Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mayors Day of Service Recognizes AmeriCorps, Senior Corps Volunteers

Written by Shable Harris, Community Relations Coordinator

“Mayors are leaders who get things done, responding every day to needs in their cities.” --Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)

Those of us who work with community organizations know that mayors could not get things done without the work of service members, those dedicated individuals who invest a few months or a year of their time to working in their community. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Turning adversity into advocacy

Experiencing homelessness was anything but expected for Mariame Rodriguez and her family. Having recently relocated to Miami-Dade County from Connecticut to care for her mother, the toils of unforeseen circumstances left her with limited hope as she struggled to find a home in early 2006. Rodriguez, a mother of two children with serious health problems, a nurse and a caretaker, made a fearless phone call to the homeless hot-line holding onto the belief that “when one door closes another one opens.” 
Rodriguez lived in a homeless shelter with her family for six months then moved to transitional housing for a year and four months. This made a lasting impact on everyone in her family. “My kids suffered,” Rodriguez says. “They went through a lot and didn’t have trust or confidence. It created insecurity that, to this day, I’m still trying to break out of them.”
With every effort to instill positivity in her family’s life, Rodriguez searched for various community resources that could assist them during their time of transition. She and her eldest daughter attended a college fair presented by New Futuro where she received information on college access. At the fair she also made a connection to a program that reminded her of home: Catalyst Miami's Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI). She was initially attracted to PLTI because it originated in her hometown. “It originally came from Connecticut, so it sparked an interest and curiosity.” She then learned about the leadership, community service and advocacy components of the program, which appealed to her even more. She and her family decided to join.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Webinar: How to Win Grants from Corporate Foundations

Register today for another engaging webinar presented by The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The session will feature advice on winning grants from corporate foundations. Catalyst Miami is one of three host locations for the webinar scheduled for April 11 from 1:30 - 3 p.m
Many companies offer cash and product donations, marketing support and even professional volunteers to help nonprofits. But it's sometimes difficult to gain access to corporate officials who make decisions about philanthropy. And when they do, organizations often don't know how to present proposals that mesh with the company's goals.

Join The Chronicle of Philanthropy for a one-hour webinar that will provide a roadmap to help you navigate the complex world of corporate giving, giving you direct access to people who make the decisions about where the money goes.

Julie Gehrki and Dannielle Campos, executives at two of the nation's largest corporate foundations--Walmart and Bank of America--will discuss how to approach corporate grant makers with proposals that match their interests and goals and will offer insight into how they make decisions about which groups to support. Also, Mark Shamley of the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals will discuss broad trends and tell you what company officials want to see from grant seekers.

What Will You Learn?
  • How to craft a compelling story about your organization's impact.
  • How to create proposals that match grant makers' priorities.
  • How to build relationships that advance your organization's and grant maker's goals.
Who Should Attend?
  • Chief development officers and fundraising staff
  • Executive directors
  • Grant writers
  • Communications professionals
Miami-Dade Location:
Catalyst Miami
1900 Biscayne Blvd #200
Miami, FL 33132
Broward Location:
Community Foundation of Broward
910 East Las Olas Blvd #200
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Palm Beach Location:
United Way of Palm Beach County
2600 Quantam Blvd
Boynton Beach, FL 33426

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Catalyst Invites You to Share Your Healthcare Story

Three community members who came with Catalyst Miami to the recent Town Hall on Florida Legislative Session 2013 weighed in on Medicaid Expansion. At the ages of 25, 55, and 60, these three men shared personal stories to illustrate how Medicaid Expansion could help those who are under- or uninsured in the state of Florida. Listen to our supporters and others engage in conversations surrounding healthcare, political transparency, education, and redistricting at the full recording of the Town Hall on Session 2013 here.

In a recent article in The Florida Current, Julio Fuentes, president of the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce says, "Extending health coverage through Medicaid helps businesses and many service sectors--such as retail, restaurants and tourism. When employees in these businesses have access to health care, absenteeism is reduced and we have a healthier workforce that will benefit all Floridians."

