Story by LISA ANDERSON
Manal Fakhoury: Living a Life of Service
Dr. Manal Fakhoury may not have the stature of someone who is larger than life, but there is a quiet assurance, authority, grace, and drive when she enters the room. She has dedicated her life to service and knowledge. She has a 28-year career as the Clinical Coordinator for the pharmacy at West Marion Community Hospital (Ocala Health), and she has done everything from founding organizations, such as Ollin Women International, to becoming the first woman to serve on local boards. She even participated in the Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb for Hope. “My life has been service. My parents were also community-oriented. So, [I] learned by [their] modeling. It was easy for me to continue to have that generous heart.
“I tell my friends and my kids you can rise to the top if you’re sincere,” she explains.
Growing in Knowledge and Love
Manal’s brother in-law once told the college-aged woman, “Manal, the only thing about you is that you make up your mind before giving a person a chance.” While he may have been referencing her relationship with future husband, Riadh Fakhoury, it struck a deeper chord with Manal. “I’ll never forget that. It was a game-changer, because it opened up my mind.”
Her hunger for knowledge, in those days, created quite the hurdle for Riadh. He had fallen in love with Manal the first time he saw her. They were both attending separate schools in California at the time, when they met at a local youth group. Manal confesses she didn’t have the same instant connection as Riadh. “I [was] busy trying to do school. School was very important to me. I loved learning. I [wasn’t] interested in anyone. I was very involved in creating my career.”
It took a lot of persistence and family persuasion before Manal would give Riadh the chance. Even so, it took three proposals before she agreed to marry him. The engagement didn’t stop her from obtaining a Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of Southern California, while Riadh worked on building his chiropractic practice in Ocala. The day after their honeymoon, Manal began her residency at UF Health Shands Pharmacy.
She may have been resistant to their relationship at first, even teasing, “My mom loved Riadh before I loved Riadh.” But you can definitely hear the admiration, love, and respect in her voice, now, as she speaks of him and their five children.
Everything starts because someone asked a question. Manal points out Ocala has a YMCA because someone asked why the city didn’t have one. She is a firm believer that anything can be accomplished, if you are purpose-driven. It is one of the reasons she has put in a bid for mayor, which would make her the first female mayor in Ocala.
Her resumé of volunteer positions is extensive. She has sat on the Executive Committee of the Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership (CEP). She has been on the boards of the United Way of Marion County, American Heart Association Heart Walk, and the Frank DeLuca YMCA, to name just a few. But it is her work at the prison she may be most passionate about. “It’s probably one of the most amazing programs in service that I’ve been able to do: working with people who made a mistake, who are paying the price and [are desiring] to have a better life. They know they were wrong. When we say it’s the Florida Department of Corrections, we have to have corrections. Otherwise, call it the Florida Prison System,” she states emphatically.
Manal was first asked to help start a Gavel Club through Toastmasters International. It was so well received, she used Fakhoury Leadership International to bring in a leadership conference and, eventually, a 12-week leadership program. She organized members of the community to teach the programs and held special guest speaker sessions. It was a lot of work, but she feels it has been tremendously successful. “It was a real labor of love,” she exclaims.
Passion for Ocala
Manal is driven by a passion to build and maintain strong community relations. In a recent interview with the Ocala Gazette, she states, “If we create a culture of harmony and respect and inclusion, then that’s how our community feels.”
She has certainly spent her life giving to Ocala, since arriving in 1987, and she plans to continue serving the community she loves so much. “Ocala has been great to my family,” she humbly asserts.
For more information about Manal, visit ManalforMayor.com.