The power of people coming together to support one another in Central and Southwest Florida is even more visible now.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian’s deadly and destructive rampage, community organizations and armies of volunteers have mobilized, and Regions and its associates have played a key role in recovery efforts.
But even before the storm, a strong sense of unity was evident in this area of Regions’ footprint, especially in the local Hispanic community.
Ivonne Alvarez, an SBA Lending Specialist in Tampa, became passionate about community service early in her life. Born and raised in Colombia, she came to the United States when she was 18 years old, “full of hopes and dreams and looking for a better future.”
She went to college full-time while working two or three jobs to support herself and pay for those expensive dreams – that were ultimately fulfilled.
“I realized through my own personal experiences that we all need to share our knowledge and experiences, to help others who are in the same situation we were once in,” Alvarez said.
“I am a strong believer that pursuing higher education brings many opportunities in life, so I made the decision early on to join two amazing non-profit organizations that support education and entrepreneurship.”
Alvarez is the current president of the Hispanic Professional Women’s Association in Tampa, an organization that provides mentorship to Hispanic professional women and promotes the value of higher education.
She also serves as a regional board member for Prospera Tampa, an economic development program that supports Hispanic business owners starting or expanding their businesses by providing bilingual resources.
Just by finding some time to volunteer with an organization whose mission you are confident in, you are creating a positive change.
Ivonne Alvarez, SBA Lending Specialist for Regions
“We all need to give back in ways we believe will make an impact in our community,” she said. “And there are many ways to do that. Just by finding some time to volunteer with an organization whose mission you are confident in, you are creating a positive change.”
Alvarez’s passion for education is shared by fellow Floridian Alex Gonzalez, Private Wealth Management executive in Orlando. Gonzalez explained how a desire to help others achieve began in his early years.
“I am Cuban, and our family fled communism in 1968,” said Gonzalez. “We were fortunate enough to be part of the Freedom Flights, which was a cooperative effort between the United States and Cuban governments.”
“My parents are my heroes. It is hard for me to fathom how difficult it must have been for them to leave all that they knew – their culture, language, homes, businesses, real estate, and family,” he said.
This close bond with his family, along with the values his parents instilled in him such as faith and a strong work ethic, contributed to his desire to serve others.
“My parents taught us the importance of gratitude and generosity,” Gonzalez said. “Both my wife and I have embraced those lessons and have passed them on to our children. We were raised in homes with few resources, but I often saw my mom extending generosity to our neighbors and the kids that often would hang out at our home. That stuck with me, and now my own family actively serves with our time and resources, through our church involvement and through various community organizations.”
Like Alvarez, Gonzalez acknowledges there are many needs in the Hispanic community, and much of that is due to a lack of knowledge. The organizations that he actively supports are focused on furthering education and helping to eliminate barriers to success.
The bank stands behind their commitment to our communities by giving us time away and also by providing resources that help support these outreach efforts.
Alex Gonzalez, Private Wealth Management executive for Regions
“My two favorite organizations dedicated to the Hispanic community are the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando and Prospera Central Florida,” he said. “Both organizations have a strong commitment to the growth and support of the Hispanic business community.”
Gonzalez is actively involved in the Hispanic Chamber and, he said, “it has been a wonderful experience. Their vision and values align with my own, and much of what they do can be traced back to education, which is an important pillar that supports the prosperity of the Hispanic community.”
As he described his fulfilling experience, Gonzalez encouraged other Regions associates to get involved in Hispanic organizations. “We can all make a contribution that will have a lasting and positive impact on others,” he said.
“As Regions employees, we’re fortunate to have the support of leadership, as well. The bank stands behind their commitment to our communities by giving us time away and also by providing resources that help support these outreach efforts.”
Alvarez, who is active in the Regions Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Network of Tampa, encourages her colleagues to engage with local Hispanic organizations.
“Through my involvement with the DEI network at Regions, I have been encouraging our associates to participate in different events to support our Hispanic community partners with their missions,” she said.
“It is important to support others with their personal growth and development, learn the differences within the Hispanic community, listen to our perspectives, taste our flavors, and enjoy our different cultures.”
See below for a list of Hispanic organizations that Regions supports both financially and through volunteerism and board service. These groups would greatly benefit from the additional support of their local communities.
- Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (!HICA!) is a community development and advocacy organization that champions economic equality, civic engagement, and social justice for Latino and immigrant families in Alabama.
- Fiesta organizes and manage a yearly festival that celebrates and educates the public on the diverse cultures within the Hispanic community in Alabama.
- Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando drives economic growth by strengthening Hispanic business in Central Florida. The group empowers business leaders through programs, events, resources and activities aimed at improving the economic development of Hispanics in the region. It serves as the gateway for large organizations/national corporations to connect with the Hispanic business community and recognizes the achievement of Hispanic individuals and companies that have a positive influence in our community. The organization strengthens the relationship with Hispanic companies, organizations, professionals, corporations and the numerous entities in Central Florida.
- Hispanic Professional Women’s Association’s mission is to enhance the image of professional Hispanic women by creating opportunities to share knowledge and promote the value of higher education. HPWA is an organization that provides opportunities for professional and personal development, nurturing relationships and giving back through mentoring and scholarships.
- Hispanic Unity of Florida, Inc. is an organization dedicated to empowering immigrants and others to become self-sufficient, productive and civically engaged.
- Southwest Florida Hispanic Chamber promotes, advocates and facilitates the success of Hispanic and non-Hispanic businesses, markets and communities.
- Enterprising Latinas (ELI) creates pathways of opportunity for Latinas in Tampa Bay by teaching new skills, creating networks of mutual support, and advocating for innovative solutions to promote economic mobility and equity.
- Sandy Springs Mission is dedicated to helping and inspiring Latino students from the Sandy Springs community. The faith-based, 501(c) 3 organization provides year-round academic enrichment and character-building programs designed to transform the hearts and minds of students.
- Hispanic Alliance of Georgia is made up of a group of women supporting other women with leadership and empowerment. The provide a support network for new business owners and other women in the community.
- Indy Chamber- Hispanic Business Council-Conexión has a mission to grow the Hispanic business community one connection at a time.
- Indiana Latino Expo (ILE) provides awareness of opportunities for economic advancement , enhanced quality of life, education and cultural awareness, and health and wellness for Latinos in Indiana.
- Indiana Latino Institute (ILI) Improves health and advance education for the Indiana Latino community through statewide advocacy, research, and culturally responsive programs.
- Indiana Latino Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence educates, supports and empowers victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse by harnessing the strengths of the Latino communities and service providers across Indiana.
- La Plaza (Indy) strengthens Central Indiana by advocating and preparing Latino students for educational success and by connecting Latino families to health and social services.
- Louisiana Hispanic Chamber of Commerce fosters the continued economic growth, development, and promotion of Hispanic businesses and their associations in the State of Louisiana, and to serve as the conduit between the Hispanic business community and the community at large.
- New Orleans Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s main purpose is to cultivate and promote the Hispanic heritage within the New Orleans community and the greater region. The NOHHF supports activities that provide an opportunity to experience Hispanic culture through art, education, food, and music with the aspiration of creating a stronger more diverse and culturally rich community.
- Kenner Hispanic Fest honors the rich and diverse Hispanic legacy in Kenner and the surrounding regions.
- Centro Hispano connects, integrates and empowers the Latino community through education and engagement, information and resources services, and community strengthening initiatives.
- Conexión Amèricas builds a welcoming community and creates opportunities where Latino families can belong, contribute and succeed.