We Need You To Make An Impact

We need you: To Make An Impact

We take a break from local politics  to focus on something just as important: local philanthropy.
Last week, the newly formed Impact 100 for Men Palm Beach County held its first awards night at Delray’s Arts Garage.
It was a fun and memorable evening. And hopefully, the start of a long history for the nascent group started by my friend Chuck Halberg, a local contractor (we won’t call him a developer..heaven forbid) who spearheaded the group to support non-profits serving children in southern Palm Beach County.
I am honored to be part of the founding board along with a group of truly great guys. Impact 100 was modeled after the wildly successful Impact 100 for Women’s group which I think now gives close to $600,000 a year to local charities.
The concept is brilliantly simple: write one check, attend one meeting and vote to give a big amount to a few non-profits. Repeat year after year and make an impact.
In our first year, we managed to attract 56 men who stepped up and wrote checks for $1,000 plus a fee to the Community Foundation which houses the funds eliminating the need for us to form and administer a 501c3.
While we fell short of our goal of giving away $100,000 we were pleased with our debut and hope to grow each year.

The big winner in our first year was The Miracle League  founded and run by our friends and neighbors Julia and Jeff Kadel.
We’ve written about the Miracle League in this space before. The program allows children with special needs to play the great game of baseball.
It’s an amazing and beautiful endeavor. I was fortunate to be on the City Commission when the Kadel’s approached the City of Delray with the idea of opening the first accessible baseball diamond in Palm Beach County. We provided some seed money along with the county and the league formed at Delray’s Miller Field. It has grown and thrived ever since attracting private philanthropy, grants and scores of volunteers.
The dream now includes creating a boundless playground for children at Miller Park.
The Impact for Men group voted last week to award the Miracle League $50,000 toward the dream after hearing a compelling presentation from Julia.
We were also proud to donate $3,000 each to the amazing Milagro Center in Delray and to Junior Achievement which teaches kids the importance of entrepreneurship.
We are hoping that those dollar amounts increase in subsequent years and that we can make as large an impact as the Women’s group has been able to achieve.
While we live in a community that features great wealth, we are also a community that has overwhelming needs.
Less than a mile from million dollar homes and a rocking downtown there are many people living in crushing poverty.
There is hunger and deprivation in our communities and children and families  who go without.
We are fortunate to have many great non-profits that work hard to address the needs from Family Promise of South Palm Beach County which provides emergency housing to families and the Milagro Center which has a remarkable track record of impacting our most vulnerable children to Delray Students First which mentors and cares for kids looking to break out of the cycle of poverty to the stellar Achievement Center for Children and Families we are blessed with organizations that care and do a great job.
But despite the talent and dedication to making lives better there are unmet needs. And each of the organizations mentioned and many others struggle to raise funds for their critical missions.
I have long felt that while Delray has done a remarkable job revitalizing our city we have fallen somewhat short in our potential to develop a deeper pool of local philanthropists.
Yes, we have many generous people and a few foundations that have been invaluable. But from my vantage point, too many people are sitting on the sidelines, giving “back home” or simply unaware of the needs we have here at home. And this is our home.
While I’m sure there are unmet needs in Boca, from across the border I’ve long admired that community’s ability to raise funds for education, health care and the arts.
I have had the good fortune to sit on many non-profit boards over the years and it’s been a struggle to expand the pool of those who give back.  And so I see many of the same people going to the well time and time again. I’m so thankful for them. But we need more people to give what they can.
Many of the charities in our community are designed to break the cycle of poverty or inspire people to do more and be more.
Whether it’s teaching a child to consider business as a career (Junior Achievement) providing children with an arts experience that may spur a career choice or inspire beauty and understanding (Old School Square, Milagro) or spurring an interest in education (The Delray Public Library, Delray Students First) etc., we have vehicles to transform people. We just need some more fuel.
I’ve enjoyed the first year of Impact 100 for Men. The camaraderie of guys getting together to do good and the emotion of awards night.
I continue to marvel at the leadership and energy of people who step up, like my friend Chuck and many others.
As Uncle Sam might say, we need you to get involved. It really does take a village.

Random Thoughts…

Dare 2 Be Great Scholars Believe in 'paying it forward'

Dare 2 Be Great Scholars Believe in ‘paying it forward’

This is the time of year that the Dare 2 Be Great board pours over applications for scholarships.
It’s a humbling experience to read through the resumes and essays of these incredible young men and women.
Many of the essays are inspirational and more than a few are heartbreaking.
The common thread seems to be resilience. It just seems that some people are built by adversity. They succeed regardless of life’s circumstances and overcome hurdles. It’s almost as if they succeed because they are determined to live better lives.
These kids inspire me. I wish we could help them all. It breaks my heart that we can’t. We’ll keep you posted on the Class of ’16.

