Community Voices

Friends and Neighbors: 130 children benefit from Coral Gables Fire Department toy drive

Coral Gables Fire Fighters, Explorers, Sparky the Dalmatian, and the children of the Barnyard Community Center celebrate with toys donated by the community.
Coral Gables Fire Fighters, Explorers, Sparky the Dalmatian, and the children of the Barnyard Community Center celebrate with toys donated by the community.

The hard work to help others by the Coral Gables Fire Department brought needed holiday cheer to the boys and girls at the Barnyard Community Center in the West Coconut Grove. Toys collected through the Fire Fighter’s Holiday Toy Drive gave 130 children a brighter season.

“The Barnyard Community Center is one of our partner agencies to receive toys from our annual toy drive,” Fire Chief Marc Stolzenberg said in a news release. “More than 130 children received gifts. Seeing the smiles on each of these children’s faces as they open their presents is the motivation for the toy drive. We can’t thank the public enough for making this possible.”

The Barnyard, Coconut Grove Cares After School and Summer Program provide a safe and welcoming environment where children have the opportunity to express themselves through daily homework assistance; individual tutoring in reading, writing and mathematics; computer literacy; social skills, art; cultural enrichment; music; and health and fitness.

To learn more, donate and get involved, visit


When Palmer Trinity student Shreeya Mishra started a book donation club at school called Light The Way in 2012, the summer before her sophomore year, she never dreamed it would grow to help so many people.

Many of the books collected have gone to the Little Light House Foundation for the Family Resource Center at the Chapman Partnership Miami Homeless Shelters and Services. And a collection drive also brought in books for the library at the Children’s Home Society of Florida Hands In Action Building in Southwest Miami-Dade.

In the fall, she added more book bins including one provided by Learn to Read Books For Free at the entrance to the YMCA near The Falls. Donations are given to Read to Learn Books for Free, The Center for Literature and Theatre @ MDC. Shreeya said in an email that she also has collected books for the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet library at Betty T. Ferguson Center in Miami Gardens.

Now juggling AP classes in her senior year, Shreeya continues to volunteer her time through Light The Way with holiday programs for underprivileged children and book collection drives at Palmer Trinity School, Leewood K-8 Center and St Stephen’s Episcopal School.

For the many discontinued textbooks she receives, she said she decided to open a store on Amazon to raise funds for Light The Way’s community outreach programs.

“I originally just wanted to collect books and make them available to children who needed them, but I diversified in ways I had not anticipated,” Shreeya said. “Selling textbooks helped the club be independent of donations to fund the activities. It has been very fulfilling.”


Congratulations to Stuart Z. Grossman, who has been honored with the Florida Justice Association 2014 Perry Nichols Award, the association’s highest award.

Established in 1977, the award is presented to an individual “who has fought valiantly for justice throughout their life.” It serves as a permanent tribute to Perry Nichols, a legendary trial lawyer and the first president of the FJA.

Criteria for the award are broad enough to include all persons who have dedicated a lifetime to the pursuit of justice, including those who are not lawyers.

“The award is intended to give recognition to extended, distinguished service to the cause of justice in Florida and in the nation,” Grossman said in a release. “The primary elements to be considered are the length, continuity and effectiveness of that service.

“I am very honored to be the recipient of this prestigious award,” he said. “After practicing law for many years, I hope to continue to be an inspiration to others who are spending their lives pursuing justice as well.”

The mission of the FJA “is dedicated to strengthening and upholding Florida’s civil justice system and protecting the rights of Florida’s citizens and consumers.” For more visit


Don’t miss this chance to hear Dr. Chad Husby, collections manager and botanist at Montgomery Botanical Center, speak on travels to the Botanic Gardens in South Asia, Europe, and Bako Naitonal Park on the island of Borneo.

The Tropical Flowering Tree Society will host the talk at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Rd., in the Corbin Building, next to the Garden House. Visitors are welcome at no cost and you can become a member for only $30 a year. For more, check out


Meet Jodie Langel, accomplished actress and teacher, who will share her experiences being in Cats, Les Misérables, and numerous other productions at an event to benefit the programs and libraries of Brandeis University. Langel also is a teacher at the University School at the Arts Institute at Nova University and the Rose Miniaci Education Center at the Broward Center of the Performing Arts.

Gather first for coffee and conversation starting at 10:15 a.m., Jan. 20 at Temple Judea on U.S. 1 and Granada Boulevard a luncheon, presented by Michael’s Catering, to follow. The price is $28. Call Jackie Leone at 305-665-4832 or Barbara Bulbin at 305-274-0206 for your reservation.

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