Friends of the LoOF

In the Fall of 2015, a number of donors and volunteers of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation concerned with the paucity of legal and other services and information available to immigrants came together to address the problem. Dedicated community leaders and experienced experts in the field, began a regional initiative to provide a path to help immigrant residents stabilize their lives.

Learn more about how you can contribute to this important regional initiative with a donation.

Comments from some of the many “Friends” of the Land of Opportunity Fund

“This country, the land of opportunity, gives hope to so many –to those who were born within its borders, and also to the many people, like my own parents, who dared to dream of a new life. My opportunities and professional achievements are a tangible example of the American dream come true. I will always celebrate and treasure being a part of one of the many dedicated immigrant families who found success beyond our wildest dreams in our adopted homeland, the United States of America.”

Samira Beckwith, CEO of Hope HealthCare, 2016, Southwest Florida

“The Swiss writer Max Frisch may have said it best: “We asked for workers. We got people instead.” Who among us are not heirs of immigrants, and owe our success in life to those who had the courage to come here to work, study and live? Our region will be enriched by new workers who become residents and community leaders. We should do everything we can to help them, as others have helped our families.”

Dawn-Marie Driscoll, senior advisory trustee, Southwest Florida Community Foundation, Cape Coral

“Ninety-two percent of Americans are descendants of immigrants or immigrants themselves.  Together we have built a democratic, welcoming society with a rich and vibrant cultural tapestry. A prosperous future depends on continuing to integrate others into our society.”

Charlotte Newton, former nonprofit executive and community volunteer, Fort Myers

“​Our family founded and has operated Cement Industries for over 63 years. I worry about our future sustainability — and that of other construction companies — if we cannot find or develop trained employees with a command of English who want to enter into the skilled trades essential to sustained, safe and quality construction here. Our region emphasizes a college ​education for some, which is fine, but local residents can earn a great income in construction in a very short time. I hope that foreign-born newcomers to Southwest Florida will be a part of our labor force in the future because we need them and value their contribution to our community.”

Gay Rebel Thompson, President, Cement Industries, Fort Myers

“When a group of passionate volunteers meets to address a community need, we all benefit. These two proposals to assist local residents with their immigration legal needs are impressive and innovative. Data-driven and representing the best in analytical thinking, they support our common goals of a robust economy, vibrant communities and a well-trained workforce.”

Sarah Owen, CEO, Southwest Florida Community Foundation

“Our Southwest Florida economy depends on a healthy workforce and a workforce cannot be healthy if distracted, desperate, or disillusioned. So often we take a healthy workforce for granted and forget the human element that is its engine. This initiative seeks to address that human element by ensuring legal help to those that help us. On the barrier islands, our service sector and construction economies rely heavily on the immigrant community and I am hopeful that this initiative will take root on the islands and spread so that those who are new to this country can enjoy the security of sound legal advice.”

Chauncey Goss, city council member, Sanibel FL

“Ditto Chauncey’s quote, he said it perfectly.” Gary Aubuchon, President, Aubuchon Team of Companies

“The fees at for-profit law firms can be five to ten times higher than those charged by a nonprofit legal aid clinic for the same work, but regrettably, our wait time for an appointment is often eight weeks. Immigrants are an incredibly vulnerable population, and there are some people who try to take advantage of their desperation to legalize. Providing more access to affordable, comprehensive immigration legal services would be a great service to our whole region, allowing more residents to live, study and work.”

Reverend Robert V. Selle, Amigos en Cristo Inc., Fort Myers FL

“I became passionate about the immigration system in a personal way when a friend was scooped up in an ICE sweep. Thanks to a lawyer and the invocation of prosecutorial discretion he was eventually returned to his young family and grateful employer. Now he applies and waits.”

Julie Ben-Susan, retired banker, small business owner and community volunteer, Fort Myers

“So many times our immigration clients have come for help after receiving a denial from USCIS because some “notario” who charged a high fee plus the USCIS fees filed the wrong applications or their work was done poorly. For immigration filings clients deserve to understand their eligibility, their options and what is involved.   Many can file by themselves and should.  For those who need help, there are nonprofits and competent attorneys who can assist. Clear advice and directions can save heart aches.”

Sister Maureen Kelleher, immigration attorney, Legal Aid of Collier County

“I think the relevancy of this proposal to our employment market is very timely as our unemployment numbers plummet. I know of a few folks who have been taken for a ride with counselors who would draw the process out and keep taking their money.  Ultimately they are not getting the results they needed.”

Diana Willis, owner of Jason’s Delis, Southwest Florida

“This country has prospered through legal immigration. My mother was sent from Germany by her grandmother before World War II because she feared Hitler’ rise, so immigration is a personal issue for me.  Helping immigrants navigate the often confusing and complex immigration system, will reap numerous benefits economically and socially for our area. Through this Land of Opportunity fund, we can assist legal immigrants and maintain the rich fabric of a socially diverse and vibrant society here in Southwest Florida.”

Carolyn Conant-Adair, 23 year resident of Southwest Florida

“Nobody is successful in life without receiving help along the way from someone else.    The Land of Opportunity Fund provides help to immigrants, one of the most vulnerable groups in our society. The vast majority of immigrant families only want the opportunity to work hard, to share in the American dream. Yet every day they face the fears of exploitation, of assimilation to a new culture, of uncertainty and even of arrest.  The Land of Opportunity Fund helps them sort through the mind numbing bureaucratic maze of immigration forms and law. Two of our staff accountants are immigrants.  They are excellent employees, pay their taxes and are an asset to our community. With help from the Land of Opportunity Fund, more such success stories will be possible. “  Craig R. Folk, CPA, Miller Helms & Folk PA