Community service groups meet with area businesses

By Gary Alan Ruse….

Lesly Diaz addresses the group, with (l-r) Courtney Donald, Sharon Haxton, Karen Husted, Ivette Vidal, Aaron Alvin, Sandra Nanni and Mercy Hernandez.

The July 14 monthly meeting of the Cutler Bay Business Association (CBBA) was a departure from the usual presentation by business advisers, government leaders, utilities planners or political candidates.

The meeting topic was community services and representatives from seven different charitable public service organizations were able to introduce themselves to owners of local businesses.

Job Corps, Community Partnership for Homeless, Catholic Charities, Miami- Dade Safespace, Better Way of Miami, SOS and The Edge networked with the CBBA members before the luncheon meeting, then took turns making brief presentations about their organizations, the work they do in the community and their need for area support.

Lesly Diaz of the Homestead Job Corps Center, which is looking for speakers, mentors and tutors to inspire students to believe in themselves and perform to their highest potential, was the first to speak.

“Once a month or one time, it doesn’t matter,” Diaz said. “Whatever you are able to help out, we look forward to working with you all. If you’re an entrepreneur and can speak to our business technology division, or a nurse and can speak to our nursing students, it means so much when the community comes and shows they care.”

Medical assistant student Courtney Donald, 25, who had been in college for three years and the military for four years, turned to Job Corps for training and guidance. Donald is now a certified EKG technician and soon will receive certification as a phlebotomist and administrative technician.

“I am so excited about that,” Donald said. “They give us the training and experience that we need out there in the job market.”

Sharon Haxton of Community Partnership for Homeless spoke next, saying that their facilities have been used as a national model.

“We’ve got two homeless assistance centers — one downtown and the one that I’m at down in Homestead,” Haxton said. “In Homestead we have 300 people living there — single men, single women and families.

“We are one of the few communities in the country making major improvements in getting homeless people off the streets. We try to help people find employment and get their lives back on track,” she added. “We always need donations of clothing, especially men’s clothes.”

Ivette Vidal of Miami-Dade Safespace told CBBA members about the efforts of the organization to help and council victims of domestic violence.

Karen Husted, director of the Unaccompanied Minors Program of Catholic Charities talked about the need to get the word out their efforts to shelter and assist unaccompanied, undocumented, immigrant children up to 17 years of age.

Aaron Alvin from Better Way of Miami told of its programs to assist indigents and others in overcoming drug or alcohol addiction over the past 28 years and its solid success rate.

Sandra Nanni, executive director of Project SOS, spoke of the group’s work taking on family violence and the victims of human trafficking.

Mercy Hernandez of the Old Cutler Academy Learning Center spoke about her program, The Edge.

“We are four very passionate women who do not take ‘no’ for an answer,” Hernandez said. “We are looking out for children and the environment.”

CBBA member Al Royston, president of A. Randall Financial, thought it was a great meeting and liked the opportunity it presented them to learn more.

“I’ve always been very involved in the community and I think that a presentation like this gives us an idea of the various avenues that we can help,” Royston said. “I currently am a member of the Rotary Club of Perrine-Cutler Ridge/Palmetto Bay and we have done a number of service projects and some of these groups have benefited from that.

“Now I can see where we might be able to help more. I always encourage anyone — look, it’s not all about your business and your time. Sometimes you need to help others who are certainly less fortunate,” Royston said.

“There are organizations here I’ve never heard of, and that I’m sure most of the people in this room have never heard of, so it was very important to hear that message and also to see how they’re connected. I think it also opens people’s ears to the fact that they can do something else to help.”

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