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Guadalupe Center welcomes 3 additions to Board of Trustees

Guadalupe Center has added three new members to its Board of Trustees, including a former student who returned to Immokalee after graduating from college.

Maria Munguia Cortes, Liz Curtin and Susan Duke have joined Guadalupe Center’s governing body, which offers oversight for the education-focused nonprofit and advocates for students and families in Immokalee.

Cortes is a 2016 graduate of Guadalupe Center’s college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program who attended Wartburg College in Iowa on scholarships earned through Guadalupe Center. She returned to Immokalee and now serves as management trainee in community relations for Lipman Family Farms in Immokalee.

Curtin is an active community volunteer who is currently a co-mentor in the Tutor Corps Program, sharing her experiences, insights and advice with an Immokalee High School student. She also serves on the University of Notre Dame’s Undergraduate Experience Advisory Council.

Duke is a dedicated philanthropist whose charitable causes focus predominantly on education, children and families, basic needs, faith-based needs, health and hygiene, disaster relief and refugee relief. A former foster parent, Duke served as a court-appointed child advocate for youth in the child welfare system.

“We’re excited to welcome these three incredibly talented women to our Board of Trustees,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “Their insight and leadership will be invaluable as Guadalupe Center expands its programs to provide additional students with access to high-quality educational programs.”

Guadalupe Center offers a nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and Tutor Corps Program. The nonprofit serves more than 1,400 students annually and will grow in early 2022 with the opening of the van Otterloo Family Campus for Learning. Guadalupe Center’s mission is breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

Class of 2021: Tutor Corps seniors earn $4 million in scholarship offers, grants

All 30 high school seniors graduating from Guadalupe Center’s Tutor Corps Program will be attending college in the fall and have received a collective $4 million in scholarship offers and grants, including $378,400 in scholarship funding by tutoring children in Guadalupe Center’s After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program.

Guadalupe Center honored its Tutor Corps Class of 2021, its largest class to date, on May 4 during a private ceremony held at Immokalee High School, where students were joined by family members and mentors to celebrate their achievements. Notable statistics from the Tutor Corps Class of 2021 include:

– Students earned an average weighted GPA of 4.0

– 17 of 30 students earned college credits while in high school (their average was nearly 21 credits each)

– 12 of 30 students are the first in their family to graduate from high school

– 26 of 30 students are first-generation college students

“The Tutor Corps Class of 2021 overcame disruptions in their education caused by the pandemic, Hurricane Irma and other life challenges, but emerged stronger and more resilient,” said Guadalupe Center President Dawn Montecalvo. “As these young men and women head to college in the fall, I am confident they will continue excelling in the classroom and on campus, like they have done for the past four years during high school.”

Tutor Corps is a college-preparatory program that offers guidance in college and career readiness, ACT and SAT test prep, mentorships, financial literacy and scholarship assistance. Guadalupe Center’s mission is breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

The Tutor Corps celebration event featured remarks by Board of Trustees Chairman Joseph Baughman, Montecalvo, Vice President of Programs Bob Spano and Tutor Corps Program Director Sheila Oxx. Three students – Perla Munoz, Jose Reyes and Jean Jocirin – delivered invocations in English, Spanish and Creole, respectively.

Despite missing their junior and senior proms, athletic events, field trips, college visits and many other opportunities because of COVID-19, Spano noted that all 30 students still reached the finish line. Now, they can focus on what’s ahead. “Students, the future is your motivation,” Spano told students during his address. “Learn from the past, but live in the future.”

Graduating senior Lunex Illozier, a self-taught musician and academic scholar who will be majoring in biomedical engineering at Roberts Wesleyan College, delivered the keynote address.

Guadalupe Center’s Tutor Corps Class of 2021 includes Mariana Brito, Ricardo Castillo, Lorve Cherilus, Ashley Decius, Marc Dorcin, Kayla Etienne, Diyanara Galvan, Mariela Galvan, Malaya Hollins, Lunex Illozier, Jean Jocirin, Jazmin Leon, Karina Lopez-Ramirez, Daniela Martinez, Pedro Miguel, Laura Morales-Nito, Esteban Moreno, Perla Munoz, Rosaura Munoz-Luna, Geraldine Pierre, Gierdy Pierre-Paul, Daniela Rafael, Jose Reyes Dubon, Gisel Reyes, Benny Reyna, Ethan Rincon, Veronica Sanchez, Noemy Segura Sanchez, Jaime Sifuentes and Maria Tistoj.

