NI’s Leading Ladies of 2020

Meet five philanthropists and businesswomen who impress and inspire

Susan Stielow

Photo credit: Vanessa Rogers

She snow skis, burns up the dance floor, golfs, and plays bridge. She begins each year with plans to learn something new or travel to a bucket-list destination. There’s little that philanthropist Susan Stielow can’t or won’t tackle.

Stielow serves as a trustee of the Naples Children & Education Foundation, which raises funds through the Naples Winter Wine Festival; she’s also a member of the Naples Botanical Garden’s Sustaining Leadership Council and an ardent supporter of the David Lawrence Center. For her latest project, she’s working with Naples landscape designer Ellin Goetz to create a children’s garden at Trinity-by-the-Cove Episcopal Church.

Children’s development, the environment, drug addiction, and mental health issues are on the forefront locally and nationally, she says. “I am focusing on my three most important endeavors of all—what is really affecting the lives of not just our community but our country. It’s important to focus where I put my time to be most effective.”

The garden’s Sustaining Leadership Council is responsible for planning major fundraisers and events, such as Hats in the Garden and April Foolin’ in the Garden. Add to that the garden’s $13.3 million horticultural campus that will include a recycling center, greenhouse, and nursery, and new “Garden for All” program to make admission accessible to more families. “That’s a big undertaking,” says Stielow, whose Port Royal yard is organic and filled with indigenous plants. “Environmental issues are really important to me.”

She’s on the fundraising committee for the David Lawrence Center’s Sound Minds Mental Health Symposium, an April luncheon that will feature former U.S. Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, who will discuss living with bipolar disorder and addiction, as well as the latest trends in neuroscience. It appalls Stielow that Florida ranks fiftieth nationally for mental health funding, but she’s impressed by community support of expansions underway at the David Lawrence Center.

Stielow raised seven children in her home state of Minnesota and has five grandchildren, so it’s no wonder that she’s a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to games and recreation. Or that she is a staunch supporter of all the essential children’s services funded through the Naples Winter Wine Festival. “The big thing for me is seeing firsthand that the money raised under the tent goes to the children of Collier County,” she says. “They’re learning to read on time, and more are graduating high school. You see the results, and that’s been huge.”

Fátima S. Khokhar

One of the first things people ask about is her name and how to pronounce it. In Portugal, Our Lady of Fátima inspired Blessed Virgin Mary pilgrimages. Fátima is also the name of a venerated daughter of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Given that Fátima S. Khokhar’s mother is Spanish and her father is Pakistani, “this was a name both sides could agree on,” she says. “Wherever I am, I like to think my name is a good icebreaker.”

Like her name, Khokhar, the managing principal of Naples Meridian Group at Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, was destined to embrace a global perspective. She speaks fluent Italian and Spanish, and is proficient in Bahasa, Indonesia’s national language. She grew up in the international nexus of Washington, D.C., and spent a year studying in Milan, Italy, as part of her dual-major program in international business and marketing at Penn State College of Business. Before graduating, she landed a full-time position with Lucent Technologies and, after intensive training at its U.S. headquarters, boarded a plane for London.

At the time she was working with Lucent, it was a global leader in fiber optics, a complex technical subject that Khokhar mastered. In London, she was a “professional spy,” tracking what the competitors were up to and formulating strategies to counteract those issues along with breaking into new markets. But it wasn’t for her. She shifted into real estate in the United Kingdom as marketing director of a large-scale residential developer. From the nitty-gritty of fiber optics, Khokhar made a deep dive into construction and development from the ground up.

A visit to Naples, her intuition, and extensive market research convinced her to relocate in 2009. “I noticed Naples had everything,” she says. “It has a great quality of life. It’s easy to live in Naples.” In 2013, Khokhar partnered with the developer of Olde Naples Residences to reimagine the outdated spaces, work with architects and designers to create two show models, and market the project. The 15 exclusive condos and penthouses quickly sold out.

When she’s not focusing on buyer demand at Naples Meridian Group, Khokhar visits out-of-town family and friends, including her brother in Spain. She also enjoys traveling to Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia by herself or with small groups, such as a yoga retreat in Greece. “Yoga is a big part of my life,” says the former classical ballet dancer. “I like to immerse myself somewhere else and see how the rest of the world lives.”

Melissa Campbell Speach

Whether she’s planning a formal dinner for hundreds of guests or coaxing fun-spirited Naples men to strut the catwalk for a good cause, Melissa Campbell Speach aims to brighten people’s lives.

As director of lifestyle and member services at The Players Club & Spa at Lely Resort for 15 years, Speach is always devising ways to entertain the nearly 2,400 members of the private club. She keeps her creativity flowing by vetting top-notch talent ranging from a Venezuelan tenor to a Woodstock tribute band, and also by coordinating themed parties, day trips, concerts, educational seminars, and other gatherings.

“Don’t put a paintbrush in my hand—I can’t do that,” she says. “But I can create wonderful, beautiful events in my head. Some things I dream up overnight. I create and then step back.”

Through her job, Speach connected with PACE Center for Girls Collier to partner with other volunteers who planned a fashion show fundraiser at The Players Club, which became a four-year event that averaged about $40,000 annually. PACE mentors teenage girls in Immokalee to improve academic achievement and bolster their social and interpersonal skills. Speach also has helped bring in six figures each year while serving as co-chair of the nonprofit’s major annual fundraiser, Love That Dress, since 2015. She’ll be at the helm again as the event celebrates its tenth anniversary. And finally, she was an instrumental part of helping to create PACE Collier’s newest male runway sensation, Crazy Pantz, that lets onlookers bid on, you guessed it, outrageous pants.

