Habitat For Humanity Re-Opening ReStores With Hurricane Supplies

By Town-Crier Editor -May 8, 2020

Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County (HFHPBC) is encouraging everyone to be prepared this hurricane season. All three of the Habitat ReStores will re-open on Saturday, May 9 and have essential and affordable items to purchase, such as construction and home renovation supplies, and hurricane shutters to protect your home.

The ReStores will be open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ReStore locations include the Rivera Beach ReStore at 7700 N. Military Trail, the Greenacres ReStore at 4639 Lake Worth Road and the Jupiter ReStore at 1635 N. Old Dixie Hwy.

“We are happy to reopen our Habitat ReStores for those looking to purchase construction materials to make their home safer this Hurricane season,” said Peter Gates, chief retail officer at Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County. “Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County is committed to helping our community in a safe way. All of our staff are equipped with masks and gloves, and we have implemented a cleaning and sanitizing program into our regular store operations.”

Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County is also beginning to take calls for donation pickups beginning on Monday, May 11. To schedule a pickup, call (561) 253-2290.  To learn more, visit www.habitatpbc.org/stores.

The retail outlets are a vital financial resource for Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County. The ReStores exist to support the nonprofit’s mission of providing decent, affordable housing to low-income families. Proceeds generated from ReStore sales help to build new houses and provide urgent, critical repairs to older, owner-occupied homes in our community.

Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County, founded in 1986, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. Each Habitat partner family is required to invest a minimum of 400 sweat equity hours of their own labor into the construction of homes before being eligible to purchase their home utilizing a 30-year, no-profit, no-interest loan. The affiliate’s service area extends from Hypoluxo Road in the south to the Martin County line in the north, and from Palm Beach to Lake Okeechobee. For more information, visit www.habitatpbc.org or call (561) 253-2080.

Food bank receives $1M donation from philanthropist


Philanthropist Lois Pope recently declared “no child should ever go hungry, here in Palm Beach County or anywhere in this country,” in response to the food-insecurity crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Manalapan resident followed up this declaration by donating $1 million to the Palm Beach County Food Bank to help support those in need during the coronavirus crisis.

“Children need food. They need proper nutrition to learn and thrive,” Pope said in a statement. “But now, during this coronavirus pandemic, when they are not in school, they are especially at risk of going hungry.”

Palm Beach County is the 10th largest school district in the country and has more than 60 percent of school-age children eligible for free or reduced-priced meals. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Lantana-based food bank was already providing meals to more than 3,000 children at 45 sites during the summer and on weekends.

Along with helping feed underprivileged children, the Palm Beach County Food Bank provides nutritious food for more than 100,000 residents in the area every month. With the significant increase of people temporarily losing work, the food bank’s typical and annual amount of 5 million pounds of food is seemingly not enough for the crisis at hand.

Karen Erren, executive director of the Palm Beach County Food Bank, acknowledged due to the pandemic the supplies of donated foods from local establishments have begun to dwindle. Erren said 50 of the Palm Beach County’s 125 food pantry partners have had to cease operations because of the lack of inventory.

“The bottom line is our phones are ringing off the hook with calls from families who are in desperate need of food, especially for their children,” Erren said in a statement. “Mrs. Pope’s historic gift is the perfect answer to these calls. It is transformational. But the need is so great that I encourage others to come alongside her because hunger relief requires the efforts of all of us.”

Pope’s donation will also help expand the Palm Beach County Food Banks’s Food4OurKids initiative, which a year-round weekend and summer feeding program that helps children during difficult times.

Before the pandemic, the Food4OurKids program was already providing the means for hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged Florida children to enjoy a summer camp experience.

“I feel a responsibility to make this new contribution to the Palm Beach County Food Bank,” Pope said. “I think all of us living here with the financial means have an obligation to help mitigate the current situation our county’s schoolchildren are facing. So I invite others, in fact, I urge others, to join me in this vitally important, essential effort.”

Visit pbcfoodbank.org.

Lois Pope gives $1M to help feed hungry kids

By Shannon Donnelly: Palm Beach Daily News

Philanthropist Lois Pope has donated $1M to the Palm Beach County Food Bank’s program to feed children on weekends and during the summer.

Lois Pope’s decades of philanthropy have embraced a range of causes, from safe drinking water for Central American villagers to veterans’ services to animal rescue to the preservation of sight.

She can now add “feeding hungry children” to that list, thanks to a $1 million donation to the Palm Beach County Food Bank.

The gift, announced Monday, is earmarked for the support and expansion of the Food Bank’s Food4OurKids initiative.

Food4OurKids is a year-round weekend and summer feeding program designed to help fill nutritional gaps that children face on the days they are not in school, where they receive a free or reduced-price lunch.

With schools now closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many children are hungry.

