5 Dynamic Women Steering Local Change

Naples Illustrated's Leading Ladies of 2019

Photography by Vanessa Rogers

1. Mayela Rosales | Executive Vice President and Co-Owner, Media Vista Group

Maracaibo, Venezuela, is far from Naples in miles, population, and lifestyle. Yet Mayela Rosales left there for Southwest Florida in 1996 to find new opportunities.

“I came from a city with more than a million people,” she says. “It was a big shock for me.”

Despite this transition, Rosales saw potential in the area’s expanding Latin community. In 2002, she and her then-husband, Orlando, launched D’Latinos, a half-hour weekly Spanish television program. The enterprise continued to grow, and today her company, Media Vista Group, is a multiplatform firm with a magazine, websites, and TV stations in Florida, Minnesota, and Missouri.

You’d think this thriving business would use up all of her energy, but she’s also dedicated to numerous organizations, serving on the boards of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Youth Haven, the American Heart Association, and others. Rosales, who was one of the only Latinas on the board of directors for the Naples Chamber of Commerce, believes her participation in these groups forms important relationships and impacts how the community develops. She’s also a founder of the FACE Awards, which has honored those who promote diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism in Southwest Florida annually since 2011.

The vivacious Rosales is not all work, however. As a fan of authentic Latin foods, she frequents Taqueria San Julian, a hidden gem on Bayshore Drive, whenever she’s headed to the Naples Botanical Garden. She also loves to visit her two sons: Gabriel, 20, a finance major at Boston’s Northeastern University, and Daniel, 16, a student at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan.

The young woman from bustling Maracaibo has blossomed in her adopted city. “I don’t have words to describe what Naples has represented to me,” Rosales says. “Colleagues in big cities think it’s a sleepy place for snowbirds and retirees. For me it’s not that. It’s the city that gave me all these opportunities and accepted me. This is my hometown. I feel more Neapolitan than anything else.”

2. Charlene DeLuca | Concierge Physician and Mental Health Advocate

Get to know the good doctor and she may surprise you. When Charlene DeLuca was in her 30s, for instance, she competed in an all-natural bodybuilding show. As far as professional twists go, she worked as a physician for the Bruins hockey team and also received top security clearance to serve as a doctor for the FBI’s D.C. field office.

She relocated to Naples in 2006 to spend more time with her parents, noting that it’s the best move she’s ever made. “Everybody here seems happy,” she says. “There are so many people giving back. And the weather—top of the list.”

DeLuca herself has a sunny disposition and knows firsthand that far too many people are not as fortunate. In 2012, she lost a loved one to suicide and spent many nights asking herself what she could have done differently. In August 2018, she launched a nonprofit with the goal of increasing awareness, ending stigma, and educating others about depression and suicide through a multifaceted approach. Called HELLP (short for hope, empowerment, laughter, let go of stigma, and purpose), the organization received its nonprofit status last year.

Though her practice keeps her busy, DeLuca finds moments to laugh with friends and do what she loves most: “cooking and music, usually together. That’s how I find my relaxation.” Now, however, most of her spare time goes toward HELLP. The concept is not to reinvent the wheel, she explains, but to communicate, collaborate, and generate ideas with groups already working on the issues. It’s a huge undertaking that will consume every piece of her, but, as she says, “that’s what happens when passion meets purpose.”

3. Joan Clifford | Philanthropist

“I’m really looking to take some time for myself,” Joan Clifford says. “Every year, that’s my New Year’s resolution. I still haven’t gotten there.”

This dream of solace and relaxation was on Clifford’s mind back in 1985 when she and her husband, Bob, bought their first home in Naples. At the time, the couple saw the sleepy town as a place where they could escape their hectic lives in Chicago. “But as the years went on, that changed,” she says. “As Naples grew, so did everything else here. And our involvement grew.”

It all started when they attended the Naples Children & Education Foundation’s Naples Winter Wine Festival in 2005. They became NCEF trustees in 2007 and chaired the NWWF in 2012. “When we chaired the festival, we began a vision initiative for children in Collier County,” Clifford says. “It was a need not being addressed. Now we screen 20,000 children a year from all Title I schools. It’s one of the things I’m really proud of.”

