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Photographs & Memories

The Boca Raon News circa 1981.

My friend Kerry gave me an old Boca News from 1981 recently.

The front page featured a story on Delray Beach Elementary School, lamenting its future because enrollment was beginning to shrink. “Rich Past, Uncertain Future” was the headline (pretty prescient since Delray Elementary became Old School Square).

Forty years ago, the population was heading west along with their school age kids and locals were openly fretting about what would happen to the old school at the corner of Atlantic and Swinton. They didn’t know yet that Frances Bourque was waiting in the wings.

A few pages in, there was a story about Delray’s interim city manager—a gentleman named Robert Fisk.

I had never heard of him, and I came to town only six years after the publication of this paper and threw myself into all things Delray. Mr. Fisk was leaving “the big city” of 34,000 to return to his wife Thelma in Palatka. Palatka was more Mr. Fisk’s speed but Delray’s complexities didn’t seem to phase him. He was described as “unflappable” by Mayor Leon Weekes, a trait that would be useful today.

There was a companion piece on Mr. Fisk’s successor, a City Manager named O. Sam Ackley—now that’s a name I would remember if I had heard it. But alas, I didn’t know him either.

Time passes.

We move on.

Yesterday’s prominent players become tomorrow’s trivia questions.

I did know of the civic leader who was on the front-page, Mr. Eugene Lynn. Mr. Lynn was given the first ever “Boca Raton Award.” He was described by Mayor Bill Konrad as “an absolute gem.” That’s a term you don’t hear much these days.

Mr. Lynn was honored by Donald Ross, the president of the College of Boca Raton.

The college would later be named Lynn University. I spent parts of two days last week on a zoom call with Mr. Lynn’s wife, Christine.  She chairs the board of the fabulous Lynn University. I am honored to serve as a board member.

Seeing the old paper and working with Mrs. Lynn reminds me of the ties that bind us—even with all the changes there are some threads of continuity to hold onto.

Changes…beginnings and endings and all the transitions in between.

I heard last week that several Bru’s Room restaurants are closing.  They’ve had a long run.

We used to take our four kids there on a regular basis—they liked the wings and the sports on the big screen TV’s.

We hadn’t gone in a long time. That’s how it goes sometimes.

Before Bru’s there was Atlantic Station, a pretty spot that opened when downtown was still struggling to gain traction.

Yes, there was a time when Atlantic Avenue and Pineapple Grove were dreams more than hot spots.

On a recent Friday night, I sat outside with my wife and close friend Scott Porten at Papas Tapas on Second Avenue. It was a beautiful cool night. We ate wonderful food and drank wine and San Gria. It felt good to be alive.

Pineapple Grove has become my favorite street. It’s lively without being overwhelming. The street has magnificent restaurants, two nice hotels and some nice shops.

Citywalk– built by my friend Scott— has aged well. The building looks good, the sculpture out front is elegant and my goodness Brule is terrific.

It’s hard to believe that it used to be a coin operated car wash.

I know change can be hard. But it can also be good.

The night before, my childhood friend (a different Scott and his stepson Jason) joined Diane and I for dinner and drinks at Bar 25 and Hawkers.

Bar 25 used to be Mellow Mushroom. I was on the City Commission when Mellow was approved. I was excited to see that restaurant take shape, with its murals and craft beer collection. Hawkers used to be Sonoma. That was a fine place as well.

But I sure like the replacements.

Things change. That’s the law I suppose.

People who were “all that” back in the day are forgotten, but a few are remembered too. For their good deeds, their ventures, their investments and personality traits.

Whenever I go to Pineapple Grove I think of Norm Radin, who dreamt up the concept of a funky district off the main drag,  And I think of my old friend Tom Fleming who devoted a chunk of his life to building that district alongside a dedicated group of volunteers.

I remember a rainy evening in 1999 or 2000 when the archway proclaiming Pineapple Grove was lit up for the first time. We celebrated the lighting with a large crowd that extended to Atlantic Avenue connecting the two streets and then a bunch of us went for drinks nearby.

Bob Currie, the legendary architect was there, so was Janet Onnen from Meisner Electric and a bunch of others.

We toasted Pineapple Grove and the future.

Bob passed a few years back and I haven’t seen Janet for years and years. Janet and Tim owned the property where Bru’s Room would open. It was cool having a former Miami Dolphin great, Bob Brudzinski, take a shot on little old Delray Beach. We weren’t an obvious choice back then. But we were on the move and smart people knew that something special was happening.

Those were some days. When “Delray was a warm hug” to quote my friend Susan.

A warm hug.

Don’t we need one of those.

If you think that’s hokey, if that sentence gave you a cavity because it’s too sweet, I get it. But if you were there you know what I mean. You know what a warm hug feels like.

You know what a village feels like.

It sure beats a pie in the face.

If you are like me, your mailboxes are filled with nasty grams from candidates deriding our city.

To me, they are missing the point. Missing it completely.

Things change.

People come and go.

Some leave their marks—like Mr. Lynn and people like Scott Porten who saw a coin operated car wash and had a vision to create a building for the ages.

And there were others who came and went like those city managers who ran our town for a brief period.

We are all here briefly if we really think about it.

Doesn’t it make sense to enjoy life while we have it? Doesn’t it make sense to sit out on a beautiful Florida night and enjoy tropical breezes— while we can— alongside loved ones?

To me, those evenings feel like a warm hug and more real than the claptrap filling my mailbox.

 

Farewell and thank you

Lt. Gray

Last week, Delray Beach Police Lt. Vinnie Gray retired after 30 years of service to our city.

Vinnie left a mark on Delray Beach. He was dedicated and outspoken. I enjoyed working with him when he was union president, and I was mayor.

We could always count on a frank exchange of ideas. Vinnie appreciated honesty and we were able to work out a lot of issues during his tenure that I believed strengthened our police department.

We solved a lot of things at the old Rotelli’s on the Avenue. We didn’t always agree, but we were always civil, always respectful of each other and we always found a way forward.

Along the way, we became friends. Not the kind that hang out, but the kind that you could count on if the chips were down.

Here’s what the department had to say upon Vinnie’s retirement.

“Throughout his career, Lt. Gray has been an embodiment of commitment, hard work, and integrity. From his early days at Ocean Ridge Police Department to his legacy at Delray Beach Police Department, he has left an indelible mark on our community.

Lt. Gray’s contributions have been invaluable, serving in various roles and demonstrating unwavering dedication to keeping our streets safe. As he embarks on this new chapter of his life, we extend our heartfelt gratitude for his service and wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement. Lt. Gray, may this next journey be filled with joy, relaxation, and endless adventures!”
Bon Voyage Vinnie. Here’s to the next chapter!

 

Celsius enters rarefied air

Last week, Celsius—the beverage company born in Delray and soaring in Boca—hit a major milestone surpassing one billion dollars in annual sales.

Actually, the company racked up $1.3 billion plus in sales, up 102 percent over last year’s numbers.

It’s an astonishing feat. Truly astonishing.

I’ve been blessed to have had a bird’s eye view of the company. I was there almost at the very beginning when the company had a dozen employees on 4th Avenue in Delray.

