Meet two philanthropists making a difference in the lives of people throughout South Florida

Katie Masucci

Director of estate and gift planning, American Cancer Society

Everyday help: For Masucci, giving back is a natural part of everyday life, a habit she credits to her mother’s example and one she appreciated even more while making charitable appearances as a Miami Heat dancer.

“In my family, it’s just part of our everyday practice as members of community to give back and to help people in need and not to expect anything in return,” Masucci says. “You do it to be a good person. You take care of your community members.”

Still, the Fort Lauderdale resident found herself overwhelmed during an event for the American Cancer Society at how giving can change people’s lives.

“It was so empowering,” says Masucci, mother to a young son and baby daughter. “I was crying with all these people I didn’t even know, just hearing their stories.”

Inspired, Masucci took her marketing expertise to ACS, first as a development manager, helping organize events to raise money for research. Now, she secures future funds, working with individuals who want to include the organization in their estate plans and with estate planning attorneys and financial planners. Masucci says the process allows donors to “be human beyond the [estate planning] attorney.”

“It’s not just transfer of wealth,” she says of the job. “It’s the transfer of values. … We need to invest in research and be able to provide a healthier future for the next generation and our generation.”

Masucci also witnesses the variety of services the American Cancer Society offers to cancer patients to help them feel supported and empowered throughout their treatment. One of these patients–a woman diagnosed with breast cancer who she met through a mutual friend–made a distinct impact on Masucci.

“Throughout her treatment plan, she never missed a day of work. She went to work every single day throughout chemo,” Masucci says. “You would never even know that she wasn’t feeling well. These are the types of stories that really sit with me on a deeper level.”

The woman’s resilience made such an impression on Masucci that she decided to make her part of her family.

“I loved her to the point that I said, Let me introduce you to my brother because he would love a strong woman like you. [They’ve been together] for a year.”

Words to live by: “I don’t shy away from the sad stories. The sad stories are what I’m really interested in because they help me work more efficiently. I try to convert those emotions into energy. It’s inspiring for me, because it educates me and helps me to educate others—to bring these stories to the surface and be a voice for anyone who’s been affected by cancer.”

Carmen Marc Valvo Infusion gown, from Bloomingdale’s, Town Center

 

Kim Abreu

Chair of construction and development committee, Carrfour Supportive Housing; treasurer, Lotus House Shelter; advisory board, Urban Land Institute

Opportunity knocks: Growing up in a family that lived paycheck to paycheck, Abreu understood the importance of making every dollar count. But it wasn’t until years later that she found a way to help families alleviate some of that pressure.

The senior vice president at Bank of America in Coral Gables took advantage of programs that allow employees to support causes they care about, including matching grant programs that benefit organizations employees are passionate about and paid volunteer hours. Using the skills and connections she formed as a real estate banker, Abreu lends her time to organizations that help people rebuild their lives after homelessness. The experience has lead to meeting people from all walks of life from people, from people who have been abused their whole life to others who hold doctorates but have lost their jobs and have fallen on hard times. Meeting these people has taught Abreu that “Don’t judge a book by its cover” isn’t just a tired adage.

“One of the women who came in [the shelter], she was addicted to drugs because her husband had beaten her so badly that [all that was left of her teeth] was nerves. She needed the drugs for the pain,” Abreu says. “There’s a lot of heartbreaking, horrible stories. But there’s just as many wonderful stories. They go on to finish high school, get a college degree or get a job training certificate. They’re able to break the abuse cycle and give back.”

A mother to three girls, the Pinecrest resident is especially inspired by the women she and her daughters meet at Lotus House, which focuses on single women with young children.

“[At first], they walk with their heads down and make no eye contact,” Abreu says. “By the time they’re through at Lotus and Carrfour, their heads are held high, their shoulders are back. They’re fierce—just ready to conquer the world.”

Another thing she’s proud of: the 147 babies to mothers at the Lotus House shelter since it originated 11 years ago.

“As a proud mom of three girls, knowing those babies and their mothers now have a chance in life and that they’re going to pay it forward is pretty darn special.”

Words to live by: “I believe in providing a hand up, not a handout. Every individual comes from a different set of circumstances, so you have to plan around that individual if you want to truly end the cycle. You really have to lift those individuals up—provide them the tools they need to be a self-sustaining citizen.”

Carmen Marc Valvo Infusion gown, from Bloomingdale’s