Helping People

From the publisher: Stories reflect South Florida’s outpouring of generosity

Alexandra Villoch, Miami Herald Media Co. president and publisher.
Alexandra Villoch, Miami Herald Media Co. president and publisher. MIAMI HERALD FILE

“I’m gonna find a way to change the world, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.”

That, in essence, sums up today’s young people, says Elliot Jones, 29, in today’s cover story. He got his start at a grassroots nonprofit in Liberty City, moved to Ashoka, the global social entrepreneur network, and now helps run the foundation of his grandmother, the late American author and poet, Maya Angelou.

Indeed, today’s millennials have been raised on community service, starting in their earliest elementary school days and continuing through college and beyond.

People like Angelica Pardo, a recent FIU graduate who didn’t want to stop being involved with the community simply because she graduated from college. She took her talents to United Way of Miami-Dade, where she is part of a 10-person board launching a new initiative to link young people who want to change the world, starting with South Florida.

The young people are not merely writing checks. They’re throwing themselves into their passions, corralling social media to raise awareness — and to raise funds. Problem-solving at its best.

This year’s Giving section is filled with stories of people, young and not-so-young, who are finding a way to help others, bringing about transformative change in our communities.

People like Luther Campbell, the music star who quietly began a youth football program 25 years ago in Liberty City. Today, the Liberty City Optimist Club is credited with keeping a generation of children off the streets and in the classroom.

People like the folks at Feeding South Florida, who toil tirelessly to give out food to the more than 500,000 South Floridians who may not know where the next meal is coming from.

People like Dee Gordon, the Miami Marlins superstar second baseman who takes time from his full schedule to meet with children who’ve lost a mother or father to domestic violence. It’s personal for him — he lost his mother to a bullet when he was 6.

Or people like Pam and Jay Kirtman of Broward, who, after their 16-year-old daughter, Rebecca, died in a car accident, continued her dream of providing prom dresses to girls who couldn’t afford one. Today, the Plantation-based Becca’s Closet has locations in 27 states and an inventory of more than 100,000 dresses.

“People from around the country started wanting to help — her friends, our friends and a lot of people in the community,” Rebecca’s father, Jay Kirtman, told our reporter Cata Balzano. “It was an outpouring of generosity involved and it just grew.”

An outpouring of generosity. It’s what our Giving section is all about.