2014 Award Winners
LEADERSHIP AWARD (ALUMNI)
George G. Gentile has practiced as a landscape architect and planner in Palm Beach County for over 35 years. He has worked on numerous public and private projects that have contributed to the quality of life of all the residents of Palm Beach County and south Florida. His planning, site planning and landscape architectural design work has included such projects as the Resource Recovery Facility of Palm Beach County, the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Training Facility, Okeeheelee Park, the Max Planck Florida Institute in Jupiter, Florida, the New Haven Community in Abacoa and the Public Safety Training Center at Palm Beach State College to name a few. His peers recognized him for his professional dedication and contributions; he was named a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1996 and chosen as the Landscape Architect of the Year by the Palm Beach Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2007.
During his extensive career he has also contributed to the community by his participation in numerous organizations and charities. He was co-founder and the first president of the Juvenile Diabetes Association of Palm Beach County. He is chairman of the Board of the Jupiter Tequesta Juno Beach Chamber of Commerce where he has served as a board member for over 17 years. He is also currently member and director of the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County and a member of the Palm Beach County Planning Congress, the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, the PGA Corridor Association, the Economic Forum of Palm Beach County and the Palm Beach State College Foundation board. Over the past 10 years Gentile has volunteered as a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. He has served as Flotilla Commander and has been the operations officer over the last eight years for the Flotilla 52 in Jupiter, providing assistance underway to Station Lake Worth Florida in observation and search and rescue activities for the general boaters throughout Palm Beach County. He has been awarded two Letters of Commendation from the Commander of Sector Miami, USCG for rendering assistance to injured boaters in two separate incidences.
Gentile is president and founder of Gentile Glas Holloway O'Mahoney & Associates, Inc., a full service landscape architecture, planning and environmental consulting firm, which was established in 1988 in Jupiter and is dedicated to sustainable and environmentally sensitive planning and design. He has served as president of the Florida Chapter and Trustee on the National Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects. He holds registration to practice his profession in Florida, Ohio, Mississippi, Tennessee and North Carolina. He is currently a commissioner of the Jupiter Inlet District of which he has been elected by the residents of northern Palm Beach County and is serving his 4th term on the Commission. He graduated from Palm Beach Community College in 1973 with an Associate in Arts degree in Architecture and from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree in 1977. He has been happily married to his wife Jeanette for over 40 years and has three sons and four grandchildren, all of whom reside in Palm Beach County.
LEADERSHIP AWARD (INDIVIDUAL)
In 2013, Estella Pyfrom was invited to the White House (twice), appeared in Essence magazine on the same pages as Oprah Winfrey and was featured in a two-minute segment on "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams."
This also was the year she became a Top 10 CNN Hero, receiving worldwide acclaim for creating and funding a unique way to educate children in low-income neighborhoods. She took $950,000 from her retirement fund and bought a customized state-of-the-art Wi-Fi bus with satellite dish. Pyfrom takes "Estella's Brilliant Bus" into areas where families often do not have computers or Internet access.
She began life as the daughter of a Belle Glade migrant worker, who grew up in a barn. She picked vegetables for 19 years. She and everyone she knew was told through her entire childhood, she would never amount to anything and would pick beans for the rest of her life. (She's seen at age 10 with her father, in a traveling Smithsonian exhibit, similar to the images in "Harvest of Shame.")
Pyfrom became a local educator, summer school principal and ran group homes for people with disabilities. At night she sold insurance and did other jobs.
These days Estella offers lessons ranging from how to do research on the Internet to job and life skills and pre-natal care. About a third of the children she helps do not have Internet access at home, and Pyfrom makes sure they get it. (She also distributes food to the poor.)
Because Pyfrom experienced true hardship —her father had to build beds out of kindling the first night at each farm they worked— she is a real inspiration to the families she helps. She tells her charges, "Be honest. Work hard."
Besides the CNN and NBC broadcasts, last summer, the President and First Lady gave Pyfrom special recognition at a White House reception for Points of Light.