Prized artwork and precious metals seek new homes in Southwest Florida

When one thinks of “treasure hunting,” images of sword-swinging pirates and metal detectors racing over the beach may come to mind. But for most modern-day treasure hunters, the search happens in air-conditioned strip malls, where thrift and resale stores offer a thrilling prospect of treasure hiding in plain sight.

Valuable items once housed in Naples-area homes have made their way to the shelves of Guadalupe Resale Shop, an upscale resale store in North Naples specializing in like-new furniture, clothing and home décor. The Resale Shop regularly receives donations of designer labels, fine jewelry, antique curiosities and high-quality furnishings. On occasion, though, there is a proverbial shimmer of gold in the pan, and something that may have once been pricey turns out to be priceless.

Fortunately, these treasures aren’t falling into unwitting hands. The Resale Shop has a history of pairing valuable décor with savvy buyers. In 2019, for instance, Toronto-based art collector Ron Woods purchased an original oil painting by S. Lewiston, valued at $2,000, for a bargain price of $175. The painting, one of Lewiston’s signature tableaus of the Venetian canals, now hangs in the library at St. Joseph’s Villa, a retirement community in Dundas, Ontario. Just one year later, international gallery curator Aldo Castillo discovered “Janet,” a lifelike statue by prolific hyperrealist sculptor Marc Sijan, in the Resale Shop’s front window. Castillo, a Naples resident, had been a longtime donor to Resale Shop, and thus was not surprised to find such an extraordinary piece of art on display. “People in Naples donate some very nice things,” Castillo noted. Much to the joy of local investors and resellers, these “nice things,” especially artwork and jewelry, will only appreciate value over time.

At Guadalupe Resale Shop, it’s more than just the shoppers hawking for treasure who benefit from high-value items. Proceeds help fund the Guadalupe Center’s transformational education programs for low-income students in Immokalee, including the nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and the college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program. Each is designed to foster personal and academic success, preparing students to be lifelong learners and leaders.

Guadalupe Center serves more than 1,400 students per year, and as more supporters donate high-end items to the Resale Shop, that number will only continue to grow. To put things into perspective, Castillo’s purchase of the “Janet” statue alone provided Guadalupe Center with enough funds to outfit a preschool classroom with a year’s worth of art and music supplies. These remarkable donations are creating opportunities all over the county, and as collectors are finding their next great investment, local children are finding their passion.

Guadalupe Resale Shop accepts donations throughout the year, and all donations are tax-deductible. The Resale Shop also offers free home pickup for large items, such as bedroom furniture and kitchen tables.

You never know who – or what – will wander through the doors of Guadalupe Resale Shop. Even if customers don’t walk away with a priceless treasure, they’ll still have made a difference in the lives of students in Immokalee.

– By Kat McNabb, manager of Guadalupe Resale Shop

Guadalupe Center receives $55,000 grant from United Way

Guadalupe Center has received a $55,000 grant from the United Way of Collier and the Keys to enhance its After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program.

The United Way’s Community Investment Award will help provide academic enrichment to an estimated 600 Immokalee students in kindergarten, first and second grades who are designated as “at risk” for falling behind in school. Guadalupe Center’s program focuses on reading, math and science, and 100% of students show learning gains on standardized tests after participating in the program.

The grant covers part-time wages for 117 tutors, each of whom is a student at Immokalee High School and participant in Guadalupe Center’s college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program. Many Tutor Corps students help supplement their parents’ income to help pay for housing, utilities, transportation and food. Tutors complete a training program through Guadalupe Center and the Collier County School District, and collaborate with certified instructors to deliver academic assistance to younger students.

“The United Way grant allows us to serve two separate groups of students, providing academic support to our younger students while providing financial assistance and valuable experience for our older group,” said Guadalupe Center President Dawn Montecalvo. “Our mission is to break the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee, and we are incredibly thankful to count the United Way as a partner year after year.”

Guadalupe Center is among 23 partner agencies supported by the United Way, which directs its assistance to organizations addressing health, education and financial stability.

United Way of Collier and the Keys was founded in 1957 and has a rich history of bringing together individuals, nonprofits, businesses and government entities to fight for a strong, vibrant and healthy community. United Way works to advance the common good by focusing on the building blocks for a good quality of life – education, income and health. As a volunteer-driven organization, United Way partners with hundreds of volunteers and more than 40 local charities to provide hundreds of human service programs to nearly 200,000 residents of Collier and Monroe counties.

