Community Voices

Young man on a mission creates Communiteens service group

Communiteens chapter presidents gather to share their South Florida community service accomplishments. Top row, from left: Communiteens founder Jared Cohen and Jonathan Greenip. Bottom row, from left: Rebecca Marks, Ally Einbinder, Molly Marks and Brooke Behar.
Communiteens chapter presidents gather to share their South Florida community service accomplishments. Top row, from left: Communiteens founder Jared Cohen and Jonathan Greenip. Bottom row, from left: Rebecca Marks, Ally Einbinder, Molly Marks and Brooke Behar. Photo provided by Brooke Cohen

Jared Cohen is 16 years old and he has been a volunteer for much of his teen life. Community service is extremely important to him, he said, and he believes all students need to be doing more.

So, Jared, a junior at American Heritage High School, started Communiteens in 2015. It’s an organization with a mission to make service more fun for teenagers in their local communities. There are five chapters in South Florida and two more in New Jersey and South Carolina.

“During my freshman year, I realized that many teens saw community service as tedious — a chore that was mandatory to graduate high school — not as an opportunity to change their community,” he said in an email. “When I tried to volunteer, I did not really know where or how, which is why I thought it was important to create Communiteens. I began Communiteens to make community service meaningful and fun, hoping that participants will gain something valuable from the experience of volunteering.”

Jared runs the chapter at American Heritage School and oversees the chapter presidents at community regional chapters in Parkland, Weston, Cooper City, and Davie. He wants to branch out to start two chapters in Miami-Dade County.

Over the past two years, Jared said the work by Communiteens has included decorating 200 metals for We Finish Together, collecting and sorting more than 1,500 toiletries for LifeNet4Families and 1,200 for I Love Hungry Kids in South Carolina, collecting and donating 500 pounds of pasta for LifeNet4Families, shopping for and wrapping 100 gifts for Clara’s Secret Shepherds Foundation, cleaning and donating 1,900 stuffed animals for SAFE (Stuffed Animals for Emergencies), collecting and cleaning 300 pairs of shoes for In Jacob’s Shoes, selling more than 100 jars of homemade pickles to fund future events, hosting a party at Children’s Harbor for 30 children, and sorting and packaging hundreds of items for Craig’s Pantry.

“I like being a part of a group that brings teens together to help their community through different events and charities,” said Brooke Behar, the Weston Chapter president, in email. “I know we can make a difference when we come together.”

Jared said his goal is to continuously open new chapters that would follow the guidelines created for the Communiteens Chapter Tool Kit. Through this he sees all teens as “successful change-makers in their local communities.”

“I also felt that students needed to gain leadership skills before heading to college. By starting a Communiteens chapter, high school students gain powerful leadership skills and are responsible for planning the quarterly events, contacting members, recruiting members, and updating social media. These skills will be extremely helpful in their futures,” Jared said.

His mom, Brooke, said her son showed an interest in helping others very early, and in middle school he volunteered at the Daniel Cantor Senior Center.

“He helped teach seniors to use iPads and played the piano for them,” she said.

The Communiteens chapters started outside of Florida were accomplished through Jared's friends who wanted to have chapters in their states.

If you want to start a chapter or know a teen who might want to get involved with this mission, visit www.communiteens.com for information, or contact Jared at jared@communiteens.com.

Make a little buddy a card

There are little warriors in our community bravely battling cancer and other disease during this holiday time. Rosanna Hope Bernstein, founder of Bee Brave Buddies, wants to help them know that others are thinking of them, especially other children.

“We have an adorable card that schools and families can download and the inside is blank for the child to draw a very special picture for their new buddy and also a message. These cards will be in all of the dolls that go to the children over the holidays as an extra special gift from the children themselves. I wanted to try to personalize gifts,” Bernstein said in email.

“Also, this is an excellent way to teach children how to give back to other children less fortunate than themselves at this busy time of the year. It is never too early to teach children the art of giving back!”

The link is at beebravebuddies.com/christmascard.html and there are instructions and a video to show you how to make cards.

Bee Brave Buddies has a mission to give a handmade doll to as many little cancer patients as possible. If you would like to make a donation or nominate a child, visit beebravebuddies.com. Bernstein said she will hand deliver any cards that come in late so they can be for all children hospitalized during the holidays.

Spectrum Awards for Women

About 400 guests celebrated Nov. 9 the many achievements of talented South Florida female leaders at the 24th annual Sara Hopkins Woodruff Spectrum Awards for Women hosted by The Greater Miami & The Keys Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The event was chaired by Phillis Oeters and co-chaired by Mona Adams and Nelly Farra. This year’s honorary and philanthropic chairs were Swanee DiMare and Trish Bell, respectively.

As part of the ceremony, the American Red Cross announced the generous monetary donation from French businessman and philanthropist Bernard Darty. Designated on behalf of American veterans, the $500,000 gift is the largest ever received by the Red Cross for its military and veterans’ programs. Darty was inspired to make the donation “in honor of the U.S. Armed Forces who liberated France and saved the lives of his family after World War II.”

The 2017 Spectrum Award recipients are: Florida Blue Philanthropy Award — Ana VeigaMilton; Trish and Dan Bell Chairmen’s Award — Lilliam Machado; Cervera Real Estate Ambassador Award — Michele Gillen; Margarita and Rick Tonkinson Community Service Award — Constance Collins; Bank of America Education Award — Linda Lecht; Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra, LLP Empowerment Award — Patricia San Pedro; Mercantil Commercebank Entrepreneurial Award — Carole Ann Taylor; Baptist Health South Florida Healthcare Award — Joan Scheiner; Norma Echarte & Associates Hospitality Award — Cindy Hutson; Barbara Nelson Red Cross Service Award — Libby Witherspoon; and the Swanee and Paul DiMare Youth Award — Carolina Carrera-Justiz.

“We were so pleased to come together to honor the work of the selfless women in our community,” said Joanne Nowlin, chief executive officer for the American Red Cross South Florida Region in a release. “This year marked one of the most successful events to date as we raised funds for the vital life-saving programs and services of the American Red Cross Greater Miami & The Keys Chapter.”

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at christinammayo@gmail.com.

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