, please contact Special Events Coordinator Tammy Richelieu at 239-963-3668 or email TRichelieu@GuadalupeCenter.org. 

Guadalupe Center announces 2021 Board of Trustees appointments

Guadalupe Center has welcomed three additional leaders to its 2021 Board of Trustees, a governing body whose members serve as advocates and ambassadors for students and families in Immokalee. 

Newly appointed trustees include Debbie Toler, Eric Wallach and John Paro, who join 20 other individuals who help set policies and direction for the nonprofit organization. Guadalupe Center’s mission is breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee. Trustees and Guadalupe Center staff oversee the nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and the college preparatory Tutor Corps Program. 

“Our Board of Trustees helps guide the organization, and we’re excited to welcome these three incredibly talented individuals to our leadership team,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “Each of them shares our vision and believes in our mission, and their passion and expertise will be critical as Guadalupe Center continues to create endless possibilities for students in Immokalee.” 

Toler is a community leader with a passion for helping nonprofits, particularly those focused on education and youth, and spent her professional career in corporate marketing and communications. She serves on the statewide Board of Trustees for Pace Center for Girls and was vice president of marketing for SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. Toler earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration and communications from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

Wallach is a retired partner with DLA Piper, a global business law firm. He previously chaired Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman’s employment practices and litigation practice. Wallach is an honorary trustee with the New-York Historical Society and a former trustee of Christina Seix Academy. Wallach, a mentor in Guadalupe Center’s Tutor Corps Program, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University and a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School.

Paro is chairman and CEO of Hallstar, a specialty chemical company serving the industrial, beauty and personal care sectors. He’s worked for the company since 1986 and previously worked in marketing and sales for FMC Corporation. Paro earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Bucknell University and a Master of Business Administration in marketing and finance from the University of Chicago.

In addition to the three appointments, Guadalupe Center also announced executive leadership positions for 2021 that includes Joe Baughman (chair), Fred Hagemann (vice chair), Dr. Carl Ehmann (treasurer) and William Dempsey (secretary). 

Guadalupe Center opens ‘Jump Up for Education’ in advance of Circtacular

The show must go on, and Guadalupe Center’s Circtacular, a virtual fundraising extravaganza set for Jan. 21, already has kicked off with its popular Jump Up for Education.

The Jump Up for Education is traditionally the highlight of Guadalupe Center’s annual fundraising gala, a lively, interactive drive to generate support that funds lifechanging education programs and fuels opportunities. The Jump Up for Education was aptly named more than 10 years ago after longtime supporter Phil Beuth implored event attendees to make a donation and then jump up to show their support for Guadalupe Center.

In 2021, Circtacular will be a livestreamed event, allowing a virtual audience of philanthropists, business and community leaders, entrepreneurs and educators to follow online as students share their compelling stories of personal challenges, achievements and ambitious goals.

“This year, we can’t ‘Jump Up’ together, but we still need the community’s support to empower our mission of breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “We’re asking supporters to help make a million dreams come true, and that’s exactly what happens when you provide access to high-quality educational programs – you’re creating endless possibilities for the next generation.”

The Jump Up has provided tuition assistance that allows parents to afford a high-quality early learning program for their children, college scholarships that allow students to earn valuable postsecondary degrees and support to hire and train teachers who guide students toward academic success.

Supporters can contribute to the Jump Up for Education in advance or during Circtacular. All gifts will be recognized throughout the livestreamed event. Proceeds help provide high-quality learning opportunities for more than 1,400 students annually through Guadalupe Center’s nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program.

Ticket and giving opportunities are still available by visiting GuadalupeCenter.org/Circtacular. For more information, please contact Special Events Coordinator Tammy Richelieu at 239-963-3668 or email TRichelieu@GuadalupeCenter.org. 

Guadalupe Center applying for USDA food program at new Monaghan campus

Guadalupe Center has announced its intention to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Child Care Food Program at its new Monaghan Family Early Childhood Education Campus.

The federally funded program reimburses child care providers for serving nutritious meals and snacks to eligible children. The program operates similar to the free and reduced-price meal program in public schools. Regulations allow public and private nonprofit child care centers, outside-school-hours care centers, Head Start programs and other licensed institutions to participate.

