United Way Miami recently celebrated 98 years of serving and impacting Miami-Dade County at its 2022 Annual Meeting and Volunteer Awards.
At the event, the organization honored seven outstanding members of community service, including U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson, Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins, the late Michael Finney, the late Manuel Fermin, Richard Berkowitz, and high school students Larissa Ramirez and Shawn Martinez. The lunch and awards ceremony took place at Jungle Island.
Throughout the year, United Way brought together nearly 3,000 volunteers who gave more than 3 million hours of their time to create meaningful change. Each year, United Way recognizes extraordinary volunteers who have demonstrated an unwavering dedication to community service by improving the lives of others through education, financial security and the health of children, families and seniors. from Miami Dade. The winners included:
Richard A. Berkowitz, Founder and Executive Chairman of Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs, received the Dorothy Shula Award for Outstanding Volunteerism, which recognizes an individual whose work in the community brings hope, promise and opportunity to the lives of others and left a lasting positive impact on a person, group or community as a whole.
Berkowitz has a long history of supporting the community through fundraising and board leadership. He is Past President of the Miami Foundation where he served two years. Under his leadership, the organization established a Racial Justice Fund following the murder of George Floyd, which raised numerous grants and gifts.
The late Michael A. Finney, former CEO of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, received the Essie Silva Community Builder Award, which recognizes an individual who makes a difference by addressing specific community challenges affecting different cultural or ethnic groups.
Finney was passionately committed to his family and his community. He was a visionary leader and bridge builder who championed Miami as the diverse global innovation center he knew it was, while working to create inclusive, equitable, and accessible opportunities for the vulnerable population of our community. Throughout his tenure, Finney has led the organization to break several records, most recently in 2021 when 32 companies pledged to create nearly 14,000 new direct and indirect jobs, translating into an annual economic impact of $1 billion for Miami-Dade residents and businesses. He has also led the organization to develop new local initiatives that support our most underserved communities and small businesses.
The late Manuel Fermin, former CEO of the Healthy Start Coalition of Miami-Dade, received the Monsignor Walsh Outstanding Human Services Professional Award, which recognizes an individual who has dedicated their time to helping others by shaping caring and responsive social service . service delivery system, having a positive impact on the quality of social services in the community and always meeting the needs for emergency community services.
Fermin was a fierce advocate for children and pregnant women. Under her leadership, the coalition provided essential child and maternal health services to more than 700 mothers each week. Through the many programs and initiatives that have been implemented and still benefit families in our community, his legacy lives on through his team, his family and the community who continue to honor him and be inspired by his passion. and his commitment.
U.S. Representative Frederica S. Wilson of Florida’s 24th Congressional District and Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins, District 5, received the Public Service Leadership Award, which recognizes public servants and community leaders who demonstrate leadership. ‘a remarkable sense of commitment to hard work, courageous leadership and a dedication to improving services for children and families.
Representative Wilson is known as a “voice of the voiceless”. His tenure in Congress was marked by his spirit of defending the interests of the less fortunate. Throughout her career, she has made it her mission to improve the quality of life in her riding by creating jobs, improving education, ending foreclosures, safeguarding Medicare and social security and strengthening ties with Haiti and the Caribbean.
Commissioner Higgins believes that Miami-Dade can be the best place on Earth to live if we come together to solve our most pressing problems. Since being elected in 2018, she has been a tireless advocate for our ALICE people and fought for resilience, common sense gun reform, and programs that give everyone an equal chance.
Larissa Ramirez, a high school student at Alonzo & Tracy Mourning High, and Shawn Martinez, a high school student at Belen Jesuit Preparatory received the Outstanding Youth Award, which recognizes someone 18 years of age or younger for leadership, commitment and character by the service. and volunteering.
Ramirez is an exemplary community volunteer and aspiring leader who has documented nearly 1,000 hours of community service in a variety of capacities such as local elections, supporting and educating residents on bills, among other initiatives. As her class president, she works with her school administration to address student concerns, organize school events, and improve school spirit. She also participated in the Girls of Transformation mentoring program where she acted as the lead organizer of the program mentors and mentored young girls at risk of expulsion in school.
Martinez has a long history of volunteering in Miami-Dade County. In 2020, he founded AVUS CONNECT, an intergenerational social connectivity program launched as a call to action to combat isolation and loneliness among older adults. To ensure its success, he was able to integrate the program with United Home Care’s volunteer platform and successfully secure them as a corporate sponsor.
Today and throughout the year, members of the community are encouraged to join Centraide by volunteering. Those looking to volunteer should visit Volunteermiami.org, Miami-Dade’s central community service center offering volunteer opportunities for people who are passionate about creating meaningful change in our community.
Learn more at unitedwaymiami.org.
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