Local entrepreneur Carl DeSantis got involved because he saw the potential and he recruited me and others to the cause. It was a long, slow and at times painful ride full of twists and turns. I think it’s a book or a case study because Celsius was left for dead a few times—unprofitable, delisted from NASDAQ (where the stock is now a darling), gaining and losing distribution. Through it all my friend Carl never lost faith. Celsius has many, many heroes but none bigger than Carl whose belief and major investment kept the company afloat financially and spiritually.

I had the pleasure of working side by side with Carl for close to 15 years before he passed in August. He taught me and everyone in his orbit the power of belief, the spirit of entrepreneurship and why it was important to brush off the punches and pursue your dreams. Carl dreamt big dreams—and he had the courage to pursue them. Working with him (never for him) has been the highlight of my career and I carry his lessons with me every single day.

Celsius has been blessed with some amazing leadership and talent and they have done miraculous things in a highly competitive space. Today, Celsius is the best selling energy drink on Amazon and the number three energy drink overall. I believe it will be number one, and the growth metrics back me up in that belief.

When the numbers were released last week and the stock soared, I couldn’t help but wonder what my friend Carl would say. Somehow, I know he knows.

I went back to my archives to read some of the emails I got from Carl after he recruited me to work as COO of Celsius in those early days.

I found this gem from 2008, when sales were in the low six figures and there were no major customers—yet.

“I think you signed on to a POTENTIAL MAJOR WINNER..I know I did. I’m not in this for “Cracker Jack” prizes.. Time is NEVER on our side…luv ya, Carl.”

Isn’t that how an entrepreneur thinks?! Swing for the fences, believe with your whole heart and have a sense of urgency.

The dream came true, Carl. Thanks to your unwavering belief.

Savoring What’s Magical

 

The winners of the first annual Catalyst Award: Sergeant Danny Pacheco and Pastor Bill Mitchell. Photo by Amy Pasquantonio (who is terrific).

I had a magical day last week and I just want to share.

Have you ever walked into a room and gotten swept away by the spirit and positivity in the air?

Luckily, I’ve experienced magic a few times in my life and when it arrives it makes you feel fully alive.

I live for those moments, but they can be few and far between. But when you get swept away you want to live in that moment. You don’t want it to end.

So, here’s what happened.

I co-hosted a lunch on behalf of the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation at La Cigale where we got to celebrate our grantees and honor two people who are doing amazing work in our community.

People who devote their lives to giving back are very special. I like businesspeople and admire entrepreneurs—their success creates the type of wealth needed for non-profits to address some of our most pressing needs.

But there’s something extra special about the philanthropic world so when you put those people in a room and mix them together, the molecules change.

Our goal at the foundation is to build community. Our hope is our grantees can work together and leverage each other’s strengths if possible.

We are off to a good start, but as the song says, ‘we’ve only just begun’.

A few years back, a colleague and I were asked by Mr. DeSantis to create a foundation. We reached out to friends who connected us to philanthropic leaders across Florida and the country. These leaders were generous with their time and advice, and we built the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation using best practices that we studied. It was an incredible experience to dig into this world. When we presented our business plan to Mr. D he was all in.

We started modestly with a few quiet grants in December 2022, had a busy 2023 and we are off to the races in 2024. Along the way, we are meeting and supporting philanthropic leaders who are making a difference in our community and beyond. Our areas of interest include health and nutrition (Carl was the founder of Rexall Sundown, one of the leading vitamin brands in history), leadership and entrepreneurship, faith-based charities, and civic innovation. We have a special project supporting early childhood education in South Africa where Carl spent many happy years, and we are all in on tackling Alzheimer’s Disease.

Many of our grantees were able to come to La Cigale to learn about each other’s programs and we saw them interact and partner in real time (thrilling!). It’s natural for these type of leaders to collaborate. It was a room full of optimistic problem solvers with big hearts. I wish I could harness and bottle their enthusiasm for making our world a better place.

We are getting behind “name brands” like the Mayo Clinic and Max Planck Society, but we are also working with promising non-profits such as Delray based Bound For College and The EJS Project as well as established local standouts such as 4 Kids and the Achievement Center for Children and Families. We’ve discovered the amazing people at Boca-based Second Chance Initiative and we are working with FAU on a promising program that will harness services for families who are impacted by Alzheimer’s.

It’s such a joy.

As we were celebrating, I couldn’t help thinking about my friend Carl and what his entrepreneurial talents have made possible. I wish he was here to see it all, we lost him in August, but I believe he knows what’s happening.

When I think of Carl, I can’t help but smile.

My goodness I miss him.

He was really something.

Carl was a man of action, he made things happen.

He was compassionate, generous, and colorful —in a word —he was a catalyst.

To honor that spirit— which led to so much good in the world— we wanted to create an award that recognizes the catalysts in our midst. The people who show us what is possible if we act, never give up and dare to try.

And so, we created the Catalyst Award to honor those in our community who are making good things happen.

This is a no-strings-attached cash award to individuals who exhibit transformational leadership and contribute significantly to their community. You cannot apply for this award; the work you do speaks so loudly that it can’t help but be noticed.

The catalyst award celebrates individuals who inspire and motivate others to excel.

The award recognizes those that go above and beyond to contribute to their community’s well-being.

Just as a catalyst triggers chemical reactions, the recipients of this award spark positive change wherever they practice. They are known for their ability to identify areas in need of improvement, and they take proactive steps to bring about transformational change.

They are impact players; just like Carl was.  And we are blessed to have them working in our communities.

The first ever winners honored last week are Sergeant Danny Pacheco Jr. of the Delray Beach Police Department and Pastor Bill Mitchell of Boca Community Church.

Danny founded “Delray Kicks”, a soccer program that works with children, most of them immigrants who might otherwise run from the police. Instead, Danny, Officer Mark Lucas and others  have created a program that has built relationships, taught citizenship and generally changed the lives of the kids they serve. One mom of a player called Danny an “angel.” We agree.

Danny is a special kind of leader.

He is an immigrant from Peru and he has a special feel for the immigrant experience and what these children experience.

When he said he wanted to become a police officer, people scoffed at him. Danny not only became an officer, but he also became a standout leader and community servant. Hearing him tell his story was powerful and emotional. The value this catalyst creates is incalculable. We can’t say Danny and Delray Kicks are completely unsung, his program made the national news a few years ago but more people need to know, and more people need to take pride in the value he and others in our police department bring to our city.

I shared that sentiment with our Police Chief Russ Mager who was at the luncheon. Chief Mager started his career when Delray was a far more dangerous place…the police department’s work made our community safe for success to take root. That work continues with people like Danny.

Our second Catalyst winner is the amazing Pastor Bill Mitchell, whose Boca Lead program has made a huge difference in Boca Raton and has now scaled to other cities in Florida and the Midwest.

Every month, a sold-out house fills Boca Community Church where attendees get a lesson in life and in business and community. You see corporate chieftains and small business owners, educators, non-profit leaders, elected officials and others gather to listen to Pastor Bill’s lessons. As a longtime “business guy” before entering the ministry, he can relate to anyone. If you haven’t experienced Boca Lead, I urge you to do so. You will leave inspired with tools to help your business, organization, and family. Bill Mitchell is a Catalyst and a man I deeply admire. He’s inspirational and has lived the lessons he imparts.

