Civic leader Frank Irizarry praised those who “volunteer service to better this community in the future” when speaking on Nov. 27 to the Miami-Dade Police Hammocks District Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) he once chaired.
“You, yourselves, will be remembered for helping West Kendall become ‘a shining city on the hill,’ he told members of the CAC, a community organization Irizarry headed for eight years.
Citing a biblical phrase later used by Plymouth Colony founder John Winthrop as a vision for America’s future, Irizarry described his early years growing up in an immigrant family in New York City, reflecting on inspirational moments that reminded him to “give back service to the community where I now live.”
He recalled a time at age 6 when his mother joined a city group to improve her education and suddenly found herself elected as its secretary.
“Serafina Irizarry then spoke a little English and couldn’t write the language at all, only her native Italian. But while she knew she needed to learn, she even more felt it important to serve.
“Unable to write English, she still took on the job because she felt it was her duty to do so. Thereafter, she would listen carefully at each meeting, took down notes in her native Italian, and later paid a translator to rewrite them into English. Each month thereafter, she would hand in the English-written minutes so they could properly be read into the record as her service to help others.”
Tutoring underprivileged children was Irizarry’s earliest service as a teenager working with a 17-year-old co-volunteer, Karen Johnson — later to become motion picture/TV star Whoopi Goldberg.
“Incidents like these during my growing up years have led me to encourage others to help their community,” said Irizarry who has often motivated Hispanic and other foreign-born residents to volunteer service.
During the 21 years since his arrival in Miami, Irizarry has been at the forefront of West Kendall community campaigns and civic affairs both as a spokesperson and a volunteer member of government committees.
In addition to chairing the Hammocks CAC from 2002 to 2008 and advising its Explorer Scouting post, Irizarry was a member of District 11 Community Council, chaired its Municipal Advisory Committee studying incorporation and coorganized the West Kendall Business Association now representing Greater Kendall.
A graduate of both the Community Council Leadership program and the Miami-Dade Citizen’s Academy, he has served in parental leadership positions at Felix Varela Senior High School and Howard Doolin Middle School. He is treasurer of the Community Association at Lago Mar where he and his wife, Aline, a high school French teacher, raised their son, Frank III, 28, now of Charlotte, NC.
Irizarry currently champions the “Relay for Life” programs to raise cancer research funding, appearing at meetings throughout Kendall to secure volunteer workers and participants in the yearly community event.
Asked what he would do when retired, Irizarry was quick to respond: “I aspire to become a school crossing guard. Education is what’s behind everything,” he declared. “It’s through knowledge and serving the community that we create our own shining cities of the future.”