Philanthropic Champions

Giving back is essential for building stronger communities, fostering empathy and inspiring the next generation. It cultivates a sense of responsibility and creates opportunities for those in need. Ultimately, it enriches both the giver and the receiver in ways that only those who experience altruism for themselves can understand.
Words by Jorge Arauz | Photos by Wioletta Bublik | March 29, 2024 | People

Eternal Influence

For more than 30 years, Rolando D. Rodriguez has been launching and leading the creation of non-profit organizations through fundraising campaigns, board development, strategic planning, grants and events. “I coach, train and mentor executive staff and board members to make a difference,” says Rodriguez, the President & CEO of CrossPoint Philanthropy. Among his greatest accomplishments, he founded and led Jackson Health Foundation for 20 years, serving as the principal force behind the creation of Holtz Children’s Hospital and the International Kids Fund. He has also guided many wonderful causes in recent years including Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Florida, PATCHES, Friendship Circle of Miami, Coral Gables Community Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami, and Breakthrough Collaborative. His earliest memory of the spirit of giving was when he himself was a recipient of the generosity of others. “While I was at camp one summer, I realized I was there on a scholarship, and that through the kindness of others I was learning and participating in an experience that I would never have had otherwise,” he says. “I’ve never forgotten that there are those who need help and whose entire life can be changed forever by a helping hand, mentorship and guidance. Now I get to help others do the same, and to leverage my knowledge to maximize the ripple effects of philanthropy for generations to come.”;

Life Of Giving

Miami native Ashley D. Williams serves as an Asylum Officer with the Department of Homeland Security, where she makes critical decisions to determine the sensitive nature regarding the freedoms of others in the U.S. She also currently serves as the Co-Chair for the Community Beautification Committee for the Miami-Dade Southern Pearls Chapter of Top Ladies of Distinction and is an active member of the Metropolitan Dade County Section of the National Council Of Negro Women, leading, empowering and advocating for women of African descent, their families and communities. After the passing of her mother, Williams channeled her grief into action, giving birth to The Posh Way. “Inspired by her legacy, I made philanthropy my mission, aiming to pass on the foundation she instilled within me to empower young girls and women,” she says. Each year, she honors her mother’s memory by awarding The Desiree Walker Scholarship to a graduating senior bound for college; and she hosts a Divine Sisterhood seminar that prioritizes the physical and mental well-being of women, serving as a platform for community engagement and advocacy on issues that women face daily as they forge their own journey. “To become engaged in the community, start by pinpointing your interests and values,” she says. “I truly believe that community involvement fosters personal growth, empathy, communication, and leadership skills while exposing you to diverse perspectives. In doing so, you make a positive impact on not only yourself but on the world around you.”; @The.Posh.Way

Community Connector

Reflecting on her earliest memories of giving back to others, Soraya Rivera-Moya is transported back to her childhood when her parents planned an annual Epiphany Day event at the family’s farmhouse in Puerto Rico. “It was a time of warmth and generosity, as we opened our doors to the less fortunate in our neighborhood, providing them with meals and gifts to brighten their spirits during the festive season,” she says. “This early exposure to philanthropy planted the seeds of compassion within me, ultimately guiding my path toward a career focused on providing others a ‘home away from home’.” For the past 21 years, she has done just that through her work helming Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Florida. “It’s been an incredible ride, filled with moments of joy, compassion, and resilience,” she says. “It has been a privilege to witness firsthand the impact of our work on families facing medical crises, providing them with the hope, comfort, support and resources they need during challenging times. While I’m immensely proud of all that we’ve accomplished, I’m also aware that there is still a lot of important work to be done.”;

Leading The Way

As the President & CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty, Ron Shuffield gets to meet and interact with more people than most in the fast-paced world of real estate. Through it all, he still makes giving back a priority. He is especially passionate about his involvement with Baptist Health South Florida, where he has held a number of roles on the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees. He also served as a Founding Board Member of Doctors Hospital and the Miami Cancer Institute. His community outreach does not end there. He is also actively involved in various Chambers as well as The Beacon Council, United Way Miami, FIU Foundation, The Kirk Foundation and National Christian Foundation, among many others. “While people most often think of philanthropy as giving gifts of money and other material resources, the gifts of our time, active listening and sound counsel are most times more valuable and more long-lasting,” he says. “My memories of the simple words of encouragement, education or appreciation directed toward me from those whom I have respected throughout my life are the ones which still continue to inspire me to persevere today.”;

Full Circle

When she was a little girl, Sandra Bermudez remembers her father pulled over on a sweltering day to assist a family stranded on the highway. “I recall feeling impatient, questioning why we had to stop — my father’s response has stayed with me ever since: ‘Every opportunity to help someone is a gift to yourself. We always help.’,” she shares. “Moved by my dad’s words, I invited their child to join me in our car, where we played with my dolls. Before she left, I gave her one of my dolls to keep. That act of kindness, inspired by my father’s example, planted a seed in my heart about the importance of giving and the joy it brings.” Today, as the CEO & Founder of The Lucy Project (named after her daughter’s struggles with dyslexia), she gets to transform the trajectory of young lives through literacy by way of tailored reading interventions, empowering educators with evidence-based teaching strategies, and ensuring every child has access to books. “Witnessing a child’s journey from confusion to clarity, from frustration to joy in reading, is a deeply moving experience that drives me every day,” she says. Born in Chicago, she grew up in Bogotá, studied in Milan and lived in New York for 20 years before relocating to Miami. “The vibrant energy, diverse cultures, and the sense of community in Miami is unmatched,” she says. “The city’s unique blend of opportunities, its welcoming spirit, and its beautiful landscape have made it the perfect place to call home.”;