Leaving La Cigale last week, I felt hope for our world. I won’t let that go. I hope you don’t either.

If you want to feel magic get involved in a non-profit, attend a Boca Lead event, mentor a child, check out local cultural offerings, coach a team, rescue a pet—and celebrate those who work quietly, often with few resources, to make our world a better place.

 

 

Love & Light

 

Today would have been Martin Luther King’s 95th birthday.

Each year on MLK Day, I make it a point to listen to a speech, read something he wrote or take a stroll through his famous quotes. MLK has been a hero of mine, even though I was not quite 4 when he was assassinated in 1968 at the age of 39.

Each year, I think of Dr. King in the context of ‘the dream’ and whether America or my own community is living up to the ideals he outlined during his famous speech.

I think it’s obvious that we aren’t there yet. The promise of the United States remains a work in progress.

And that’s OK, because as Americans we are responsible for working toward a more perfect union and since perfection may be unattainable our jobs are never done. But we are called to never give up, to never stop striving to live up to America’s  ideals.

Those ideals—all men (and women) are created equal, the pursuit of happiness, freedom, Democracy—have inspired people all over the world. Those ideals are to be cherished and protected.

This year, on my hero’s birthday, I fear for America’s future and for MLK’s dream. I don’t think I am alone.

And so, in reading some of Dr. King’s most famous quotes in the wee hours of this morning I was struck by six gems which meet the moment.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle.”

“A lie cannot live.”

Yes, that’s only five. But if you stay to the end, I will share the 6th.

When you read MLK two words rise above the others. They are the themes of his life, and they are evergreen. Love and light–those words will never be archaic or wrong.

And yet we are lacking both in our world right now.

We cannot remain silent. We are in the same boat now.

In this new year, I will be looking for love and light. I will strive to help those who are struggling to build a better world.

Last week, my colleague and I visited Boca Helping Hands, a wonderful charity that brings so much light to our community. We heard about programs designed to give people the skills they need to build better lives. It filled our hearts with light and hope.

As you enter the facility, there’s a saying carved into the front desk: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Indeed.

As we moved through the facility and saw the bustle of volunteers hard at work, a long line of cars lined up to receive a bag of food and a hot meal. They are the working poor, or as the government characterizes them ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed).

They are our neighbors—our brothers and sisters.

Yes, in our “wealthy” community there remains great need.

The recipients of the food were getting sustenance and a dose of love. Another program provides children with nutrition to get through the weekend. Yes, children go hungry in our community. These are our children.

When the kids are given food to take home, they are receiving love and light provided by an army of volunteers and philanthropists who shine brightly and love greatly.

Love and light. That’s the beauty of MLK. A bullet may have ended his life but his work endures, which is why I saved the sixth quote for last.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

It’s just that simple.

A Call To Heal

A rendering of the planned Wallach Center at FAU.

We stumbled on an interesting sign during a recent visit to FAU’s Theatre Lab.

The sign announced the future site of “The Kurt and Marilyn Wallach Holocaust and Jewish Studies Building.”

I was intrigued, so I did a little research and learned that the Wallach’s pledged $20 million (with $10 million going to the building) to create an education center dedicated Holocaust Studies, Jewish Studies, human rights, and leadership training.

When looking into the program words like dignity, compassion, human rights, and understanding were peppered throughout the literature.

“This is truly a transformative gift that values the strength of education in combating anti-Semitism as well as hatred and intolerance of any kind,” said Dr. Michael Horswell, Dean of the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters. “This building will become a living testament and example for thousands of students and community members who pass through its doors.”

Let’s hope so.

As we begin a new year the usual promise of a fresh start is shadowed by an ominous feeling.

Our nation is divided.

Our world is dangerous.

There are conflicts that have the potential to spin out of control. It’s a scary and uncertain time.

When we are faced with these challenges, it seems natural—maybe even logical—to tune them out or try to ignore them. But we can’t.

We just can’t.

We must confront hatred and intolerance. We must step up and defend Democracy, decency, and human rights. Somehow, someway, we must dial down the hate. We have the tools to do so. We just need the will.

There are inspirations and guides everywhere if we open our eyes. People who lead with love and compassion. Organizations that are trying mightily to overcome those who seek to foment hate and divide us.

We must rise above.

Over the holidays, we watched the Kennedy Center Honors which included the great Billy Crystal.

Mr. Crystal was lauded for his comedic chops, his many hit movies and for the longevity of his career. It was great to see scenes from “When Harry Met Sally” (which is the perfect romantic comedy) and “City Slickers” which was a boon to dude ranches everywhere.

But what struck me most was Whoopi Goldberg’s tribute to her friend. She invoked a concept called “tikkun olam”, which is a Hebrew phrase that calls on us to heal and repair the world.

She said Billy Crystal was all about tikkun olam, doing right by people, healing the world in his own way through humor.

My grandparents and parents did not use that term when I was a child. But they encouraged my sister and I to be “mensches.”

A mensch is someone who tries to do the right thing—always.

In a world in need of repair, we need mensches more than ever. I’m hoping the Wallach Center mints mensches.

Here at home, we are heading to yet another election season where voters will be hard pressed to choose amidst the nasty rhetoric and flat out lies about candidates. Lost in the cacophony of mail, social media wars and robocalls are serious discussions about important issues. We don’t debate ideas; we don’t talk about challenges, and we don’t seem to be discussing opportunities either.

What a shame.

Candidates vow to “fight development”, “cut taxes and spending” and find “innovative solutions to traffic.” But we don’t see the details, do we? We never see the details.

You’re going to fight development? Ok, what are you going to do to provide housing? Are workers supposed to magically appear to serve you in restaurants, dress your wounds in the hospital and teach your kids and then just vanish? Don’t they need places to live?

You say you are going to cut taxes and spending? Wonderful! What are you going to cut? Roughly half the budget goes to police and fire, do you want to invest in those critical departments or do you want to lose our best to nearby agencies who are always hiring and always looking for great cops and firefighter/paramedics.

Then there’s traffic.

What are your solutions? More lanes? That doesn’t work.

You’re going to vote to stop that new apartment complex? Great, so our workforce gets to clog our roads driving from elsewhere when they could be living in town close to their jobs.

Everyone one of the challenges I mentioned are real and every one of them can be made better with detailed analysis, strategic decision making and the political will to involve the community and then stick to your guns when the critics fire up their laptops and call you a turd on Facebook. And you can count on that happening.

I know I’ve been rambling a little here…just taking my mind out for a spin. Thanks for bearing with me.

I’ll conclude with something else I saw over the recent break. I opened the sewer they now call “X” and was greeted by some hate-filled hack barking about Kwanzaa. Apparently, this holiday didn’t cut it for this charmer. It wasn’t “real”, it was “offensive” and “fake.”

I feel sorry for this person. I do. She was so unhappy with Kwanzaa that she had to share her venom with the twitterverse.

