group of people during event, receiving recognition

United Way Miami Honors Community Service Leaders and Volunteers during 2022 Annual Meeting

Commissioner Eileen Higgins, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, Richard Berkowitz, the late Manny Fermin, the late Michael Finney among others, were honored

MIAMI (June 22, 2022) – Yesterday, United Way Miami celebrated 98 years of serving and impacting Miami-Dade County at its 2022 Annual Meeting and Volunteer Awards. At the event, the organization honored seven remarkable community service members, including Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, Commissioner Eileen Higgins, the late Michael Finney, the late Manuel Fermin, Richard Berkowitz and high school students Larissa Ramirez and Shawn Martinez. The luncheon and awards ceremony were held at Jungle Island.

Throughout the year, United Way rallied nearly 3,000 volunteers who gave over 3 million hours of their time to create meaningful change. Every year United Way recognizes extraordinary volunteers who demonstrated an unyielding dedication to community service by improving the lives of others through education, financial security and health for children, families and older adults in Miami-Dade. Honorees included:

  • Richard A. Berkowitz, founder and executive chairman of Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs; was awarded the Dorothy Shula Award for Outstanding Volunteerism, which recognizes an individual whose work in the community brings hope, promise and opportunity into the lives of others and has left a lasting positive impact on a person, group or community at large. | Richard has a long history of supporting the community through fundraising and board leadership. He is immediate past chair of The Miami Foundation where he served two years. Under his leadership, the organization established a Racial Justice Fund in the wake of the George Floyd murder, which garnered many grants and gifts.
  • The late Michael A. Finney, former CEO of Miami-Dade Beacon Council was awarded the Essie Silva Community Builder Award, which recognizes an individual who is making a difference in addressing particular community challenges affecting different cultural or ethnic groups. | Michael Finney was passionately committed to his family and community. He was a visionary leader and bridge-builder that championed Miami as the diverse, global innovation hub he knew it to be, while working to create opportunities that were inclusive, equitable and accessible to the vulnerable population of our community. Throughout his tenure, Michael led the organization to break multiple records, most recently in 2021 when 32 companies committed to almost 14,000 new direct and indirect jobs, translating to $1 billion in annual economic impact for Miami-Dade residents and businesses. He also led the organization to develop new, locally focused initiatives that support our most underserved communities and small businesses.
  • The late Manuel Fermin, former CEO, Healthy Start Coalition of Miami-Dade was awarded the Monsignor Walsh Outstanding Human Services Professional Award, which recognizes an individual who has committed his or her time to helping others by shaping a caring, responsive, social service delivery system, positively impacting the quality of social services in the community and always responding to emergency community service needs. | Manny was a relentless advocate for children and expectant mothers. Under his leadership, the coalition provided essential child and maternal health services to more than 700 mothers every week. Because of many programs and initiatives that were implemented and that are still benefitting families in our community, Manny’s legacy lives on through his team, his family and the community as they continue to honor him and draw inspiration from his passion and commitment.
  • Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson of Florida’s 24th Congressional District, and Commissioner Eileen Higgings, District 5; were awarded the Public Service Leadership Award, which recognizes public servants and community leaders who display a remarkable sense of commitment to hard work, courageous leadership and a dedication to improving services for children and families.
    • Congresswoman Wilson is known as being a ‘voice for the voiceless.’ Her tenure in congress has been marked with her signature spirit of advocating for the less fortunate. Throughout her career, she has made it her mission to improve the quality of life for her constituency by creating jobs, improving education, stopping home foreclosures, safeguarding Medicare and Social Security and strengthening ties with Haiti and the Caribbean.
    • Commissioner Higgins believes that Miami-Dade can be the best place on Earth to live if we come together to solve our most pressing problems. Since elected in 2018, she has been a tireless advocate for our ALICE population and has fought for resiliency, common sense gun reform and programs that afford everyone an equal opportunity.
  • Larissa Ramirez, high school student at Alonzo & Tracy Mourning High and Shawn Martinez, high school student at Belen Jesuit Preparatory were awarded the Outstanding Youth Award, which recognizes an individual 18 years of age or younger for their leadership, commitment and character through service and volunteerism.
    • Larissa Ramirez is an exemplary community volunteer and budding leader that has documented nearly 1,000 community service hours in a variety of capacities such as local elections, supporting and educating residents about bills, among other initiatives. As President of her class, she works with her school’s administration to address student concerns, organize school events and improve school spirit. She also participated in the Girls of Transformation Mentoring Program – where she acted as lead organizer of the program’s mentors and tutored young girls at risk of expulsion at school.
    • Shawn Martinez has a long history of volunteering in Miami-Dade County. In 2020, he founded AVUS CONNECT, an intergenerational social connectivity program started as a call to action to address isolation and loneliness in older adults. As a means to ensure the program’s success, he was able to integrate the program into United Home Care’s volunteer platform and successfully secured them as a corporate sponsor.

Today and throughout the year, community members are invited to join United Way by volunteering. Those seeking to volunteer should visit, Miami-Dade’s central community service hub offering volunteer opportunities to people who are passionate about creating meaningful change in our community.

Event sponsors included Bank of America, City National Bank, The Miami Herald & El Nuevo Herald.

June 23, 2022