Try A Little Tenderness

The Delray Chamber gave the community a hug last week. We needed it.

Sometimes a simple act of kindness can make all the difference.
Last week, the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce gave the community a big hug and it felt amazing.

The hug was needed.

The hug was appreciated.

The hug showed us the immense power of kindness and community.

I hope it triggers more goodwill because we can all use an explosion of kindness as we end 2020 and look forward to a new year.

Ahh, yes a new year.
2020 has been brutal; we need to turn the page. We need a reason to believe.

2021 sits there–just over the horizon– an oasis after a long slog through a desert of despair.

Hundreds of thousands of families have lost loved ones.
Hundreds of thousands of people are struggling to overcome the lingering affects of a virus that has upended our lives and our world.

Businesses are really hurting.

Our social lives have been upended and community life has been interrupted. The best parts of our lives—human contact and interaction– have been put on hold.
There is fear and division throughout the country and right here at home. We sure need something to lift our spirits.

The Chamber of Commerce dove into that breach with a socially distant awards ceremony recognizing hometown heroes.
Teachers, nurses, police officers, firefighters, business owners and non-profit executives were honored for going above and beyond to get us through this crazy and tragic year. And it felt great.

It was needed. It was appreciated and it reminds us of the possibilities that exist in Delray Beach if we just can find a way to be kind and work together. It’s not rocket science folks, but yet that simple concept of being kind and having empathy seems elusive these days.

The Chamber showed remarkable leadership at a critical time—the tail end of a year in which we have all suffered perhaps more than we can fully comprehend in the moment.

It reminded me and others of the “old days” when we made it a point to celebrate success and to come together during hard times.

But as much as it reminded us of happier times, the Hometown Heroes event showed us a path forward. We can do this again. And again.
There is much to be grateful for in America and in Delray Beach.
The winners and nominees are examples of our strength and resilience. We become a happier place when we stop and think about how much we have to be thankful for.

Emanuel “Dupree” Jackson, Marcus Darrisaw and the EJS Project were honored for the non-profit’s stellar work with young people. They are developing our future leaders while exhibiting grace in these trying times.
The Chamber honored the nursing staffs at Bethesda Hospital and Delray Medical Center who are busy saving lives and giving comfort to those battling a deadly virus. There are 900 nurses at Delray Medical alone, 900 heroes staying strong during the worst medical crisis of our lives.

We saw several educators honored as well: the principal of Village Academy, the founder of Space of Mind and a young teacher at Plumosa Elementary School finding creative ways to connect with students during the pandemic. Bless you La Toya Dixon, Ali Kaufman and Cassidee Boylston.

First responders were honored as well. Can you imagine an already stressful and dangerous job that has gotten even more dangerous? What does it take to suit up every day and risk it all to protect and serve? Thank goodness for our police officers and firefighter/paramedics.

The Chamber honored small business owners all of whom have had to dig deep to try and survive a crisis nobody saw coming or had any experience with.

The immensely talented Amanda Perna of The House of Perna, was recognized for donating thousands of masks to first responders and for giving jobs to seamstresses who were furloughed. They worked days and nights to help protect the community. Isn’t that beautiful?

A plaque doesn’t pay the bills or heal someone infected with Covid, but it’s important nonetheless.
It’s important to recognize, honor and appreciate each other. That simple act is healing.

So the Chamber  performed a very valuable service.

The organization itself has been tested by the pandemic. Largely event driven, the Chamber has had to re-invent itself on the fly.
In the capable hands of President Stephanie Immelman and Chair Noreen Payne– two extraordinarily gifted leaders–the chamber has stayed relevant, visible and has showed us once again why we need a strong chamber.

It’s important for business to have a voice but when the Delray Chamber is hitting on all cylinders it is much more than an advocate for commerce. It is an advocate for the entire community.
Through virtual events, webinars and round tables, the Chamber has made it through a brutal year.

They have reached out to members in need and urged us to stay connected and informed. That’s leadership . And a template for a bright future.

I am excited to see where the Chamber will go as my former commission colleague Dave Schmidt takes the chairman’s role.
Mayor Dave is a proven leader. We are in great hands.

So here’s to 2021.
Thank you Delray Chamber for shining the light of positivity at the end of a dark year.

Father & Sons

My dad celebrates his birthday June 15 with Riley his great grand retriever.

 

My father and I have a lot in common.

We love to talk politics, like to follow current events, enjoy sports —especially tennis —and love dogs. We never run out of things to talk about, enjoy each other’s company and I feel incredibly grateful to have had a father who has been nothing short of remarkable for 55 plus years.