More recently, the Washington Post featured Estella in its conference "Bridging the Digital Divide." She has appeared on WPTV News Channel 5, WPEC News Channel 12 and in Jet, Essence, the Palm Beach Post, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Florida Times Union, Florida Courier and a host of other publications. Last fall, L'Oreal declared her a Top 10 "L'Oreal Woman of Worth." The Annenberg Foundation (Annenberg Alchemy) will fly her and a board member to Los Angeles for a five-day training session on how to manage nonprofits. A fellow CNN Hero donated an additional $10,000 to Estella's Brilliant Bus.
Pyfrom is a client at Palm Beach State College's Small Business Development Center where she created her "Brilliant Bus" brand and received guidance in fundraising, publicity and other nonprofit issues.
LEADERSHIP AWARD (STUDENT)
Nephtalie Jean's journey in community service and volunteerism began as a young child through her church youth group, so it was no surprise that it grew to become an important part of her student life. On her very first day at Palm Beach State College, she entered the Student Activities office in search of opportunities to serve. Having previously attended the Student United Way Leadership retreat in Alexandria, Va. she was able to explore the importance of service in the areas of education, income and health. Inspired by the passion of the presentations of other student attendees, she wholeheartedly took on the leadership role of vice president of the Palm Beach State student chapter of Student United Way in order to make a difference on her campus as well as her community. Well equipped with a list of experiences at nonprofit agencies in Palm Beach County, she assumed a leadership role within the Palm Beach State College Volunteer Program and began coordinating opportunities and events for students that would pique their interest, ignite their passion for service and provide them with valuable learning outcomes.
She forged strong new working relationships with nonprofit agencies that include: The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Locks of Love, Animal Care & Control, and Seagull Industries. She coordinated student club members to volunteer for September's Back to School Bash. Her passion and dedication were also highly instrumental in Palm Beach State College Lake Worth campus' receipt of the 2013 Excellence in Service Student United Way award and she has almost 200 community service hours to her credit, which she served at John I. Leonard High school and various agencies including The Homeless Coalition and Oasis Compassion Center.
Currently enrolled at Palm Beach State, she is studying to become a veterinarian. She is currently enrolled in the Floyd F. Koch Honors College, serves as parliamentarian of ASPIRA, is an active Phi Beta Lambda member and is an engaged and active citizen.
LEADERSHIP AWARD (ORGANIZATION)
PEACE stands for People Engaged in Active Community Efforts. Founded in 1991, it is a justice ministry organization made up of 26 different congregations from throughout Palm Beach County. Recognizing that to do justice requires power, PEACE brings together large numbers of people to hold political and economic systems accountable around serious issues of injustice affecting low income and marginalized populations throughout the county.
PEACE is different from other kinds of organizations in that it is not a direct service agency; rather it is a direct action organization. PEACE organizes efforts which go to the root cause of problems in our community. A few successes include:
- In 2010, PEACE succeeded in getting the Board of County Commissioners to allocate
a little over a million dollars to the affordable housing trust fund and to commit
to a dedicated stream of funding starting in October of 2014.
- In 2012, PEACE succeeded in getting the city of West Palm Beach to establish a Neighborhood
Accountability Board, a program of Restorative Justice to serve 50-75 youthful offenders
- In 2013, PEACE succeeded in getting the Board of County Commissioners to allocate funding to Legal Aid Society to pursue claims of wage theft. In addition, the 15th Circuit set up a special Wage Theft docket by which these claims can be heard in an efficient manner.
All of this has been possible because PEACE continues to build significant people power. The focus of this power is the annual Nehemiah Action Assembly, where PEACE gathers large numbers and asks the public officials to make specific serious commitments around our issues. In 2007, PEACE turned out approximately 700 people to the Nehemiah Action. In 2013, just 5 years later, this turnout had doubled to just over 1,400.
This year, the goal is to turn out 2,000 people to address unemployment in the Glades, out-of-school suspensions in our schools, and a new issue currently being researched which will have to do with something in the arena of criminal justice. The Nehemiah Actin is scheduled to be held on Monday, March 31, at 7 pm at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.