Students attending Guadalupe Center’s Morgridge Family Early Childhood Education Campus and The Martin Foundation Campus at Lake Trafford Elementary already are eligible for meals and snacks.

“A strong academic program is just one part a child’s overall development,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “You can’t build a strong mind without a strong body, and offering healthy, nutritious meals and snacks ensures our students are getting their recommended vitamins and minerals to help grow their minds and bodies.”

In 2019, Guadalupe Center earned gold-level recognition from the Florida Early Care & Education Recognition Program for its exemplary efforts to implement strategies that help prevent childhood obesity. 

Year-end donations: What nonprofits want, need

This time each year, resale shops and thrift stores are inundated with donations. At times, there might even be lines of vehicles waiting to donate items.

Why late December? There are obvious tax advantages in making donations to charitable 501(c)(3) organizations by Dec. 31. Nonprofits also appreciate the additional inventory as “high season” approaches in Southwest Florida.

Volunteers will gladly help donors unload their donations, but not every item makes it to the showroom floor. Any store – whether it’s a nonprofit’s resale shop or a high-end corporate boutique – only wants to display items that are going to sell. These three factors help store managers decide whether to accept a particular item:

* Condition: Is it new or like-new?

* Demand: Will shoppers want to buy it?

* Resale price: Would it help generate sales revenue that supports the mission?

In recent years, more donors at Guadalupe Resale Shop in North Naples have asked what constitutes a “high-quality” donation. Customers are advised to ask themselves, “Is this something I would give to a friend?” If the answer is yes, then typically that item will have a good value in the resale market. However, if the answer is no, then it’s not likely someone else would purchase it, either.

When considering an end-of-year donation, it’s important to have a plan before cleaning your home and loading donations into your vehicle:

Know Donation Guidelines 

Resale stores have donation rules to guide donors. Guadalupe Resale Shop, for example, accepts donations of quality furniture, home décor, artwork, kitchenware, lamps, linens, DVDs and CDs, books and more, as well as all types of new and gently used ladies’ and men’s clothing, including accessories such as jewelry, purses and nearly new shoes. The Resale Shop does not accept donations of electronics, used household appliances, mattresses, children’s clothing and toys, baby equipment, gardening tools, light fixtures, ceiling fans, armoires, entertainment centers and exercise equipment.

However, other resale stores in Southwest Florida will gladly accept those items. They may either have more shoppers looking for those type of products, or handymen volunteers who can fix electronics and appliances in need of a tune-up.

Check online to see if a resale store publishes its donation guidelines, or call the store ahead of time to ask. Some stores may turn away a donation if they already have a lot of that particular product on the shelves or are lacking ample storage space.

Know the Mission

Thrift stores in Southwest Florida support a variety of charitable causes, including education, youth, housing, hunger, employment and social services. Although a desire to clean the house or capture a tax deduction might have inspired the donation, donors should target a cause that’s near and dear to their hearts.

Resale stores should also make it clear how a donor’s items will support the cause. Guadalupe Resale Shop provides direct support for education programs at Guadalupe Center, which has a mission of breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee. Inside of the store, the Resale Shop plays inspirational, impactful videos on a TV screen to show shoppers how their purchases are creating endless possibilities for the children of Immokalee.

Each time another vehicle pulls into the donation line, it’s one more opportunity to impact the lives of children, seniors, veterans or other groups within our community. Let’s hope the donation line stays long into the new year.

Guadalupe Center announces sponsorship opportunities for Circtacular virtual fundraising extravaganza

Guadalupe Center has announced five circus-themed sponsorship opportunities for Circtacular, a livestreamed fundraising extravaganza to be held under the virtual big top on Jan. 21.

The virtual event will be streamed to an audience of philanthropists, business and community leaders, entrepreneurs and educators across Southwest Florida and beyond. Proceeds from Circtacular will support Guadalupe Center’s mission of breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

Circtacular’s top sponsorship level, the Presenting Sponsor, is still available. Benefits for the Presenting Sponsor include event passes, custom party boxes, naming rights to Circtacular’s signature cocktail, a 30-second pre-event commercial, pre-recorded video to air during the livestream, invitations to exclusive VIP events and a guest blog on GuadalupeCenter.org. The Presenting Sponsor also can provide promotional items for the custom party boxes as well as a “freemium” offer to all guests.

