Live to give

Hali Utstein

Oversees charitable giving program at Coastal Wealth; advocate for Child Rescue Coalition

One for all: Hali Utstein was drawn to the charitable clause in her job description. As vice president of marketing at Coastal Wealth, part of MassMutual Financial Group, she took over its charitable giving program, ensuring that more than 250 employees could make a difference in the community.

With her guidance, the company initiated a holiday toy drive and a paid day off for volunteering. Every year, it supports three new organizations—“one of the heart, one for the world and one local”—in addition to the staff’s passion projects. (Collectively, they support about 40 charities and give more than 2,000 hours of service a month.)

Utstein has been involved with the Child Rescue Coalition since its beginnings, calling its two founders “superwomen.” Based in Boca Raton, it uses technology to hunt down child pornographers—and has a 100-percent conviction rate.

“It tackles a topic that is difficult to talk about, but it’s an important one—child exploitation is rampant,” says Utstein, who works at Coastal Wealth headquarters in Fort Lauderdale but lives in Boca. “It’s gut-wrenching to see how big of an issue this is, but there is a group out there working hard every day to save children.”

Words to live by: “I think in this social climate, corporations and individuals need to be aware of the impact that we can have collectively. If you don’t know how to get involved, just ask.”

Aqua gown and Kendra Scott earrings, from Bloomingdale’s, Town Center at Boca Raton

Kristi Linder

Advocate for Danielle DeMarzo Foundation; Impact Young Ambassadors

For the kids: Since becoming a mom a decade ago, the assistant state attorney in the traffic homicide unit with Casso Macy Law Group has focused her philanthropic energy toward helping children with special needs.

“I’m fortunate that I have two healthy children; it’s sad to see what some people have to go through,” says Linder, who has a daughter (age 10) and a son (8). “But these types of organizations give parents the tools and resources they need to be health care advocates for their children.”

She’s been a longtime advocate of the Danielle DeMarzo Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports children with disabilities and their families—and a longtime friend of the DeMarzo family. She helps plan its fundraisers, as well as events for Impact Young Ambassadors, a new organization that raises money for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation and Memorial Foundation.

As part of her efforts for DDF, Linder has donated a wheelchair to a local immobile mother who was struggling to care for her disabled children; she also sent a child on his dream trip to Disney World to spend time with his mother before she died of breast cancer. With Impact, she will help deliver Christmas trees this month at Joe DiMaggio and Memorial facilities where children will be hospitalized during the holidays.

Words to live by: “It’s so rewarding to be involved with a local charity, where you can see the difference you’re making and the impact you’re having on children’s lives and their families.”

Avery G gown and Kendra Scott earrings, from Bloomingdale’s, Town Center

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 appreciated more while making charitable appearances as a Miami Heat dancer. Even so, the Fort Lauderdale resident found herself overwhelmed at how giving can change people’s lives while supporting an event for the American Cancer Society.

“It was so overwhelming and 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. “It’s not just transfer of wealth,” she says of the job. “It’s the transfer of values.”

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. 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. 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.”

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

Sandra Muvdi

Founder, Jessica June Children’s Cancer Foundation

The unthinkable: When her only child, Jessica June Eiler, died at age 7 from acute myelogenous leukemia—an aggressive blood cancer that took her life on Oct. 9, 2003, only four days after being diagnosed—Muvdi wondered what it would take to push her out of bed every morning. “I had lost my identity, my reason for being,” she says.

Within a year, Muvdi had found her calling, one that not only honors her daughter’s memory but has helped more than 4,000 people whose lives have been rocked by pediatric cancer. Through the Broward County-based nonprofit organization she launched in 2004, families already in crisis on several fronts can apply for financial assistance to cover basic needs.

“Families that are just making ends meet when everything is fine [quickly] reach a breaking point when their child has cancer,” she says. “At least one parent typically can’t work, so that income is gone. We try to help them maintain some stability by putting food on the table, covering a mortgage or rent payment, or paying medical bills.

“Just focusing on your child’s survival is overwhelming. … It’s important for these families to know they’re not alone.”

With the help of social workers at hospitals around the state, Muvdi identifies Florida residents who qualify for assistance. Over the past decade, the foundation has raised more than $2.3 million.

Words to live by: “I live a purpose-driven life—and the tragedy of losing Jessica helped me discover that. Each morning, I wake up and I’m on it. I’m excited to make a difference in these people’s lives.”

Aidan Mattox gown and Kendra Scott earrings, from Bloomingdale’s

Debra Tendrich

Founder, Eat Better, Live Better

Healthy perspective: It started as a way to “shut people up” four years ago at the dental office she used to manage. Tired of her co-workers badgering her for drinking too much Coke and eating too much fast food, Tendrich agreed to exercise and eat right for 30 days.

The next time twice-a-year patients returned for a check-up, they didn’t recognize her. Not only did she drop 70 pounds by simply changing her diet and working out, the single mother who had battled childhood obesity was a walking billboard for the benefits of leading a fit, nutrition-rich life.

“I wasn’t an unhappy person being overweight,” she says. “But as I got healthier, I realized there were new levels of happy that I didn’t know existed.”

Today, Tendrich pays it forward to school children and adults throughout Palm Beach County with the nonprofit organization she started in spring 2016. Schools that contract Eat Better, Live Better receive multiweek programming for different age groups that covers everything from how to read a nutritional label to understanding the relationship between food and feelings. She also conducts half-day workshops with a registered dietician and a clinical psychologist that explore the tentacles of nutrition—and how a healthy lifestyle can lead to greater work productivity.

Tendrich estimates that, in the past year, she has spread the EBLB message to more than 1,000 children through her school program—and another 5,000 people via her community outreach.

Words to live by: “I had no goals when I was overweight. Now, I thrive on goals, on the idea of being better than I was yesterday.”

Aqua gown, from Bloomingdale’s

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