Friends and Neighbors

Many volunteered for the holidays

Maj. Miguel Gonzalez and Dr. Robert E. Pickard were participated in the Hearing Research Institute’s gift-giving visit to children at Miami Children’s Hospital during the holidays.
Maj. Miguel Gonzalez and Dr. Robert E. Pickard were participated in the Hearing Research Institute’s gift-giving visit to children at Miami Children’s Hospital during the holidays.

Special to The Miami Herald

As the New Year begins, it is appropriate to recognize just some of the many groups and residents in our neighborhoods who gave their time to others during the busy holiday season. Join a cause and make volunteering one of your 2014 resolutions.


The members of the Hearing Research Institute led a coalition of veterans’ service organizations of South Florida on the annual gift giving expedition to Miami Children's Hospital on Dec. 15.

Brittany Brown, a child life specialist at the hospital, met the volunteers and together they visited every child who was in the hospital during the holiday season. The children received gifts and cheer at a difficult time in their young lives.

“The smiles that were elicited by the simple gift giving were compensation for all the hard work the group does every year for many past years in preparing for this day,” said South Miami otolaryngologist Dr. Robert E. Pickard, medical director and founder of the Hearing Research Institute.

David Magidson, Ainslee R. Ferdie, Ian Heller, Daniel Fischer, Steve Jockers, George Becker, Harris Herschkowitz, and Dr. Pickard represented the Jewish War Veterans Post 243. Pickard is also the national commander of JWV USA.

Luis E. Lalama, Roberto Molleda, Kenneth Penman and Joe Vega represented the Vietnam Veterans of America Post 620. Lalama is also commander of that VNVA Post as well as president of the Florida Gulf Stream Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army.

Also helping out for the day were Pickard’s wife, Susan, and their daughter Beke Pickard.

The Hearing Research Institute purchased the toys with donations from South Florida residents and members of the veterans’ service organizations.

Pickard said that “the reason to keep doing this act of charity and kindness is simply that it feels good both for the giver as well as the receiver and after all, isn’t that what this season is all about?”


In December, volunteers with the Rotary Club of Perrine-Cutler Ridge / Palmetto Bay filled 15 shopping carts with toys for needy children living in South Dade. Officers with the Miami-Dade Police Department then assisted the group in transporting the $4,000 worth of holiday gifts to families in Perrine.

The club members also recently purchased and distributed Thanksgiving meals with turkeys and all the trimmings for more than 300 families in South Dade.


The Masons and Eastern Stars volunteers strive each year to give back to the community through a Christmas Toy Drive for youth in Miami’s Liberty City.

“This year we donated and handed out nearly 200 gifts,” said volunteer Chandra D. Burse. “We also had food, sweet treats, music and two bike raffles. The smiles on the parents’ faces as well as their children’s were priceless! We are hoping that each year we can give more.”

Burse said the group is eagerly awaiting its next community charity event. To find out more and get involved send email to


Many deserving children in South Miami were treated to holiday gifts and happiness through the South Miami Police Department’s Community Policing Officers and the South Miami Alliance for Youth.

For the December toy drive, Officers Melvris Lopez, Marcus Kinlaw and Paul Rodriguez reached out to local businesses, community leaders and residents.

Acting Chief Rene Landa said, “There are no words that can express the feelings we all felt when the children saw all the presents.”

“Our Community Policing Officers are constantly in touch with their community and have always sought out to help families that are in need during the holiday season,” Landa said in a release.


The Dade County Bar Association and Dade Legal Aid will be honoring Director Sharon L. Langer’s 28 years of dedication at a retirement luncheon starting at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 29 at the Hyatt Regency Downtown, 400 SE 2nd Ave., Miami.

More than 400 lawyers are expected to attend this fundraising event, which will celebrate and recognize Langer’s many years of “service to the Bench and Bar and her tireless work to better our community.”

For 60 years, the Dade Legal Aid has provided free legal assistance to low-income residents of Miami-Dade County.

Under Langer’s leadership, the agency now includes 21 dedicated staff attorneys who specialize in child advocacy, consumer matters, domestic violence, family law, foreclosure, guardianship, housing, teen advocacy, nonprofits, startups, pro bono activities and many other projects that help newcomers, children, victims of violence and fraud, elderly and other disadvantaged persons, families and groups in our community.

Individual tickets purchased in advance are $50 for Dade County Bar Association members and guests. There is a reduced rate of $40 for Legal Aid and government services employees. Tickets are $60 at the door. Sponsorship opportunities are available. You can find more about tickets and sponsorships at

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at

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