Immokalee teens Zoom toward dreams of college, careers

John Mayer retired in 2016 as vice president of U.S. retail sales for J.M. Smucker, a company known for iconic brands like Smucker’s jelly and Jif peanut butter. The part-time Naples resident has traveled extensively and dined on cuisine from around the world, yet offered a surprising anecdote about his meal of choice.

“One of my favorite sandwiches is still a peanut butter and jelly on wheat bread,” he said.

Mayer was the keynote presenter at Guadalupe Center’s Leadership Day on April 21. Unlike a career day, where speakers discuss their industry, a dozen professionals instead shared insights, experiences and lessons learned with dozens of Immokalee teenagers. One of Mayer’s tips was to be passionate about your job and love what you do. He parlayed his love for peanut butter and jelly into a successful 35-year career with Smucker, making him a better salesman as he approached distribution partners and a better executive who understood consumer trends and demands.

Although Mayer’s example is a unique one, other Leadership Day presenters shared similar advice.

“There is not anybody in the world that can take your dream away from you,” said Sgt. Natalie Ashby, the only female SWAT member in the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. “Nothing comes easy in life. Stick with it, and you’ll get what you want.”

Guadalupe Center created Leadership Day in 2019 as an opportunity for Immokalee High School students to not just hear from successful business leaders and entrepreneurs, but to engage in dialogue with them. This year’s Leadership Day was virtual, putting groups of three to five students into Zoom breakout rooms for 10 minutes each. The students, upperclassmen in Guadalupe Center’s college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program, were able to ask about how presenters settled on a career choice, what inspires them, how they overcome challenges and other topics.

This year’s panelists included Regine Cooper (construction), Sheri Oganowski (nursing), Sgt. Natalie Ashby (law enforcement), Tom Costello (advertising/motivational coach), Christi Finger (graphic design), Mark Nagan (engineering), Dan Miller (musician), Kellie Burns (journalism), James Ragusa (education), Jane Sussman (social work), Kasimir Oganowski (physician) and Margie White (attorney).

Just six years after graduating from Dunbar High School in Fort Myers, Cooper is Suffolk Construction’s project engineer managing a $98 million construction project at Gateway High School in Fort Myers. The youngest of the 12 presenters, Cooper’s background is similar to many students served by Guadalupe Center. Her advice to the college-bound students was simple: “Don’t go to parties. Spend your time in career services.”

Guadalupe Center’s Tutor Corps Program provides college and career readiness, ACT and SAT test prep, mentorships, financial literacy and scholarship assistance, as well as wages for tutoring younger students. Two years ago, Leadership Day emerged as another opportunity to better prepare students for the challenges ahead.

“We are so thankful for each presenter who shared his or her time, talents and wisdom with students, as well as our staff,” said Guadalupe Center President Dawn Montecalvo. “It’s incredibly important for students to recognize that you don’t just learn in the classroom; you also learn by watching, listening and talking to others.”

– By Sheila Oxx, Director of the Tutor Corps Program.

Guadalupe Center earns fourth consecutive 4-star rating from Charity Navigator

Guadalupe Center has earned its fourth consecutive 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, the world’s largest and most-utilized independent nonprofit evaluator.

Charity Navigator evaluates nonprofit organizations on their financial strength, accountability and transparency. Guadalupe Center’s 4-star rating means it adheres to strict accounting procedures while disclosing pertinent financial and operational information to the federal government.

Charity Navigator aims to guide intelligent giving by evaluating the financial health, accountability and transparency of thousands of nonprofits each year.

“A 4-star rating is reserved for only the top charitable organizations, so for Guadalupe Center to receive the top rating for four consecutive years certainly is a tremendous achievement,” said Dawn Montecalvo, president of Guadalupe Center. “Donors want to feel confident that their philanthropic support is being spent wisely, and Charity Navigator’s thorough analysis of our financial records indicates that is indeed the case at Guadalupe Center.”

Guadalupe Center, which received a perfect evaluation score of 100 for accountability and transparency, is one of just 11 education-focused nonprofits in Florida to earn 4-star ratings in four consecutive years.

“Only 21% of the charities we evaluate have received at least four consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Guadalupe Center outperforms most other charities in America,” said Charity Navigator President and CEO Michael Thatcher. “This exceptional designation from Charity Navigator sets Guadalupe Center apart from its peers and demonstrates to the public its trustworthiness.”

Guadalupe Center’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee. It serves more than 1,400 students annually through a nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program.

Kelly Krupp promoted to vice president of philanthropy

Guadalupe Center has promoted Kelly Krupp, CFRE, to the position of vice president of philanthropy, a role that includes oversight of donor relations, fundraising and marketing.

