by Jaimie M. Engle
A giving heart offers its time, resources and finances. That is the mutual voice of Brevard’s philanthropists who work to build the community through their involvement in various charities. Each of these amazing men and women inspire, equip, and integrate others throughout Brevard County and the world beyond. During the month of November, it’s wonderful to stop and think about what you’re thankful for, and SpaceCoast Living is thankful for the following volunteers.
Steve SolteszGetting Others Involved Firsthand
Steve Soltesz works in and gives back to Brevard. President-elect of the Suntree Rotary, on the board of Raise International, and the new treasurer and executive board member of The Haven, this husband and father is a true philanthropist. “In Rotary, it’s not just about giving money, but rather getting physically involved,” shared Steve, as he recalled his first volunteer experience. “These people are serious about what they do and I can wrap my mind around it.” Raise International teaches Jamaicans how to start and run a business for a successful future.
In Haiti, the program funds Tabitha’s House, home to 19 girls who learn life skills to prepare them for the workforce. In college, Steve studied international program development planning and environmental sustainability. Working with Raise International allows him to merge tech with heart. Locally, The Haven rehabilitates foster kids by bridging the gap between homes and institutionalization. It’s his personal mission. “These organizations make up the unseen fabric that support the quality of life in this community, lower crime rates and serve as a place to meet likeminded individuals.” Steve believes in supporting local fundraisers by attending events, giving money, and sharing with others, a wonderful idea for everyone. Help at TheHavenForChildren.com and Raise.International
Mark BromsAiding with Early Learning in the County
Mark Broms uses his time and experience to contribute to Brevard’s pulse. “There’s an enormous heart in this community — oversized. Faith-based and nonprofits in Brevard are greater per capita than throughout the country.” Serving as the VP of the Early Learning Coalition Board, Chairman of the Brevard County Public Library Advisory Board, and head of planning for the newly formed Brevard Homeless Coalition, Mark describes himself as an active board member. “I get engaged in the organization’s work in a more fundamental way than is normally the case.” With a degree in early education, Mark opened a daycare in Palm Bay once he moved to Brevard. He’d become engaged in family affairs, rescued kids from highly dangerous situations, and sheltered them from volatile families. “I provided an environment where every kid could expect a safe haven.” As a past board member of Rolling Readers, Mark believes more adults need to read to kids, especially at-risk kids who fall behind during summer. They aren’t exposed to activities such as vacations, camps, and programs available to families with money to spend, and in a world with endless cash flow, he would provide extracurricular programs for these families at no cost. Donate at ElcBrevard.org and RollingReadersSpaceCoast.com
Robin WhitingFamily is All About Love
Robin Whiting became Brevard County’s first female firefighter. She’s served as an EMT, a NICU nurse and a foster parent to more than 30 children over the years. But her life changed on December 10, 2004, when she met 11-month-old Robinson. He was on her caseload, medically fragile and the saddest baby she’d ever seen. “The doctor said Robinson wouldn’t ever thrive; never walk, talk, or amount to anything. I knew he had fight; I knew he’d be better than that.” She swore on that day she would adopt him. And she did. Robin has since adopted Jenna, Tori, and Cayce — biological sisters to Robie — with her fifth child joining the family on November 20, 2015. “They’re all special, all have their own stories; but it started with Robie.” Her work with Children’s Medical Services and Brevard Family Partnership provides sick and unwanted children a chance at life. She found her niche in this world. “I’ve never been more passionate about providing children, especially medically fragile children, a home.” If money were no object, Robin said she’d buy a big house and adopt every kid in the world. “It really is only about the love — love unconditionally no matter what.” Find more information about foster and adoption services and programs at Brevardfp.org
Bob DiBellaGiving At Home and Abroad
“People need to know people care,” shared Bob Dibella, volunteer on the board of Feed a Family Foundation, which provides more than 500 Thanksgiving dinners to Brevard families in need. In addition to his career as a financial planner with Florida Financial Groups, Bob volunteers on the boards of The Brevard Symphony Orchestra, FIT’s WeVenture (formerly Women’s Business Center) where he also volunteers as a mentor in their Ignite 360 Program, and with the Sister City Program that works with the Brevard Sharing Center to raise money to feed hungry kids in Brevard and Beit Shemesh, Israel. “We raise money for these kids through our annual golf tournament, with $35,000 collected to date.” Bob believes Brevard’s diversity makes it attractive to corporations, who look at the quality of life in the community when deciding where to plant new branches. The Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts and the orchestra provide these enrichment events, with children meeting “Star Wars” characters in one room and hearing the orchestra playing songs they know in another. “Everyone can do something. If you golf, play a charity event. Date night? Try the orchestra. Instead of dinner, donate to Feed a Family. Or share your experience with a woman business owner.” You can help at BrevardSymphony.com, Wbc.Fit.edu, and FeedaFamilyFoundation.org
Natasha Cartagena Spencer & Jessica Cartagena Assam
Families Who Give Back to Brevard
In addition to supporting The Henegar Center for the Arts, The Women’s Center, Club Esteem and The Brevard Rescue Mission, Jessica Cartagena Assam and Natasha Cartagena Spencer are huge supporters of the Brevard Zoo and Habitat For Humanity. “Many may find it rewarding to volunteer time, which is priceless,” Jessica said. In fact, her son is a zoo teen volunteer and her daughter helps at the theater; both attend Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy, where Jessica serves on the school’s Parent Association Board and Natasha volunteers through Junior Achievement (JA). Jessica is on the Board of Directors for Brevard’s Habitat for Humanity, and East Coast Zoological Society of Florida (ECZS). Natasha serves as treasurer for Brevard’s Habitat for Humanity and as secretary for Junior Achievement of the Space Coast. She became engaged with both groups after volunteering. “I truly like to start out as a volunteer,” shared Natasha. “I need to feel and experience the mission and it has to tug at my heart.” The community can support the Brevard Zoo by joining the Jaguar Society, Women of the Wild, and supporting FUNdraising events. JA is in need of more volunteers to teach their curriculum in Brevard County schools and Habitat Builds always needs more sponsors. For information: BrevardZoo.org and BrevardHabitat.com