Business Beat by Karen Lustgarten*

Hundreds of companies headquartered in our readership area generously give back to their communities making them better places to live and work. Here’s a peak at three in different cities representing different industries, each with a commitment to children and families.

JM Family Enterprises, Deerfield Beach

For more than 30 years, children and families in Deerfield Beach have been the recipients of many corporate giving programs financed by JM Family Enterprises, the privately-owned diversified automotive company founded by Jim Moran. Seeing a need in the neighborhood, JM Family built and funds a Boys and Girls Club with staffed after school programs along with a forthcoming teen center to provide activities and education addressing teen needs.

Down the street is the Youth Automotive Training Center that JM built to help young people learn everything about the automotive industry—business, selling, fixing and maintaining cars.  Here school drop-outs can receive their GED, life skills, job skills training and job placement upon graduation.  Several have been hired at JM Lexus.

Kim Bentley (L) with teachers at JM Family’s Teacher’s Tote Supply Giveaway
Kim Bentley (L) with teachers at JM Family’s Teacher’s Tote Supply Giveaway

Along with other community partners, last year JM Family helped build a playground in a day at the Hillsboro Community Center park. The company hosts an annual Teachers Tote Supplies Giveaway there. Teachers from local schools pick up tote bags filled with school supplies they need.  JM also ships reams of paper to their schools.  Said Kim Bentley, Assistant Vice President of Corporate Philanthropy, “We are continuing Jim Moran’s philosophy about sharing time, talent and resources.”

Bluegreen Vacations Corporation, Boca Raton

A timeshare properties company headquartered in Boca Raton, Bluegreen is a division of parent company BBX Capital, which has supported Florida charities since 1994 with direct funding, in-kind donations and paid employee-volunteer hours.

Bluegreen extends its “share happiness” motto to local charities helping children and families and education causes says Lois Marino, Director of Community Engagement for BBX Capital & Retail Brand. For example: How do students in grades K-12 learn about survival business skills and workforce readiness?  Bluegreen is a major donor to the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce’s Golden Bell Education Foundation, a nonprofit that administers educational programs promoting business skills and workforce readiness in the Boca Raton public schools.

Volunteer team of Bluegreen employees work at a Deliver the Dream retreat
Volunteer team of Bluegreen employees work at a Deliver the Dream retreat

Where can families dealing with a crisis or series illness get a break? At a retreat. Bluegreen partners with the nonprofit Deliver the Dream to provide three-day/two-night accommodations at its timeshare properties for families and volunteers participating in the nonprofit’s retreat program.

Other community nonprofits Bluegreen and BBX Capital have longtime commitments to:   Junior Achievement, Boca Helping Hands, Cystic Fibrosis and JDRF.

“Share Happiness” is not just Bluegreen’s motto, says Marino, “It is in the DNA of our commitment to social responsibility and philanthropy, too.”

 Danto Builders, Ft. Lauderdale

For Craig and Debbie Danto, their company giving program for people with special abilities is personal.  Debbie’s grandfather founded an organization in Ohio to help his son with Down’s syndrome partake in work, sports and social skills development.  “I remember how much joy my uncle got out of it,” said Debbie. “He was so innocent and sweet, such a loving, beautiful person who enjoyed all the activities.”

Her parents continued the program as it grew and now Debbie and her husband, who’s nephew also has Down’s Syndrome, are carrying on the family tradition and legacy locally. The couple are honorary board members of Special Olympics and board members of the Florida Design and Construction Professionals. Danto proposed to the professional organization that members approve a fundraiser for Special Olympics.

Craig and Debbie Danto with Special Olympians Larnie Killen and Blake Boris
Craig and Debbie Danto with Special Olympians Larnie Killen and Blake Boris

October 2nd will mark the 5th Annual Florida Design & Construction Professionals / Danto Builders Special Olympics Big Bad BBQ. The all-you-can-eat fundraiser with 600 attending, including Special Olympians, is held at the Danto Builder’s parking lot from 5:30 to 7:30pm.  Everything is donated or sponsored by local businesses: food, wine, beverages, grills, music, door prizes, auction items. Last year the event raised $35,000 for 6,100 Special Olympics athletes and 23 year-round sports programs. The goal this year is $50,000 says Danto. A local family’s legacy grows on.

In the big picture on top, JM Family Board Chair Colin Brown supports early literacy at Deerfield Beach Elementary School


Karen Lustgarten is president of Multi-Media Works, a multiple award-winning media company specializing in video, PR, print and social media with offices in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. She founded a newspaper in Washington, DC, was a syndicated columnist and a bestselling author.