Catalyst Miami will continue to put pressure on our lawmakers to ensure that Florida's working families have opportunities to access quality and affordable healthcare. We will be visiting Tallahassee April 2-4 to stand up for Medicaid Expansion during Miami-Dade Days in the state capital. We will be joined by supporters like you, and want to ensure your story is shared with our lawmakers. How do you see Medicaid Expansion benefiting Floridians? What's your story? Share with us here.

Over 40 supporters joined Catalyst Miami on a bus to Broward County for the Town Hall on Session 2013 hosted by WLRN and the Miami Herald.

"It was a learning experience to attend my first town hall meeting. It was very cool to have had the opportunity to ask our senators questions that are important to us. Senator Latvala gave a succinct and straightforward answer when asked if he was in favor of medicaid expansion. He was all for it." Carlos is hoping to pursue a career as a lawyer representing people with mental illness. He’s a paralegal student at Miami-Dade.
-Carlos Larrauri, Town Hall on Session 2013 participant.

To take action and receive updates on issues pertaining to access to affordable health care, visit To receive updates from Catalyst Miami and find out more about the trip to Tallahassee for Miami Dade Days, contact Lori Deus at

Thursday, March 14, 2013

PhilanthroFest 2013: NonProfit Applications Now Open

Application Due Date:March 15, 2013

Event Date: April 6th, 2013
Event Location: Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus

300 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33132

Philanthrofest is a volunteer-based organization that connects people, passion and philanthropy in South Florida. The PhilanthroFest team celebrates the South Florida arts community, philanthropic organizations and community resources annually in a free, large-scale community event.
Now in its second year, PhilanthroFest 2013 will take place on Saturday, April 6th and be located at Miami Dade College's Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami. It provides an incredible opportunity to connect thousands of South Florida residents to valuable resources and services in the areas of Business & Economic Development, City/County Services, Civic Engagement/Community Improvement & Capacity Building, Cultural/Arts/Humanities, Educational, Environmental, Health/Human Services/Disease Prevention, Poverty/Welfare, Animal Related, Food/Agriculture/Nutrition, Recreation & Sports, and Youth Development & Services.

The primary goal is to bring potential volunteers and donors together with not-for-profit organizations, while creating an environment that promotes civic engagement, deepens community connections and sparks the philanthropic spirit of South Florida. PhilanthroFest also strives to provide educational resources to non-profits in the areas of social media and on-line engagement, digital marketing and web development via collaborations between public/private partners and industry experts to create events such as our Non-Profit Community Engagement Institutes.
We are. excited to announce that we are just one month away from PhilanthroFest's main event, and there are only days left to apply in order to be considered for 2013. If you or someone you know works and/or volunteers for a non-profit/cultural arts organization based out of South Florida, please submit your application on-line byFriday, March 15th. Space is limited, so do not delay and visit this link today to learn more. To apply, visit the application page.

If you have any questions regarding the above, please email Naomi Ross at

We are also accepting applications for artists and vendors.
Call For Artists
Vendor Application
Interested in Volunteering for PhilanthroFest? Great! Fill out this form.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Making a Difference and Impacting Lives: An Ally's Reflection during AmeriCorps Week

written by De'Azia Baldwin, Public Ally, University of Miami
Who are you? Where are you going? How do you get there? These life questions become more and more difficult to answer in the midst of an ever changing global community. Finding your niche, knowing what road to travel on and, more importantly, having the faith in yourself to follow the road to your dreams are imperative components of any good leader. Then there is the hanging question, can I really lead?
I, like many of my fellow Allies, had a strong since of urgency with regards to figuring out life and becoming this awesome person everyone else said they saw in me. But how do I get there?
De'Azia Baldwin (Public Ally '13) explains
 service learning opportunities to a University of Miami student.
I moved to Miami for graduate school, and after my first year I was miserable. I hated the city, realized the graduate program wasn’t for me, and longed to return home. As I began contemplating leaving the city a friend of mine handed me a brochure  about Public Allies Miami. DING! A light turned on in me. As I read about the program my interest and respect for the organization grew. I applied and was accepted into the 2012-2013 Publi Allies Miami class.

