Community Voices

Branches benefit raises over $370,000 for children in need

Dan and Trish Bell, Roberta and David Lawrence Jr., Nancy and Jon Batchelor, and Brent McLaughlin help raise funds at the 14th annual Black Tie & Blue Jeans Benefit Dinner and Auction hosted by Branches to provide life-changing opportunities for low-income children, youth and families.
Dan and Trish Bell, Roberta and David Lawrence Jr., Nancy and Jon Batchelor, and Brent McLaughlin help raise funds at the 14th annual Black Tie & Blue Jeans Benefit Dinner and Auction hosted by Branches to provide life-changing opportunities for low-income children, youth and families. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

“Nearly 60 percent of families in our community are struggling to make ends meet,” said Brent McLaughlin, executive director of Branches. The group has a vision “to lead through deeply rooted and impactful programs and centers that empower people to pursue life changing opportunities.”

On April 22, Branches hosted its 14th annual Black Tie & Blue Jeans Benefit Dinner and Auction at the JW Marriott Marquis. The event, with more than 450 guests, helped raise over $370,000 for programs that provide services and possibilities to low-income children, youth and families focused on long-term success.

Christina Mayo CHARLES TRAINOR JR. Miami Herald File

“Branches serves to create opportunities for these children and families to succeed in school, become more financially stable, and attain a high quality of life,” McLaughlin said in a release. “With generous support from individuals, church and corporate partners, we are making an impact for thousands of our neighbors in need.”

The event also honored David Lawrence Jr., children’s advocate and a former Miami Herald publisher, with the Trish and Dan Bell Community Empowerment Award for his wise and dedicated support of our South Florida community. To view the video honoring Lawrence go to

Numerous volunteers joined co-chairs Dustin Symes and Laurie Zapletal, and philanthropic chairs Trish and Dan Bell, to create a successful gathering. Master of ceremonies Calvin Hughes of WPLG Local 10 and auctioneer Scott Howard led the exciting live auction.

All proceeds from the evening support Branches’ Summer Shade Camp and all donations will be doubled thanks to a dollar for dollar matching grant provided by the Bells.

The seven-week-long day camp helps more than 400 Branches children and provides employment for more than 40 Branches youth to serve as summer guides or camp counselors. To learn more, visit

“ReJoyce” at Bloomsday festivities

If you love James Joyce’s masterpiece “Ulysses,” then you’ll love celebrating Bloomsday 6 p.m. June 16 at The Coral Gables Museum, 285 Aragon Ave. Events around the world mark the date 113 years ago in 1904 when two fictional residents of Dublin, Ireland, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, made their epic converging journeys.

Miami’s odyssey includes a reading by University of Miami English Professor Patrick A. McCarthy, song and Irish tales by Paddy Kelleghan, a parade to John Martin’s Irish Pub and Restaurant led by bagpiper and drummer, and The Bloomsday Feast.

This is a free event open to all. You are encouraged to come in costume of the 1900 to 1920 era. Bowler hats, waistcoats, stiff collared shirts, dressy hats, flapper dresses and frocks are some suggestions. Or join in dressed as you are. The parade often picks up celebrants along the way. The cost of the feast is $20.

The South Florida Emerald Society and the St. Patrick’s Day Committee are sponsors of Bloomsday organized for the public’s enjoyment. Call 305-271-2696.

Pop-up show to help Venezuelans

The public is invited to join visual artists and musicians at a pop-up benefit art show called “The Care Package for Venezuela” 6 p.m., June 17 at Wynwood Garage & Speed Shop, 435 NW 25th St. Event organizers hope to raise funds to send basic supplies, food, clothing and medicine for the children suffering in Caracas, Venezuela.

Hosts Muta Santiago, Evelyn Villegas, Daniel Almeida Alemán and Sofía Dotta also hope the group of dynamic artists and musicians can bring awareness to the world about the humanitarian crisis.

The Facebook mission statement is: “As artists, we know that art has the power to transform, inspire change and evoke emotions. It is for this reason that we have invited and reached out to artists that work with different mediums, from cartoonists to muralist, conceptual artists and sculptors to musicians. They have, as communality, the solidarity and will to come together to support a country in the mist of a humanitarian crisis.”

There is a $5 donation. Funds will be used to purchase needed supplies that will be sent to La Sociedad Venezolana de Pedriatría (Venezuelan Pediatric Association) for distribution. Go to for more.


Susan Gladstone has been named the new director of Jewish Museum of Florida – Florida International University. She has more than 30 years of executive experience at national and global levels.

“We look forward to Susan Gladstone leading the next era of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU,” said FIU Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton in a release. “Her proven track record of leadership combined with her educational, cultural and fundraising initiatives on the international stage, made her the ideal leader to steer this museum, which has served as a cultural beacon for more than 20 years.”

Gladstone served as the museum acting director, and before that as director of development. The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU is one of Florida’s cultural attractions with a collection of more than 100,000 items in two buildings located in Miami Beach’s historic Art Deco district. The museum’s restored 1936 Art Deco building and 1929 synagogue are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The partnership with FIU has fueled a new era of education, outreach and research focused on the history of the Jewish experience in Florida, the nation, and the world as well as all kinds of discrimination.

Gladstone “brings an expanded vision that transcends beyond gallery walls to reach global pathways that intersect with commerce, business, education, culture and the advancement of our most precious cultural resources — students and youth, our next generation,” said Museum Board Chair Kenneth M. Bloom in a release.

Located at 301 Washington Ave., the museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays. Closed on Mondays and holidays. To plan a visit, call 305-672-5044 or visit

At 2 p.m., July 9 the museum will screen the film “Finding Oscar,” about a young boy spared during Guatemala’s decades-long civil war only to be raised by one of the soldiers who killed his family. Steven Spielberg is executive producer of the film produced in association with the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation. More is at

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