Richard Morales in the IT department has worked his entire career at Cypress Cove. He did not start out in IT, but he always knew that it was where he wanted to be. The self-taught tech guru we have all come to depend on for our computer issues (and phone issues and printing issues and all our other technical issues!) had to work extremely hard to achieve this goal. He also studied hard, with assistance and encouragement from an amazing couple at Cypress Cove, to become an American citizen.
Richard immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba in 2006 as a young adult along with several family members. They were sponsored by his older brother, who had already become a U.S. citizen. Although he is asked this a lot, there were no harrowing boat rides from Cuba. His family traveled like most visitors – by airplane. Richard and his family worked through the legal process available at the time, which was delayed for a number of years after 9/11. Richard remembers getting a passport to come to the US when he was 10 years old, but it was not until he was 22 that everything finally came together.
Several months after arriving in America, he began working at Cypress Cove as a porter. This position involved providing heavy labor for the housekeeping department. Thanks to vocational training in electronics in Cuba and his interest in all things technical, he also operated his own computer repair business on the side. He taught computer classes in Cuba before he left and continued keeping up with the latest advances.
While he had learned basic English skills in school growing up, he had to learn English very quickly on the job. He had help through an English as a Second Language program at Cypress Cove, and credits residents Beth and Clyde Gross for tutoring him in the afternoons in the art studio after his shift. The Grosses also helped Richard prepare for his citizenship test, for which he is extremely grateful.
Richard continued to work hard and was promoted to a maintenance tech in 2010, with a focus on preventative maintenance as well as fixing things throughout campus. There was not an IT department or “Tuesdays with Tiger” back then, so Richard would assist residents with their computer issues when he was cleaning their carpet or repairing an appliance.
July 24, 2018 was the memorable day Richard took the naturalization oath at a ceremony in Fort Myers and officially became a U.S. citizen. “It felt really good to go back to the residents who helped me the day after I became a citizen,” he recalled. His supervisor and coworkers celebrated by decorating his locker with flags and stickers as well as placing patriotic window clings all over his car!
Finally, in November 2020, Richard officially joined the IT department as a desktop support technician. He now assists residents and staff with technical issues every day, both in person and behind the scenes, and he loves it. “Going home every day and knowing I made a difference in their (the residents) lives is what has always motivated me to do my best,” he said.
Richard has been a terrific addition to the IT department and came on board just in time to help with several major technical infrastructure projects, which have laid the groundwork for K4Connect integration and the smart home and other upgrade options coming to campus soon.
“Richard has worked hard to become very knowledgeable about all of the systems here and is willing to help in every aspect of making residents’ and employees’ experience better,” said Chris Stalbaum, IT Infrastructure Manager. “He is always learning – staying on top of the latest technology trends. Also, he is fun to work with and he tries to make every day better than the last.”
In thinking about all the fun times with residents and staff at Cypress Cove over the years, Richard recalled the Mardi Gras parade that took place a few years ago. “We built a float and drove it around,” he said. “Everyone was laughing.”
Thank you, Richard, for all your hard work! We are so thankful you are here!