Despite the challenges, I must say this is one of the best decisions I’ve made thus far. Often times my fellow Allies and I get together and talk about life, our placements, next steps, and our passions. I stopped to ponder over my work as a Public Ally in Miami and discovered how instrumental this program has been in helping me shape and define my ambitions.

Many people join AmeriCorps programs during transition periods in life. Rather than sitting stagnant or wondering aimlessly through life, we seek to fulfill our sense of commitment to the greater good and consider taking advantage of the opportunity to travel to other countries and become enriched by new cultures. That’s great, but what about all of the diverse cultures here? What about the commitment to myself? After talking to my fellow Allies I realized one of the things that resonated with all of us about the program is the opportunity and emphasis on self-growth. Public Allies is not just about how you can help others;  it’s about how you can help others by helping yourself.

What do I mean?

Our five core values are: collaboration, continuous learning, diversity and inclusion, asset-based, and integrity. It seems cliché to say that you can’t have one without the other. However, I think Public Allies Miami embodies that as reality. Each of the Allies has their own story, area of interest, and innate talents. We are a diverse group, but what bonds us together is the sense of home we have found with each other. I have found that the Miami Allies are some of the most inclusive people I have ever met. I mean this not in the generic sense were we are inclusive at trainings or working in the community. It is far more than that; we enjoy the diversity we share.

In fact, our Ally class is an example of what the vision for Miami communities is. Diverse ethnicities, social and economic backgrounds, and orientations working together, seeking to understand each other for one reason; that reason being when everything is stripped away we are all just human. After all, this sense of humanity is what motivates us to give back and pull up our communities. Being inclusive does not mean you try to change the other person’s beliefs either. That’s were integrity comes in. Allies are accountable to each other. We respect each other, valuing each other’s insight.

Aristotle said, “it is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.” You cannot win a debate with a PA Miami member because we are too strong minded and quick witted, but you should debate us because we will hold you to your beliefs. The Miami Ally experience is helping all of us to define our personal values. The activities, the training, the coaching sessions, the companionship strengthens who we are as people. When Paul, the CEO of Public Allies, came to visit us we discussed what it was that made a bad leader, the answer is lack of integrity. What you do, how you think and feel, and your opinions are all a part of your leadership style. One of the most valuable aspects of the program is the opportunity for the Ally to step back and say, “this is how I want to be perceived, this is my self-image, and this is what I need to work on to make sure I’m projecting that to other.” 

Some Allies came from out of state with no connection to Miami other than the Public Allies program. Collaboration and asset-based thinking quickly became necessary to navigate this city. We worked together to find things to do, places to live, things to see. We built on our assets, relying on our Miami natives to give us the ins and outs and working together to ensure work didn’t take over our lives. In fact, with the amount of work we do as Allies burn-out should come quick but it doesn’t. Because collaboration isn’t just for capacity building at our placements or building team service projects, it’s for when things get rough and you need someone to balance you. It’s for when you need a smile and they have an extra joke. Collaboration is motivation. It means saying this is where I am headed, this is where you are headed, and this is how we can strengthen and support each other to get where we want to be. As Allies, we have learned each other strengthens and weaknesses, leadership styles, hidden talents, biggest fears, and wildest dreams. Being asset-based in our daily lives benefits us individually. I know who to call on if I need a photographer, a therapy session, to discuss the rights of women, or figure out what type of butterfly I caught.

Now what about being a continuous learner?

Allies learn from each other every day. From a sense of fashion to the causes being fought for in various countries, the Public Allies of Miami are well informed. We share knowledge, we debate, we learn random facts, we present new perspectives on common issues. This is how we learn. Our program managers work hard to provide us with a variety of information during our training sessions but more than that, they create a free and safe space were we can discuss any issue. They understand that it’s not just the presenters that we learn from; in fact, I am pretty sure they only bring in the presenters as a catalyst to fuel our discussions. It’s the difference between theory and applied knowledge. We are growing as people, personally and professionally.

We are a family and family pushes you forward. We learn from each other, we see the impact these lessons have in our lives and the lives of our peers so when we do go into the community the connection is there, we get it! There is always a debate surrounding the phrase “ignorance is bliss”. Working as a Public Ally in Miami, I realize that this statement is true because it's only through acknowledging your ignorance that you can become enlightened. In our communities, the more you think you know, the less you are open to learning. The less you learn, the less you grow; and the less you grow the less you can empower yourself or others. So the “bliss” of ignorance is the potential to gain new knowledge.