Even today, at an age where I carry an AARP card and have had a fair amount of life experience, I wouldn’t make a major move without seeking his advice and counsel.
I’m lucky he’s still here to give it. And because he’s smart and caring, I’d be foolish not to seek out his counsel. And my dad and mom didn’t raise a fool. (Wink wink).
I’m writing about my dad, because this is his birthday week and we are fast approaching Father’s Day.
It’s a wonderful holiday; a chance to celebrate fatherhood and the important roles dad’s play in our lives and in our society.
My dad set an early and consistent example. He just seemed to always be doing the right things—taking care of our family, working hard and making my mother very happy.
He never sought the spotlight but just quietly provided for his family and served his community by running the local pharmacy.
He instilled in me and my sister a great love of Jewish culture, made sure we listened to the wonderful stories our grandparents told us and also gave us a deep appreciation for where we lived by taking on us on nice vacations where we mixed fun with history by visiting places like Gettysburg and Plymouth Rock.
He went to my Little League games, played tennis with me and took me to my first baseball game, Mets versus Pirates in 1973.
He never pushed me—like other dad’s did in sports. He wanted me to be a good sport and to enjoy the game.
That’s good advice for life by the way.
I may have rebelled a time or two (hundred) but I was listening. I paid attention. I tried to absorb what he was teaching me not through lectures but by living the right way.
I can’t speak for daughters but sons really want to earn their father’s attention and praise. My drive comes from wanting to get my father’s attention. It took me years to figure that out. I’ve been grateful for his inspiration.
I’ve lived my life way outside of my natural comfort zone as a result. Again, he never pushed. I just wanted him to be proud of me.
So much of what is wrong in   our world today can be traced to poor parenting and it’s my hunch that a whole lot of dysfunction can be traced to bad fathers or absentee ones.
So I was lucky. I had a great father and a great mother.
What an advantage.
But I’m very conscious that others weren’t as fortunate as I was.
Which is why as we approach Father’s Day I’d like to ask your indulgence to consider reaching out and helping three local non-profits—the Achievement Center for Children and Families, 4Kids and the EJS Project.
There are a slew of other great non-profits that focus on children and I don’t mean to slight any of them.
But I’ve been taken by the three I’ve mentioned because of their emphasis on helping children from homes that struggle financially or spiritually or emotionally. Or sometimes all three.
The Achievement Center started in a church basement in Delray more than 50 years ago. I became involved because I became spellbound by the talent, passion and skill of founder Nancy Hurd. I served on the board for many years and saw firsthand how the lives of the most vulnerable children in our community were transformed by the nurturing they received from a talented and committed staff. That legacy of excellence continued after Nancy retired and passed the baton to the equally amazing Stephanie Siebel. Visit www.achievementcentersfl.org.Take a deeper look, you’ll be amazed.
I’ve also been impressed by the passion and commitment of Emanuel “Dupree” Jackson whose EJS Project is working wonders in Delray. The organization is mentoring a generation of young leaders, something our community and our country sorely needs.
Check out the EJS project at www.ejsproject.org.
Readers of this blog know how we feel about 4 Kids, which does wonders with foster children.
This is an organization addressing a critical need in our community with compassion, competence and love.
Visit www.4kids.us for more information.
Meanwhile, we wish wish you all a Happy Father’s Day. I will be spending mine with my dad and the kids who live locally. It’s a day to treasure.

Leadership Creates Waves Then Ripples

The best leadership creates waves and ripples.

They say that success is a team sport.

That’s true.
But individuals can really make a difference too. And some people are so special that their good works create ripples that sometimes go unnoticed.
That thought crossed my mind when I attended a recent Boca Chamber luncheon honoring Plastridge Insurance as “Business of the Century.”
Among the attendees and speakers at the event were FAU Research Park President Andrew Duffell, Business Development Board of Palm Beach County President Kelly Smallridge and Chamber CEO Troy McClellan—three influential local leaders who can all point to Plastridge Chairman Tom Lynch as a mentor/catalyst for their careers.
And that’s how it works.
The best leaders create/help/nurture/empower/encourage other leaders.
I’m fortunate to have known many like Tom Lynch whose influence resonate far beyond their own work. These leadership “ripples” are not only gratifying to witness it’s often fun to connect the dots.
Most of my experience with leadership is centered around Delray Beach. It’s here that I saw former Chamber CEO Bill Wood help a long series of leaders reach the next rung by recruiting them to his board and watching them climb the ranks at the Chamber and in the community.
I also witnessed Mayor David Schmidt work with students at Atlantic High School taking many to Delray’s Sister City Miyazu, Japan and sparking in them an interest in international culture and travel.
I’ve seen Marjorie Waldo work her magic at a local charter school and then strengthen an important non-profit, The Arts Garage changing lives along the way.
I’ve seen Chuck Halberg support innumerable non-profits and create some organizations that have helped hundreds of people  including Impact 100 for Men and the Delray Beach Initiative.
My friend Perry Don Francisco’s leadership ripples/waves are everywhere: police officers and firefighters benefit from his work with Delray Citizens for Delray Police, their children  earning scholarships and their careers blossoming as a result of his support and advice.
Three other solid examples are former City Attorney Susan Ruby, former Police Chief Rick Overman and former Fire Chief Kerry Koen.
Susan hired excellent lawyers who went on to become city attorneys in other jurisdictions. She entrusted them with tough cases and as a result– during her tenure — a vast majority of legal work was handled “in house” and very successfully I might add.
Chief Overman turned our police department into a training ground for chiefs. Those who didn’t aspire to be a Chief still found opportunities to grow as detectives, career officers, K-9 officers and community policing specialists. Former Fire Chief Kerry Koen was also well-known for his ability to spot talent and grow it.
Two non-profit executives I admire are also busy minting new leaders: Emmanuel “Dupree” Jackson and his EJS Project are devoted to changing the trajectories of lives in Delray neighborhoods and Mark Sauer’s Bound For College (formerly Delray Students First) has devoted his life to giving opportunities to those who might not otherwise have a shot at college. The waves they are creating are just getting started.
And the list goes on.
Great leaders leave a mark. They influence lives. They leave their communities better than they found them and they nurture others who will go further. They create waves that make a splash, but their ripples endure for generations.
As Simon Sinek so wisely says: The leaders who get the most out of their people are the leaders who care most about their people. 
Amen.