Like magic, a longtime resident, began posting about Kwanzaa on Facebook. Each day, he explained the principles of Kwanzaa. I had seen them before, but I had forgotten what I had learned. The posts allowed me to revisit the principles and because they were served in daily doses, I was able to think about them and process their meaning.

My favorite was UJIMA (oo – GEE-mah): Collective Work & Responsibility. Here’s how it was explained.

“Collective Work and Responsibility reminds us of our obligation to the past, present, and future, and how that will affect the role we play in the community, society, and world,” he wrote.

“As residents of “The Set.. (a historic neighborhood in Delray) we must make our neighbors’ issues our collective responsibility. By doing this, we can solve our struggles together. Each one, teach one.

To transform into the Beloved Community envisioned by our ancestors, each resident must buy into the principle of “Ujima”. We must care for – our public spaces, children, elders, history, and institutions. The health and welfare of The Set is the responsibility of all residents.

Our personal sense of Beloved Community is the key to successfully transforming our neighborhood. Each resident must love and care for The Set and pass the legacy on to our children. The Set must be recognized as unique and something to be protected.”

Well said.

I like the notion of collective responsibility. I agree we have an obligation to the past, present and future. We are called to heal the world. Let’s get after it.

Changing Our Corner Of The World

Home grown, a point of civic pride.

It was a wet and blustery night.

The wind was tossing palm fronds like match sticks as we drove through deep puddles on Lake Ida Road toward our destination.

As we got out of the car at the beautiful Aloft Hotel on Federal Highway, we felt the awesome power of nature when the wind almost knocked our car doors off their hinges.

But we were determined to get to where we were going—a celebration hosted by Bound For College– a remarkable Delray Beach nonprofit that is changing lives in our community.

Am I being dramatic?

Yeah, about the storm, but not about the life changing power of Bound For College.

Bound For College is a transformational organization.

We are lucky they are here serving our kids.

It’s my strong belief that Bound For College is important to the future of Delray Beach because we need organizations that are future focused. We need leaders who think expansively, who tackle big issues and focus on creating a better future.

I’ve been watching founder Mark Sauer for a long time now. He’s a big thinker.

When I first sat down with Mark to hear his vision I was impressed. Mark is an impressive guy. As a sports nut, I was taken by his background which includes running the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Blues.

Mark understands business, has a passion for kids who need a boost, and he has energy to burn.

Mark told me he saw something special about Delray Beach. He didn’t want to live anywhere else once he discovered our city. He didn’t come here to rest; he came here to work.

Despite a storied career, Mark wanted to do more and through his example I’m seeing that if you have the drive, you can do big things in the later innings of your life. I want to be a Mark Sauer because he wakes up every morning with a purpose. He has a passion to help kids do something with their lives.

Bound For College is hard at work providing tutoring, mentoring and all sorts of other important stuff for kids who aspire to get a degree. Many, if not most of the students Bound For College serves are the children of immigrants and the first in their families to go to college.

The goal is to break the cycle of poverty and give a boost to students who have the desire and the smarts to go to college but often don’t have the financial resources to do so.

Along the way, Mark, his staff, and a dedicated board have crafted what I think is a brilliant business model.

Bound For College works in local schools (including Atlantic High and Village Academy) identifying motivated students early in their high school years and pairing them with teachers and mentors who help them prep for college.

The students must commit, they volunteer for tutoring and are required to stay engaged.

Bound For College hires certified teachers who watch these students during the school day to ensure that every student stays on track. After school, students get hundreds of hours of tutoring to give them the tools they need to get into college and succeed once they get there.

I like the model because it works. But I also like the idea of students “buying -in” and teachers getting paid. This is win-win, and it doesn’t require monies to be spent on a building or transportation because the tutoring takes place at the high school.

Bound For College ensures that students take the SAT/ACT multiple times to create a path for improvement in scores. The organization also aids with applications (for admission and scholarships) and college tours to expose students to what college is really like.

The results are evident.

Consider these stats:

  • Test scores increased by an average of 23 percent in the most recent year measured.
  • A majority of students attend college debt free. (This is huge).
  • And there are plenty of success stories.

We heard a few on that rainy Wednesday night at the Aloft. The students were poised and grateful, they spoke excitedly about their college experience, their aspirations to go to school and their desire to pay it forward which builds community. We heard from mentors and teachers too. I thought to myself, this is an answer—if every community stepped up and let their children know that we care about their future paths,  the world would be a better place.

I saw immigrants—young people who came here after the earthquake in Haiti aspiring for a better life and I was reminded of the value that immigrants bring to this country. That’s my family’s story, it’s yours too, unless you are a Native American.

I’m proud that after years of conversations that in a small way I can help Mark achieve his goal of transforming lives. The Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation invested in Bound For College recently.

We’re sold on the value, we’re confident in the leadership and we want to partner with these wonderful people in our community.

It’s an honor to do so.

The choirs of Temple Sinai and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church joined forces and created a magical moment.

 

The Birth of Something Special

Last week, Diane and I attended an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at Temple Sinai.

It was a very special night.

Given the times we are in, we were moved to see people of different faiths—Jewish, Christian, Muslim—come together for an evening of fellowship and community.

It was emotional to see the choirs of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Temple Sinai sing together.

They sang a beautiful version of “Oseh Shalom” which is a song of peace.

We heard from leaders of various dominations who talked about what they do to serve the community.

Temple Sinai makes and delivers sandwiches to the hungry, churches minister to the homeless, CROS Ministries collects food, the temple gathers clothing and shoes, and the Islamic Center provides shelter during storms among other community initiatives.

It was wonderful to hear the testimony and to see the food bins filling before Thanksgiving.

But for me, it was the feeling in the room that was special and the impromptu interactions between people that gave the evening depth and emotion. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Rabbi Steven Moss walk over to Dr. Bassem Alhalabi of the Islamic Center. The two men smiled, exchanged some words, and shook hands. I don’t know what was said, and it might not even matter. But to see basic human kindness and hear about plans to do more together made us feel good inside.

Our Police Chief Russ Mager was there, along with Assistant Chief Jeff Rasor and the relationship between the faith-based organizations and the Police Department was mentioned several times during the evening.

The desire to be safe in one’s community. The need to connect with our neighbors is basic to the human experience. I’m heartened that in our community, efforts are being made to build bridges.

As was pointed out, there is hatred and violence in our world. But there are more people who yearn for peace than those who live to hurt others. The issues are real and so are the challenges, but you get the sense that love is the answer. We need more love and less hate.

One interfaith service in one synagogue doesn’t change the world. But it’s a start.

That’s why I was most excited to witness the launch of the Anti-Bias Coalition of Delray.

The group is just starting out and I hope you will consider getting involved as they roll out their mission.

The goal is to eliminate bias and to treat all people with respect and understanding.

The evening ended with a benediction from the Book of Numbers 6:24-26. We saw the prayer chanted in Hebrew, English, Arabic and Creole by faith leaders and that was cool to see.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Peace..We long for peace. Even right here at home.

Before we left the synagogue, we sang God Bless America.