It’s a Miracle
Congratulations to the Miracle League of Palm Beach County which pulled off its first successful dinner on the diamond last week.
Julia and Jeff Kadel and their team of volunteers have done a remarkable job bringing the great game of baseball to kids who might not otherwise have an ability to play.
So good to see this wonderful non-profit grow and thrive. And I’m pleased to see Celsius, a company I’m involved with, step up and sponsor.

An Affair to Remember

We hope you’ll visit the Delray Affair this weekend.
The 54th annual event is a great chance to see friends and to adopt a rescue pet.
That’s right.
We’ve adopted two pets at the Affair over the years: Randy and Sophie.
Both little dogs enriched our families beyond words. We also hope the city doesn’t “fee” this event to death.

It’s Delray’s signature event, a tradition and helps our Chamber of Commerce stay healthy and more than ever this city needs a healthy chamber.

Hello Rhys, Goodbye Kim
We wish Tech Runway’s founding director Kim Gramm well on her new job in Texas.
Kim did a lot to put FAU’s ambitious project on the map.
She will be missed.

We are excited to see our Leadership Florida friend Rhys Williams step into the role of leading Tech Runway.

Thanks, Alyona

We’ll also miss Alyona Ushe well as she departs Delray’s innovative Arts Garage.
Alyona won’t be far away as she will continue to work her magic in Pompano Beach.
It’s not easy to start something and make it relevant. Alyona put the Arts Garage on the cultural map in South Florida creating buzz and staging lots of memorable shows and performances.
She made an impact.

They Dare 2 Be Great

Dare 2 Be Great supports promising Delray students with a goal of bringing them back home.

Dare 2 Be Great supports promising Delray students with a goal of bringing them back home.

About six years ago, I met Morgan Russell for breakfast at Christina’s in Pineapple Grove.

I hadn’t seen Morgan for a while, he had done a lot of investing in the Grove when I was on the city commission but after I termed out he moved to Colorado and while we kept in sporadic touch, I wasn’t really sure what he was up to when we sat down.

Delray had been good to Morgan and in turn he was good to Delray. He owned and operated some great real estate including a corner of US 1 and Linton Boulevard and the Esplanade in Pineapple Grove, a district he helped to pioneer back when the hordes were heading to Atlantic Avenue.

His signature project–co-developed with Scott Porten — was CityWalk, a gorgeous mixed use project that we had worked closely on to make happen. Imagine that, working closely with a real estate investor, what a concept. But I digress.

Now Morgan was back and anxious to pay it forward as they say.

He wanted to do something cool for Delray. So after some brainstorming we sketched out an idea. I know it sounds clichéd but its true– on a napkin we created Dare 2 Be Great.

The non-profit, which has virtually no overhead, sends great Delray students to college and provides mentoring services as well. In six years, we have supported well over 40 students and we are about to interview candidates for our class of 2016.

Our kids have gone to just about every state school and to places like Stanford, NYU, George Washington, Northwestern and the Savannah College of Art and Design. We have Dare Scholars in medical school and in the White House (a White House fellow, my mentee Ian Mellul).

It has been a spectacular experience. And the students we have met along the way are amazing, inspiring and every other positive adjective you can dream up.

The “human capital” in this city is nothing short of eye opening and remarkable. And I wish everybody could see what we see; because if our citizens could see the potential and the drive and the adversity our kids—Delray’s kids—overcome we’d have a better conversation in Delray about our future.

I’m all in on creating opportunity and quality of life for not only our current residents but our children as well. We need to be a city, county, state, nation and world that thinks about our future and feels an obligation to leave a better place for those who come next. It’s not about any single person’s vision of a village or personal drive times; it is about creating good opportunities for the next generation.

I think it begins with education and ends with good jobs, community, family, friends, spiritual life and quality of life. In order for our community to thrive we need all of those things and a bunch more too—including housing, health care, a quality environment, cultural opportunities and safe neighborhoods.

You can’t scrimp on any of those things—we have an obligation and a duty to be thinking long term.

Dare 2 Be Great is a bet on our future. From the beginning it was designed as an investment in Delray Beach. We believe that if we mentor and provide an education to kids who we believe can be game changers that they will come back home to a place they love and make us an even better community.