Krupp helped lead “Guadalupe Center: 2020 & Beyond,” a successful capital and operating campaign that raised two-thirds of the nonprofit’s $24 million fundraising goal before the campaign even went public.

“Kelly connects people to our vision and mission, helping them fulfill their philanthropic goals,” said Guadalupe Center President Dawn Montecalvo. “She engages their hearts and invites them to join us in breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee. Her tremendous work and dedication to ‘2020 & Beyond’ allowed us to open the Monaghan Family Early Childhood Education Campus completely free of debt, and we anticipate doing the same for the van Otterloo Family Campus for Learning that is currently under construction.”

Krupp joined Guadalupe Center in 2014 as its grants manager before being promoted to director of major gifts, managing and cultivating relationships with current and future donors to help accomplish Guadalupe Center’s philanthropic goals. She was elevated to director of philanthropy in 2019 and senior director of philanthropy in 2020 before being promoted to vice president of philanthropy earlier this year.

In her new role, Krupp oversees a team that includes a director of annual giving, director of marketing and communications, resale shop manager, philanthropy coordinator, community outreach/engagement coordinator, database coordinator, special events coordinator and philanthropy officer.

Nearly 80% of Guadalupe Center’s annual revenue comes through private philanthropic support. The organization’s most recent annual operating budget was $7.9 million, which includes donations, grants and sales at Guadalupe Resale Shop.

Fundraising helps Guadalupe Center operate its 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.

Prior to joining Guadalupe Center, Krupp worked in donor relations for Habitat for Humanity of Collier County and served in management roles for retail stores and a human resources company. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Flagler College and is a Certified Fund Raising Executive through CFRE International, a designation that means Krupp has met a series of standards that include tenure in the profession, education and demonstrated fundraising achievement.

READ MORE: How to Give

Virtual buddies continue Buddy Day tradition for Immokalee students

Buddy Day has become an annual tradition for students in Immokalee, a much-anticipated reward for second graders in Guadalupe Center’s After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program.

Each spring for nearly three decades, more than 100 students have boarded buses bound for Marco Island, where they pair up with adult volunteers for a day of outdoor learning and fun as they explore Southwest Florida’s unique coastal habitat. Pairs of buddies participate in environmental workshops, arts and crafts, outdoor games and other learning activities.

The 29th annual Buddy Day, however, looked different. Because of the pandemic, Buddy Day transitioned to a virtual event. Guadalupe Center staff didn’t want this to be just another Zoom session, so extra thought went into developing the 2021 Buddy Day program.

Just like in previous years, there would be a fire truck, park rangers and outdoor games, and not just for one afternoon, either. Buddy Day became Buddy Week to allow for social distancing.

Representatives from Big Cypress National Preserve typically lead students through a birding expedition, pointing out various species prevalent on Marco Island. Instead, rangers created a series of birding videos that children watched before heading outside of their classrooms to explore. Big Cypress even provided handmade binoculars from toilet paper rolls. One highlight was the Birding Olympics in which rangers acted like birds to demonstrate how they fly and explain migratory patterns.

“They couldn’t smell it, feel it or touch it, but hopefully we were still able to give them a valuable experience through the videos,” said Lisa Andrews, Big Cypress’ outreach and education coordinator.

Firefighters from the Immokalee Fire Control District led students through a fire safety program and demonstrated equipment.

“I liked the fire truck because we got to pull the cord to make the alarm,” said Eulalia Juan Alonzo.

Guadalupe Center’s After-school Program serves Immokalee students in kindergarten, first and second grades in need of additional reading and math instruction. Their hard work pays off as 100% of students in the program demonstrate reading and math gains on standardized tests.

In prior years, big buddies traveled from more than a half-dozen residential communities in Naples and Marco Island. Oftentimes, big buddies were just as excited as little buddies leading up to Buddy Day.

“We knew that we needed to explore other ways to give some semblance of Buddy Day to keep the tradition going,” said Hideaway Beach Club resident Mark Ryan, who along with his wife, Linda, have helped organize Buddy Day for many years. “Buddy Day is a way to reward the children for the efforts they put in. We were not going to let COVID stop Buddy Day.”

Hideaway’s food and beverage department donated snacks for the children, while other supporters provided books, arts and crafts. Kids 2 Camp furnished stuffed animals. Another Hideaway resident packaged everything into goody bags for the students.

After enjoying Buddy Day, Ricardo Hernandez had a simple message for everyone involved in creating Buddy Day activities.

“Thank you for everything that you did for the week,” he said.