At a time of dangerous division, where both sides of the divide view the other as an existential threat, we sang lyrics written by Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant, born in Russia, who came to America at the age of 5 to escape discrimination, poverty, and brutal pogroms.

“G-d bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above.”

Amen.

Special thanks to Kristen Murtaugh and Betti Adams for the invite. It was a magical night and the start of something special.

Editor’s note: Last week, I erroneously gave credit to my friend Randy for always reading to the end. Proper credit goes to Scott Porten who actually reads to the end.

 

The Good Stuff…

Thankfulness is the quickest path to joy.

I love Thanksgiving.

I can take or leave the turkey, but I thrive on gratitude.

I think being thankful is essential to life; as essential as the air we breathe.

Think that’s an exaggeration?

Well, there’s enough negativity in our world that if we focused exclusively on that, we would find it hard to move.

A friend of mine once told me that a recipe for unhappiness is to fixate on what we don’t have. Conversely, the key to happiness is to appreciate what’s good in our lives.

Yes my friends, if we count our blessings, we can find happiness.

That may be an oversimplification, but you get the drift.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving. Here are a few things to be grateful for.

Love.

Family.

Friends.

Health.

Sunshine.

Cooler temperatures.

Dogs (always dogs).

The love of a beloved partner.

The grilled cheese on multi -grain at Granger’s.

Hey, it’s the little things that count.

In fact, the little things may be the big things.

Let me explain.

Every day I come home and get an amazing greeting from two beautiful dogs and a sweet little bird who whistles at me.

The dogs pin me on the couch, and we wrestle and play and right then and there I can shake the day’s stressors and transition to an oasis I call home.

I live in a beautiful neighborhood where people wave, the kids are polite, and we look out for each other. That’s pretty cool in 2023.

Every morning I wake up and look forward to seeing the same two dogs (and my wife of course). One little guy jumps on my chair (which has become his chair) and the other bursts through the door wagging her tail and looking for a sock she can steal.

You fill up on these little things.

I’m sure you have your own small joys. They are to be savored.

In the spirit of the season, here are 10 things to be thankful for.

  1. Teachers- they don’t do it for the money. But if you’ve had a great teacher you’ve been given a lifelong gift more valuable than anything money can buy.

My daughter is a special education teacher in Wake County, North Carolina. She was recently chosen to mentor other teachers, and we couldn’t be prouder. If she can transfer her passion for children to younger teachers, she will become an even bigger force multiplier. As for me, I’m still in touch with my 4th grade teacher through the magic of Facebook. Every day, I’m boosted by his positive posts, and reminded of his influence on generations of students. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a Giants and Yankees fan. Wink 😉.

  1. Great police officers and firefighters- I just read an article about how police chiefs are reimagining the culture of law enforcement to emphasize a mission of service. While I was reading, all I could think about was how the Delray Beach Police Department has been doing that for more than 30 years. We are so fortunate to have an excellent PD and FD. It’s been a game changer for this community. I’m grateful to remain close to several officers and firefighters. Many are now retired, but they remain active and involved. Their work built the foundation for our success and their stellar service will ensure our future. I’m so grateful. Most people I know feel the same way.

3. Cool mornings at Lake Ida Park—there’s not enough of them, but when you catch the right day, and you see the birds and wildlife it centers you.

4. Gallagher’s finally opened up in Boca–If you’re from New York, you know about the legendary steakhouse. We now have our own version on Glades Road. My best friend’s uncle— we called him “Uncle T” —used to work at Gallagher’s in NYC. So now I get to think about that great guy every time I visit or drive by.

5. We have a bookstore in town! Welcome Barnes and Noble. If you get a chance, pick up Commissioner Rob Long’s new children’s book “The Great Weather Diviner” written with Andrew Dolberg. Oh, and ask them to stock “Adventures in Local Politics” by that guy..I can’t remember his name but the book was pretty good. The new store in the Delray Plaza is a welcome addition.

6. The movies– Don’t miss The Holdovers with the amazing Paul Giamatti. And see it on a big screen if you can. It was playing at Cinemark in Boca. There’s still something magical about the movies.

7. Impact 100–  based in Boca Raton, this innovative philanthropic initiative started a new program to inspire the next generation of young women to become philanthropists. It’s called NextGen and it’s a brilliant idea.

8. Amanda Perna- I’m grateful for Amanda Perna. The talented co-host of Delray Morning Live is also a gifted entrepreneur and designer. She recently ran into some adversity when she lost an entire collection to a fire. But in true Amanda fashion, she’s going to find a way forward. You can support her by visiting her this holiday season in the Arts Warehouse. She’s on the second floor.

9. New Beatles stuff- here we are in 2023, and the world is still talking about The Beatles. There’s a wonderful podcast McCartney: A Life in Lyrics, a book of the same name, a new AI enabled song and two new remastered albums to savor. I’m enjoying it all!  Oh, and the Rolling Stones just released a great new album called Hackney Diamonds. It’s 2023 and we are talking about new Stones and Beatles music! I’m thankful.

10. The concept of a next season–This is kind of a life lesson. There’s usually a new season to look forward too if things are a little awry in your world. Which makes me think of my New York Giants—there’s always next year. I’ll be grateful when this season ends.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Thanks for reading, be safe, I’m grateful for all of you. But especially Randy because he reads to the end and always says nice things. And my friend Scott in Virginia who always takes the time to comment. Nothing made me smile more than seeing him on our recent Zoom call with his grandson William. He’s a grandpa! Where did the time go? My friend wears the years well. I knew he would.

 

 

 

 

 

Second Chances….

Recently, I went to an open house at a nonprofit called The Second Chance Initiative.

I was swept away.

It was my second visit to Second Chance’s warehouse like headquarters in Boca and both times I left there deeply moved by the nonprofit’s mission and the work being done by women overcoming obstacles so they can rebuild their lives.

There is so much good work being done in our communities. Much of it is done quietly and without fanfare, but lives get saved and that’s what matters.

Some of you may know that I serve as a trustee for the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation https://www.carldesantis.org/. It is an amazing honor to do this work. Carl was a generous and kind man. Those of us involved in the Foundation are deeply committed to extending his legacy and his strong desire to help people.

Giving people a second chance in life was a value that Carl believed in. He related to the underdog and always rooted for the David’s in their struggles against the Goliaths of the world. I don’t know the root cause of that sentiment, but I think that Carl thought of himself as an underdog in many ways. He itched to take on the giants—whether it was competing with the big players in nutrition or challenging the leaders in the energy drink space. Carl was always up for a good challenge.

One time, he went to Mexico and tasted a hot sauce. He came back with the recipe and a plan to take on Tabasco.

That’s how Tabanero was born, right here in Delray Beach. Today, Tabanero is poised to make a run at the big players in the field. The little brand with a big taste is already at Walmart.

But as much as he loved business and the challenge of taking on the champs, he truly loved helping those who needed a second chance.

So, when a friend from Delray told me about the Second Chance Initiative, I was all ears. Second Chance is dedicated to changing the trajectory of women’s lives. The program enables women in recovery to work toward self-sufficiency by breaking what they call the “cycle of shame” that often leads to relapse.