Location is everything, and what better place to be than the sunny beaches of Miami. But, if you ask one of the Allies the benefit of being here is not only the sun but, the fact that we don’t have to leave our own neighborhoods to experience new cultures. I don’t have to wait to get my passport stamped to eat authentic Cuban or fly across the ocean to take photos of exotic plants and animals. I can call my fellow Allies and take a trip to Little Havana or step outside and visit one of the many botanical gardens. I can experience the beauty of Haitian art or take a trip to the past in one of the many historical neighborhoods the city offers. I realized what made the city unbearable  to when I first relocated was that I wasn’t engaged. I had no new experiences in a city so rich in culture and history. Public Allies has changed that for me.

I asked the Allies to give me their input on what they’ve gotten from the program so far. Many of the ideas I expressed are based on the thoughts and conversations we have shared. One of the Allies said, “I get to view Miami in a perspective not many get to see as well as work with brilliant minded people who are out to make a difference.” Public Allies forces you to look deeper, to accept not only the differences of others, but also to accept your own differences. Those differences make us unique, they make us human.

What does all of this mean to the communities we serve?

It means they get a group of people who are dedicated and determined to making a change. A group of young people that embrace diversity and revel in the wealth of knowledge housed in the communities we serve, just waiting to be tapped into. As Allies we are future leaders; leaders who will be capable of compassion and understanding and who won’t hesitate to acknowledge where and when we need help and reach out to fill that gap. Public Allies Miami is a family. Once a Public Ally, always a Public Ally.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sequestering the American Dream, House after House

Nearly all housing assistance and community development programs will see cuts this year. The federal government has deemed it reasonable to lower our deficit by sequestering approximately $54.7 billion in government non-defense spending. Bringing it down to our home state, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will lose $67.3 billion in funding. 

To give you an image of what this would look like, imagine a struggling family losing this rent assistance, causing them to be unable to pay their rent, and eventually driving them to homelessness... Now multiply that times 5,470, the amount of families that would be affected by cuts to Section 8 in our state1. Now consider that Homeless Assistance will be cut by $4.6 million.

The amount of stress a family at risk of losing housing experiences, the amount of shame that even the working poor are subjected to, and the myriad of other problems that accompany these shortcoming, including lack of access to proper nutrition, are all deeply affecting forces making the American Dream impossible for the nearly 50 million people living in poverty in United States.

Please call your Representatives and ask them to reverse the sequestration cuts to vital services such as those provided by the HUD and call your Senators and
 let them know you oppose the additional 10% cuts to homeless program funding that passed the U.S. House yesterday!  These additional cuts would devastate existing programs. 

You can reach your Senators at:

Senator Bill Nelson – Washington, D.C.  202-224-5274 or
Senator Marco Rubio – Washington, D.C.  202-224-3041 or

1. Numbers received from the Miami Coalition for the Homeless  

New Voices for Better Transit in Miami

Written by Felix Acuña

From a lack of covered bus stops and a scarce amount of routes, to inconsistent schedules and questionably affordable fares, Miami's transit system needs a good deal of improvements.
To put it simply, if public transit were better, people would be more willing to use it, and that would make all of our lives better (start by thinking of less traffic). Since we can't expect that more people will simply start using public transit more frequently, to the degree that will bring about more buses, trains, routes, and hours of operation, Miami's change-makers, led by a group of Urban Planning graduate students from FAU, are reaching out to local authorities at this never-seen-before event: The Purple Line opening. In a recent Biscayne Times article, Adam Schachner, a core member of Emerge, summarizes it pretty well: “The experimental station is part commuter activism, part civic engagement, and part pop-up art experience, illustrating what many Miami commuters crave: a transit stop with a cosmopolitan feel.”

We hope you'll be a part of this emerging collective effort to improve transit and the lives of all Miamians.