Sponsors will be recognized on Guadalupe Center’s donor wall and in marketing materials, traditional media and social media. The sponsorship levels include:

  • Presenting Sponsor ($50,000): Includes 20 virtual passes and five custom party boxes
  • Big Top Sponsor ($25,000): Includes 20 virtual passes and four custom party boxes
  • Ringmaster Sponsor ($10,000): Includes 10 virtual passes and three custom party boxes
  • Rewrite the Stars Sponsor ($5,000): Includes six virtual passes and two custom party boxes
  • Circus Troupe Sponsor ($3,000): Includes two virtual passes and one custom party box

Three virtual ticket options are available, each including a custom party box full of fun based on patron level: Big Top Patron ($500 per couple), Ringmaster Patron ($250 per couple) and Entertainer Patron ($100 per couple). The event will help support Guadalupe Center’s nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program. Guadalupe Center serves more than 1,400 students annually.

Circtacular’s tagline is “The Magic. The Mission. The Moment.” Guests are encouraged to host their own private watch parties and livestream the event on Thursday, Jan. 21.

For sponsorship or ticket opportunities, please contact Special Events Coordinator Tammy Richelieu at 239-963-3668 or email TRichelieu@GuadalupeCenter.org.

Stein Mart shopper buys out store, donates clothing to Guadalupe Resale Shop

Nearly 280 Stein Mart locations nationwide were set for closure after the company filed for bankruptcy, including five in Southwest Florida.

Shoppers took advantage of steep discounts on all merchandise as Stein Mart liquidated its assets. One of Guadalupe Resale Shop’s supporters visited the location near Pelican Bay in Naples on Oct. 29, just hours before it was set to close its doors for the final time.

The mood was somewhat somber. Inventory was limited. The handful of remaining employees were about to be unemployed.

The Resale Shop supporter wasn’t there to shop for herself, though. She was on a mission, for a mission, and began filling up shopping bags with deeply discounted clothing. She intended to buy everything and donate it all to the Resale Shop, which supports educational programs for students in Immokalee.

One bag turned into two, which turned into three, and so forth. When employees found out what she was doing, they started chipping in money of their own.

“The sales staff were about to lose their jobs, yet felt so strongly about what I was doing that they wanted to help, too,” said the shopper, who wanted her deed to remain anonymous. “I was just so touched. Charity just breeds more charity.”

When all was said and done, her sales receipt measured nearly 11 feet! The total retail price was more than $6,000, but after discounts, she paid just a little over $200.

She and her husband then delivered the items to Guadalupe Resale Shop,

Resale Shop volunteers left the tags on each item, a sales technique that helps move inventory quicker because shoppers know they’re getting brand-new items at great prices. The Resale Shop has a growing contingent of donors and shoppers who are helping Guadalupe Center accomplish its mission of breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

Guadalupe Center serves more than 1,400 students annually through its nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program. The nonprofit relies on proceeds from the Resale Shop and philanthropic support from individuals, foundations and businesses to keep programs accessible for lower-income families.

“Every donation and sale at Guadalupe Resale Shop helps support our mission, but this particular donor went above and beyond,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “It’s actually a fabulous idea. So many retail stores have clearance, BOGO and going-out-of-business sales, and knowing when to buy and donate can be a tremendous help to Guadalupe Resale Shop and other nonprofits that rely on donations to carry out their missions.”

Donation FAQs

Guadalupe Resale Shop accepts donations of quality furniture, home décor, artwork, kitchenware, lamps, linens, DVDs and CDs, books and more, as well as all types of new and gently used ladies’ and men’s clothing, including accessories such as jewelry, purses and nearly new shoes.

Donations are accepted from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays at a drop-off station behind Guadalupe Resale Shop, which is located at 12980 Tamiami Trail North, Unit #10, in Naples. Guadalupe Resale Shop offers a FREE furniture pick-up service by calling 239-594-2696.

LEARN MORE: How and what to donate

– By Kat McNabb, Manager of Guadalupe Resale Shop