While Lely Resort’s parent company, Stock Development, supports many causes, Speach became invested in PACE after visiting Immokalee. “I was blindsided,” she says, adding that every one of PACE’s young beneficiaries had a heartbreaking story. “I knew PACE was where I wanted to focus my personal efforts.” In 2017, she was honored as the organization’s volunteer of the year.

Her philanthropic efforts extend to her part-time work as the lifestyle and events coordinator for Ultimate Garages in Naples. “I absolutely love the fact that I work for two companies that give back to the community unconditionally,” says Speach, who last fall organized the exotic and classic car storage facility’s grand opening, which benefitted the Neighborhood Health Clinic of Naples. She’s also an honorary board member of Amber’s Antibodies and volunteers for its Sporting for a Cure event that provides grants to local families grappling with cancer. During her treasured free time in the summer, Speach returns to Virginia Beach, where she grew up and still has family. She also visits her son and daughter in Colorado, and another son and two grandchildren in Ohio.

“I’m blessed all the way around and am exactly where I’m supposed to be right now,” she says. “If you’re able to touch the hearts of others and improve the lives of people who can never repay you, then you’ve done your job, and life is good.”

Rosemary Zore

Rosemary Zore is on the mission of a lifetime: To honor her father, who died in the line of duty as a Miami-Dade police officer at the age of 25 when she was just 7 years old.
In August 2018, she established the Fallen Officers to support the Robert L. Zore Foundation and has been immersed in event planning, fundraising, public speaking, and marketing ever since. “I’m fortunate enough that it’s a time in my life when I can do it,” she says. “I want it to grow and to help as many people as I can.”

Within a year, her nonprofit launched the Robert L. Zore Scholarship for students in Lee and Collier counties. It also hosted two Blue Bowl co-ed flag football tournaments, a Blues for the Blue concert, and the Boots for Badges country music event. One Blue Bowl took place in Fort Worth, Texas, because “I want to help as many as we can,” Zore says. “I want to help all over.” The first annual Mission 2244 Gala (her father’s badge number) is planned for March.

When she was 10, Zore moved to Naples with her mother to start anew. The aftermath of her father’s sudden death “was a whirlwind for my mom,” she recalls. “One day she pulled up to a house in Naples Park and said, ‘This is our house.’ It was a small, little town, and I did not want to move here. She wanted a fresh start away from Miami and thought it would be a better place.”

Zore attended St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School and in 1994 graduated from Barron Collier High School, where she was a cheerleader. She stayed in Naples and ran her own nail salon on Third Street South for 12 years.

Zore credits her fiancé, Michael Randall, with advancing the mission of the Fallen Officers. Randall, who serves as vice president and chief operating officer, was an NFL marketing agent, and he taps into this experience when planning the organization’s football tournament, which involves more than a dozen teams. Randall “was definitely a big part in helping me get it started,” she says. “He’s the backbone of everything.”

Zore’s efforts are rooted in the memories of her mother’s struggles as a young widow and the support she received from the community. She also wants to raise awareness of the difficulties officers face each day. “We want to bring more light to law enforcement and what these men and women go through,” she explains. “It’s about bringing people together to unite and stand behind law enforcement. I want to bring more positive light to these men and women.”

Jennifer McCurry

It’s no secret that Jennifer McCurry has a keen sense of design, but she also can help design a really good party.

How good? She co-chaired the 2019 Zoo Gala in November, the third annual for the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, and it raised more than $1.4 million in one evening. She’ll be at it again as co-chair of the American Cancer Society’s tenth annual Bucket List Bash February 29. “I think I went off the deep end,” she says with a laugh.

The longtime jewelry buyer and consultant for Marissa Collections has jumped into a new phase that revolves around her 3-year-old twin sons, her career, and her commitment to two causes that are dear to her heart. “The zoo is a special gem that’s been here over 100 years, and I have children, so it’s important we visit it every weekend,” McCurry says. “And cancer, unfortunately, touches us all.”

She adds that fundraising veterans Terry Edwards and Jody Lippes, who planned the first two events, laid the foundation for the Zoo Gala’s success. In addition to these women, McCurry also credits her 2019 Zoo Gala co-chairs, Susie McCurry and Anita Lovse, as philanthropic role models who are inspiring the next generation to step up. “One thing special about Naples is that it’s a relatively small community and we support each other,” she says.

McCurry was raised in Iowa in a tight-knit extended family. When her parents moved to Naples two decades ago, she followed suit. Though she earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and sociology, she realized that she often was taking the heaviness of her job home. At the urging of family members who recognized McCurry’s passion for the arts, she enrolled at the Gemological Institute of America. At first, she felt put off by being in the minority among the multigenerational jewelers she shared class with, “but when I looked in that microscope, things changed,” she recalls.

After earning her graduate jeweler degree, she began creating custom jewelry in Naples and held a trunk show at Marissa Collections about 15 years ago. She later joined the team as the jewelry and accessories buyer. Today the boutique features more than 60 jewelry designers and boasts 30-plus cases filled with one-of-kind masterpieces.

“It’s considered one of the best specialty jewelry galleries in the country,” McCurry says. “I’m very proud of it.” «

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