We know that part of the reason why we’re greater in Greater Fort Lauderdale is because of the heroes that call our community home. During these uncertain times, we’re relying on our local heroes more than ever. And while these selfless individuals go above and beyond for our residents without expecting any recognition, we cannot allow them to go unnoticed any longer. Their humility is a virtue, and that’s why we need your help identifying and celebrating our local heroes.
If you have a story of a local hero that you’d like to share, please fill out a submission or email at GFLMarketing@broward.org. These stories of inspiring efforts and heroes will be highlighted on sunny.org, our social media platforms and shared with news media.
3 Sons Brewing have been providing a free dinner to go on Sundays for anyone in the hospitality industry that has been laid off. They give out around 100 plates on Sundays.
FEEDING THE FRONT LINES: The Law Office of Saban and Solomon, have teamed up with UBF Food Truck, known as the Appetizer Food Truck, to bring doctors, nurses, hospital staff, police officers, as well as other first responders, a complimentary meal to show their thanks and appreciation for their continued selfless acts and dedication during these difficult times.
They have provided meals for: Cleveland Clinic Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Veteran Affairs Hospital in Miami, Plantation Police Department, Fort Lauderdale Police Department, Broward Sheriff’s Office. They will also be sending the UBF Food Truck to the Margate Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol in West Palm, and many other police departments and hospitals in Miami Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County.
A special thank you to Jackson Lainez, PA, The Attorney that Rides Gabriel Carrera, Global America Titles Services, Westway Towing, Dr. Meraz, Ellis Stone, and Trinity Construction for their contributions to this great cause. They plan to continue this service after the stay-at-home orders have been lifted.
This is just a small way to say thank you, for your efforts could never fully be repaid.
Submitted by: Jaimie L. Quinn, ESQ
Rick is a well known costume designer all over South Florida. During this lapse in employment he has taken it upon himself to put his talents to a good cause.
Rick has sewn more than 400 masks for workers and civilians around South Florida (and is still going)!
He has gotten donations and supplies from the community, including community drivers like Jill Kratish from Broward Center for the Performing Arts, and taking them to the children’s hospital with the performing arts community supporting him along the way.
Rick did not ask to be recognized, but he is a true hero in these trying times!
Submitted by: Kristi Mills
On the day Xtreme Action Park closed, most of the refrigerators and freezers were cleared with food donated to the staff. Soon after, another donation of pizza, ice cream, chicken wings and more was made to kids and families in foster and homeless support programs.
In early April, team members volunteered to unload and repack a donation of 600 crates of produce donated by Fresh Point South Florida, which was delivered to the Feeding South Florida food distribution team. Then, Hershey Foods heard about the produce donation and sent more than 1,000 ice cream cones, which the team distributed to vulnerable hungry and homeless families.
These activities created wonderful opportunities for team members and community partners to join together and support the community with food and smiles.
Submitted by: Elizabeth Rizzuto
Rosilene Costa, a cashier at TooJay's Deli Hallandale Beach, has sewn over 1,200 masks at home. Her heart broke when she saw the planet sick and her grandchildren's future being threatened by the COVID-19 crisis.
Knowing how contagious the virus was, she decided to help by starting to make masks out of extra fabric she had with help from a video tutorial online. She has donated the majority to Memorial Regional Hospital and to personal friends and family.
TooJay’s now has her making masks full time for team members and the community.
Submitted by: Carlos Goycochea
Arden Karson, CBRE Managing Director, and Ken Rudominer, Battalion Chief City of Fort Lauderdale Firefighters, have partnered up to lead the Broward Chapter of Frontline Foods.
Together, with the Miami Chapter, they have provided more than 10,000 meals to local frontline workers in South Florida while supporting local restaurants. Their partnership is a great example of a private company focused on community service partnering with the public sector to make an impact.
All donations are welcome and encouraged: frontlinefoods.org/fortlauderdale-broward-county. The chapter is one of 50 formed nationwide since late March and is part of the World Central Kitchen's 501c3.