When she initially came to Naples with her now-grown daughters, Erin and Tracy, there were few places to take kids. She supports the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples “because when you have young children and there are rainy days, you need somewhere to go.” Along with Simone and Scott Lutgert, the Cliffords recently co-chaired the museum’s Party Like a Rockstar gala, where she sported flowing blond locks à la Stevie Nicks, and Bob dressed in lamé, sequins, and gaudy spectacles as Elton John.

Another organization she’s long loved is the Naples Botanical Garden, where she serves as a member of the Sustaining Leadership Council. “I’ve seen it from the very beginning, so the way it’s grown is really incredible,” she says.

When not busy with philanthropic commitments, Clifford enjoys golf, travel, and walking on the beach. And one of these days, she just might stick to her resolution to take more time for herself.

4. Jaclynn Faffer | President and CEO, Naples Senior Center at JFCS

Naples is paradise—but not for everyone. Though famous as a top place to retire, many older residents need help. “I never thought there would be a need for an organization like ours in Naples,” says Jaclynn Faffer, head of the Naples Senior Center at JFCS.

With a passion for serving the elderly ingrained in her when she was growing up, plus wide-ranging expertise in human services, Faffer was the perfect choice to lead NSC’s development. When recruited for the post, she was astounded to learn that Collier County had no senior center. Once here, she saw first-hand issues of isolation, loneliness, cognitive decline, and financial insecurity. “Since opening in 2014, our membership and client base have swelled from 80 to more than 1,600, speaking to the need,” she says.

Faffer is in the midst of a capital campaign to build a new home for the center. The hope is to break ground in early 2020. If all goes smoothly, she expects it to be completed in 12 to 18 months. “We’re looking at a 26,000-square-foot, two-story building,” Faffer says, adding that it will include a larger fitness center, an art room, a theater space, gardens, and rooms for the dementia respite program.

Her position absorbs her nearly 24/7. But since moving from Boca Raton with her husband, psychologist Leonard Silverstein, and now 28-year-old twin daughters, Allison and Francine, she has found time to enjoy the Naples lifestyle. Faffer’s favorite leisure pursuits include soaking in the natural beauty of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and area beaches. She dines often at The French, Maguro Sushi & Steak House, Bar Tulia, and others.

She and her husband also love music and have been season subscribers to the Pops Series at Artis—Naples for five years. Her all-time favorite? Paul McCartney. “I’ve loved The Beatles and Paul McCartney since I was 14,” she recalls. “In their concert in Atlantic City in 1964, I presented them with the key to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and met them briefly. I have pictures I’m dying to get signed by Paul McCartney. I also have my ticket stub, which was $4.90!”

5. Jennifer Parisi | Philanthropist

risi’s commitment to the community is a strong reflection of her mother and stepfather, Sharon and Chuck Hallberg, trustees of the Naples Children & Education Foundation.
Before moving to Naples in 2007 (when her parents also relocated), Parisi worked alongside her stepdad in Cleveland, establishing MemberHealth in the late 1990s. The pharmacy-benefits management firm became the fastest growing company in the country at the time, Parisi says. She helped launch that success even though she lacked a formal education. “I went to the Chuck Hallberg School of Hard Knocks, where there were no breaks,” she quips. “I learned so much in that experience. It was invaluable.”

Today, Parisi is forming her own considerable footprint on the Southwest Florida philanthropic landscape. “I always throw the same tagline at people who ask me the organizations I’m most passionate about: water, women, and children,” she says. Some of those include the Everglades Foundation, Captains for Clean Water, and The Shelter for Abused Women & Children.

Having begun volunteering with Lee Health’s Golisano Children’s Hospital in 2010, she now serves as secretary for Lee Health Foundation’s board of trustees. She’s also busy spreading the word about Kids’ Minds Matter, the pediatric behavioral health initiative under the Golisano Children’s Hospital, to include co-chairing the nonprofit’s annual Secret Garden Gala.

When not engaged in charitable efforts, Parisi spends time with friends and her children, Serena, 19, and Sonny, 17. Together, the three share an obsession with frightening films. “Every time a scary movie comes out, my kids and I look at each other like, ‘Oh, we are going,’” says Parisi, who also loves to travel and hits the road every four to six weeks.
Her main focus, though, remains spreading the message about pediatric behavioral health and securing resources for kids at high risk or who have been abused.

“Florida is ranked almost dead last in the country as far as mental health resources. That is something I want to help change,” she says. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of work to do.” «

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