While we focus on kids who are succeeding and overcoming adversity, organizations like the Achievement Center, Milagro Center, the Miracle League and Delray Students First are working with kids in the midst of the struggle to overcome a dizzying array of challenges. As a community, we need to take a holistic approach and we need to find a way to scale programs that work so that we can break the cycle of poverty and build a city that cares, loves, nurtures and protects people while providing opportunity. It is important to note that as we interview these kids about growing up in Delray they all mention one program or another that helped them turn it around: the Teen Center, Youth Council, tennis lessons, the Criminal Justice Academy at Atlantic High, a class at Old School Square or volunteering at the Caring Kitchen. These programs aren’t frills they are life savers and investments.

Dare to Be Great is but one effort—there is so much more to do. But in six short years since we left that restaurant with a napkin and an idea we have touched lots of lives. We have seen kids grow and thrive and honestly we have seen a few who have struggled. We have exacting standards; we demand good grades and engagement with mentors. We insist on stellar citizenship and on paying it forward.

We have had a few difficult conversations with bright students who underachieved, but we feel it is an important lesson to impart—we won’t abandon you as people but in life you have to live up to the terms of your obligations or there are consequences.

Fortunately, most of our students make it; they exceed even our lofty expectations.

Some of our students come from solid homes, with two parents and lots of love and support. But many, probably most, come from difficult situations. Parents have died or been murdered, there is poverty, foreclosure, homelessness, drug abuse, crime and violence and yet they have overcome and succeeded. They are succeeding– in an odd way –because of the adversity, we have had many a young man and woman look us square in the eye and say they will do whatever it takes because they cannot live the way they are living and want to escape the lives of desperation lived by their parents and siblings.

Many came in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and despite not having money or even speaking the language within a few years they excelled in high school, worked multiple jobs and found time to volunteer in our community. We feel honored and privileged to help them realize their dreams of a college education.

Last year, we interviewed a very polite young man who had been homeless. He told us of not sleeping at night because he wanted to watch over his younger sister, afraid that if he slept, something might happen to her. In the morning, he would walk to school, where he got all A’s and after school he would take care of siblings. He had never been out to dinner at a restaurant in Delray, something most of us take for granted. But he was a great student, with a drive to succeed and a strong desire to break the cycle of poverty that had engulfed his family.

We were pleased to offer him a scholarship, assign him a mentor and yes –take him out for a meal in his own hometown. P.S. He is doing great at college. We adore this young man.

In a few weeks we will be interviewing a new class of potential scholars. We are currently sifting through applications as we speak. Our volunteer board and a few folks from the community will sit in on interviews that are sure to change their lives—but the goal is to change the lives of our kids in a positive way.

We struggle with many problems here at home and across the country and world. The news has become a veritable nightmare to watch, but the solutions to our many challenges are always people based.

We are helping to educate and mentor the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, professionals, volunteers, philanthropists, scientists and researchers…it is a small but meaningful effort because every one of these students are very special and will make a positive impact on Delray Beach and on our world.

A friend of mine tells me that in church they call this “ministry”. I’m here to say we need a lot more ministry and a lot less complaining. Ministry solves problems, complaining only makes them worse.

In a few weeks, I’ll introduce you to our new crop of Dare 2 Be Great Scholars—they are our children and they are our future.

 

 

A Woman Of Grace

Julia Kadel

Julia Kadel

I believe in serendipity.

So I was having a sad Tuesday—nothing fatal or even particularly meaningful—just the blah’s when I got a Facebook notification from my friend and neighbor Julia Kadel.

Julia and Jeff live around the block from us and their oldest son is best friends with one of our boys. They grew up together. He’s family and we love him.

So just as I was taking a break and reading more bad news about the Middle East over a boring sandwich, I clicked on the Facebook link and saw a link to a video that you can see in this post.

Take a few minutes and watch. I promise you it’s worth it.

Ok, pretty moving wasn’t it? And impressive too.

Julia and Jeff are the founders of The Miracle League, which last year celebrated a decade of ensuring that all children can play baseball regardless of their ability. For over 10 years, the Miracle League Association has made it possible for children all over the country with physical and mental disabilities to achieve the same dream as their healthy peers – to play ball.

The kids play on a cushioned synthetic turf to help prevent injuries, and the league has wheelchair accessible dugouts and a completely flat surface to eliminate any barriers to the wheelchair bound or visually impaired. Thanks to the Kadel family, all kids in our community can play the great game of baseball.

