For a crash course on what giving back is really all about, look no further than Yolanda Berkowitz.
An ardent supporter of neglected children, abused animals and community, Yolanda Berkowitz is one of Miami’s charity champions, and her involvement with organizations such as the United Way, Voices for Children and the Miami Foundation of Greater Miami is well documented. Her own cause, the Friends of Miami Animals Foundation, has helped thousands of abused dogs and cats get healthy and find homes. As we head into a philanthropic season that’s likely to be short on galas and fundraisers, we spoke to Berkowitz about what giving back means to her.
You began the Friends of Miami Animals Foundation in 2016. Where does your love of animals come from? There’s not much that’s more rewarding than the love of an animal. That said, it was not only my compassion for pets that spurred the founding of the organization. Another driving force in my work for FoMA is being a voice for the voiceless through my work for the Guardian Ad Litem Program and advocating for neglected kids who are at the mercy of adults and organizations responsible for their well-being.
Was animal welfare severely affected by COVID-19? All across the board, but we’ve seen the best of our community with people appreciating the companionship and comfort that pets bring to our lives.
What do you hope for the organization in the future? To keep engaging our community’s passionate animal lovers and changing the way we look at animal welfare, which is very much a quality of life issue in our city.
On another topic, this is a rather important month for the Miami Foundation of Greater Miami. What can you tell us about it? It’s exciting! Give Miami Day is taking place Nov. 19, and this is one day a year with 24 hours of giving that raises millions of philanthropic dollars for hundreds and hundreds of nonprofits that may not otherwise have a platform and visibility.
Where does your dedication to philanthropy come from? I’m energized by being involved in my community. I suffered a mild heart attack this summer, and the best takeaway from that terrifying experience has been how much my work in the nonprofit sector is a part of my life and my being.