By: Dale King Contributing Writer
It’s been a long time since Boca Helping Hands volunteers served meals to some 30 to 40 people a day in a little church in Pearl City near the Florence Fuller Child Development Center.
Today, BHH is a community-based, nonprofit located at the Remillard Family Resource Center at 1500 NW 1st Court in Boca Raton. The organization feeds those in need, some 200 a day now, and also provides job training and job mentoring, distributes medical and dental vouchers and provides limited financial assistance to qualified Boca Raton residents in crisis.
The group recognized current and past volunteers and supporters at a celebration last month at the Boca Raton Marriott that included special awards and a dinner.
Mel Lazerick, the organization’s oldest active volunteer at age 100 who donates portions of his days three times a week distributing bags of food to the needy, received hearty recognition from the crowd.
Also honored was Arthur J. Remillard Jr. who made the Boca Helping Hands Remillard Family Resource Center possible by donating the money to purchase the building on NW 1st Court.
“Arthur J. Remillard’s generous gift made it possible to transition to the building that now houses all of the organization’s programs, including job training, job mentoring, food center and warehouse,” said Gary Peters, president of the Boca Helping Hands Board of Directors.
Peters described Remillard, who was at the dinner with members of his family, as a “man with a passion for helping others. He has traveled the world to see other cultures.”
“He loves three things,” said Peters: “A hospital in western Massachusetts; soup kitchens in Boynton Beach and Boca Raton and foster care in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
In 2009, when BHH was searching for a new location, Remillard told the board chairman with a smile, “Hurry up and find a building. You know, I don’t have that much time.”
He gave the money to purchase the 15,000-square-foot building that’s home to BHH. And he had kind words for the organization at the dinner. “Boca Helping Hands does such important work in the community and it’s much more than a soup kitchen. These days, the organization’s outstanding staff does the critical work of training and mentoring people so that they have an occupation, and feeds people when they need help,” Remillard said.
Also present was Mel Lazerick, the 100-year-old who has volunteered at BHH since it opened.
His vibrant sense of humor comes out when asked why he continues to volunteer. “I do it for the pay,” he joked as the crowd realized no volunteers are paid.
“I don’t give up on things.” He explained that he likes helping people and building a strong rapport with those he serves. Many of the clients that walk through Boca Helping Hands’ doors know him by name and stop to chat.
Officials noted that Boca Helping Hands’ Food Center serves a hot meal six days a week with a family night dinner on Thursdays. Meals are also delivered to homebound disabled and elderly individuals.
With an increased focus on client self-sufficiency, Boca Helping Hands continues to promote and highlight its job training program, which offers free classes in hospitality, home health aide, Commercial Truck Driving, customer service representative and IT help desk technician.
The celebration was chaired by Yasmine and Scott Coleman.