“Giving back to me means loving wholeheartedly what you do — it means showing up as your full self to bless others with your natural talents and gifts.”
Artist-preneur & Founder of Empressive Expression, Jasmin Singletary a.k.a Jaiye Empress is on a mission to spread creativity wherever she goes. As a Teaching Artist at S.O.U.L. Sisters Leadership Collective, she works to mobilize systems-involved girls, and non-binary youth of color — Black, Brown and Indigenous — to interrupt cycles of violence, poverty and oppression. “The earliest I can remember being actively conscious of my desire to give back was in college,” she says. “I did a lot of tutoring and mentorship at first as part of my studies and student employment, and quickly began realizing the impact attached to my work so I sought additional opportunities to serve in this manner.” She believes it’s important to be intentional about showing up and to show up authentically. “Before anything, you must first figure out what showing up means to you,” she says. “It could mean writing letters, making calls, cleaning, community organizing, fundraising, creating art, performing, networking and so much more. Figure out what your community needs, what you are good at and how you can use what you’re good at to benefit the community.” Looking toward the future, one thing remains constant: “Giving back to me means loving wholeheartedly what you do — it means showing up as your full self to bless others with your natural talents and gifts,” she says. “It means consciously investing time, energy and passion to support causes and communities and always paying the good vibes forward.”; SOULSistersLeadership.org.
“We are in this world not so much for what we can get out of it, but for what we can put into it!”
Marcel Laniado is a superstar banker by day and a hero in every other aspect of his life. Through his work with United Way of Miami-Dade and the Volunteer Leadership Group at JPMorgan Chase, he helps build stronger community ties through the programs and assistance offered in the areas of education, financial stability, health and volunteer opportunities. “An ambition to be involved has always been very strong within me,” he says. For the past several years, his volunteerism has been focused on helping others get engaged. His many milestones include coordinating more than 42 events with 1,200+ volunteers since 2019, including meal services for Chapman Partnership; food sorting for Feeding South Florida; back-to-school supply drives for Overtown Youth Center, Branches and Coconut Grove Cares; and holiday toy drives for Easter Seals and Centro Campesinos. “One event that stands out is a school rejuvenation project for United Way where we had close to 75 volunteers come out to clean up, paint and fix a local public school,” he says. “I remember some of us were in the teacher’s lounge when we realized the refrigerator didn’t work. We quickly started a crowd funding campaign and had a fridge ordered and delivered that day!” Besides engagement events, he’s also extremely proud of the dollars raised and hours spent helping by way of the Young Leaders of United Way, where more than 1,700 volunteers have signed up and completed over 6,000 hours of community service. “We are in this world not so much for what we can get out of it, but for what we can put into it,” he says. “It’s inspiring to witness how powerful a group of volunteers can be and what a lasting impact they can have on the community!”; UnitedWayMiami.org.
“There are so many roles people can play in helping — the key is to get out there and get involved!”
After a successful career in the financial services industry as a Financial Advisor & Planner, working for leading companies including EF Hutton & Co., Dean Witter, Reynolds and Morgan Stanley, Lucille Zanghi left the Boston suburbs for Miami 12 years ago in search of better weather, a big city atmosphere and a more favorable tax climate. With her Golden Retrievers, Abby and Chloe, by her side, she supports Born Free Pet Shelter with everything she’s got. “We feel that dogs have made a pact with humans to give us love and in return we need to take care of them,” she says. Her involvement with the organization began 10 years ago when she learned of the No Kill/No Cage shelter operated almost entirely by volunteers. “I thought that, given my past financial experience, I could assist in the area of fundraising.” Today, she, along with many other volunteers, runs the Annual Born Free Pet Shelter Fundraiser, a dynamic experience that raises a good portion of what is needed to operate the shelter. “The first event I attended for Born Free Pet Shelter raised $35,000; our most recent fundraiser in 2019 before the pandemic, raised just under $275,000.” They also raised close to $350,000 after Hurricane Irma to repair major damage to the shelter’s infrastructure and property, including replacing 25 dog houses. “There are so many roles people can play in helping — the key is to get out there and get involved,” she says. “The old adage of volunteering is to give of your time, talent and/or treasure — some of us have more of one than another, but whatever you have, give it freely and you will find amazing fulfillment. It’s not all work…it can also be lots of fun!”; BornFreeShelter.org.
Don Slesnick III
“Even the things we don’t see or touch can have an impact — it’s our responsibility to continually give back for the greater good.”
Miami native Don Slesnick III is as tech-savvy as they come. In addition to serving as the Executive Director of South Florida Digital Alliance, he owns and operates leading boutique IT consulting firm DecoNetworks. “Both of my parents have been very community-minded and civically engaged since I was a child and stressed the importance of giving back from an early age,” he says. “From community service projects with Boy Scouts and my Church Youth Group to volunteering during Hurricane Andrew and other natural disasters, helping others has always been a very big part of my life.” Currently, he is razor-focused on the “Bridging The Digital Divide” initiative with South Florida Digital Alliance. “We’ve had such a great impact in getting computers and technology out to help students, families, schools and nonprofits,” he says. “In addition, we’ve hosted workshops for nonprofits to understand and adopt best practices for technology and get the best returns on investment; senior citizens to gain more confidence in using technology to improve their quality of life; and students, to highlight pathways and related educational opportunities for a successful career in technology.” To date, the organization has helped place more than 4,000 computers back into the community. “I’m always hearing great stories of how the computers we provide offer a transformational experience for people’s lives — especially as the world and the current crises have many of our kids on virtual learning and adults working from home — not an easy task when you don’t have a computer.” Slesnick truly believes that we are a product of our communities — the good, the bad, all of it. “Even the things we don’t see or touch can have an impact — it’s our responsibility to continually give back for the greater good.”; SFDigitalAlliance.org.