Special Features — 06 October 2012
Powers for Good: Seven who give, and live, large

Our annual Powers for Good features the work of seven individuals and businesses who live, and give, large. Some, like Bill Feinberg, president of Allied Kitchen & Bath in Fort Lauderdale, pictured here, even designed his business around charitable endeavors. “If you own a business, and you’re lucky enough to be able to make money and survive, it’s your duty to give back to our community,” he says.

Our profile begin here:

Arthur Benjamin

philanthropist

Our annual Powers for Good features the work of seven individuals and businesses who live, and give, large. Some, like Bill Feinberg, president of Allied Kitchen & Bath in Fort Lauderdale, pictured above, even designed his business around charitable endeavors. “If you own a business, and you’re lucky enough to be able to make money and survive, it’s your duty to give back to our community,” he says.
Our profile begin here:

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Like many philanthropists, Arthur Benjamin supports a number of worthy charitable organizations. But the cause that is perhaps dearest to his heart is animal rescue.

A lifelong dog lover, Benjamin owned dogs but didn’t save one until he rescued — literally — a 10-year-old Maltese/poodle mix from heavy traffic while on business in Salt Lake City. He was living in California at the time, so the dog was turned in to animal services. Eight days later, he heard that the dog was going to be euthanized since it hadn’t been adopted.

“I said, ‘No, you’re not,’” Benjamin recalls. “I called a friend’s son who was a Mormon and about to go on a mission and told him his first mission assignment was to go get a kennel from PetSmart, get the dog from animal services, take him to the airport and ship him to us in California.”

That dog lived to be 18 and was the first of many dogs rescued by Benjamin, who lives in Delray Beach, although the most special was Buddy, a white poodle who became his wife, Gail’s, best friend and was actually able to predict the timing of seizures she suffered while battling breast cancer.

In 2005, while watching images of Hurricane Katrina on television, Benjamin became aware of the number of pets displaced by the storm. He began raising money to help the animals and was ultimately able to save about 2,000 dogs and cats. That effort led to his creation of the American Dog Rescue Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization committed to finding a home for every adoptable dog in the United States.

Benjamin is also passionate about many other charities he supports, including Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County, the Image Reborn Foundation (which provides no-cost healing retreats to women with breast cancer), the Consequences Foundation (providing services and programs for at-risk youth), the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, the Humane Society of the United States and many more.

“I feel it’s essential to share what I do,” Benjamin says. “Anyone can contribute their passion and skills and make a difference — anyone who will commit to just doing it, one step at a time. They just need to start small and let their passion lead the way.”

 

John Brant

Vice President of Human Resources, Communications and Community Relations at Patriot National Insurance Group 

John Brant was skeptical before he accepted a job as Vice President of Human Resources, Communications and Community Relations at Patriot National Insurance Group, a Fort Lauderdale-based provider of workers’ compensation insurance and services. He had previously worked for Fortune 500 companies — most recently for Johnson & Johnson — so the prospect of joining the fledging firm, then known as SunCoast Holdings, was daunting.

But after meeting with Patriot President and CEO Steven Mariano six years ago — for interview practice, Brant says — he couldn’t say no.

“He told me if I took the job, I had to destroy human resources and rebuild it. And he also said, ‘You’ve got to establish a community relations presence. Wherever we make money, it’s our obligation to give it back.’”

It was an opportunity Brant couldn’t refuse.

Brant was already familiar with charities in Miami-Dade County, where he lived, but he knew nothing about Broward. So he methodically set out to learn. He met people, attended meetings and was appointed to boards. He told Mariano it would be a three- to five-year process, but guaranteed him that at the end of five years, Patriot would be a force in Broward County and South Florida.

Brant delivered.

During his first year at Patriot, the company donated little, if anything, to local charities. In 2012, the company gave over $1.8 million back to South Florida. And that was just through May.

“That’s just the start of what we’re going to do,” Brant says. “We’re doing this in all of the markets where we do business because it’s the right way to do business. We’re making money, and we’ve got to share the wealth because our communities are too needy not to.”

This year, Patriot has underwritten the presenting sponsorship of the American Heart Association’s Heart Ball. It supports Nat King Cole Generation Hope, whose mission is to provide music education to children. “We’ve raised over $100,000,” Brant says, “and helped put music education back in public schools.”

In January, Patriot announced the launch of the Patriot Health Initiative, a program that provides Nova Southeastern University’s College of Dental Medicine with up to $450,000 to provide dental care to underserved populations of Greater Fort Lauderdale.

Patriot also supports the annual American Fine Wine Competition and Gala, benefiting the Diabetes Research Institute; Tomorrow’s Rainbow, Women In Distress, Kids and the Power of Work (KAPOW) and numerous other organizations — and recently presented the 2nd Annual Tunnel to Towers Fort Lauderdale 5K Run/Walk.

“The needs of South Florida are as great as Chicago or New York, but the funding is so much less because we have so few large corporations here,” Brant says. “People across the business community need to call upon their own executive management teams to step up. Step up and do your part, because the needs are just too damn great.”

Dan Doyle Jr.

DEX Imaging

Dan Doyle Jr. knew he wanted to involve his father when he founded DEX Imaging, an independent dealer of Konica Minolta and Kyocera document imaging equipment, in 2002.

“My dad had been in this industry for 30 years,” Doyle says. “To recruit him out of retirement, I had to cut a deal with him. He didn’t want to take a paycheck, but he wanted the company to support local communities.”

So the two sketched out a formula on a napkin — literally — to divvy up the company’s anticipated profits. A percentage was to be reinvested in the business and the balance split between employee bonuses and donations to nonprofit organizations. “Technically, it’s about 21 percent of our profits that go to nonprofits,” Doyle says.

That translated to $4.5 million in 2011 alone.

In addition to the 21 percent that the company gives, Doyle says that he and his dad have their own “pet projects” that they support. “We actually end up overachieving on what we give away,” he says. “It becomes almost 30 percent.”

DEX Imaging is headquartered in Tampa but has 24 locations in Florida, Tennessee, Maryland, Alabama and Mississippi, including a 40,000-square-foot office and warehouse in Pompano Beach. The firm encourages its 560 employees to support worthwhile local causes by having each branch vote on the organization they’d like to support.

“They’re out in the community and hear things,” Doyle says. “The service technicians come to us with the little ones, like their son’s Little League needs $3,000 to build a new batting cage; while the sales reps come up with the grandiose ideas.”

Some of the charitable and educational programs for which DEX Imaging provides support in Florida are the Alzheimer’s Family Organization, Best Buddies Florida, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County, Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County, Catholic Health Services, Pediatric Cancer Foundation and Women In Distress. Doyle also volunteers his time to many organizations. He is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization, Florida Chapter, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Pediatric Cancer Foundation.

“The philosophy behind it is if you have a strong community, you’ll end up with a strong business,” Doyle says. “I had a very successful father who taught my sister and me early on that you have to support our community, and the more you give, the more you’ll get.”

 

Brenda Edwards-Fung

executive director of the Miss Broward County Scholarship Pageant

Brenda Edwards-Fung will never forget the girl who inspired her to found Scholarship for South Florida.

Stephanie was a student at North Lauderdale High School, smart, with a 4.0 average who was involved in many activities and clubs at the school. On paper, she was the perfect candidate for scholarships and grants. But Stephanie earned her 4.0 at a D-rated school, and she couldn’t compete with other top students who were graduating from schools that were more highly rated.

After contacting philanthropic organizations in Broward County on Stephanie’s behalf — and coming up dry — Edwards-Fung founded her 501(c)(3) organization in 2005 in an effort to assist similar students who are not competitive in their quest for traditional academic scholarships.

“We want to make funds available to the middle-of-the-road B/C student who is going to a community college first,” she says. “Or maybe they’re an A student who can get into a major university but can’t qualify for scholarships because they’re not a 5.0 AP student.”

Once she founded the organization, however, Edwards-Fung realized she needed to raise funds. Knowing she couldn’t compete with larger charitable organizations, she drew upon the experiences she had and skills she honed competing in beauty pageants in high school. So she opted to hold a pageant as her major fundraiser and has been the executive director of the Miss Broward County Scholarship Pageant since 2005. The pageant is run under the auspices of the Miss America Organization, which made over $45 million in cash and scholarship assistance available last year and claims to be the world’s largest provider of scholarships for young women.

“People often ask me why I would choose a pageant for my fundraiser,” she says. “There are so many worthy causes out there that help sick people and animals. But I wanted to do a fundraiser that would be fun and entertaining and a little bit different.”

Since founding Scholarship for South Florida, Edwards-Fung has raised about $130,000 and awarded about $80,000 in scholarships to some 31 students. Girls can qualify by competing in the pageant. For boys, and girls who choose not to compete, the application process involves being nominated by a teacher and writing an essay. Most of the scholarships cover books.

“There’s just so much need out there,” says Edwards-Fung, who has 31 years of customer service experience with Fortune 500 companies. “If we’ve been blessed and rewarded through our hard work to have excess, then we should share that excess and put it back into the community.”

Bill Feinberg

president, Allied Kitchen & Bath, Fort Lauderdale

It’s unusual for a business to design its headquarters around its charitable endeavors. But that’s exactly what Bill and Joe Feinberg did when they planned for the two-year, $2 million renovation of their Allied Kitchen & Bath showroom on Oakland Park Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.

“My vision was to have a showroom with a staircase where people could gather around, and we could have 100 people or so come to fundraising events,” says Bill Feinberg, the firm’s president. “We created a great environment to be able to do that.”

Allied’s showroom actually can hold about 200 people, and the Feinbergs capitalize on that ability by hosting about 25 fundraising events per year there on behalf of numerous organizations. “Some may raise $10,000, some $15,000 and some only $2,000 or $5,000,” he says. “Many of the small charities in our backyard are really struggling, so every little bit we help raise goes right back into the hands of the people who need it.”

Although Bill was involved with larger charities in the past — he served as President of the Board of Trustees for the Southern Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for four years — he now prefers to support smaller organizations. “With some of the small, local charities that I work with here, we could be raising money today, and next week it’s going to help a family in need,” he says.

Some of his favorite local charities are the Jessica June Children’s Cancer Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Starlight Children’s Foundation, Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center and Broward Children’s Center. He also supports Junior Achievement, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Broward Women’s Alliance and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County.

The Feinbergs encourage their employees to give of themselves as well. Many participate in the events held at Allied, serving as bartenders or hosts. “When you’re doing charity work, it’s not always about giving money,” Bill says. “Sometimes you can just give your time. It makes a huge difference.”

When asked why he’s so involved, Bill quotes two popular sayings: “You have to give to get” and “pay it forward.”

“If you own a business, and you’re lucky enough to be able to make money and survive, it’s your duty to give back to our community,” he explains. “Each of us has to give a little bit. It makes for a better place, and it makes you a better person. For me, the greatest satisfaction in the world is to be able to share myself and my knowledge.”

 

Lynne Wines

president and CEO of First Southern Bank, Boca Raton

To say that Lynne Wines is high-energy is an understatement. For years, she has balanced a demanding job and the needs of her family, but she has also always found time to give back to her community.

“I started small and slow and grew into this,” says Wines, president and CEO of First Southern Bank, which is headquartered in Boca Raton. “And when I was exposed to some of the needs of the community by touring low-income childcare centers and senior centers, I realized how many people close to our own neighborhoods need help.”

Wines currently serves as Chair of the United Way Board of Ambassadors. She’s also on the board of the Council for Educational Change, which mentors people to grow into leadership roles in area schools.

“By mentoring principals and vice principals and teaching them to be business leaders, you improve the school,” she says. “Like any other business, if you have a good leader at the top, they lift up the school.”

In July, Wines took over as chair of 2-1-1 Broward, an information referral service that connects callers to the social services they need in Broward County. She is also the past chair of the American Heart Association’s Broward Community Board and its Walk Campaign and for three years, served as the March of Dimes of South Florida’s campaign chair for Walk America, which raised over $1.4 million for the organization.

“I’m very flattered by the organizations that have approached me, and I like things that are local,” Wines says. “I like to feel like what I’m doing is actually impacting the local community.”

First Southern Bank also supports the communities it serves. The bank is involved with organizations such as United Way, 2-1-1 Broward, the Ann Storck Center, the Foundation for Orange County Schools, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Learn to Read of St. Johns County.

Despite their busy schedules, Wines advises other business leaders to get involved in the community. “You get to meet some great people, and you get to feel good at the end of the day,” she says. “It’s easy to say, ‘Well, somebody else is going to do it.’ But if everybody said that, nobody would.”

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