▪ Javier Soto, president and CEO of The Miami Foundation
Here’s what their nominators wrote about these finalists.
Constance Collins is president and executive director of Miami’s only all-women-and-children homeless shelter, home to over 250 women including 11 newborns. After leaving her C-level career in real estate of 30 years to open Lotus House, Constance set out with the goal to not only provide shelter but also rehabilitate guests so they can leave Lotus House as contributing members of society. Constance instituted a unique model that offers holistic resources like social and supportive services that assist women and youths in transitioning from the streets by strengthening the mind, body and spirit. As homelessness continues to be an epidemic in our community, Constance’s new mission is to expand the shelter and double capacity. Lotus House just celebrated its 10th anniversary, and she hopes that the expansion of Lotus Village will break ground this summer.
Cheryl Little has been a tireless advocate for immigrant rights for almost three decades. In 1996, she co-founded the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC), now Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice), and serves as its executive director. AI Justice is an award-winning nonprofit law firm that protects and promotes the basic human rights of immigrants. It achieves outstanding results both systemically and for individual clients by employing a unique combination of free legal services, impact litigation, policy reform and public education. AI Justice pioneered work on behalf of immigrant survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking with the creation of its Lucha (The Struggle) Program. In 1999, the Children’s Legal Program was launched, and today, AI Justice is the lead agency in a partnership providing holistic care to unaccompanied immigrant children in South Florida. AI Justice was instrumental in bringing about the ultimate announcement of the Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In April 2012, Ms. Little wrote an op-ed in the Miami Herald, “Way Toward Dream Act” and wrote a legal memorandum, making the case for DACA. She was among a small group that met with White House officials three weeks before DACA’s announcement. Since its founding, AI Justice has helped over 90,000 individuals and this direct service work informs the organization’s policy work. Ms. Little has testified before Congress, exposed government wrongdoing and authored ground-breaking reports that give immigrants a voice.
Javier Alberto Soto serves as president and CEO of The Miami Foundation. He pivoted the organization after taking over in 2010 to use philanthropy as a lightning rod for local leaders and resident champions to invest in community change. Six years later, the Foundation now stewards over $280 million in philanthropic assets (up from $130 million), brought in over $70 million in charitable gifts during 2015 alone, and grants over $30 million a year. The Foundation has moved beyond grant making, using their position to mobilize resources and address community issues through policy change and public affairs. They’ve set ambitious goals to move the needle on three issues: parks and public spaces, transportation and urban mobility and adapting to sea-level rise. He also launched Give Miami Day, which has raised over $16 million from more than 30,000 donors for 600-plus local charities since 2012, putting the power of philanthropy in every Miamian’s hands.