Guadalupe Center’s annual signature gala attracted more than 350 supporters and shined a spotlight on the nonprofit’s 40-year history of success transforming lives, and the community of Immokalee, through education.
Held Jan. 12 at The Ritz-Carlton Naples, Tiburón, “Elevate the Journey of Endless Possibilities” also served as a formal kickoff to a yearlong celebration of the nonprofit’s 40th anniversary, when Guadalupe Center will emphasize the four pillars of its success: Resilience, Empowerment, Achievement and Leadership (REAL Impact).
‘Elevate’ featured student performances and speeches, musical entertainment and a live auction, as well as exquisite cocktails and a dinner of braised ribs over mashed potatoes, capped by petit fraise chantilly for dessert.
The evening’s highlights belonged to the clownfish class, a group of 4- and 5-year-olds who sang Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” along with student Alejandro Loredo, whose emotional speech addressing his quest to overcome poverty drew a standing ovation. Loredo draws inspiration from his mother, a single mom who raised three children on an income of just $400 a week.
“My mother is the strongest, most independent woman I have ever seen,” said Loredo, a senior at Immokalee High School and member of Guadalupe Center’s college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program. “She wasn’t there to walk me to school during my elementary years, or waiting for me when I got home from after school, but it was because she was out in the fields working long hours to take care of bills and other expenses.”
Loredo, who previously sold snow cones and now operates a pressure-washing business, will major in accounting or business at Florida Gulf Coast University. He, along with every other member of the Tutor Corps Class of 2024, plans to attend college.
Guadalupe Center’s annual gala is among Southwest Florida’s highest-grossing fundraising events and attracts the region’s top community, business and philanthropic leaders. The 2024 event raised a record $1.7 million to support Guadalupe Center’s educational programs, which serve 1,950 students annually from infancy through college.
“For 40 years, Guadalupe Center has been making a positive impact – a REAL impact – on the lives of children and families in Immokalee,” said Guadalupe Center President and CEO Dawn Montecalvo. “Education has the power to create generational change, and every one of our gala attendees and sponsors is paving a path to success for the next generation.”
The live auction included luxury travel packages to exotic destinations, including Ireland and India, as well as exclusive fine wine and culinary experiences. Auction packages were donated and coordinated by Guadalupe Center’s Board of Trustees, Preferred Travel & Company, Seabourn Cruise Line, Alexander + Roberts and Gamble Family Vineyards.
Elevate also included the popular Jump Up for Education, an interactive call to action in which attendees could make donations and jump up in support of Guadalupe Center.
“Guadalupe Center helps every student recognize that possibilities are endless and dreams have no limits,” Montecalvo said. “Every individual can write his or her own success story, just like Alejandro is doing.”
Dyan Smith and Cortney Howgate served as event co-chairs and were supported by Stephanie Antoniou, Lauren Korchmar, Kassie Koroghlian and Lily Ustayev on the gala committee. Lindsey Sablan served as emcee and Karen Sorbo was the auctioneer. Entertainment was provided by Jade Strings.
London Bay Development Group, developer of Moorings Park Grande Lake, was the presenting sponsor. Additional sponsors included:
• Diamond: Dyan and John Smith; and Kramer Kellerhouse, Chartered.
• Emerald: Cortney and Jonathan Howgate.
• Silver: J.P. Morgan Private Bank.
• Media: Gulfshore Life.
Guadalupe Center’s annual partners include:
• Diamond: Seminole Casino Immokalee; Preferred Travel & Company; and Wilson & Johnson.
• Platinum: Waterside Shops.
• Emerald: AMETEK; and Dee & Associates.
• Gold: Merrill; and Florida Blue.