Second Chance believes that work can contribute to well-being. In the small warehouse in Boca, women in recovery produce mugs, ornaments, and tumblers that they sell on Etsy. Proceeds get funneled back into the program which also teaches job skills and provides a supportive and loving community for women rebuilding their lives.

When a colleague and I conducted a site visit to the check out the program a few months ago, I committed a terrible faux pas. You’re supposed to observe the program, ask tough questions and be dispassionate, but we met some of the women and we heard their stories and I found myself….well… I found myself choking up.

I was touched by the stories of women who lost it all—families, children, marriages, homes, careers and their self-worth. And I was moved by the stories of how this program is helping these women rebuild their lives.

They are getting a second chance. They are finding a community of compassion, and it’s powerful to witness. You can feel the love that goes into every coffee mug; it sounds goofy but there’s magic unfolding in suite 312 in a warehouse district on Boca Raton Boulevard.

And so, I thought, my friend Carl would love this mission. It had it all, stories of people overcoming obstacles, women learning business and life skills so they can live good lives. And they were making cool products that I knew the “product guy” in Carl would really appreciate.

Luckily, the board agreed with our recommendation to fund a gift.

When we returned for the Open House, we were greeted by a group of women working at Second Chance. We were treated to amazing stories of resilience by those who “graduated” and are doing well—one day at a time— and we met several friends who support this mission.

This time, I didn’t tear up, but my heart filled with joy. This was a joyous experience, and I was grateful that my friend’s generosity made it possible to help others.

I’m falling in love with philanthropy. I’ve been on the asking end as a board member raising funds for local nonprofits for decades and that’s been fulfilling too. But giving is extra special.

We are trying very hard to make every hard earned dollar count, to honor Carl’s memory and to help people and communities thrive.

When I come to my office, I long to share what I’m seeing with my friend, who made this all possible but he is no longer here. When I shared that sentiment with a co-worker, she assured me that Carl knows what’s happening.

I believe he does too. And I believe that we are going to do a lot of good.

For more information on the Second Chance Initiative please visit https://her2ndchance.org/

If you need holiday gifts for the office or home Shop Directly https://her2ndchance.org/pages/shop-us-direct or visit the Etsy Shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/SecondChanceMugs

Use Code GIVE20 to save 20 percent.

 

Rest In Peace

This week, we remember Cathy Arts who passed Nov. 6.

Mrs. Arts was the wife of my friend Mike Arts and the mother of my friend Peter. Both Mike and Peter are well-known for their public service, but Mrs. Arts was a major contributor to the community as well.

She served as a past president of the Palm Glades Girl Scout Council, past chair of the Florence Fuller Development Center and past president of the Boca Raton Historical Society.

She will be missed by many.

We also lost a dear friend Sister Mary Clare Fennell.

Sister Mary Clare led St. Vincent Ferrer School for years. I fell in love with her spirit of kindness, her sense of humor and her beautiful Irish brogue. She became a touchstone for me and so many others. When she retired and moved back to Ireland, I wrote about her for this blog. Here’s the link. https://yourdelrayboca.com/until-we-meet-again/

The title of the blog was “Until We Meet Again.” We had talked about going to Ireland and visiting. But once again life took over and we never did take that trip. I regret it, but I have a feeling we will meet again. Sister was a guiding light in this world; a positive, compassionate and loving soul. I’m glad she went home to her beloved Ireland, but wow did she make a mark right here in Delray Beach.

Open photo

 

We also extend condolences to Roy Simon and the Simon family on the loss of Mary Elizabeth Simon.

Mrs. Simon was involved in the committee that created the Delray Affair. She was also a Jubileer and was involved in our library and St. Paul’s Church.

May her memory be a blessing.

 

 

The Blue Marble

The blue marble.

There are moments in time when our world seems unhinged.

It’s as if our little marble slipped off its axis and a cascade of garbage just keeps flowing at us.

The violence in the Middle East, the depressing quagmire in Ukraine and the sudden lack of empathy for that ally is stunning.

Here at home, the House of Representatives— the so-called ‘People’s House’–goes rudderless for weeks and emerges with a new Speaker nobody ever heard of who is now two heartbeats from the presidency.

We are days from another budget crisis, an ex-president faces 91 felony counts and yet another high flying entrepreneurial “genius” turns out to be a fraud.

Rising interest rates have made already unaffordable homes and cars even more unaffordable and while the experts are telling us inflation is slowing it sure doesn’t feel that way when you visit the grocery store.

Yes, these are heavy, heavy times.

So, it’s hard to get riled up by the usual local shenanigans.

We are knee-deep in yet another Delray election cycle and a crowded field of contenders are jockeying for advantage.

I’ve been preaching the importance of this stuff for a long time now. Local government matters. Community matters.

Yet, the usual subjects of debate seem small these days compared to the existential challenges we see every day in the news.

Yet another mass shooting.

In idyllic Maine no less; a place where the slogan is “how life should be.”

Its discordant to see the picture of the latest monster with an AR-15 entering a local bowling alley in small town America hankering to slaughter some poor people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But we’re numb to this news, aren’t we?  Sure, it’s heinous and nauseating. It makes us quake with anger, but we are no longer surprised. And we know nothing is going to happen. We won’t even try to figure it out.

And a few days later in Ybor City, just a few hours up the road, 18 more people get shot and two more people die and nobody even talks about it. And then a child is shot to death in a shooting in Cincinnati. The murder victim was 11, five other children were shot in an incident that is sure to fade in a day or two.

Anger and pain. Mourning and sadness. Thoughts and prayers.

Rinse and repeat.

So yes, local politics has a hard time breaking through the fire hose of atrocities and challenges.

Did you ever stop to think what we argue about around here?

Whether a building can be three or four stories?

Whether we will allow people to volunteer and raise funds for a local arts center?

Whether we can afford to restore a golf course?

To be sure, there are things to worry about it, and wrestle with.

Here are a few:

How are we going to house our workforce? Where will teachers, police officers, retail workers, restaurant staff, nurses and young families live? And please don’t tell me Boynton Beach or that you don’t care.

How will seniors be able to age in a place where insurance costs are soaring, and staples are super expensive?

What’s going on in our schools?

Are we creating jobs? Is our economy sustainable or are we becoming a rich seasonal enclave that is a bad storm away from being yesterday’s news?

So yes, local politics means a lot. Local government matters. And the people who seek to serve us matter as well.

Last week, as I drove to work my phone rang ceaselessly with the latest political rumors. I let them all go to voicemail.

And a single thought entered my mind.

Where’s the vision? Where are the big, animating, and ideally unifying ideas that we can tackle together as a community.

We used to have an abundance of big rocks we were trying to move. We worked on race relations, we innovated on housing policy, we saved our police and fire departments when we were bleeding cops and firefighters to other jurisdictions, we were all over education, pushing for programs and fighting for better facilities. We led the region in ideas and ambition. We became a beacon for the region and beyond for good planning. We experimented with different ways to communicate with our stakeholders. We strived to involve our residents and business owners. We led with arts and culture.

We dared to dream.

And we got things done.

We didn’t major in the minor.

