Riki Altman-Yee | July 18, 2019 | People
David and Leila Centner moved to Miami determined to make a change in the lives of women, children and teachers.
Long before they had their children and sold their Highway Toll Administration company for an undisclosed amount, David and Leila Centner were dedicated to charities that helped women and children in Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Harlem, an hour away from their previous home. “We’re drawn to causes that break the cycle of poverty,” says Leila.
Yet, since 2017, when they decided to set roots in Miami (where David was born and raised), the bulk of their generosity has remained in our community. “When we moved here, one of our first orders of business was to find people in need and find a way to resourcefully contribute,” says David. “After we sold our company, we set aside an eight-figure sum strictly for donations. We invested that money and our goal is to donate 75 percent of the annual earnings.”
The two also devote their time to nonprofits like the Lotus House shelter, where they recently opened the David and Leila Centner Culinary Center, which features a state-of-the-art kitchen and teaching program. This August, they will launch Centner Academy (centneracademy.com), a private, progressive language-immersion school in the Design District, where the curriculum (delivered in Mandarin for half of each day) has been developed to teach kids to think creatively and become problem solvers. “The core of our foundation is all about the happy child, mindfulness and helping shape conscious and connected little beings,” Leila explains.
In addition to regular donations to the Arsht Center, JAFCO and Hebrew Academy, the Centners recently contributed $40 million in seed capital toward a real estate development in Edgewater designed to create affordable housing for teachers. “Our passion is to be the best we can be,” says David, “and contribute to humanity in big and small ways.”
Photography by: Nick Garcia