Tag Archives: miami

Giving and receiving

Guest post by Franklin Monjarrez, Executive Director of Neat Stuff Inc. This past year, more than 5,000 abused, neglected and at-risk children in Miami-Dade County visited Neat Stuff and received more than $1.3 million dollars worth of clothes and uniforms.

Early one afternoon a young boy, about 4 years old, came into our store for free clothes. He was in his PJs, his only possession. As I got closer to him I saw about 15 burns all over his small face. When he saw me he extended his arms for me to hold him.

The lady with him, his aunt who had just received temporary custody of the boy, told me I looked like his dad. The one who had caused those horrible burns on his face. The father was a crack addict and had burned the boy with a lighter.

Despite all the pain he had just gone through, this boy was just looking to give and receive love. I picked him up and played with him awhile. We gave him all the clothes and supplies he needed.

Stories like this happen all the time – the aunt bravely stepping forth to care for nephews and nieces. The grandma raising grandkids. The caring couple who takes in abused children and tenderly helps them heal. The holidays can be a hard time for these families, so we decided to make it just a little easier by organizing a turkey giveaway.

Turkeys ready for delivery to families

This past Saturday, Neat Stuff had the pleasure of sharing the joy of Thanksgiving with 111 foster care advocates and adopted families. Each family received a turkey and a grocery bag loaded with cranberry sauce, green beans, corn, sweet potatoes, gravy, marshmallows and stuffing!

Our annual turkey giveway brings together the best and brightest of our Miami community.  The turkey and trimmings distribution effort was made possible by generous donations from Publix Super Market Charities, Sam’s Club and Neat Stuff’s Board of Directors.

At the store where at-risk kids can get free clothes (Franklin is in the blue Neat Stuff shirt)

Grandma Mary said it best, “For the past three years I have been coming to Neat Stuff to receive free clothes and uniforms for my grandkids. I’m so happy I was able to receive a turkey this year. This agency feels like a second home to us.”

We are so thankful for all the community partners who help us help families every day. We wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Delivering a turkey

Stuffing bags of food for families.

Neat Stuff volunteers (Franklin is in the blue Neat Stuff shirt, third from left)

That’s MY Bag.

Guest blog post by Maritza Moreno, the 2009-2011 president of the South Dade Foster and Adoptive Parent Association, and founder of My Bags.  She and her husband have been foster parents since 2008. 

The “seed” for the My Bag project was placed in our hearts by a child protective investigations supervisor in Miami, Jenny Soriano-Priestly.  She related how distressing it was that most of the time when children are removed from their parents they don’t have a bag or suitcase to put their belongings in.  CPIs would have to resort to using trash bags to transport the belongings of children while they were undergoing the trauma of being removed from their parents. This was horrifying to me; these “little things” we just don’t think about in our day-to-day lives, but these “little things,” the subtle messages, are the ones that children learn from.

At the time, we unfortunately didn’t have the money to fund the project.  However, at the end of 2011, our Association received a generous donation and, with matching funds from Our Kids of Miami-Dade & Monroe, our current president, Martha Pedroso, made sure that the project was a success.

We have bought 250 “My Bags” that are being distributed to the DCF hubs and also some police stations in Miami.  When CPIs go to remove a child, they bring one of the bags to help the child collect their belongings – a bag the child can call their own.

Mrs. Pedroso’s marketing background has proven very effective to get the community involved at all levels. One volunteer heard about us through social networking. A Davie student, Ari Kaplan, chose to participate in the My Bag project by fundraising and collecting duffle bags as his Bar Mitzvah special community project.

The next step is to obtain comfort items to include with the bags, such as toothbrush/toothpaste, a small toy or book.  We understand that sometimes these children may not have these items or there may not be enough time to obtain them.

We wish to ease the trauma children must endure. They are innocent victims.

Site Visit: FACES

DCF Secretary David Wilkins talks about his recent visit to Families and Communities Empowered for Success (FACES), a Miami organization that works with youth and families to strengthen mental health care. 

DCF Secretary David WilkinsSix siblings in a single-parent home. Dropping out of school. Being discharged from the military because of drugs. A divorce.  More drug use.

Life did not start well for Aaron K. Alvin Sr. But he overcame it. He entered rehab and overcame his addiction to drugs and completely turned his life around. He now has a Master’s degree and is working to help others get help for their addictions.

Aaron’s story was just one of many shared during my recent visit to FACES’ Youth and Family Empowerment Summit. The event brought together families and youth to empower them to take control of their mental health.

The artwork the children produced amazed me. Paintings, photos, drawing, music. This was the real deal. The artwork was a way for them to express their mental health recovery. These kids have been on quite a journey. Here are a few samples:

Their choir, a Youth MOVE group, sang a cappella at the event. Check out the video below to hear one of their previous performances:

FACES partners with local schools, the Department of Juvenile Justice, Family Safety, the Federation of Families, Florida International University, substance abuse and mental health providers, and many local businesses to give their kids the tools they need to live their lives. These public-private partnerships are exactly what we are trying to do all over Florida. It is vital to providing services for our kids.


If you or a family member needs help with mental health or substance abuse, visit our online directory.