Broward County Commissioner Dr. Barbara Sharief emerged as a strong voice for the humanitarian need to allow several cruise ships to dock at Port Everglades with some passengers and crew ill from coronavirus, as well as thousands of well passengers who needed to disembark to begin making their way home. The ship had been turned away at other ports.
She received a letter of thanks signed by Consul Generals and Honorary Consuls of 21 of the 35 home countries of the ship’s passengers. Her constituents find it reassuring that a member of the local medical community has a voice on the County Commission during the pandemic.
Broward Commissioner Dr. Barbara Sharief is a medical expert and it is assuring to know that we have her either on the front lines or in the background during this pandemic. She is a knowledgeable source of up-to-date information and has our best interests at heart. She is an excellent spokesperson and is always calm and professional. She is embedded both in our community and as the owner of a pediatric care company, providing ways of helping us keep this virus at bay. Barbara is not just a politician, but a “friend” and she is a Hometown Hero to me.
Submitted by: Judy Karpis
Hospitality is the largest private employer in Florida and has been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help those affected, Dr. Peter Ricci, the director of FAU’s top-rated Hospitality and Tourism Management program, created a free online version of the school's Certificate in Hospitality and Tourism Management, which normally costs $900.
Word of the certificate program spread across the globe, with registration from more than 70,000 people from more than 150 countries. Dr. Ricci recorded video conference interviews with many South Florida hospitality professionals to enhance the educational presentations by university faculty. Sessions include hospitality law, career competencies, marketing and revenue management, finance fundamentals and service excellence. Those are the key areas covered by hospitality and tourism students who pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration from FAU.
The certificate benefits hourly associates, supervisors and executives who work in hotels, restaurants, cruise lines, casinos or for any service-oriented business. Dr. Ricci, an advocate of lifelong learning, felt the certificate program would help hospitality workers stay focused during the stress created by the pandemic.
Submitted by: James Ward
Jane Bolin has been going above an beyond during this pandemic. She sends food to first responders (weekly if not more frequently). She's been personally shopping for groceries and delivering food to families in need. As a boss, she has done this for her employees as well.
When word came of a foster parent needing resources for a 9 month old exposed to the virus (she is also a hero, but I don't know her name), Jane provided the parent what she needed within a few hours and continues to connect the foster mother with donations while on quarantine with the baby.
Jane ran webinars for all real estate agents and independent contractors in Florida to help clarify the process of what funding was available for independent contractors. Jane has been one of the most (if not the most proactive) politician in South Florida at this time. She has been a fact-based resource to all civilians and businesses, providing knowledge on what processes are available to people.
Submitted by: Paul McDermott
During the pandemic, Paul began to sew masks and sold them online. He also created a pick up window at his shop, Sew What? in Oakland Park.
Submitted by: Johana Davila
The Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina team had the privilege to serve family meals to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Monday, April 20. They know how hard the FLPD works and appreciate everything they do. They have also been fortunate enough to provide two family meals, every week, to their furloughed team members by partnering with local companies like Costco, Sysco, Starbucks and Coca Cola.
The Executive Chef, Louis Marandola, oversees this program and has put in a lot of hard work during this challenging time. The team is the heart and soul of their business and can not wait to get back to work!
Submitted by: Jeremy Gow
Essential Meals GoFundMe page, recently launched by Alyssa Lovitt, honors the front-line service of EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, police officers and countless others.
“We do not want them to worry about lunch and dinner," Lovitt writes “so they can continue to focus on the nurture, care and safety of the people they serve.” Over its first four days, the page raised more than $3,500 and already made deliveries, including one to Fort Lauderdale FOP Lodge 31. Restaurants that have agreed to participate include Bravo Peruvian Cuisine, Smokey Bones and Exquisite Catering by Robert.
Visit gofundme.com/f/essential-meals to make a donation.
Submitted by: Renée Korbel Quinn
Medical personnel in the Holy Cross Hospital Intensive Care Unit got a brief reprieve from their difficult work and a special thanks from Berger Commercial Realty/CORFAC International recently with a complimentary lunch catered by AB Catering & Food Services.
