from Florida Realtor Magazine, September 2007 | page 56 Hometown Hero Making a Difference, One Child at a Time
Realtor® contributes her free time to children’s shelters.
Laney Rada isn’t one to sit around and wait for things to happen. When the market started to cool down, the top-producing sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential in Miami decided to dedicate some of her newfound free time to community service.
She wanted to work with disadvantaged children, so a friend suggested she contact Hands on Miami (a nonprofit organization sponsored by the United Way). “It’s an organization for which you can volunteer and help others in all kinds of ways—environmentally, animals, children, elderly people—there’s something for everybody,” Rada says. “I’ve volunteered at probably 10 different shelters. Kids are my focus because I wanted to know what’s happening with that segment of society.” (Her own son is now grown and works as a professional musician in Manhattan.)
According to Rada, Hands on Miami volunteers are required to complete one hour of training and must also undergo a screening process. “You can start your volunteering that day,” she says. “It’s the easiest organization I’ve ever been involved with. They have a calendar, you sign up online for activities and then you just show up. I love it. You meet like-minded, helpful, generous people.”
Each month, Rada typically volunteers up to 40 hours. “I do all kinds of activities with the kids, from holding babies to feeding them to playing games and reading stories,” she says. “We even help at-risk teenagers learn to [balance a checkbook], go to job interviews and fill out applications. All of these children are wards of the state. Some are coming out of foster homes, and others are up for adoption. Some infants were drug exposed in the womb and really like to be held. Some of the teenagers are runaways who are there for a roof over their head and a meal. Others were abused. Some are juvenile delinquents in programs mandated by the state. There’s a wide range of situations, but volunteers aren’t privy to the details; we’re just there to help these children have something positive to do for a few hours. We don’t do schoolwork with them; we’re the fun part. They tell us what they want to do with the time that we have.”
Among Rada’s favorite activities are the birthday parties she gets to host for the children. “We have nice parties,” she says, adding that some of the children have never had a birthday celebration before coming to the shelter. One time she hired a Spider Man impersonator and had a Spider Man cake especially made for a little boy. “Now he asks me all the time, ‘Is it my birthday? Is my birthday coming?’ It’s so funny.”
Last year, Rada’s volunteerism earned her The President’s Volunteer Service Award, and President Bush himself sent her a letter of recognition from the White House. “I was totally surprised by the nomination,” she says. “I didn’t have any idea there were any rewards apart from what you get [out of] volunteering. It’s such a positive experience.”