4 Unexpected Ways To Get Involved (And 4 Cool Miamians Who Do!)

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We've filled up your schedules with the best brunches, parties, and even places to day drink, but we’re more than just it boozing it up in the Magic City, people. We’re introducing you to four Miami do-gooders that have their plates — and hearts — full in a different way. We’ve scoped out the deets on their organizations and scoured some pointers on how you can involved, too. So, trade in that happy hour cocktail for a leash, swing by a thrift store, and make some art for a cause — it’s time to show the world that Miamians are just as generous as we are fun.

Jen Ford Paws 4 You

Jen Ford, Paws 4 You
What do you do at Paws 4 You?
"I am a volunteer and in charge of all the marketing for the Rescue."

How did you get started with the organization?
"I began volunteering at Paws 4 You Rescue shortly after Carol Caridad created it. I was interested in saving a dog at Miami-Dade Animal Services, and it was recommended that I work with Carol since that was her main objective."

What’s a typical day for you on the job?
"There is no typical day for me, but I check the website, Facebook, and Twitter pages to keep the information fresh. I also coordinate vet visits with foster families, work on fundraising ideas, make decisions with the board on various topics and update current medical files into a database for easy access — all while I work as a media planner and buyer."

How can locals get involved with Paws 4 You?
"The organization always needs volunteers for our weekly adoption events, quarterly fundraising initiatives and paperwork/administrative work."

Paws 4 You, No address, 786-242-RESQ. paws4you.org

Photo: Courtesy of Paws 4 You
LotusHouse2

Constance Margulies, Lotus House
How did you get started with Lotus House. What exactly is it?
"Let’s just say, I was very blessed to be given an opportunity to give back after a successful career in business. The needs of women and children on the street called to me. I have been working…to create in Lotus House a sanctuary that provides the support, tools, and resources homeless women need to build new lives. Our services range from individual and group counseling to job readiness training and include medical and mental health care and enrichment activities with alternative pathways to healing. Lotus House is a place…where women who have suffered unimaginable traumas are given a safe haven in which to reclaim their lives and begin again."

What is your title at the Lotus House?
"I am a full-time volunteer and director."

What does a typical day on the job consist of?
"My days are crazy busy, rich in spirit, filled with tears of pain and joy and full of love! Imagine a very big extended family, with all its challenges, deep friendships, caring, learning, healing, and growth. Lotus House serves over 110 women and children on a daily basis — that translates to over 35,000 nightly shelter beds and 65,000 meals on an annual basis. With counseling, job readiness training, parenting classes, recovery meetings, art, dance, yoga, meditation, movie nights, and more, each day weaves a journey of discovery and fulfillment."

How can locals contribute to Lotus House?
"Lotus House could not be what it is without the hundreds of people each year who volunteer their time and donate resources to support the women and children we serve. Our women’s wellness clinic is staffed entirely by volunteers. We have tutors, artists, dance teachers, yoga teachers, IT specialists, graphic designers, writers, businesses, schools, and countless concerned citizens in the community who make what we do possible every day. All of our enrichment programming, from yoga, dance, and walking club to creative writing, photography, tutoring, literacy classes, job interview preparation, and much more are provided by volunteers. Volunteers also regularly donate their time at our thrift store and at our annual art fundraiser, the Art Live Fair. We are always in need of financial contributions at all levels to Lotus House and to the Lotus Endowment Fund, to ensure the shelter can operate day to day and will be here for generations to come."

Tell us more about Art Live:
Since 2005, we have had an annual art event in support of Lotus House. Last year, we expanded our one-night art event to a three-day art fair, now called Art Live Fair (also known as Wynwood Art Fair). This is an interactive, performance-based, contemporary 'art happening' and fair in which artists and exhibitors are invited to share the creative process unfolding spontaneously in every form of artistic medium, and engage the fairgoers in the creative process. This year, we have more than 65 artists who will perform over three days as volunteers to support the shelter. 100% of fair proceeds benefit Lotus House. It provides nearly a third of our operating expenses each year. This year, the Fair will run from October 26-28. There are still sponsorship opportunities available, so join us!"

Lotus House, 217 NW 15th Street, 305-576-4780, lotushouseshelter.org

Photo: Courtesy of The Lotus House
South Florida Wild

Matthew Schwartz, South Florida Wildland Association

How did you become so invested in South Florida's wildlands?
"The organization was formed in March of 2010. I was hired by the board of directors as executive director shortly after. Before working for the organization, I held many volunteer titles with the local Sierra Club group in Broward County. I had been an outings leader, political chair, Everglades chair, and conservation chair. Ever since I moved to South Florida in the mid-'90s I have been fascinated by the beauty and biodiversity of the Everglades, and especially the Big Cypress National Preserve just a short drive west of Ft. Lauderdale on I-75. I hike there often by myself or with friends and love taking people out there on organized 'swampwalks.' It was my desire to protect places like the Big Cypress and the varied wildlife it supports, including the critically endangered Florida panther, which led to my full-time work with South Florida Wildlands Association."

What is your position with the organization?
"I am the executive director."

What does a day on the job consist of?
"Generally lots of writing and time spent on my laptop. I send emails to colleagues, attorneys, government officials and members of the public. I also talk to people from the press often, and update our Facebook page on a daily basis. We send out alerts to our supporters about once a month, so I'm always working on public information. I do fundraising, attend lots of meetings, and have conference calls with colleagues from other environmental organizations, meetings with government officials, and occasionally meet with a developer who might disagree with our position. I do a lot, but I don't text though — just never picked up that habit."

How can others get involved?
"Most of what we do involves advocacy with land managers and staff of major government agencies like the National Park Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Sometimes we deal with elected officials. We communicate our positions with the general public through emailed action alerts, our website, and our Facebook page. They can also send me an email to get added to our email list."

South Florida Wildlands Association, P.O. Box 30211, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33303, 954-634-7173. southfloridawild.org

Photo: Courtesy of South Florida Wildlands
Independant 2_Courtesy of Independant Thinkers copy

Laraine Hart, Miami’s Independent Thinkers

How did the idea for Miami’s Independent Thinkers come about?
"Franceasca Seiden came up with the name and idea in the summer of 2009 and then contacted a team of about 10 people she thought would work great together. We all met one night and were presented with the opportunity to create a four-day art fair during Art Basel Miami Beach. The idea for the art fair was to provide a platform for local South Florida artists to showcase their work during this international event. The first fair was a success. The original team dwindled down to four: Heather Read, Sara Read, Kerry McLaney, and me. We are the foundation that continued on the dream. The four of us have managed Miami's Independent Thinkers through numerous other local art events and the 2010 & 2011 Editions of Miami's Independent Thinkers Art Fair. Every year we raise the bar for the fair and every year we exceed our own expectations."

What does a day on the job consist of for the four of you?
"We basically all share founder/director status so each of us does whatever needs to be done, from sponsorship to contract agreements, to artist’s relations, to sweeping the floors, to building and painting the walls, to hanging and handling the art work. I believe it is hard for any of us to even view this as a job. It’s a passion. There is never an ordinary or common day on the job for us. It’s ever-changing and our roles are always evolving. Most of the time we deal with artists, venues, and media outlets. As strong passionate women, we work through everything that comes our way."

How can others get involved?
Volunteers can email us directly or contact us through Facebook or Twitter (@miamithinkers). Local artists can submit their work via our website.

Miami Independent Thinkers, miamithinkers.com

Photo: Courtesy of Miami Independent Thinker's Facebook Page