“The fight against COVID-19 has many fronts and we all have a responsibility to support our healthcare workers, whether that is by sheltering at home ourselves or delivering a hot meal to show our gratitude for all that they do,” said Berger Senior Sales Associate Jonathan Thiel, who coordinated the lunch delivery to his client, Holy Cross Hospital. “It’s a small and heartfelt way of saying ‘thanks’ from all of us.”
Submitted by: Jennifer J.H. Pierce
Amici’s Pizza Cafe have been consistently generous towards their community. During the current crisis, owner Craig Valvo has done so many things for the community including donating countless lunches to hospitals and first responders. They also had several customers want to buy food for healthcare workers and fire stations, and in those cases, he discounts all of the orders.
Early on in the crisis, he secured respirator masks and gave them to his employees and many healthcare and hospitality workers. He ordered large quantities of toilet paper and paper towels and has given away or sold at cost hundreds of rolls of each. In early March he started offering free slices of pizza to local first responders and encouraged others to participate in generosity. Mayor Lou Sarbone personally thanked Craig for his contributions to the city’s emergency meeting in early March, where city leadership discussed how to handle the coming crisis.
Some of what Craig and his staff at the restaurant have done has been noted on social or other media, but most is behind the scenes including Craig’s commitment to provide a full meal to one family each day. He has asked friends and patrons for recommendations for which families to schedule this for and has kept the process very quiet to maintain the families' privacy. Most recipients are families that are facing financial stress from lost or limited work or those working on the frontlines, with preference given hospitality and medical workers.
This restaurant has been committed to weaving into the fabric of its community and for a small restaurant, it extends a tremendous amount of generosity.
Submitted by: Tony Barone
Captain Webster and his crew recently assisted an elderly neighbor, providing service above and beyond!! It shows how gentle and caring leadership sets an example for the entire team.
The Fort Lauderdale neighbor has been physically declining since she had recent hip surgery, and all three shifts at Station 49 identified many needs the neighbor could not express for herself. Multiple calls had been responded to, across multiple shifts. They helped her with everything from moving her from the wheelchair or couch, settling her in with something to eat and drink, to organizing the cleaning of her home with the building manager.
The crew realized she required not only responsive assistance but also 24-hour care. They made the calls and assisted with setting up contacts, who could start the processes to get her this much needed care. Captain Webster also called her social worker, who would follow up on getting a hospital bed for her use.
The kindness shown eased her desperate and emotional state, as well as showed her the Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue family includes everyone. The Captain committed to checking in on her care, and we want to commend the entire Station 49 crewmembers!!
Submitted by: Rhoda Mae Kerr
Evan Snow, a tireless supporter of the Greater Fort Lauderdale arts and culture community, shared important information on Choose954 social media at the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, encouraging people to donate to medical supply drives to benefit frontline workers facing shortages of PPE.
He's been busy producing virtual tours and new COVID-19 friendly concepts as part of his partnership with the Hollywood CRA and other cities. He continues conducting free monthly AAF CreativeZen breakfast lecture series, as well as his Choose954 Artist Potluck connecting, engaging and inspiring the arts community, and he also held an Earth Day panel discussion – all done virtually as video chat events. He mentors his 3rd Broward College Capstone Class with Professor Natalie Butto, using his Choose954, Zero Empty Spaces and 1000 Mermaids platforms as case studies.
The world is a much more beautiful and nicer place because of Evan.
Submitted by: Megan Romine
At the beginning of the Coronvirus pandemic, just days after the President declared a national emergency, one cruise ship was halted midstream its early morning debarkation process at Port Everglades. The Florida Governor supported an order requested by Broward County officials to hold disembarkation of guests while examiners performed a COVID-19 test on a guest who sadly passed away during the sailing. Though the test came back negative, some guests had missed their travel connections while waiting for the test results.
Port Everglades’ Cruise Services Manager, Ken Lavan, noticed a couple sitting outside the locked cruise terminal that Sunday evening long after the debark process. He approached the husband and wife who said a friend in Fort Myers, FL would pick them up since they had missed their planned transportation home that morning. While the couple was safe within the highly secure Port, Ken was concerned about the four hours that it could take for their nighttime pickup and noticed one of the guests had a walker and a portable oxygen generator.
