The Gift of Giving: Laurie Jennings, Michelle Boggs and Juan Carlos Arias
Amid a pandemic era unlike any we’ve faced, local leaders—such as Laurie Jennings, Michelle Boggs and Juan Carlos Arias—have dedicated time and effort to make a world of difference in countless lives throughout South Florida
Backstory: The six-time Emmy Award-winning news reporter and anchor, who spent 15 years at WPLG Local 10 before stepping down in 2019, now runs her own media relations company (lauriejenningslive.com). Her longtime involvement with children’s hospitals can be traced to the life-saving work done by the nurses and specialists at Baptist Health who treated her twin sons after they were born premature at 1.5 pounds each, requiring a stay of nearly five months in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Pandemic relief: After receiving positive feedback for the virtual story readings she did for United Way of Miami-Dade, which reached out to her after suspending its Reading Pals program in March, Jennings took the concept a step further. She invested in lighting and microphones and created the YouTube channel “Stories with Laurie.” The virtual readings are being used at four children’s hospitals and other local organizations, including Broward County Library. On Dec. 9, Jennings will serve as virtual MC for The Children’s Trust Champions for Children Award Ceremony.
Snapshots: “When Nicklaus Children’s Hospital told me the pandemic meant no more red-nosed clowns, musicians or story time, I felt inspired to keep recording more and more stories that they could enjoy from their beds. The head of patient activities wrote me a beautiful note that said, ‘Your stories have turned out to be the gift we never knew we needed.’ ”
Pandemic lessons: “With all my years in the news business, I’m painfully aware how fragile life is. But the random nature of the COVID virus has taken that realization to a new level. So many people are suffering this holiday season—medically, financially or both. Lives are being turned upside down. Reaching out to help others is what will get us through this as a community.”
Backstory: In addition to overseeing its fundraising branch, Boggs also serves as senior vice president of Nicklaus Children’s Health System. The Foundation works in communities to build collaborations and partnerships that support children and families in South Florida.
Pandemic relief: The onset of COVID-19 prompted the foundation to further target philanthropic associations based on need. “I’m proud of our work with the Miami Dolphins to begin a $1 million partnership that will address health disparities among Black and minority populations in our community, targeting those impacted by sickle cell disease and diabetes,” Boggs says. “We’re also partnering with City National Bank on an initiative that benefits COVID-19 relief at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, which has seen a $3 million increase in costs due to COVID-19 testing, supplies such as personal protective equipment, and workforce-related impacts.”
Snapshots: “I’ve been most touched and inspired by all of the parents who are working while homeschooling their children during this pandemic. This is, by far, one of the most stressful events I’ve ever had to take on, and I have help and support. So many others don’t. We also owe so much to our health care workers, teachers and frontline workers. These are such selfless, brave and hard-working people who deserve our full support.”
Pandemic lessons: “I’ve learned that we can truly handle a lot—as individuals, families, teams and as a community. And we can overcome anything if we stand together and support one another. I’ve also learned a great deal about empathy and understanding, being patient with myself, and more importantly, with others.”
Backstory: The managing attorney and legal ethics specialist at Anidjar & Levine, a former commissioned officer and military prosecutor in the U.S. Army, is an avid supporter of the Sheriff’s Foundation and its core missions: fallen heroes, anti-terrorism/domestic security, training, and civic education/crime prevention. On the latter front, the organization supports the crime-prevention programs of dozens of other Broward-based nonprofit organizations.
Pandemic relief: In addition to feeding first responders and staging a COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Drive, the foundation helped to reimagine the award-winning Broward Mental Health Summit, creating an event in just six weeks with 37 presenters, 19 educational sessions and more than 500 virtual attendees. “More than ever, our community needed mental health education and tools, and we delivered,” Arias says. This month, upward of 200 deserving students will participate in a retooled drive-through “Shopping with the Sheriff” event.
Snapshots: “A core pillar of the foundation is to honor and care for the families of fallen first responders. Nothing tops their sacrifice [in serving our communities]. Unfortunately, we have lost three members of the Broward Sheriff’s Office family due to COVID-19. To honor the fallen and their families inspires me and the Sheriff’s Foundation of Broward.”
Pandemic lessons: “The nonprofits with the most dedicated and passionate board members will survive best. The pandemic is a call to action for all of those sitting on nonprofit boards, a call to action to mobilize their personal and professional contacts and resources as never before.”
Studio photography by James Woodley