A decade ago, the Kadel’s approached the City Commission with a heartfelt and passionate plea to help them create a Miracle League field in Delray Beach. I was mayor at the time and all of us had tears in our eyes when Julia got done speaking. We gave them some seed money and told them we would love to see the Miracle League build a field at Miller Park. Within months I was throwing out the first pitch. The league has been going strong ever since.

With help from private donors, scores of volunteers and assistance from the county and other groups Julia, Jeff, their kids and others have made it happen and brought joy to children and families that simply cannot be measured.

At the heart of the effort is Julia…always Julia.

She’s filled with passion, boundless energy and goodness. She’s just a beautiful person.

A woman of grace.

I stole that term from the Bethesda Hospital Foundation which recently awarded Julia that coveted honor. How fitting– because she epitomizes the word.

Whenever the chips are down or there is need in this community or beyond, the Kadel’s are there to volunteer. When Tropical Storm Sandy devastated Julia’s native New Jersey, she and her family packed the SUV and drove off to help for weeks at a time. Her giving isn’t passive and it’s not for show. It’s from the heart and she’s an example for all of us.

We talk a lot about being a “village” in Delray but frankly sometimes I open my Facebook app with apprehension because parts of the social media landscape can be a sewer full of lies, garbage, petty complaints, threats and various forms of adult bullying. I ignore it. You should too. But social media more to offer;  it’s filled with good stuff too.

I can connect with my cousin in California, my sister in law in Pittsburgh, my high school friends, my favorite elementary school teacher and people that I have worked with throughout my career and it’s a joy to have even a tenuous connection—to see their kids, their dogs, their vacations etc.

And sometimes on a blah Tuesday, a beautiful soul such as Julia can “tag” you and share a video that will make your heart swell because there are people like her in the world doing really good things for other people. Lord knows there’s enough people doing harm in the world.

Watch the video. Give to the Miracle League. Brighten someone else’s day. It’s easy to make it rain in someone else’s life, but it’s also easy to make others smile and much more meaningful to roll up your sleeves and help those who need you.

Thanks, Julia. You are goodness personified and a community treasure.

Visit http://miracleleaguepalmbeachcounty.com/ for more information or to get involved.

Random Thoughts on a Monday

Pet Parade also raised funds for Dezzy's Second Chance Rescue

Pet Parade also raised funds for Dezzy’s Second Chance Rescue

Random thoughts on a Monday…

Happy 10th anniversary to the Delray Beach Miracle League

It’s hard to believe that a decade has passed. I still remember the first presentation that Julia and Jeff Kadel did at City Hall.

Their passion, commitment and ability to deliver are simply remarkable. They got it done and our kids have benefitted immensely.

Sure, it takes a village, but the village has to include some amazing people and the Kadel’s certainly qualify.

Congratulations on a truly remarkable achievement.

Blaze Pizza

My day job requires that I keep up on some trade publications and so I have been reading a whole lot lately about a new franchise—Blaze Pizza.

Blaze Pizza is being billed as the Chipotle of the pizza business.

Explosive growth is being predicted for this concept, which is a build your own pizza and then watch it cook in 180 seconds.

Blaze recently opened on US 1 in Boca and we tried it last week.

The review: wonderful.

Fresh ingredients, gluten free, plenty of veggies available and a friendly staff.

Keep an eye on this concept.

Easter Bonnet Dog Parade

Every year I wait anxiously for the phone to ring, praying for the offer.

It came this year while sitting at the Solita Table at the Savor the Avenue event.

“Would you be a judge at the Easter Bonnet Dog Parade?” said CRA Green Market Director Lori Nolan.

Are you kidding? Of course!

There is no more fun under the sun than to watch the parade of dogs and sometimes cats, birds, goats and chickens that show up in their finest Easter wear.

The people are pretty interesting too.

This year, was no different. And the cat, 18 years old and brave, got a special award.

It was also interesting to note that most of the pets who participated were rescues; fitting since the parade highlighted the great work being done by Dezzy’s Second Chance Rescue, a fixture at the market.

 

Kudos to the Pineapple

Our friends at The Pineapple Newspaper did it again with a very cool April Fool’s prank outlining a new TV series featuring Delray politics.

There was some inspired casting including Ed Harris as Mayor Glickstein and Eva Longoria as Commissioner Jordana Jarjura.

Last year, The Pineapple created a stir when they reported that Boca Raton was purchasing Delray Beach. The report went viral on social media.

Kudos to Jeffrey Dias, Ryan Boylston and the team for their good work.