About 20 minutes later, the Port had transportation arranged to take the couple to the Port Administration building’s lobby about a mile away to wait for their ride from Fort Myers. “There, we had A/C, bathrooms, and a vending machine, along with comfortable seating. What a relief. Our ride came and we made it safely back to Fort Myers,” said the couple in an email to Port Everglades. Little did they know that right after Ken drove away at the end of his shift, he called Robert Jenkins, the Port Everglades Security Manager, who then had transportation arranged to bring them to the building where they could comfortably wait for their ride inside.
This local hero nominator noticed the couple in the lobby when she left the building at 7pm that Sunday and recognizes the actions of the cruise and security personnel in making cruise guests’ experience at Port Everglades better.
Submitted by: Maisy Alpert, APR
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, thousands of crew members remain on board ships still at sea while the cruise lines work to send them home. The cruise lines planned to keep crew onboard until the industry opened back up after voluntarily suspending operations on March 13. But now, realizing it won’t happen for months, the cruise lines are working together to bring crew back to their respective countries via ship or charter aircraft, since commercial air travel is restricted.
Father Sanford Sears, better known as Father Sandy, is the Port Chaplain and priest for Seafarers' House at Port Everglades. This not-for-profit, multi-faith ministry offers practical care and spiritual support to nearly 150,000 seafarers each year. Father Sandy became aware of 22 Filipino crew members in self-isolation at local hotels who were awaiting repatriation to their home countries. Many of these seafarers have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and are self-isolating at Fort Lauderdale hotels without access to their belongings or the ability to go out and purchase personal care items.
Father Sandy quickly arranged to visit the quarantined seafarers with another chaplain based at Seafarers’ House. They brought these seafarers clothing, fruit, vitamins and masks. Over the Easter holiday, they even brought candy to make their stay a little sweeter. The chaplains left phone numbers for the seafarers to call if they needed anything and promised they would try their best to help them either physically or spiritually.
Since the initial contact, Father Sandy has returned to do follow up care and counseling visits to the stranded seafarers, many of whom are feeling the inability to connect with family and loved ones at home. This is just one more act of heroism with the Port Everglade community network connecting to help people in need. Everyone at Port Everglades is grateful for Father Sandy and the team at Seafarers' House at Port Everglades, and appreciates their quick response with these seafarers, along with the Apostleship of the Seas and the Apostleship of the Seas and the Embassy of the Philippines in Washington, DC.
Submitted by: Maisy Alpert
Jessica Ruiz, and her company Elite Parking, are a true example for putting her love of hospitality and community first during this time of need. Jessica has worked with local churches and business colleagues to give back to the community and assist during the COVID pandemic. She has also extended her commitment and loyalty to her staff by assisting with any needs during the shutdown including much needed essentials and other items. She is definitely a true example of heroism and putting others first.
Elite Parking has displayed a high level of generosity by working with local churches and food banks and delivering community care. Due to COVID-19 Jessica and her company have been temporarily shutdown, but she is still committed to helping others and helping her community.
Submitted by: Nikki Reyna
Eddie serves as President of the South Florida Chapter of ASTA, the American Society of Travel Advisors. It is the largest chapter of travel advisors who sell travel, particularly to Greater Fort Lauderdale. On a daily basis and particularly now, he keeps up everyone's spirits and promotes our home community.
Since the COVID-19 crisis, Eddie, who is also an accomplished pianist, plays a favorite song on his piano, which his partner Joe Malinda posts on Facebook everyday. People from all over the world look forward to this daily uplift from one of our Fort Lauderdale residents with his song of love.
Submitted by: Bob Duglin
A South Florida pre-K teacher battling cancer led a caravan of cars surprising her students with school supplies, thanks to a grant from the Broward Education Foundation and Office Depot.