We didn’t play small ball.

Maybe we can’t fix the Middle East, or break the moronic, corrosive and nauseating partisanship that threatens the greatest nation the world has ever seen, and we certainly can’t stop a dictatorial despot who wakes up one day and decides to take a nation. But we can try and support candidates who look at this mess and say enough is enough.

And yes, there’s plenty we can do—especially right here at home.

Local government can lead the way in ways large and small. It can be entrepreneurial and visionary, it can bring people together and it can change lives; one city at a time across the land.

I’ve seen it.

And if you are looking for some optimism, I have a little for you. (If you’ve read this far, you deserve it).

Our City Commission has done a lot better lately.

The additions of Angela Burns and Rob Long have made a difference in tone and in the culture. People are happier, there’s seems to be some stability at City Hall, investors in the city are bullish that they can get a fair shake— if they play by the rules. That’s no small thing. People matter.

Angela Burns seems to be everywhere with a smile. She’s engaged in the community. She shows up. She listens. She cares. That’s a huge part of the job. That’s what leaders do.

Rob Long is cut from the same cloth.

Tone matters.

The next step, in my opinion, is to create a space and invite ideas. Put the vision back in Delray. Encourage civic engagement. Not just the usual suspects, go out and invite people in. Ask them to care. And reward their caring with positive action.

So, my friends we have a choice in the next five months.

We can argue over personalities, or we can press those who seek to lead us to think differently. To think, period.

It’s long past time that we did so. We may not feel better about the world’s problems, but we may find we have some ability to move forward right here at home.

Wonderful Lives Remembered

We lost Rebecca Jennings last week.

She was a nice woman and a contributor to Delray Beach.

Rebecca ran for Mayor in 2000, the same year I ran for City Commission. Although she lost to David Schmidt, who became an exceptional mayor, Becky ran a good campaign.

When you travel the campaign circuit, if you are lucky, you develop a rapport with your fellow candidates.

David and Rebecca and the third candidate in the race Gene Herring kept it civil. I became friendly with my opponent Ken Rubin, who later became a neighbor. I nominated Ken for some city boards and task forces, and he did a great job.

You get to know people on the trail and back in those days we had over 20 candidate forums in neighborhoods across the city. Yes, we each wanted to win, and everyone fought hard to do so, but it was a good experience. Our campaign was issue oriented and candidates talked about ideas and solutions.

I considered Becky Jennings a friend. We shared an endorsement from our fire union and prior to running, Becky helped me with an education newspaper I published. When I was in Leadership Delray, Becky was our program leader. We were a rowdy bunch, but she kept us in check because she had a sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. You can a long way with a sense of humor.

She will be missed.

I was remiss for not mentioning another wonderful person who recently passed.

Joan Weir was an amazing woman. She did a lot for our community.

Mrs. Weir was an admired educator, teaching 2nd grade at Plumosa Elementary School for years where she touched the lives of so many.

She was a pilot, threw legendary Halloween parties and was deeply involved in all things Delray.

She was a Boy and Girl Scout leader and taught Sunday school at St. Paul’s. She was a past president and founding member of the Delray Historical Society, a founding member of the Morikami Museum and chaired  Delray’s 75th Diamond Jubilee Celebration.  She was involved in Pineapple Grove’s Main Street application (which led to the revival of that neighborhood) and was a member of the legendary Jubileers.

The list goes on and on.

What a life! And she always had a kind word. Thank you, Mrs. Weir.

 

 

 

A Different Florida

Same slogan, different valuable proposition.

Florida Trend may be the best statewide business publication around.

I’ve been reading it since I moved here in 1987. The magazine is essential if you want to learn what’s going on in the Sunshine State.

Florida Trend recently celebrated its 65th birthday with a blockbuster issue that was chock full of cool stuff.

Perhaps the most interesting was a look at 1958 when the St. Petersburg based magazine made its debut.

Florida Trend’s editors offered some stats comparing 1958 to today.

Here are a few stunners:

  • In 1958, Florida was the 10th most populous state. It’s third today.
  • The population grew nearly 400 percent from 4.5 million people to a whopping 22.3 million in 2022.
  • Population density grew from 84.2 per square mile to 415. More than a quarter of the state’s population (28 percent) lives in South Florida.
  • The state’s economic output grew from $14 billion to $1.4 trillion.
  • In 1960, the median home price was $11,800 which adjusted for inflation is $122,174 today.
  • Average rent in 1960: $71 which is $669 in 2022 dollars.
  • In 2023, the average rent is $2,448 in the three largest metro markets.

Yikes.

In 1971, when Disney’s Magic Kingdom opened on October 1 admission was $3.50 for adults and $1 for children.

It’s a lot more today.

In fact, I hear it’s more efficient to drive to the Magic Kingdom, park, and throw your life savings over the wall. Sigh.

Yes, there have been a lot of changes.

And so, you can’t help but wonder what the next 65 years will hold.

What will climate change and sea level rise mean for our state?

How high can home prices go? What will rising prices mean for our demographics and our society if the middle class is priced out of Florida? (Maybe they already have been?)

How high can insurance rates soar before we cry uncle? The Wall Street Journal had a stunning story last week about insurance rates in an historic neighborhood in West Palm Beach. One home was quoted $120,000 for an insurance policy—that is not a typo. Modest homes are seeing prices ranging from $10,000 to $40,000 a year. Something has got to give: without being political perhaps we ought to worry less about banning books in Florida and more about how to do something about homeowner’s insurance.

We were told that reforms to reduce lawsuits would lower costs, now we are being told that rates are unlikely to fall. Rising reinsurance costs, inflation and the effects of climate change are keeping prices sky high.

Ugh.

There are other vexing issues that nobody could have predicted 65 years ago.

For instance, will we ever figure out how to navigate our ever-polarized politics?

It’s hard to predict, but it’s fun to speculate.

One thing is certain: change. Change, like death and taxes, is inevitable.

We didn’t see  a worldwide pandemic coming and the amazing changes left in Covid’s wake.

Who could have predicted that remote or hybrid work schedules would remake cities? And doesn’t it seem like the impacts of climate change are coming faster than we thought? Or is it that we just keep ignoring the science?

Regardless, it’s fun to look back and fun to look forward. It’s also imperative that we enjoy today and try our best to impact tomorrow.

One thing is for sure, when I moved here 36 years ago I and 1,000 newcomers a day saw Florida as an affordable paradise. That is no longer the case.

Odds and Ends

A shout out to the great Nancy Chanin on her nomination as “Woman Volunteer of the Year” for her work with the equally terrific EJS Project in Delray Beach.

The award is offered by the Junior League of Boca Raton and the winner will be announced at the 36th Annual Woman Volunteer of the Year luncheon Nov. 10 at The Boca Raton.

The list of nominees is impressive. But Nancy is so deserving. She’s kind, hardworking, and does so much for so many. Soo glad she’s up for this honor.

 

Happy Retirement D

I was under the weather last week and missed retirement ceremonies for my friend Delores Rangel. It broke my heart because I adore Delores and her family and I really wanted to be there and celebrate.