“No child should ever go hungry, here in Palm Beach County where we all live so well,” said Pope, a resident of Manalapan.

“Children need food. They need proper nutrition to learn and thrive. But now, during this coronavirus pandemic, when they are not in school, they are especially at-risk of going hungry.”

Pope credited a Shiny Sheet story about the Food Bank for inspiring the gift.

“I had never heard of the Palm Beach County Food Bank until I read the story,” she said. “I invited the executive director to my home and we had a nice conversation.”

A million-dollar conversation, it would seem.

Pope — whose foundations previously funded summer “camperships” to hundreds of thousands of less-advantaged Florida children — added that she feels a “responsibility to make this new contribution to the Palm Beach County Food Bank.

“My brother and I were children of the Depression,” said Pope, a native of South Philadelphia. “My father worked hard but we were poor. My mother would sacrifice her own dinner so her children could eat. That’s the kind of parents I had.

“I think all of us living here with financial means have an obligation to help mitigate the current situation our county’s schoolchildren are facing. So I invite others – in fact, I urge others – to join me in this vitally important, essential effort.”

In gratitude for what she called “a transformative gift,” Marti LaTour, the board chair of the Palm Beach County Food Bank, said that the organization will re-name the children’s food initiative the “Lois’ Food4Kids Program.”

Said LaTour: “This is a complete game-changer, not just for our food bank but, more importantly, for the thousands of children in the county who will benefit now during this pandemic and in the future … my deepest gratitude to Mrs. Pope for her generosity. She is the best of the best, a true humanitarian.”

Prior to the pandemic, “we were already providing meals to more than 3,000 kids at 45 sites during the summer and on weekends,” said Food Bank Executive Director Karen Erren. “Now, that need has increased exponentially.”

Also because of the pandemic, the supplies of donated foods from local groceries and businesses, as well as manufacturers, have been “drying up, so we are now having to purchase a lot of food,” Erren said, adding that 50 of the county’s 125 food pantry partners, have suspended operation because of lack of supplies.

“The bottom line is our phones are ringing off the hook with calls from families who are in desperate need of food, especially for their children,” Erren said.

“Mrs. Pope’s historic gift is the perfect answer to these calls. But the need is so great that I encourage others to come alongside her because hunger relief requires the efforts of all of us.”

Palm Beach County represents the 10th largest school district in the U.S. More than 60% of school-age children are already eligible for free or reduced-price meals, “and the need is increasing very quickly and greatly,” Erren said.

For more information or to help, visit pbcfoodbank.org.

Why Jupiter resident helps youths transition from foster care

By Susan Salisbury – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Monday, May 08, 2017

Jeff DeMario is CEO of Vita Nova, Inc., a non-profit based in West Palm Beach that offers programs and services for 18- to 25-year-olds who have aged out of foster care in Palm Beach County.

The group operates an apartment complex where these young people can live while receiving support and guidance and offers other services designed to help them enroll in and graduate from college or trade school.

“Using a Life Coaching model we help these youth navigate through college when parental support is not available,” said DeMario, who has been CEO since 2010.

Name: Jeff DeMario

Age: 47

Hometown: Wappinger’s Falls, N.Y.

Where you live now: Jupiter

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Psychology – Marist College; Master’s Degree, Social Work, University of Alabama

Family: My wife, Jill, is a fifth generation Florida native, and works for Planned Parenthood. We have two sons, Riley and Reece, ages 15 and 13, respectively.

About your company: Vita Nova began as Renaissance Village in the early 1990s with our founder, who believed wholeheartedly that children in foster care deserved better outcomes related to school, work, and wellness. Although he was right, we could not move forward with this original mission and in late 2005 our mission was changed to assist older foster youth who were exiting child welfare and becoming homeless instantly.

In 2006 we changed our name to embrace this new mission to help older foster youth find a “new life” beyond foster care and became Vita Nova, Inc.

We own and operate a thrift store to help raise awareness of our mission while creating a work training program.

Today, Vita Nova utilizes a team of nearly 50 full time and part time employees as well as volunteers. Our budget is close to $1.7 million — most of which we receive in the form of grants, donations and fundraising.

First paying job and what you learned from it: My first paying job was at K-Mart department store. K-Mart used to move a blue light throughout the store to signal the best deals in each department. For customers, the blue light special was about finding the best savings, but for employees it was where all of the high maintenance customers would congregate. After a while you would become adept with working with most challenging customers when the blue light came into your department.

I realized that if you can find a way to solve the most challenging problems, then most of the other problems are less challenging by default.

First break in the business: I was the assistant director of a jail that would allow youth offenders to work during the day and come back to lock up at night. I discovered that the head administrator was stealing the kids’ money. I confronted the issue with the head person, and the problem persisted.