Tamarac Elementary School pre-K teacher, Jennifer Passino, who just completed her final chemotherapy treatment, turned the tables on Teacher Appreciation Week by delivering the supplies to quarantined students. “It’s important to help our students during this challenging time,” she said. When asked if she was worried about making deliveries as she is immuno-compromised, she said, “Not at all, I will wear a mask and can’t wait to see all my kiddo’s faces.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Broward Education Foundation and Office Depot Virtual Learning Teacher Supply Drive raises funds to help teachers purchase needed distance learning tools and supplies such as headphones, microphones, whiteboards and software so they may keep students engaged, focused and learning. To make a contribution, please visit teachersupplydrive.com.
Submitted by: Diana Hanford
Jessica Roy has gone above and beyond for the families of Broward County during the COVID-19 crisis.
The division she oversees provides crucial services to children diagnosed with special needs and their families. When our primary child care services were shut down she worked tirelessly to create additional programs to help get families through this very difficult time.
Jessica is the reason we have been able to help families navigate essential food and financial resources to help sustain themselves. She cares so much for the well-being of others and has limitless compassion to help those most in need. Jessica is an advocate to all and has helped change the lives of so many people.
Submitted by: Chelsea Tucker
Special Needs Group is a company that caters to people who want to travel, but may need something extra to make their trip possible and/or enjoyable. They are the leading global provider of wheelchair rentals, scooter rentals, oxygen rentals and other special needs equipment rentals in 68 different countries.
Although travel is currently on pause, Andrew Garnett made it his mission to make medical equipment accessible to all, expanding its inventory on Special Needs Group’s online store. Special Needs Group’s store now offers masks, face shields, gloves, thermometers, nebulizers, finger pulse oximeters, stethoscopes and more.
Submitted by: Samantha Mozdzierz
Spurred to action by the mounting critical shortage of masks to protect South Florida’s first responders, the owners of Pompano Beach-based manufacturer Life Wear Technologies leveraged their supply chain connections and procured 3,000 additional masks to donate to South Florida’s first responders, including the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Pompano Beach Fire Rescue.
The company also donated $2,000 worth of its patented, long-lasting CryoMAX cold-therapy packs which can be used in hospitals and healthcare settings to help alleviate fevers associated with COVID-19.
Pictured: Broward Deputy Sheriff Scott Longo accepts a donation of face masks from Pompano Beach-based Life Wear Technologies CEO Bradley Waugh.
Submittted by: Amy Hoffman
Blaze Pizza’s Davie team members, led by Area Manager Eric Bronson, fired up pizzas and made a special delivery to the Davie Police Department to say thank you for all they do to keep the community safe.
Blaze Pizza in South Florida recently surprised first responders and healthcare workers with pizza deliveries to say thank you as part of its #BlazingItForward campaign, sending them sustenance in the form of delicious pizzas in a show of support.
Submitted by: Amy Hoffman
In a world of uncertainty and inevitable sicknesses, we need that spark of hope, ray of sunshine and inspiration from those risking their lives daily with such perseverance and bravery. One such person is a humble sweet yet strong woman named Ofelia. Some call her "Mother Theresa," children call her the "mother with unconditional love" and students call her Mrs. Ofelia Biancuzzo.
Mrs. Ofelia is a caring professional that all her students, from preschool all the way to seniors and special needs, constantly seek her teaching skills on a long term basis. Many say she teaches with such grace that you don't ever feel like a number since there is no contracts, also ensuring her clients are always happy and satisfied.
She was asked to keep teaching in quarantine, but "virtaully" from her students she has had since 4 yrs old and now they adults. Whatever music it is and whether it may be piano, voice, guitar or band instrument coaching,...music keeps the peace for her. Music is her air like fish need water, but add that recipe to helping others and that makes her Ofelia!
Ofelia Biancuzzo is the director and pianist for the St. Mary Magdalen Church Spanish Choir and substitute mostly English masses, although all on hold for COVID-19. So many of her choir members seek her for music connections from her virtually through Whatsapp, Skype, YouTube and Facebook as the only means to keep the "sanity," "faith" and "sense of unity" though music during such sad times. Music is the language of our world!