Delores served with distinction as the Senior Administrative Executive Assistant to the Mayor and City Commission for a long, long time. That’s a fancy title.  I kept it simple. I thought of  her as my boss. You put D in charge and she made sure you were OK.

Delores kept your schedule, manned the phones, took the messages, made sure you were where you needed to be and generally took care of everything a busy elected official could ever need. And she did it well, with a smile, a sense of calm in the midst of chaos and a sense of humor that was needed and appreciated.

I sent Delores a message and I was told that the City Manager read it at the ceremony. I’m glad. Here’s a brief summary of what I sent.

“You made my time on the Commission and as mayor so enjoyable. You always had my back and kept me organized during some very interesting times (hurricanes, the Jerrod Miller shooting, and all those late night meetings dealing with the controversies of the day).

It breaks my heart that I can’t say this in person. But please know you were amazing to work with, always supportive, organized and level headed. It was so appreciated. I know David Schmidt and other mayors and commissioners felt the same way.

I’m so glad that I got to know your family. They are wonderful.

I hope you have many years of happiness and health ahead of you.

You’ve done so much for our city. Those of us who know, know. Thank you my friend for everything. With love and appreciation, Jeff & Diane.”

 

 

 

EJS Project: 9 Years Of Action

Delray’s EJS Project has impacted over 500 teens in its first nine years of existence.

We went to the annual EJS Project gala at The Addison in Boca Raton last week.

It was a fun event.

“Delray Morning Live” host Jamael Stewart is a natural comedian and the mood in the room was happy, festive, and hopeful. This was a family gathering and it was beautiful to experience.

The EJS Project is a Delray Beach nonprofit that is transforming the lives of local teenagers by giving them a safe place to gather, study, talk about issues and learn the skills they will need to navigate a tough world.

To date, more than 500 of our children—and they are OUR children—have been touched and in many cases transformed by the EJS Project.

We heard from several alumni of the program. They talked about how EJS changed their lives by caring for them in every aspect of their lives. There is counseling, tutoring, group therapy sessions, field trips and training in soft skills.

Kids who get involved are exposed to leaders at all levels of society. They take trips to Washington D.C. and talk to policymakers about issues, they travel to Tallahassee to lobby the powerful and they go to City Commission meetings to see how their own community is governed.

The catchphrase used by the EJS Project is “Bout Dat Action” and it means that students who engage in the program are called to take action; they are challenged to make the changes they want to see in the world.

I sat next to a local hero, Yvonne Odom at the gala. Mrs. Odom was a long-time educator in our community.

She knows kids.

She’s raised them, taught them, coached them along with her husband Red and pressed their interests as a vocal activist in Delray and beyond. She’s also an historical figure having been the first African American student to attend Atlantic High School. Mrs. Odom also happens to be the grandmother of Coco Gauff, who just won the U.S. Open and has the promise to not only be a tennis champion but someone who makes a difference beyond sports.

As young people testified about the power of the EJS Project, I was moved by the reaction of my friend Yvonne.  She was beaming with pride.

What we were seeing was special. It was powerful too.

We saw a shy young man testifying in front of hundreds of people about how this program helped him break out of his shell and opened his eyes to the potential of his life. We heard from a once troubled young woman who doubled her GPA with the help of EJS and became focused and interested in her own future and listened to how a socially anxious young woman found her confidence through EJS and the internship they secured for her at a local company, Festival Management Group producers of local favorites such as Garlic Fest and the Delray Affair.

Jamael, the talented emcee, talked about growing up in Delray and how he and others felt there were limited opportunities for a bright future. Many of his childhood friends sought opportunities elsewhere but he and others returned to give something back. To coach, mentor, tutor, encourage and urge the next generation to believe that their potential was limitless.

Emmanuel “Dupree” Jackson, the founder of EJS was one of those who returned after college. Dupree has dedicated his every waking hour to helping the next generation find a way forward.

Mr. Jackson had to navigate some tough streets as a young man. He knows the pitfalls that can consume a young person and never release them. He wants the teens he works with to dream big, act and become leaders not only in their own lives but in the community as well.

We need this kind of training—desperately.

I’m proud to say that the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation, of which I am a director,  is investing in EJS’ work. We see the potential.

My wife and I are investing as well.

There is no more important mission than to build and empower tomorrow’s leaders. If we are to survive, if we are to thrive, we must ensure that tomorrow’s leaders are ready.

Yes, that is a trite and obvious statement. But it doesn’t mean we’re doing it; progress is not a given.

As I sat next to Diane and Mrs. Odom at a table that included some wonderful people who serve our community as teachers, volunteers, elected officials, business owners etc., I thought back to a long ago experience I had with Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Hollywood recently made a movie called “Just Mercy” with Michael B. Jordan about Mr. Stevenson’s life.

I was at a Leadership Florida event when Stevenson got up and gave the single best speech I’ve ever heard.

Mr. Stevenson talked about proximity—and the importance of getting close to others and their issues, regardless of how hard it is to see.

In order to solve problems, to understand each other we need to be proximate to one another. Stevenson calls it the power of proximity.

I’m seeing that power, I’m feeling that power at The EJS Project.

I was at a table with Vice Mayor Ryan Boylston, Commissioner Angela Burns and candidate Nick Coppola. Candidates Christina Morrison and Tennille Dacoste were in the room too.

I didn’t have a chance to speak with them, but if they are reading this, I sure hope they were as swept away as I was. I’m betting that they were. And my hope is that Delray pays attention to this little non-profit that is making a big impact. This is the kind of work we should invest in. The return on that investment will be a better world.

To learn more about EJS visit  https://ejsproject.org/

 

Sad News

Lt. Keith was a role model to many.

Ray Keith, a 31-year-old lieutenant with Delray Beach Fire Rescue, died Wednesday, October 18 after a courageous two-year battle with cancer. Keith has served the residents of Delray Beach since October 2016. Lt. Keith will be laid to rest with full honors.

 

“Our hearts are heavy today, and I know that every single person in our department is affected by this tremendous loss,” Delray Beach Fire Chief Keith Tomey said. “Lt. Keith was everything a firefighter should be – brave, kind and selfless. I thank him for his service and sacrifice. Our department will not be the same without him, but he left behind a great legacy in his three children.”

 

Lt. Keith, who was named the 2022 Firefighter of the Year, was one of the department’s first 21 lieutenants promoted to serve as an officer on a rescue company. He was certified in hazardous materials, was a member of the DBFR Honor Guard and a leader for the DBFR Explorer program. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in October 2021.

 

When nominating him for Firefighter of the Year, one of his peers said he “embodied perseverance, positivity and class.” Another said he is “a true inspiration for all firefighters with his strength and leadership.” Yet another lauded his “humility and compassion while training, working and responding to the calls in our city.”

 

Lt. Keith is survived by his wife, Amanda, 12-year-old son Gabriel and 2-year-old twins, daughter Willow and son Kairo.

 

“On behalf of the Delray Beach City Commission, we extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and colleagues,” Mayor Shelly Petrolia said. “We are grateful for his dedicated service to our community.”

 

Firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general U.S. population, according to research by the CDC/National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety.