Community Voices

Teen brothers have spent nearly a decade helping the homeless

Longtime volunteers Luke and Hudson Elegant, right, greet diners at the Miami Rescue Mission’s Great Thanksgiving Banquet. The brothers have been committed to helping others through the organization every since they were just 9 and 6 years old.
Longtime volunteers Luke and Hudson Elegant, right, greet diners at the Miami Rescue Mission’s Great Thanksgiving Banquet. The brothers have been committed to helping others through the organization every since they were just 9 and 6 years old. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Brothers Luke and Hudson Elegant have been volunteering for the Miami Rescue Mission for eight years. That’s a long time for anyone to give back to one organization. But these guys are shining examples of how children can learn early to help others.

They began their commitment when they were just 9 and 6 years old.

Luke is now 17 and a junior at Ransom Everglades School. Hudson is 14 and a freshman at Phillips Academy Andover. Each Thanksgiving, they lead a team of volunteers to raise money and serve meals to the homeless.

This year, through generous contributions and participation from other volunteers they were able to raised a record-breaking $11,739.22 for the Miami Rescue Mission.

That contributed to the nearly 3,000 meals served at the Nov. 23 Great Thanksgiving Banquet, healthcare, haircuts, hygiene products and 9,000 articles of clothing for the hungry and homeless.

And, perhaps best of all, a reported 70 men and women decided to get off the streets and enter the Miami Rescue Mission’s life-changing program, the brothers said in their thank-you message to volunteers.

“I am so proud of my sons’ [longtime] commitment to helping others and would love to build awareness and inspire others to volunteer,” said their mom Jennifer Elegant in an email. “Their commitment to this organization has made such an impact on their lives, especially given how young they were when they started.”

The brothers’ volunteering began as a one-day commitment in 2009 but evolved into an annual Thanksgiving tradition that they share with more than 40 family members and friends, as well as the thousands of strangers they help.

The Miami Rescue Mission assigns eight Thanksgiving team captains each year and they were the youngest team members when they started. Now, they are the youngest team captains.

Luke and Hudson begin by recruiting volunteers each summer. Over the past few years they have supervised more than 150 volunteers and raised over $25,000. This year, they were also selected to be captains of the Dec. 22 Christmas event.

“I volunteer to create positive change,” said Luke in an email. “People are faced with different obstacles throughout their lives, but I vehemently believe that these challenges should not define them.”

“I think a person who is homeless should not be ostracized or looked down upon, but rather be embraced and given the chance to succeed and find happiness. Doing community service gives me the opportunity to improve the lives of others in my community, something that I have always prioritized and felt extremely passionate about.”

The Miami Rescue Mission cares for the homeless every day of the year by providing shelter, clothing, toiletries, showers, haircuts, medical care, counseling, job training, and free Miami Dade College classes. It truly is a life-changing organization. Jennifer Elegant said it has also changed her family.

“Thanksgiving for Luke and Hudson, and now for our whole family and many of our friends, has become much more than a one-day celebration,” she said. “Sharing Thanksgiving with the Miami Rescue Mission over the years has transformed Thanksgiving into a year-round passion for giving back. As a result, Luke and Hudson truly believe in and support the Miami Rescue Mission’s vision that ‘no one is homeless.’”

“Community service has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember,” Hudson said in an email. “I do it without thinking, because it’s a natural part of my life. Everyone who needs help deserves it no matter their class, status, race or any defining factor. I strive to make myself available as much as possible for the people of my community.”

You can see a video that includes Luke and Hudson, and learn about how to help at www.miamirescuemission.com/thanks-success.php. You can also call 305-571-2273.

Welcome 2018 at The Barnacle

As the sun rises over Biscayne Bay on the first day of the new year, Yoga by the Sea instructor Gabby Goldbaum will begin First Day Sun Salutations. You, too, can welcome 2018 with celebration and crystal bowl meditation 7 to 9 a.m. Monday at The Barnacle Historic State Park, 3485 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove.

Bring a mat and arrive early to park nearby. The Barnacle’s front gate will open at 6:30 a.m. Last entry is at 7 a.m. The program begins just before sunrise. Admission is $20. Call 305-442-6866 to pre-register.

Learn more at www.floridastateparks.org/park/The-Barnacle and www.TheBarnacle.org.

Gifts for Boys & Girls Club

Miami Beach resident Timothy Sykes surprised 200 children at the Boys & Girls Club of Miami-Dade with gifts and a $25,000 donation for the center’s after-school program.

The entrepreneur visited dressed in his blue “Hanukkah Harry” costume and greeted each child with a special toy to celebrate the season. This is the second year Sykes has given back to the Boys & Girls Club during the holidays.

“For me, the holidays are about giving back,” Sykes said in an email. “I work with a lot of charities around the world year-round, but it’s also important to support your local community, especially during the holiday season when it’s difficult for a lot of families to be able to afford gifts for their children. The look on these kids’ faces is heartwarming. I am honored to support Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade and all of the great work they do to support our youth.”

“It’s a great day when you can see the smile on the kids’ faces and the excitement that one toy can bring to them,” said Ronny Vera, Unit Director of Boys & Girls Club of Miami-Dade in an email. “I know they are going to remember this day for a long time to come.”

As a philanthropist Sykes has helped build schools in Cambodia, Bali, Laos, Ghana, Thailand and Nepal, and is dedicated to “providing and improving education opportunities to people living in third-world countries.” He has also worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. To learn more, follow @timothysykes on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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

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