The Rev. Israel Suarez, founder and CEO of Nations Association Charities, will be honored Oct. 26 for his 40 years of community service in Southwest Florida.

The event celebrates Suarez’ four decades of achievements in helping disadvantaged residents and youth in Southwest Florida. Nations Association’s wide range of programs have included food for struggling families, scholarship assistance for college-bound youth, counseling, job placement services, drug prevention programs and many more services.

It’s estimated that Suarez has impacted tens of thousands of lives over the years.

“I call it a ‘street ministry’ because he really helps people in the streets and lifts up their lives,” said Jim Nathan, former CEO of Lee Health and a member of the committee organizing Suarez’ 40-year celebration. “He’s clearly an example of the Energizer bunny. Rather than give up when times are difficult, it seems to give him more energy to keep going.”

Suarez moved to Fort Myers in 1976 and founded Nations Association Charities two years later. The organization’s initial focus was reaching out to troubled families in the community with a “word of hope and helping hand.” Nations Association is best known for providing food, counseling, job placement services, transportation, clothing assistance, back-to-school supplies and other services. However, the organization streamlined its focus in 2019 to primarily serve at-risk youth through mentoring, drug and suicide prevention, academic assistance, leadership development, community service, financial literacy and a health fair.

In 1990, former Pres. George H.W. Bush presented Suarez with a Points of Light award, which recognizes nonprofit organizations and volunteers who are solving social problems through volunteerism. Suarez won the Paulette Burton Citizen of the Year award in 1993, and joined his wife, Ruth, in winning The News-Press’ People of the Year award in 1994. A native of Puerto Rico, Suarez is a founding member of the Hispanic-American Citizens Council of Southwest Florida and in 2014 was inducted into the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame.

The celebration of Suarez’ accomplishments will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26 at The Collaboratory, 2031 Jackson St. in Fort Myers. Hors d’oeuvres, networking opportunities and a cash bar begin at 6 p.m., and the program begins at 7 p.m.

Members of the celebration committee are Denise Carlin, Diane Colon, Teri Hansen, Yvonne Hill, Michael Jackson, Karen Krieger, Jim Nathan, Wayne Smith and Patty Waters.

Major sponsors include FineMark National Bank & Trust, Florida Gulf Coast University Foundation, Lee Health and Sanibel Community Church. Additional sponsors include Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth Berdick, Fort Myers Memorial Gardens, Fort Myers Police Department, Islamic Center of Southwest Florida, Karen and Jim Nathan, Jo Ann and Joe Catti, Southwest Florida Affordable Housing Choice Foundation, The School District of Lee County and The Smith Family Foundation.

Tickets are $50 per person and can be purchased by calling 239-332-7575. Proceeds from the event will enhance Nations Association’s scholarship programs and services.

About Nations Association
Nations Association Charities was founded in 1978 by The Rev. Israel Suarez with a goal of reaching out to troubled families in the community with a “word of hope and a helping hand.” A 1990 Points of Light award winner, Nations Association and Suarez streamlined the focus in 2019 to primarily serve at-risk youth through mentoring, drug and suicide prevention, academic assistance, leadership development, community service, financial literacy and a health fair. For more information, please visit www.NationsAssociation.org or call 239-332-7575.