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Florida Today Honors Brevard Volunteers at EFSC Event

November 17, 2016 - Volunteers are the backbone of a community, quietly giving their time and labor to help others.

Brevard County residents and organizations that exemplify that commitment were honored Thursday during the 25th Annual Florida Today Volunteer Recognition Awards at Eastern Florida State College.

Volunteer Recognition Awards
Presenting the award winners at the 25th annual FLORIDA TODAY Volunteer Recognition Awards: Adrian Laffitte, Citizen of the Year; Libby Donoghue, 2-1-1 Brevard, Organization of the Year; FLORIDA TODAY President Jeff Kiel; Audrey Joiner, Volunteer of the Year and Del Cragin, Publix, Business of the Year. Photo courtesy Craig Bailey.

Several hundred community leaders gathered for the event at the Simpkins Fine Arts Center on the Cocoa campus.

Here are the winners with a summary of their achievements provided by Florida Today:

2016 Organization of the Year: 2-1-1 Brevard, Inc.

For more than 40 years, 2-1-1 has operated a 24-hour, telephone-based helpline offering crisis intervention and information and referral services.

In the past year alone, specialists have logged more than 42,000 calls regarding mental health, substance abuse, and basic needs of food, shelter and utilities. The calls classified as suicide prevention or intervention equate to as many as 586 lives saved.

2-1-1 also plays critical roles in extended assistance through three new initiatives with existing nonprofits to benefit military and veterans quality of life, childhood development, and alleviation of homelessness.

In the first part of this year, these initiatives have helped more than 1,600 veterans, military or family members; diverted roughly 1,700 people from homelessness; and guided the families of 87 children through early intervention and screening processes.

For over four decades, 2-1-1 Brevard, Inc. has been not only a helpline, but a lifeline to our community, connecting people to the resources they need when they need them most.

2016 Volunteer of the Year: Audrey Joiner

Working doggedly on a strictly volunteer basis, Audrey is a nurse practitioner and the executive director of Space Coast Volunteers in Medicine.

SCVIM is a medical clinic run entirely through private charity and one of only two remaining organizations that offer free primary healthcare to Brevard County residents who are low-income and uninsured.

When the county health department was forced to close its primary care clinic, SCVIM took in nearly 1,000 patients who were left without healthcare services.

Over three months, Audrey’s unwavering leadership took SCVIM through recruiting new staff, expanding the clinic’s physical space and forming important community alliances.

Accomplishing these daunting tasks allowed the organization to triple in size, from 500 to nearly 1,500 patients.

Under Audrey’s leadership, last year SCVIM treated about 1,500 unique patients using $3 million in donated professional services and nearly $1 million in donated pharmaceuticals. Her endless energy, work and enthusiasm have made this all possible.

2016 Business of the Year: Publix

Being the dominant grocer in Brevard County enables Publix to make a powerful impact on our community, and the company obliges gladly with an active role in philanthropy and volunteerism.

An important focus for the company is to alleviate hunger and support the poor and homeless in the communities it serves by generously giving food and money and encouraging its employees to volunteer time at local kitchens and food banks.

Local Publix stores even host Red Kettle Drives during the holidays to help others raise additional funds to fight hunger. The footprint of Publix’s impact goes beyond feeding the community. Through financial support, helping hands and a day’s work, large contingents of Publix employees have refurbished and landscaped housing for homeless veterans. The company has provided funding and sweat equity to build 40 new houses this year for people in need and has even helped with redevelopment efforts in underprivileged areas.

The compassionate army of Publix employees doesn’t stop there. Their benevolence greatly affects our local schools through fundraiser involvement, award ceremony sponsorships, school supply donations and more.

Publix’s community involvement is like having a large family that is always there. It is apparent that Publix employees give with joy and pride and in response to a spirit of generosity that comes from the corporate level.

2016 Citizen of the Year: Adrian Laffitte

He is a leader. A visionary. A generous and warm-hearted human being. And when Adrian walks into a room, everyone is put at ease and works to their fullest potential.

Having worked in the aerospace industry before retirement, Adrian was instrumental in directing the efforts of the Aerospace Workforce Transition program with Brevard Workforce when NASA’s shuttle program ended in2011.

His advocacy for state funding for workforce activities resulted in over $6 million to help aerospace employees transition into the post-shuttle era.

Adrian is also particularly supportive of programs that build on aerospace to improve the lives of Brevard’s children.

As Space Week chair for the National Space Club Florida Committee, he helped introduce students to space exploration and found underwriting to fund the program’s experiential study trip to KSC.

As a board member for the Astronaut Memorial Foundation, he helped accelerate the effective application of technology in our nation’s classrooms so that teachers and students are prepared to meet the challenges of the information age.

Through countless more contributions, such as helping the Brevard Library Foundation create a Library on Wheels and leading United Way of Brevard to raise more than $6.5 million for our county, Adrian is a truly committed individual with service to his community as his driving force.