Winners 2011

In many local circles, simply mentioning the name “Samira” invites nods of recognition, as well as words of adoration. That person would be Samira Beckwith, the highly respected president and CEO of Hope HealthCare Services and community beacon. But when she used to introduce herself as Samira—Samira Kanaan-- during her Midwestern childhood in the 1950s, the reaction was different.

“Back then, kids were called Mary or Jane or Bob. We had a different name and look,” says Beckwith. “I didn’t know English. It was all very challenging.” Her family moved to Columbus, Ohio, from Lebanon after the U.S. government granted her Palestinian father refugee status.

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Many of CHS Healthcare’s patients are among the poorest residents of Southwest Florida. But when it comes to treating these individuals, the organization provides a wealth of services in a manner that respects their diverse backgrounds.

“Our mission is not only [to accommodate] diversity, but compassionate care in quality surrounding. We believe everyone should have good care,” says Connie Dillon, executive director of the CHS Healthcare Foundation. “We try to be aware of different cultures and be sensitive to that when treating patients of different backgrounds. We speak English, Spanish, French, Creole and Kanjabol.”

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By Spencer Campbell
Two decades ago, Carlos Perez lived on the streets in Houston. Today, he owns Express Cool Air, an air conditioning company in Bonita Springs. Perez’s rise from penniless immigrant to small business owner is an example of the opportunities available to all races and economic classes in Southwest Florida. “I had no money. I was broke. So I took the ride from Houston to Naples,” Perez says. “[Success] just happened little by little.”

Perez worked in tomato fields after arriving in Southwest Florida, before getting a job at a luxury hotel in Naples. Unfortunately, he didn’t own a car. Consequently, Perez walked two hours—each way, every day—to and from the hotel.

But simply being employed wasn’t enough for Perez. He started taking vocational classes, spending two years learning English and another learning air conditioners.

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The vibrant, colorful and very large paintings created by José Andrés Matos Alonzo, simply known as JAMA, have adorned gallery walls around the world, but these days his works largely occupy his Naples studio. His relatively new surroundings (he’s been here for about a year) bring a sense of comfort to a man who endured some challenging times.

Born in Havana, Cuba, in 1974, JAMA began painting at an early age and pursued his passion vigorously, despite the fact that Cuban society frowned upon such “impractical career choices” as art, he says. That pressure, combined with economic upheaval within the country, made matters worse.

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By Spencer Campbell
Yemisi Oloruntola-Coates was born in Nigeria, raised in Queens, N.Y., and spent two years teaching English in Japan. But it’s for her work promoting diversity inside one of Southwest Florida’s largest companies that Oloruntola-Coates is a FACE Award for education.

As supervisor of diversity and language services for Lee Memorial Health System, Oloruntola-Coates’ position is an all-encompassing mission of staff education, cultural competency, interpretation and translation services, community outreach and resolving issues of intolerance inside the 9,000-employee health system.

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Dr. Farrell C. Tyson grew up along the Texas-Mexico border, straddling the bountiful cultures of two nations. Later, his family moved to Southwest Florida.
Tyson’s eclectic education in diversity was only beginning. As a young ophthalmologist, Tyson served on six medical missions to Mexico, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Honduras and Africa. As a respected lecturer, Tyson has spoken at conferences in Turkey, Russia, Dubai, England, Portugal and Spain.

His most significant contribution to diversity, however, is made at his home ophthalmology office in Cape Coral. As the medical director of Cape Coral Eye Center there, 25 percent of the clinic’s 85 employees are from countries including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Columbia, Argentina, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Armenia, Scotland, Germany and Mexico.

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