Volunteers at three local agencies honored for dedication
By: Dale King Contributing Writer
You didn’t have to be a “Jeopardy” quiz show champion to attend the 4th Annual Alzheimer’s Luncheon that drew nearly 1,000 guests to Boca West Country Club in late February. You simply had to be someone “truly interested in helping us” to eradicate Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, said event chairperson Pamela Higer-Polani.
Business, community and political leaders attended the program, giving their time, talent and resources to the challenge of finding a cure for the horrific disease that affects so many South Florida residents. In Palm Beach County alone, speakers said, an estimated one in three individuals over age 65 is impacted by the devastating condition.
The program at each table for the mid-day event Feb. 23 included a lengthy list of sponsors and donors along with contributors to the “swag bags” that guests took home. A “lucky chance” raffle added to the amount of money taken in that day for Alzheimer’s research and care.
One person who had bested the “Jeopardy” answer-and-question board was actually present. Judy Herman, a host for the Alzheimer’s event, is not only a “Jeopardy” champ, but is an avid puzzle and games enthusiast. She provided cerebral challenges for the audience during the festivities.
In addition to teaching monthly classes at dozens of senior communities, Judy presents her popular “Braintertainment” programs on cruise ships and for many business, social, charitable and educational organizations.
Also on hand was Dick Schmidt, keynote speaker, a lifelong Florida resident well-known for his work in the banking, real estate development and aviation fields as well as the substantial philanthropic donations made by him and his wife, Barb, an author in her own right, leaders of the Schmidt Family Foundation.
Author of two novels, Dick discussed his more recent work, “Memory Road,” a thriller about a retired senior CIA agent who retires, then discovers he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Alone following the death of his wife, he becomes the target of leading intelligence agencies – from the U.S. as well as nations opposed to America — who try locate and capture him before he can escape to the safety of his daughter’s home outside Washington, D.C.
The book targets the challenges of Alzheimer’s, focusing on one man’s journey to find home. Schmidt told the luncheon audience that “people come to me from families affected by Alzheimer’s and say the book resonated with them. They saw the book in a positive light, not a negative one. It didn’t concentrate on what people had lost, but on what they still had.”
In addition to speakers, honors, donations and a festive lunch, for the first time in the history of the event, all three Boca Raton-based organizations dedicated to finding a cure for the disease and helping those afflicted with the memory-robbing condition joined forces to raise funds and heighten community awareness of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
One person from each organization was also honored for their dedication: Marilyn Weinberg, on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association; Mary Barnes, representing Alzheimer’s Community Care and Terry Fedele, on behalf of the Louis & Anne Green Memory and Wellness Center at Florida Atlantic University.
Mary Barnes is a founding member of Alzheimer’s Community Care, a nonprofit organization that provides low-cost and no-cost community-based, dementia-specific services to patients and caregivers coping with the difficulties of Alzheimer’s disease or related neurocognitive disorders. The agency serves Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties.
Barnes has been the group’s leader since its inception in 1996 and continues to serve as its president and CEO. She has dedicated her life to advocating for patients and caregivers.
Terry Fedele has volunteered extensively in the community, aiding agencies such as Boca Raton Regional Hospital, Florence Fuller Child Development Centers, Boca Raton Children’s Museum, Florida Atlantic University Foundation and the Caring Hearts Auxiliary of the Louis & Anne Green Memory and Wellness Center.
The center, named for philanthropists Louis and Anne Green, is an academic-based, nurse-led clinic and adult care center on the FAU campus. One of 16 state-designated memory disorder clinics of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, it is also part of the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at FAU.
Marilyn Weinberg and her husband, Jay, support a number of local organizations, including Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services, FAU, Rotary Club of Boca Raton, Temple Beth El and the Boca West Children’s Foundation.
She is also associated with the Alzheimer’s Association, whose mission is to eliminate the disease through the advancement of research. In fact, it is the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research.