Where: 3651 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, Florida 33137

When: March 8th 12pm-10pm & March 9th 10am-11pm

For more info regarding transportation and the lineup:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Civic Innovation at the Purple Line: Transforming Miami through Civic Connections

The Purple Line is Coming March 8 & 9!
Commuter advocates are no strangers to civic engagement in this community. In fact, a new project headed by urban planning graduate students at Florida Atlantic University highlights just how much social innovation and civic engagement have their place not only in envisioning, but also in creating a thriving Miami. The Purple Line is a unique collaboration between commuter advocates and residents who envision improvements in Miami’s public transportation system and is the first of what advocates hope will be a series of urban projects aimed at addressing transit issues currently plaguing this city. Catalyst Miami is proud to be part of this grassroots initiative for better transit.

The grand opening of the Purple Line will be held Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9 in Parking Lot 54 located at the corner of NE 2nd Avenue and 36thStreet. This underutilized transit hub under the I-195 overpass will be transformed into a pop-up installation for community residents to visit and visualize the strong connectivity that can take place at one of the city’s frequented commuter stops.

On March 9, Catalyst Miami is teaming up with the Purple Line to bring a TED-talk inspired series and conversation café dubbed “Imagine a ‘Connected Miami’: Lot54 Imagine(d).” The conversation café will engage community members in discussions surrounding improved transportation, sustainability, and civic engagement. The idea behind Imagine Miami is to connect people to place and promote civic networking where it otherwise may not happen. Lori Deus, Community Engagement Director at Catalyst Miami, is confident The Purple Line will do just that this coming weekend. “Being involved in the Purple Line has truly been an amazing, inspiring experience. I hope that people who attend these talks will walk away feeling the ways I do: connected to people, place, and community knowing we not only can but will make a difference.”

Pay the outdoor space a visit on Saturday, March 9 to see some of the area’s best artwork, immerse in live music performances, confess your innermost transit hopes and woes, and engage in this dynamic discussion. Imagine just how the future of Miami’s transportation system links with the work community activists are doing to increase civic engagement and create sustainable impact surrounding The Purple Line’s transportation efforts. Presenters include nonprofit leaders and activists Daniella Levine, Tony Garcia, Christopher Noe, Danaye Hinds, Anna McMacster, Irvans Augustin, and Marta Viciedo.

The details on the conversation café are as follows:

Imagine a "Connected" Miami

Lot54 Imagine(d): Civic Innovation at the Purple Line Cafe.

March 9, 2013

4 - 7 p.m.

3651 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, Florida 33137

Catalyzing Civic Engagement: Daniella Levine, Catalyst Miami
Placemaking and DIY Urbanism: Tony Garcia, The Street Plans Collaborative
Social Innovation: Christopher Noe, Nonprofits First
Sustainability: Danaye Hinds, OBM International
Opportunity and Access: Anna McMaster, Irvans Augustin, and Marta Viciedo, The Purple Line

 Reflections and Closing Remarks

We hope to see you at there.

Prosperity Campaign Celebrates First Client Appreciation Day

Written By Vaughan Johnson, Prosperity Capacity Coordinator

For the very first time, Catalyst Miami's Prosperity Team had the opportunity to provide our constituents with a Client Appreciation Day (C.A.D.). On Monday, February 4 we invited our clients to attend a full day of informational workshops that addressed various issues in healthcare, financial stability, affordable housing and so forth.

The idea was to provide workshops that would expose our constituents to the numerous free services and greatly beneficial information that is available to them; and thanks to some of our partner organizations we did just that. The clients got a great deal of information on affordable housing thanks to a presentation by the Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida. Clients were also educated by Herman Koch, a Florida Blue Cross and Blue Shield Community Health Educator on the changes in healthcare and the healthcare reform. They also got free legal assistance from Legal Services of Greater Miami, citizenship information, early childhood information and tips, in additional to a whole heap of financial coaching and planning strategies.
The robust number of clients actively engaged in the various discussions made the event a great success. During the event we had a heart-filled testimonial by Rosemine Lederl, an active long-time client and mother who has had first-hand experience with our Prosperity Program initiatives. She shared her profound story about how free financial counseling has helped her to improve her credit score as well as equipped her with much needed budgeting strategies.