During the last three years Jim and Sulbey Holt have brought tennis instruction to the children of Immokalee. The partnership with The Immokalee Foundation began with the Holts seeking volunteer opportunities with the organization; they wanted to reach out to the children in Immokalee. Tennis was the perfect match. They are members of the Pelican Marsh Tennis Club, and Jim is assistant coach of the Gwynedd-Mercy College women’s tennis team in Gwynedd Valley, Penn.
The Center Court Athletics program has grown from serving 20 students in grades three, four and five in 2011 to 32 students in grades two through eight in 2012. The Holts enlisted the help of 23 coaches from Pelican Marsh Tennis Club who volunteered every Tuesday from January through the first week of May. The Immokalee Foundation, coaches and the Holts also secured donations of tennis rackets, balls and miscellaneous equipment with the hope that the students will continue to play with family members or friends.
“As volunteer coaches we are confident of accomplishing our simple mission to enrich the lives of the children of Immokalee through tennis,” said Jim Holt. “We see it in their smiles, their spirit and their improvement. If this translates in some of the children continuing to play in high school or college, it’s icing on the cake; and yes, it would be wonderful!”
The children were also treated as VIPs with front row seats at an exhibition match between the veteran Pelican Marsh ladies and the Gwynedd-Mercy women’s tennis team at the Pelican Marsh Tennis Center.
Fifth-grader Sunshine McDonald said, “Tennis is so much fun, and the coaches are really nice and helpful.” Third-grader Gabriel Herrera also likes tennis, “I can’t wait until next year, and I am happy to have my very own tennis racket.”
“We are very proud that all of the volunteer coaches and assistants are from the Pelican Marsh community,” added Holt. “Tennis director Pete Minarich and his staff guide us and support us 100 percent.”
The Immokalee Foundation has a range of programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and career development, mentoring and tutoring, and opportunities for broadening experiences and life skills development. To learn more about volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.