Yes, Ofelia may be an extremely accomplished graduate from the New England Conservatory of Boston, living now in Broward, yet she is one of the most caring individuals I have ever met and it is truly an honor to have her as a mom. Should I have not been her daughter, I wouldn't of known all the late nights she stays up to meet the requests of all her music on a virtual basis...she gets a true satisfaction in her heart helping on a daily basis whom comes her way. This is a tribute to a leader that embarks her footsteps in a road of unselfish love.
Submitted by: Ofelia Y. Moreira, daughter
The cinemas (Savor Cinema & Cinema Paradiso Hollywood) closed on March 16. Michelle put together baskets of movies, t-shirts and refreshments. People would select which basket and Michelle delivered to their home -- just for the cost of the basket, no delivery fee, anywhere in Broward County.
Submitted by: Gregory von Hausch
The #pandemicoflove is a mutual aid community of care movement started in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. It humbly began on March 14, 2020 by one person who intended to help her own local community. But, like an epidemic, the act of love and kindness spread quickly and is now a beautiful movement helping those in need throughout the world.
What is a mutual aid community? It connects people in need with patrons who can help. This is a tangible way for people to give to each other, quickly, discretely and directly. What’s the catch? There is none. Kind people are introduced to kind people which results in an act of kindness and human connection.
Submitted by: Johana Davila
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, first responders are on the frontlines fighting to keep communities safe and healthy. In an effort to express profound gratitude during this challenging time, Doris Italian Market & Bakery delivered penne marinara, chicken francaise, rolls, tossed salad and cookies to the Sunrise and Coral Springs Police Departments.
“We can’t express how much we appreciate all that first responders and medical professionals do each and every day, especially during these unprecedented times,” said John Alfano, president and CEO of Doris Italian Market & Bakery. “It is so important, now more than ever, to come together as a community and help each other. We hope that this meal shows the Sunrise and Coral Springs police departments how grateful we are for them.”
Doris Italian Market & Bakery locations are open and operating as normal. The specialty supermarket is receiving daily shipments and working with vendors to keep the shelves stocked as best as possible.
Submitted by: Kimberly Rodriguez
Michael Freedland, a former president of the Rotary Club of Weston and an active Rotarian, has been volunteering along with his son Blake to coordinate the club’s Rotary Feeds the Front Line initiative, providing free and affordable meals to our heroes on the front lines of the pandemic crisis.
The Freedlands work with local restaurants and catering companies to produce meals and treats, coordinate the collection of donations to cover the costs, which also supports local restaurants and small businesses, and arranges for the food deliveries.
Recently they provided popcorn from PopsCorn and other healthy snacks from Yummy in My Tummy to 1,000 Cleveland Clinic employees in Weston. While taking necessary safety precautions, the Rotarians said “thank you” with tables of snacks at the hospital and clinic entrances for employees to take and enjoy.
Additionally, the club’s Rotary Feeds the Front Line initiative recently provided lunch from Tap 42 to all 450 employees at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.
As General Manager of Westfield Broward, Angel Cabrera is a direct link to the local community where he works with a number of like minded partners on community initiatives. Most recently, Westfield Broward has launched #WestfieldCares, a series of community and philanthropic actions aimed at helping some of the most vulnerable populations in Plantation impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Some local initiatives include providing meals to 150 emergency team members treating patients with COVID-19 at Westside Regional Medical Center and delivering meals to the Plantation Fire Department. Along with monetary and in-kind donations, #WestfieldCares is intended to help drive awareness and additional donations for non-profits that serve groups such as those experiencing homelessness, economically disadvantaged families, seniors and children.
Follow @WestfieldBroward on socials to see the ways they are working within the community to celebrate and encourage giving back, with the hope of inspiring others to do the same.
Submitted by: Helyne Levy
What is a hero? We think it’s a person who exceeds all expectations in order to help others. It means being selfless at a time of significant sacrifice, strong in the face of overwhelming obstacles, and optimistic when surrounded by uncertainty. And where are these heroes? They’re right here. In our community. They’re our neighbors. They’re our friends. They’re our family.
Heroes and heroic acts include, but are not limited to: