United Way of Miami-Dade honored four community leaders and one outstanding young person whose works have had real and lasting impact in our community at its Annual Meeting and Volunteer Awards Ceremony, in June. Also at the meeting a new slate of officers, directors and trustees were elected. Gene Schaefer, president of Bank of America for the Miami-Dade and Monroe County markets, was elected as board chair and Jayne Harris Abess concluded her two-year term as chair. The event took place at the Jungle Island Treetop Ballroom and was attended by almost 500 guests.
This year’s honorees included Eduardo J. Padron, Ph.D., one of the top educational leaders for his work in making quality higher education accessible to all students, particularly students from lower-income and immigrant families; Rudolph ‘Rudy’ Moise, D.O., a successful Haitian-American physician and business leader who has given back numerous ways, particularly as a champion for the Haitian people; Judith Lieber, a licensed mental health professional who dedicated her entire professional career to the nonprofit social services sector; Rep. Erik Fresen, who was responsible for securing an additional $5.1 million in funding for school readiness programs in Florida; and Sophia Pereira, an outstanding young woman who volunteers at the Friendship Circle, where she assists children with special needs through a series of social and respite programs.
Following is additional information on the awards and award winners:
The Dorothy Shula Award for Outstanding Volunteerism
This award honors an individual whose volunteerism and commitment to bringing hope, promise and opportunity into the lives of others has made a lasting, positive impact on a person, group or community at large.
Rudolph ‘Rudy’ Moise, D.O.
Rudolph Moise is president and medical director of the Comprehensive Health Center, treating more than 25,000 people in the South Florida community. Despite his achievements as a primary care physician in the United States and his involvements in the local community, Moise continues to give back to and advocate for his homeland, Haiti. In addition to helping facilitate several medical missions and sending vital medicines to Haiti, Moise worked to establish the first Dialysis Unit in Haiti. Following the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, Moise was one of the first doctors on the ground as a member of the Florida Urban Task Force 1, a highly trained disaster rescue team made up of 75 to 80 search and rescue specialists. He also collected and shipped more than 300,000 donated items to Haiti, after the earthquake. Moise has received numerous awards and recognitions for his outstanding public service and community leadership. He is a past recipient of the MCCJ Humanitarian of the Year Award and the American Diabetes’ Father of the Year Award, among many other honors.
The Essie Silva Community Builder Award
This award honors an individual dedicated to building bridges between people so that they can come together with a common goal despite their differences.
Eduardo J. Padrón, Ph.D.
Since 1995, Eduardo Padron he has served as president of Miami Dade College, transforming it into the largest institution of higher education in America with 175,000 students. He is credited with elevating Miami Dade College into a position of national prominence among the best and most recognized U.S. colleges and universities. Dr. Padron has paved the way for thousands of young people – many of them minorities and from low-income families – to get a college degree. In 2009, Time magazine included Dr. Padron among the “10 Best College Presidents” in the United States; in 2010, Florida Trend magazine named him “Floridian of the Year”; and in 2011, The Washington Post recognized him as one of the eight most influential college presidents in the country. Dr. Padron has also been selected to serve on posts of national prominence by six American Presidents, most recently as chair of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans by President Obama.
The Monsignor Walsh Outstanding Human Services Professional Award
This award recognizes a human services professional who has dedicated his or her career to helping others. This person, through his or her commitment of time and tales in the human services field, has helped to shape a caring, responsive social services delivery system and has afforded hundreds of people in our community an opportunity for a healthy, productive and high quality life.
Judith Lieber is a mental health professional that has worked in the nonprofit social services sector, helping others for the past 37 years. Lieber has helped develop programs and services to respond to emergent community needs. She led efforts at the Jewish Community Services of South Florida (JCS) to create programs for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender community when there were none. Lieber has also been an active member of SEDNET – a network of providers offering services for severely emotionally disturbed children, and worked with colleagues on the development of successful legislation that made emergency mental health services available to teenagers. Although recently retired as the vice president of the behavioral health division of the JCS, Lieber continues to play a vital role helping those in the community who can benefit from her expertise.
The Public Service Leadership Award
This award recognizes a local or state public servant or community leader who has demonstrated his or her great love for this community through advocacy and leadership on behalf of children, families and older adults in Florida.
Rep. Erik Fresen
State Representative Erik Fresen was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in November 2008 and was re-elected subsequently in 2010. As Chair of the Florida House Education Appropriations Committee Fresen oversees a complex, multibillion dollar education budget that includes the entire education continuum from childcare and Pre-K, to high school, college and university levels. Fresen understands the importance of early education and advocates for early learning programs in the Florida Education budget. This year, through Fresen’s strong leadership, $5.1 was added to the School Readiness budget, the first such increase in more than a decade. Over $2 million of these funds are designated for Miami-Dade and will provide much-needed child care services for more than 700 children from low-income working families.
The Outstanding Youth Award
The award recognizes an individual 18 years of age or younger for leadership, commitment and character through service and volunteerism. This award winner was announced during the ceremony.
Pereira is a 13-year-old student at Leewood K-8 Center, where she holds the title of vice president of the National Junior Honor Society and is a member of the math club and the Future Educators of America. In addition to being involved in school, Pereira volunteers at the Friendship Circle, a community-based organization dedicated to assisting families who have children with special needs through a series of social and respite programs – teaching the children to play guitar, cooking with them and playing sports, among other activities that are focused on helping them develop their physical and social skills. On Sundays, Pereira dedicates herself to teaching children at her Temple to read and write Hebrew. Pereira has also been a Goodwill Ambassador for the Junior Orange Bowl, volunteering in the International Youth Festival, as well as the Sports Ability Games – a series of athletic events designed for the physically challenged, to bring together youths to compete in the name of good sportsmanship. Through her involvements in social community work, Pereira hopes to inspire, encourage and bring a smile to countless more youths.