– By Bob Spano, Vice President of Programs at Guadalupe Center

End-of-season donations welcomed at Guadalupe Resale Shop

Guadalupe Resale Shop is requesting donations of like-new furniture, clothing and home décor before seasonal residents head north for the summer.

“The end of season is a great time for winter residents to let go of gently used items they may no longer need,” said Kat McNabb, store manager. “Since the Resale Shop supports a nonprofit, Guadalupe Center, supporters can feel confident that their donations are helping a great cause in the community where they spend their winters.”

Guadalupe Resale Shop is an upscale boutique in North Naples. Proceeds from sales benefit Guadalupe Center’s three education programs: the nationally accredited Early Childhood Education Program, After-school Tutoring & Summer Enrichment Program and college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program. Guadalupe Center’s mission is breaking the cycle of poverty through education for the children of Immokalee.

Guadalupe Resale Shop accepts donations of high-quality, gently used:

– Household furniture

– Home décor

– Kitchenware

– Lamps

– Linens

– DVDs and CDs

– Books

– Ladies’ and men’s clothing, including shoes

– Accessories, including purses and jewelry

The Resale Shop does not accept donations of electronics, armoires, entertainment centers, used household appliances, mattresses, children’s and babies’ clothes, toys, light fixtures, ceiling fans, gardening tools and exercise equipment.

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. The shop handles all donations according to COVID-19 safety protocols. 

Tips for decorating your home on a tight budget

We’ve all browsed through a department store catalog or furniture showroom, coming across a beautiful piece that would look great in our family room.

It’s the right color, the right size, the right quality and the right style… but way out of our price range.

It happens. A lot.

April is National Decorating Month. Instead of focusing on pricey redecorating projects, perhaps it’s time to start shopping smart and shopping thrifty. You can indeed upgrade your home or condominium without running up a credit card bill.

Below are five ways to decorate your home or condominium on a tight budget:

Shop at Resale Stores

Southwest Florida’s affluent seasonal residents may only live in their Collier or Lee homes for a few weeks each year. Yet, many love the art of redecorating. Before they can be “in with the new,” they must be “out with the old.” Oftentimes, they’ll donate like-new, brand-name furniture, home décor and accessories to local resale stores. Shoppers can find essentially new, high-quality items up to 90% off the original retail price. Paying $250 for a barely used $2,500 sofa is a score worth celebrating.

Many resale stores support area nonprofits, too, so shopping there also is supporting community organizations.

Wall Art

Art lovers flock to museums to admire works of art from da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso. Obviously, their works of art are pricey. In fact, all original artwork is pricey.

However, technology has improved so much that it’s difficult to tell what is original and what is a print. Today’s canvas prints can have texture and contrast that mirror original paintings. Manufacturers even make digital oil paintings.

Quality prints look great in every room. The key is focusing on the frame. Avoid plastic or mass-produced, store-bought frames. Fall in love with the artwork first, and then look for a frame to match.

Accessorize

Department stores sell table lamps in all shapes and sizes, but they are mass produced in a factory. Chances are, several neighbors have the same lamps. Find a base with a unique design, and try to match the color and style to the room.

Adding throw pillows to a sofa or daybed is a great way to accessorize. Again, choose a color pattern that fits a room’s color and wall art.

Another easy addition is a tchotchke, which can fill voids on bookshelves and end tables. Tchotchkes offer a little flair and personality, as well as conversation-starters for guests.

Room-by-Room Decorating

Interior designers often emphasize a home’s “flow.” However, each room doesn’t need to adhere to the same decorating style. For instance, look at the White House. The East Room is adjacent to the Green Room, but each has its own purpose and personality.

A single-family home can work the same way. Perhaps you elect to decorate your living room with a Florida style with pastel colors, travel-themed artwork and seashell-filled glass lamps. Meanwhile, your dining room is contemporary with clean, soft lines and neutral colors.

Ask yourself where you spend the most time inside your home. Start there.

Outdoor Space

We live in Florida for one reason – the beautiful weather. Outdoor living spaces can be as simple as a table and chairs, or as luxe as an entire entertaining space featuring an outdoor kitchen, dining area and recreational space.

The key in creating an outdoor oasis is comfortable seating. Unlike interior rooms, where cable connections, doors and windows dictate design, outdoor spaces can be free-flowing. Choose weather-resistant patio furniture that won’t be damaged by sunlight, rain and high humidity.

Redecorating on a tight budget is entirely possible. Spring is a great time to tweak our home interiors before summer rain and heat start sending us indoors for a few months. 

– By Kat McNabb, Manager of Guadalupe Resale Shop