By Robyn A. Friedman and Deborah Wilker
The people who shape a community are not always the most famous or the best known. Allow us to introduce nine here who make a difference every day. Some quietly, some not so quietly
– all persistently.
Rita Hofrichter and Lilly Tykocinski
Lilly Tykocinski, 85, smiles when she shares her vision of what she hopes will be her proudest day.
“I open the door to the public and I say, ‘Welcome to the museum!’ ”
Tykocinski, a Holocaust survivor, is speaking of what will be South Florida’s first Holocaust museum, a 26,000-square-foot structure in Dania Beach, dedicated to preserving stories and artifacts from the darkest of times. This expansion of the existing Holocaust Documentation & Education Center in Hollywood (hdec.org) has been long in the planning, with a hoped-for opening in January.
Volunteers such as Tykocinski, and Rita Hofrichter, 87, also a survivor, and a vice president of the center, both work tirelessly auditing survivor interviews, raising funds and providing South Florida students and teachers countless hours of historical education.
“We tell them we were their age when the Holocaust happened and our lives changed so dramatically,” Hofrichter says. “It’s not easy to live constantly with the testimonies of survivors, but this is where my heart is and this is a story that must be told.”
Both women carved out productive lives after immigrating to the United States, Hofrichter in 1948, Tykocinski in 1952. Both are grandmothers, and Tykocinski has two great-grandchildren.
“We teach [students] to be kind to one another,” Hofrichter says. “This gives value to my life. And I guess it keeps me young.”
The museum will feature a reference library, rare art and photographs, spaces for personal reflection and thousands of recorded interviews with survivors, liberators, rescuers and other witnesses.
Tykocinski says she doesn’t just want to see the museum simply come to fruition in her lifetime – she wants to be an active part of it for years to come: “God wanted me to survive for something.”
A long-term fundraising project has been set up by South Florida jewelers Maxine and Scott King. All proceeds from their “Legacy Bracelet” are earmarked for the museum’s capital building fund.
Henri Crockett has been a success both on and off the football field.
A native of Pompano Beach and a graduate of Blanche Ely High School, Crockett attended Florida State University on an athletic scholarship, where he joined his brother Zach as members of the Seminoles’ 1993 National Championship team. In 1997 Crockett was selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft and then played five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and two with the Minnesota Vikings.
“I got involved in volunteering when I was in college – a shoe and clothing drive,” says Crockett, who lives in Cooper City. “That was my first attempt at giving back to the community.”
Shortly after being drafted by the Falcons, Crockett founded Team 94, named after his jersey number. The organization’s goal was to assist at-risk youth with after-school tutoring and mentoring. In 2002, Henry and Zach founded the Crockett Foundation to provide educational opportunities, increase health awareness and inspire youth to reach their full potential. The organization hosts an annual Family and Health Community Festival that provides free health screenings and medical information. The event also includes free immunizations, family-friendly activities and live entertainment. Other events include an annual Derby Days Belmont Stakes Party, a golf tournament and a Love for Literacy Gala.
Crockett even involves his daughter, Isys, in his charitable efforts. She helps feed the homeless every year on Thanksgiving and has spoken to her principal about how her school can be more involved. “Even at 7 years old,” Crockett says, “Isys understands that she has a duty to give back.”
If you’ve ever met Tammy Gail, then you already know that she’s a dynamo. Gail is the driving force behind Glam-A-THON, a nonprofit organization she founded to “Kiss Breast Cancer Goodbye.”
A 10-year survivor of breast cancer, Gail, 49, launched the organization three years after she was diagnosed.
“I went in for a routine lumpectomy and they found more cancer, so that turned into a bilateral mastectomy,” she says. “But after the first surgery, I made a deal with my maker that if I got out of it alive and self-sufficient, I would do something big that would help other people.”
She had attended other breast cancer events but felt sad and guilty afterward.
“I should have felt phenomenal and thrilled and thankful I was alive, but all I saw were families that had T-shirts on that said ‘in memory of’ and little kids who didn’t have their moms. I wanted to develop something new that was uplifting.”
Glam-A-THON, which consists of events such as last month’s Lipstick Lounge and the Glam Doll Strut (Oct. 18 in downtown Fort Lauderdale, story pg.50), is hip, glamorous and outrageous. Attendees – whether breast cancer survivors or not – come away with a sense of empowerment, pride and hope. Now in its eighth year, the organization has raised more than $300,000 and benefits the Broward Health Foundation, which provides financial assistance for mammograms, diagnostic testing and special assistance for medication, wigs and other needed items.
Gail, president of Floridata Market Research, hopes to inspire others to become involved as well. “I see people who are involved in our organization blossom,” she says. “It’s great that we help so many people who are ill, but it’s also amazing to see people step up in volunteer capacities and do so much. It’s the greatest feeling.”
Faustino Gonzalez, MD
Faustino Gonzalez knows firsthand how terrifying a hospital can be for a patient, especially for someone who doesn’t speak English. When he was 15 and living in New York City, after his family emigrated from Spain, his brother was struck by a car. Gonzalez still recalls vividly what happened in the emergency room.
“They didn’t have time to talk to my mother, they didn’t have time for me to interpret or to answer my mother’s questions,” Gonzalez says. “It was that day that I decided to become a doctor, but a doctor who spends time explaining things. Being a doctor is as much about being a physician as it is about being a communicator.”
Today, Gonzalez is chief medical officer of Hospice of Palm Beach County in West Palm Beach. Despite his busy career, he also carves out time to give back.
“I have been the recipient of a lot of help throughout my life, and it’s about ‘Do unto others,’ ” he says. “In my career I get paid to do what I do, and there is satisfaction in that. But it’s not the same satisfaction as when you do something for nothing because it’s the right thing to do.”