Owners of the program came to visit one day and conducted their own investigation, and found out I was right. They fired the director and offered me the position. I turned it down. The big break was not being offered the bigger pay check, it was being able to stand up for a young person who still had rights despite being in a juvenile jail.

How your business has changed: Back when Vita Nova first started, youth were done with services from foster care at 18, but now they can stay until 21. Many youth take advantage of this opportunity, but do not use the time wisely to complete school, save money, or get working, so the problems we saw at 18 we now see at 21 years old.

In addition, we have discovered many more youth who are on the streets, without families who are not from foster care. These include youth exiting jail programs, or run-away youth.

Finally, helping and connecting with teens today is a whole lot different than it was 15 or 20 years ago. Youth today are very connected to their devices, and social media, more than ever before. Tragically we are seeing this with youth committing suicide on Facebook, or bullying one another online, or creating viral videos of school beatings. When you add homelessness to the mix it becomes a recipe for disaster for youth who will do all kinds of things to keep their phones turned on. The good news is that using text messages and social media with today’s youth can help deliver important messages instantly, and we can locate youth in a variety of ways using Facebook and other sources to make sure they are safe and sound.

Best business book you read: “Question Behind the Question” by John G. Miller.

Best piece of business advice you received: “Don’t come to me with the problem unless you have a viable solution in mind too.”

What you tell young people about your business: My advice is that “the truth is the truth no matter where it comes from.” We have received grants that started off as ideas from youth who wanted to see us start a new service, had sales increase at our thrift store based on a simple request from a customer, and saved the life of a youth when an intern suggested a course of action. My point is that it does not always matter how many years you have, or how decorated you are in the field to have a good idea — just say it!

Many successful people learn from failure. Do you have a failure you can share and what you learned from it? I once hired a friend for a position in which they were more than qualified. I thought that since our relationship was great that it would apply to others in the workplace. Not so. After a while things became toxic and the team did not feel they could complain to me since I was friends with the person causing so many problems. Before I knew it, staff morale was at an all-time low, and I created a terrible work environment.

I learned that it is very difficult to hire and supervise your friends. Just easier to see them after work. It is also very important to address problems in the workplace right away.

What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? I believe you will find Palm Beach County taking a stronger stance with helping the homeless individuals and families. I believe there are strategic plans in place involving youth, community stakeholders, homeless services providers, and funders that will help in ways that will set us apart from the rest of the state.

Power lunch spot: Maplewood Bagel in Jupiter has the best coffee and sandwiches around. It is tucked away, so you can get business done without the crowds, and they have an amazing pastrami on rye.

Where we’d find you when you’re not at the office: Shopping for vinyl records at a vintage record shop. The older the record and more obscure the location the better.

Favorite smartphone app: Maps. I am always getting lost.

What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? Ambition. If you can’t get fired up on your own about the work we are doing to help homeless youth in the county then there is nothing I can pay you that will either.


Photo: Jeff DeMario, the CEO of Vita Nova Inc., a West Palm Beach-based non-profit which assists young adults who have aged out of foster care in Palm Beach County, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post


Gala guests meet rescue dog Tango at Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League benefit.

By Shannon Donnelly – Daily News Society Editor


Posted: 7:00 a.m. Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Club Colette was the setting for a spring dinner dance to benefit the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League.

The fifth annual Off The Leash event took place April 2.

Nellie Benoit, Carol Garvy, Laurie Raber Gottlieb, Linda Miller and Joanie Van der Grift — all board members and all Palm Beach residents — were chairwomen for the evening, which included a courtyard cocktail reception, live entertainment, dinner and dancing.

The highlights of the night were the introduction of rescue dog Tango and his inspiring story, as well as the meet-and-greet between guests and a few furry adorables looking for their forever homes.

No, not James Berwind and Kevin Clark. They already have a forever home.

Proceeds from the event, more than $200,000, assist the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League of the Palm Beaches in its mission to provide shelter to lost, homeless and unwanted animals; to provide spay and neuter and other medical services for companion animals; and to care for, protect and find quality homes for homeless and neglected companion animals.



Group adopts new name: Palm Beach Island Hospice Foundation

Palm Beach Daily News; by Jane Fetterly

April 23, 2017

After 30 years, Hospice Foundation of Palm Beach County Inc. has a new name. It is now known as Palm Beach Island Hospice Foundation.

Board president Mark Cook said the change “clarifies our location, but our mission is the same … to provide resources for programs that support end-of-life care for patients and their families.”

Cook revealed the name change and new logo at a board of trustees meeting.

Through the generosity of donors, the foundation raised money to build the Charles W. Gerstenberg Hospice Center at 5300 East Ave., West Palm Beach, not far from St. Mary’s Medical Center.

In 2015, the foundation board committed to raising $1.8 million for renovations to the center and innovative programs, such as telemedicine and music therapies, Cook said.

For information, call 832-8585 or visit hospicepb.org.