Pinecrest residents’ foundation makes challenge grant for Shelter Box USA

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Pinecrest residents, Rick and Margarita Tonkinson, have made a name for themselves in the community service and philanthropy arena and that has certainly rubbed off on their son, Steven Tonkinson. Steven’s parents are both longtime Rotarians. While Steven is a managing director of Tonkinson Financial and an honorary Coral Gables Rotarian, he is also a tireless volunteer for Shelter Box USA. As a new board member of Shelter Box USA, Steven was the featured speaker at a recent zoom RCCG meeting to share the work the organization is doing on a global scale. After hearing Steven’s talk, the club passed a virtual hat. Members were offered a challenge grant and donated a total of $3,300 during that meeting which will be matched by the Tonkinson Foundation.

For Steven, it has been a long journey working with Shelter Box USA, an international organization that provides shelter for those in need for a myriad of reasons from disasters to conflicts. It began years ago when he learned of their work through his father. Steven became a passionate emergency response team member making numerous trips over the years to disaster areas to oversee the distribution of the shelter boxes and more. RCCG President Kelly Garces was delighted to see her fellow Rotarians step up to meet the Tonkinson Foundation’s challenge. Kudos to all in supporting this amazing non-profit at this critical time that will result in a $6,600 contribution to that great cause.

In other good news, A Safe Haven for Newborns has saved another seven babies since March alone despite the challenges the virus has presented. Nick Silverio and his staff are working 24/7 to insure Safe Haven is there for mothers in need and are so happy to welcome babies Valentia, Darryl, Trip, Aaron, Nikki, Mateo and Olivia, all of whom are now living with their forever families. In addition, they have assisted pregnant women and mothers in need in South Carolina, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Homestead, Miami, Broward and Palm Beach County. This included referral counseling, shelter, maternity homes, motels (temporary), abuse issues, baby items and connection to Medicaid. They continue outreach efforts distributing (in English, Spanish & Creole) a medical history questionnaire and a card to all hospitals and fire/ems stations statewide to provide to a mother after she leaves their facility. The card contains the message; “Dear Birth Mother, You have given your baby a special gift, a chance for a future. Now, please take care of yourself. We can help you get a medical checkup, speak with a counselor, or answer any questions you may have. Please call us at 877-767-2229. All calls are confidential”.


With the cancellation of their two big fundraising events, Safe Haven can use our help with time, talent and treasure. For more information on how you can help, please visit asafehavenfornewborns.org.

The Freshman Five: State House Representatives Ana Maria Rodriguez; Anthony Rodriguez; Daniel Perez; Vance Aloupis; and Juan Fernandez-Barquin continue to coordinate with Feeding South Florida and others with food distributions to those in need. Most recently Anthony Rodriguez coordinated a distribution where this writer was joined by fellow Gables Rotarians Bill Quesenberry and wife Melissa and Walter Alvarez. A rain storm did not deter the efforts in distributing food to hundreds of families. Since the event was at the same time as the club’s weekly Zoom meeting, the group actually checked in via Zoom to show Rotary members how they could volunteer for similar events in the future. For anyone interested in participating with Rotarians on projects, please mail RCCG’s Civic and Charity Chair at gloria@cnews.net.

On the cultural front, Orchestra Miami is meeting the challenge during the current pandemic to present its postponed Beethoven on the Beach concert for livestream broadcast from the North Beach Bandshell on November 13. As they closely monitor the crisis, they are working with the permission of the City of Miami Beach and Miami Dade County to hold rehearsals and performances outdoors. The strings will each have their own stands, everyone will social distance, anyone not blowing into an instrument will wear a mask and plexiglass barriers are being built for each wind/brass player. Elaine Rinaldoi, Founder and Artistic Director will conduct the program: Beethoven’s Symphony N. 6 in F Maj, Op.68 (Pastorale) and Tchaikovsky Violin Concert on D Major, Op. 55 with Francisca Mendoza, as soloist. This is an unprecedented event, as they will be the first orchestra in the Southeastern U.S. to present a live symphonic concert. Kudos to Orchestra Miami and Rinaldi for this herculean effort to bring the joy of music to our community.

Until next time, keep making each day count and stay safe.


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A graduate of the University of Florida with a major in Spanish, Burns has an extensive background in advertising, marketing and reciprocal trade, travel , non profit consulting and management. Before joining Miami's Community Newspapers as a columnist and marketing specialist, Gloria was the Executive Director of the Jr. Orange Bowl Committee (6 yrs.) and first Executive Director of the Coral Gables Community Foundation (14 yrs.) and the Pinecrest Community Foundation (1 ½ yrs) . Burns' volunteer activities led her to become a columnist for Community Newspapers writing Gloria’s Gab, that focuses on the non-profit activity, and a host of an online show, Gloria's Gab LIVE. Gloria serves the board of the Rotary Club of Coral Gables as Civic and Charity Chair, and is involved in the club's International Committee. She is an active Life Member of the Jr. Orange Bowl Committee and is Secretary of the Merrick Festival. She serves on the board of directors of the Coral Gables Woman' Club as Publicity Chair and also coordinates the club's monthly fundraiser for various charities with Gringo Bingo at Clutch Burger. In addition, Gloria participates in numerous other charitable events and is a member of the Business Forum Group, Profit Inc., the Greater Miami Festival & Events Association and the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce. In other volunteer activity, Gloria helps Miami Christian School with fund-raising and PR; is an Ambassador and volunteers for events for A Safe Haven for Newborns. She is an active member of the Music Ministry at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church where she enjoys singing in the choir every weekend.

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