Many of you in the past have asked me how I got started as a volunteer and did I have mentors. Well, in celebration of March being Women History month, I am going to share with you a little history about me and some of the women who made an impact on my life.
My first experience volunteering was in 1968 while I worked for the Children Psychiatric Clinic as a receptionist. I had the opportunity to meet a great lady, Anita Sommers, who was part of a group working with Dr. Ben Sheppard, who opened the first methadone clinic in Miami. They needed bilingual volunteers so I joined them.
Later, when Jackson Memorial Hospital took over the methadone clinic, I went to work there full time. During my time at the Childrens Psychiatric Center, I had the opportunity of working with some outstanding psychiatric social workers who really taught me some great lessons in life. As I look back, I see a little of them in me. My mentors were Gayle Shy, Monique Lambert and Dr. Edith Fiore, a group of outstanding women.
As I moved on from there to the methadone clinic, I worked with Yvonne Bacarisse, Rosa Jones, Marion Crawford and one of the best nurses I have ever known, Jessie Thrasher. These women were the backbone of the clinic, every day making a difference in the lives of heroin addicts trying to survive.
My volunteerism continued while I worked at Jackson when the first free clinic was established by Dr. Lynn Carmichael. Later, I became a volunteer at Switchboard of Miami.
As I look back at those early formative years, I can’t help but think: Had I not met all those wonderful women with their strong character, integrity, passion for what they did and believed in, their dedication to their fields, would I be who I am today?
Therefore, to all these special women in my life who helped me be who I am, I salute and thank you for the time you gave me. I was 20 then, I am 68 now. Wherever you are, I will always remember all of you.
My journalism skills came from another group of women I had the pleasure of working with during my time as a Hialeah councilwoman in Hialeah. The were not only adamant about their work but also dedicated to providing our residents with the truth regarding any issue. My association with reporters such as Aminda Marques Gonzalez (now the Miami Herald’s executive editor), Sandra Marquez Stathis, Ana Acle Menendez, Betty Cortina, Andrea Robinson and last but not least Maria Travierso, who passed away a couple of years ago. These women helped me sharpen my focus on sometimes difficult subject things that had to be said to better our community and the safety of our residents.
Finally, I salute all the women in law enforcement who every day give their very best to keep us safe, placing themselves in harm’s way for us.
I have worked with many women who have truly made a difference in our community.
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.