Community Voices

Friends and Neighbors: Homeless Veterans Stand Down May 1-3 at Robert King High Park

Talbert Turner (AKA T.J. Love) happily shows off his new sports coat to Manuel Gutierrez, as Gutierrez snaps a photo of him at Homeless Veterans Stand Down in 2014.
Talbert Turner (AKA T.J. Love) happily shows off his new sports coat to Manuel Gutierrez, as Gutierrez snaps a photo of him at Homeless Veterans Stand Down in 2014. Miami Herald File

To combat their battle against homelessness, veterans and their families who are sleeping on the streets of South Florida will be camped for three days at Robert King High Park, 7025 W. Flagler St.

The park will take on a military atmosphere with tents and cots at the May 1-3 Homeless Veterans Stand Down, but it will be like an oasis to the veterans who are struggling.

South Florida residents can help by sponsoring one of the many military tents, volunteering their services as barbers and stylists, assisting in set-up and tear-down of the camp, and in food services. Also needed are donations of food, clothing, backpacks, blankets, towels, and other comfort items.

“Our veterans return home facing many challenges that often times leaves them in despair and homeless. What they need most is a hand up and not a hand out,” said retired Marines Lt. Colonel Tony Colmenares, director of Florida Veterans Foundation, in an e-mail. Colmenares is organizing this year’s Stand Down for veterans in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe Counties.

Homeless American veterans have served in every war since World War II. The term “stand down” is used in times of war when exhausted troops need to leave the battleground for rest and recovery.

The mission of the Homeless Veterans Stand Down is to help eliminate veteran homelessness, said Trudy Krasovic, a helpline counselor, trainer and certified crisis worker at Switchboard of Miami.

“Having worked the event last year, I can tell you this is a life-changing experience,” Krasovic said in e-mail. She said Switchboard workers would be on site to provide information, referrals and face-to-face crisis counseling for the veterans.

Switchboard also is part of the LIFELINE network of contact centers that answer the Veterans Crisis Line for those “in emotional distress and/or contemplating suicide,” she said.

To make a tax-exempt donation to the Florida Veterans Foundation for the SoFlo Homeless Stand Down, and find out ways to volunteer to help, go to http://www.floridaveteransfoundation.org/south-florida-homeless-veterans-stand-down-2/

HELP SPECIAL ATHLETES

Here’s your chance to help raise funds that provide training and competition opportunities for athletes with intellectual disabilities who participate in Olympic-type sporting events.

The 16th annual Sponsor An Athlete 5K to benefit Special Olympics Florida Miami-Dade begins 8 a.m. May 3 at Gulliver Preparatory School, 6575 Kendall Dr. This event is one of the group’s major fundraisers. Athletes and their families do not pay fees as all costs are covered through fundraising.

The 5K is for runners and walkers and this year the mission is to raise enough money to sponsor 300 new athletes. According to the group’s website, Special Olympics events give children and adults the chance to “develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”

Registration is now open at http://www.firstgiving.com/sofl/sponsor-an-athlete-5k-2015. You can find more at http://specialolympicsflorida.org/miami-dade

DERBY DAY

Get out your best Derby Day hats and be ready to have fun at the 40th annual Run For The Cure Kentucky Derby Day fundraiser organized by the Woman’s Cancer Association of the University of Miami Cancer Association, Franklin C. Bush Chapter.

The event to raise awareness and funds for cancer cure research will be held 4 to 7 p.m. May 2 at the Marriott Courtyard, 2051 Le Jeune Rd. in Coral Gables. Judy Ashworth will be hosting for the second year.

“This year is going to be absolutely great. I have great support from Carolyn Stevenson, our president. In addition to the Derby we are having a casino evening. We have really beautiful donations for the raffle and the live auction,” she said in e-mail.

The Woman’s Cancer Association of the University of Miami, started in 1959, has raised more than $12 million through its three chapters. Grants in 2013-14, totaling $271,828, supported six doctors in their cancer research toward new treatments and patient options. The group recently raised $45,000.

The 2015 Derby Day will include poker and blackjack tables, Derby Day hat and raffle prizes, and a live auction for a yacht outing, golf at The Biltmore, gift certificates and much more. Cost is $50. For reservations call Charlene Wilson 305-596-2022.

U-SERVE DAY

Over 200 University of Miami School of Architecture students, faculty and staff gathered for the inaugural U-Serve Day at Little Havana’s Jose Marti Park. The group then went out to inventory 439 properties in the neighborhood, about 25 square blocks, using a Geographic Information Systems-based (GIS) smartphone app that was customized for the project.

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado started the day by giving a lesson about the background and history of Little Havana, an area once called Riverside. He said Jose Marti Park was not far from where Julia Tuttle and Mary Brickell joined forces to form the city of Miami in 1896.

Dean Rodolphe el-Khoury of the architecture school also spoke at the kickoff about the importance of the day of service, as well as the relationship with the city of Miami.

“Most architecture schools are not involved in their communities. There’s usually no relationship or a contentious one,” el-Khoury said in a news release. “The relationship between us and the city of Miami is truly unique, and we are proud of that.”

“The students managed to survey nearly all the buildings in an area of one-half mile by one-half mile in just one day,” said Ricardo Lopez, the Center for Urban and Community Development Assistant Director in a release. “It is a testament to both the simple design of the app and the students’ ability to interface with new technology.”

Many students enjoyed the chance to interact with the community.

“U-Serve is my favorite event in school so far. I loved it and had such a good time,” said third-year student Basma Al-Ohaly in a release. “I have friends that never enjoy or participate in academic events but they really liked U-Serve day and didn’t leave until the end of the day. It was an unforgettable experience for us. We enjoyed every second of it.”

Masters of Urban Design Student Adam Bonosky said the app was a great way to collect data of building elements and also capture photography of the buildings.

“As we served the community, we strengthened our own,” el-Khoury said. “This is the first U-Serve, and as we plan more of them, we want students involved at every stage of the process, from planning through execution; we want them to truly embrace U-Serve as their project.”

He said any suggestions or ideas for future projects are welcome. Contact Annette Gallagher at ajgallagher1@miami.edu.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at ChristinaMayo05@aol.com.

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