Get to Know Yolanda and Jeff Berkowitz, philanthropists dedicated to helping South Florida children
1. How did you get involved with the Voices For Children Foundation?
In 1995, we read a Miami Herald letter to the editor about the need for Guardians ad Litem (GAL) to advocate for abused kids in court. The 30-hour course was a small investment for us to explore whether the program was something we wanted to get involved with, and after taking our first case, there was no question that we were committed to being a voice for abused and neglected children.
2. Why is this particular cause important to you?
The GAL’s role in the lives of children and families is critical to for those caught in an unforgiving and callous system. Being a voice in court can make the difference in where these kids live and whom they see as well as in their safety. Voices For Children’s fundraising efforts make it possible for more kids to have a guardian assigned to their cases and for some of their financial needs to be met when the state won’t or when their families can’t.
3. What other children’s causes do you support?
Miami Children’s Museum is particularly dear to our hearts because Jeff was instrumental in the museum’s formation. Besides the great service and resources it provides the community, the fun side of the museum has become even more evident now that we have grandchildren.
United Way of Miami Dade’s Center for Excellence in Early Education is something to which we are also passionately committed. Its role in elevating the quality of early education is making a difference in the lives of families.
Chapman Partnership is another organization that is near and dear for the great work they do for children. On any given day, Chapman has more than 200 children living in their Homeless Assistance Centers and nearly 50 percent of the residents are families in need. Supporting their great work helps ensure that they can continue to help transition families from homelessness to permanency.
4. How did you react to receiving the 2015 Humanitarian Award?
We enjoy a lot of satisfaction from our involvement with Voices and the GAL Program, in particular. It is really an honor and a privilege to receive the award since our work with the organization and our commitment to it are the cornerstone of our involvement in Miami.
5. How has your work with the foundation impacted you?
Becoming Guardians in 1995 opened a door for us that we’d never thought to walk through. Serving on non-profit boards of organizations that are meaningful to us has broadened our horizons and made our lives much bigger. It’s made us a part of our community and a part of the lives of individuals who bring more to our lives than we could ever hope to bring to theirs.
6. What can guests expect from the Be A Voice Gala?
The Be a Voice Gala is always a glamorous celebration of the great work done by the GAL Program and Voices, and this year is no different. The featured testimonial brings to life the impact that their support makes to the kids we serve. The evening makes everyone feel like they’re part of the Voices family and something bigger than what we could be on our own.
7. How can our readers support the foundation?
Readers can volunteer as a Guardian ad Litem or support Voices through financial contributions. By becoming a volunteer Guardian ad Litem, readers can help the program represent more kids. This frees up Voices’ fundraising efforts to meet the needs of the children.
8. What’s on the horizon for you in 2015?
Voices For Children’s January 17 gala at the Mandarin Oriental in downtown Miami is a highlight, and after that we look forward to continuing to work to find balance in all we do.
“Our South Florida Favorites”
1. Where to grab a cocktail: Scotty’s Landing in Coconut Grove (305) 854-2626
2. Favorite spot for tea or coffee: Crumb on Parchment in the Design District 305 572 9444
3. When you want to enjoy the outdoors, where do you go? We enjoy cruising Biscayne Bay on a powerboat or sailboat.
4. You have the grandkids for the day. Where do you take them? Miami Children’s Museum. Miamichildrensmuseum.org
5. Time to shop. Where do you go? Neiman Marcus in Coral Gables can’t be beat, and the store’s personal stylist Irene Pariserband makes shopping fun and easy. Neimanmarcus.com
6. Jewelry store with the perfect baubles: Through their relationship with Voices For Children, we’ve been lured into the world of Harry Winston, and we’re coveting their new Secrets Combination Diamond Necklace.
7. Favorite South Florida hotel: Hands down the Mandarin Oriental in downtown Miami, where we always feel like we’re home when we walk in the doors. mandarinoriental.com/miami/