Gonzalez, along with Owen O’Neill, founded Clinics Can Help, a nonprofit organization that collects surplus durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs and hospital beds and distributes it to patients.
He tries every day to live up to his favorite quote – “Worth is acquired through service to others” – which was the motto of an organization he belonged to as a boy.
“It exemplifies the duty we all have,” Gonzalez says. “I believe with all of my heart that those of us who have, have a duty to give to those who don’t.”
Gregory Haile grew up in Queens, N.Y., in a neighborhood known as South Jamaica. Despite being exposed to crime and violence on a daily basis – several of his friends and neighbors were murdered – Haile excelled as a student, graduating from Arizona State University and the Columbia University School of Law.
When he was an undergraduate at Arizona State, Haile and several other students created Promise of Progress, a mentoring organization designed to increase the matriculation and retention of African-American males in college.
“I’ve known what it is to have challenges and what it’s like to not have any help, so to the extent that I can use my background, my resources, my intellect, my contacts or whatever I can bring to the table to provide a service to the community, I feel very compelled to do it,” says Haile, general counsel and vice president for public policy and government affairs at Broward College.
Among the charitable and civic organizations with which Haile has been involved: Leadership Florida, 2-1-1 Broward, the T.J.
Reddick Bar Association (Broward County’s African-American Bar Association), the Jack & Jill Children’s Center, Broward Heart Walk, Paradise Education Foundation, United Way of Broward County, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County and the Ghost Light Society of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
Haile is also a board member of Free the Slaves, a Washington, D.C.-based anti-human-trafficking organization. He recently traveled to Haiti on behalf of the organization.
“It was quite traumatic,” says Haile, the father of a 3-year-old daughter. “I had a chance to talk to some mothers who had given up their children to people who they thought would take good care of them, but it turned out that they were using their kids for child servitude.”
He says one of the things he loves about South Florida, “is that you find people who are not only willing to work hard for themselves but are also willing to work hard for their community.”
Matt Katz refers to himself as a late bloomer. The managing partner of the Fort Lauderdale law firm Katz, Barron, Squitero & Faust has always been a financial supporter of charitable organizations, but he didn’t get involved personally until three years ago.
“It had been something I was wanting to do for a long time,” says Katz, a corporate and business attorney. “Finally there were a couple of opportunities to get involved, and I found myself really impressed with the organizations not just from the standpoint of the people who work there but also because of the good they do for Broward County.”
Katz is active in United Way of Broward County, the Humane Society of Broward County and the Broward Workshop, a nonprofit comprised of decision makers representing 100 Broward businesses and professions.
Katz’s children, ages 12, 10 and 8, understand the importance of giving back too. Rather than gifts, they ask people attending their birthday parties to bring dog toys and food to donate to the Humane Society.
“Many people say, ‘Yeah, if I had the time, I might enjoy being more involved,’ ” Katz says. “You’ve got to make the time. People will find it’s a much more rewarding experience than they could have possibly ever imagined.”
Terry Stiles is chairman and CEO of Stiles, a Fort Lauderdale-based development firm established in 1951. As Stiles the company has grown into one of the Southeast’s largest real-estate firms, so have the charitable endeavors of Stiles the man.
“As I got the opportunities to grow and make money, I just felt it was important to give back,” he says. “We got to know the community better by getting involved.”
The first organization Stiles worked with was the Museum of Discovery and Science.
“It was really interesting, and I had little kids,” he says. “Back then it was a six- or eight-room little museum. I monitored the architecture, design and construction and helped raise the dollars to get the new museum built.”
On Nov. 8, the museum will host the Mercedes-Benz Fort Lauderdale 21st Century MODS Gala honoring Stiles for his 30-plus years of involvement on the Board of Trustees as well as his contributions to the greater Fort Lauderdale community.
Stiles has also been active with Jack & Jill Children’s Center and Kids In Distress, and he supports more than 30 charities in Florida, including Boys and Girls Clubs, the Humane Society and Habitat for Humanity.
Now a member of the board, Stiles’ next focus will be the Broward Center for the Performing Arts Foundation.
“We’ve got a responsibility when the community has been really good to us,” he says. “It helps build our fabric and our culture to say, ‘Hey, we’re not just here to make money. We’re here to be part of the community and to help where we can.’ ”
Danielle Williams was just 22 and recently widowed when she opened Oceans 234, an oceanfront restaurant in Deerfield Beach. But despite the fact that she’s a successful entrepreneur, as well as a busy wife and mother, Williams, 34, feels it’s important to give back to her community and her industry.
“We are all interconnected, so if everybody doesn’t contribute at some point, the community doesn’t stay together,” she says. “I’ve been so blessed in my life – I’ve been given so many opportunities – so that I can give back to the next person.”
Volunteering was ingrained in Williams from an early age.
“My parents were really involved in our church,” she says. “My father is an attorney, and I swear he does more pro bono work than work he actually gets paid for.”
Oceans 234 donates all of its leftover food to Boca Helping Hands and has been involved with Surfers for Autism for five years. Williams started a clothing drive in 2010 that is now one of Women In Distress’s largest. Last year alone, Williams donated more than $20,000 in auction items to various charities and nonprofit groups. She supports the Gwendolyn Clarke-Reed Neighborhood Initiative Summer Job Program by employing at-risk youth as interns at the restaurant, and she hosted a St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser on St. Patrick’s Day that raised more than $5,000 for children’s cancer research.
Williams also sits on the board of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Deerfield Beach Chamber of Commerce. She tries to inspire her 80 employees to volunteer too.
“We touch so many people every single day, and it’s an opportunity to change their day or make their situation better,” Williams says. “You have to give to get, kind of like karma. If everybody did one good deed today, how many people would that affect exponentially?”