During Florida Panthers home games this season, the Florida Panthers Foundation will honor 'Territory Teammates,' local community heroes who are going above and beyond to serve, help and inspire others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
2020-21 Territory Teammates
Before retiring last month, Paul O'Connell served as City of Wilton Manors Chief of Police for 10 years and a total of 44 years in law enforcement. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Paul quickly gathered the necessary information to best equip the police department and Wilton Manors community. They partnered with local organizations to create food distributions sites and assisted in the operation of a vaccine distribution center within the city. Most recently, Paul was awarded the 2021 Champion for Change Award by the Urban League of Broward County.
Marjorie Rodriguez is a 5th grade teacher at Liberty Elementary located in Margate. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Marjorie quickly adapted to a new way of teaching like so many others. Marjorie found that putting social and emotional learning as a priority, helped her students adapt to the new style of virtual classrooms. Marjorie instilled daily check-ins with each student for their mental and emotional wellbeing and as a result, created a new foundation for all other learning.
Patrick Bayne is Captain of the EMS Division at Boca Raton Fire Rescue. Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, Patrick was asked to step up and act as interim EMS Division Chief and Infection Control Officer. Throughout the pandemic, Patrick helped develop policies and protocols pertaining to Covid-19. He also worked to procure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and coordinated testing and vaccinations for the department. Recently Patrick was recognized as a Boca Raton Fire Rescue 2020 Firefighter of the Year.
Stormie Neale is the Manager of Volunteer Services for Cleveland Clinic Florida. Prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic Stormie managed 385 adult and teen active volunteers, but that came to an abrupt stop when the pandemic began. With the community in more need than ever, Stormie organized all donations and distributions of every item to first responders. Even after donations slowed down, lunches and supplies were still given out 2 to 3 times a week. Recently, four meditation Zen rooms, designed by Stormie, were completed at Cleveland Clinic Florida for Covid-19 first responders to help relieve their stress levels.
Previous Territory Teammates
David Milinare is a nurse and urgent care supervisor at Baptist Health South Florida, where he oversees multiple urgent care locations. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, David stepped up and assisted with testing people who came to the urgent care along with transferring critically ill patients to the hospital. Since January, David has been helping vaccinate the community at the Baptist Health South Florida vaccination sites.
David Rodriguez is a nurse in the ICU at Baptist Health South Florida. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic beginning, the ICU had 3 units with a total of 28 beds. When that quickly became not enough, a dedicated unit for Covid-19 positive patients opened and at some points had tripled the number of patients they typically would have at one time. David always worried if he contracted the virus and brought it home to his family, but it never stopped him for caring for his patients.
Lisa Merheb is the Director of Oncology Social Work at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. When the pandemic began, Lisa and the social work team helped to quickly transform the department's in-person support groups to an online platform so that cancer patients could receive needed emotional support in the comfort and safety of their homes. She also assisted in organizational fundraising efforts to raise money for cancer patients who were in extreme financial need. The number of cancer patients that need social work assistance has dramatically increased and Lisa has stepped up in helping with patient care so that every patient can receive quality care in a timely fashion.
Brittany Salmon is a Nurse Manager for Cleveland Clinic Florida. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Brittany assisted with all the outpatient initiatives including launching the Covid-19 testing tent and staffing the phone triage line for patients to be screened for testing. She then helped transition to long-term Covid-19 testing for people in the community, caregivers and pre-operative patients. Once the vaccine became available, Brittany focused on staffing the outpatient clinic so first and second doses could be administered all while still remotely monitoring patient care
Yvonne Gamble is a Licensed Practical Nurse and Health Educator at Broward Health. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Yvonne quickly jumped into action by educating herself in order to properly assist families, parents and children from age birth to 22 with special needs understand their medical needs during the pandemic. Many families have individuals with underlying conditions that could be life threatening if they contracted Covid-19. Yvonne helped families identify the signs and symptoms along with scheduling testing and brought them food, diapers, clothing, formula, and medications as needed.
Debbie Matilainen is the Registration Supervisor at Baptist Health South Florida Bethesda Hospital. Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, Debbie and her colleagues witnessed tragedy that took an emotional, physical and spiritual toll on everyone. She and her staff normally would focus on face to face registrations in the hospital but when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, her staff was redeployed to many different areas. For several months, Debbie and her director ran the front desk, screening patients for symptoms. The hardest part was explaining to families that they couldn't visit their very sick family members in the hospital, no matter how heartbreaking the situation was.
Jacinta Guevara is a nurse for the adult and pediatric emergency department at Broward Health Medical Center and Salah Foundation Children's Hospital. Jacinta has filled many roles in the hospital over nearly 20 years however when the Covid 19 pandemic began, patient care management took on an entirely different meaning. She researched information and communicated with colleagues throughout the country to create an up-to-date protocol for Covid positive patients' care. Now, Jacinta is involved in administering vaccines to hospital employees and has provided instrumental leadership in streamlining the vaccination process.
Herb Torres is a Radiation Therapist Supervisor at Baptist Health South Florida. Over the past year, Herb and his colleagues had to constantly adjust to new protocols and procedures in order to provide safe, continued and quality care for their oncology patients. With their patients all being immunosuppressed, they created two extra check points for their patients' safety, both of which Herb was tasked with staffing and supervising.
James McCrae is a Nurse Manager for the Surgical Telemetry Unit and Critical Care Unit at Broward Health North. James leads an amazing team of caregivers who have staffed the hospital's primary "Covid positive units" this year all while maintaining the spirit of inclusion and positivity. James is a strong advocate for his staff and consistently recognizes and rewards them and in turn, the staff have an "all in" attitude and have risen to the challenge of caring for some of the sickest patients in the hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Debbi Pothmann is a charge nurse at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. The past year has been an especially challenging year for patients who are not only battling cancer but faced increased isolation for fear of contracting Covid-19. Debbi and her team stepped up to provide the care and support her patients need daily. In Debbi's eyes, she thinks the patients are the true heroes
Doctor Shelley Slapion-Foote is a Licensed Psychologist and volunteer for YES Institute, an organization dedicated to preventing suicide and ensuring the healthy development of all youth through communication and education on gender and orientation. Dr. Shelley never stopped being a powerful front-line supporter to the LGBTQ and Non-binary community during the Covid-19 pandemic, even when everything switched to virtual settings. The needs of her patients always come first.
Liz McMenamin, is a Palliative Care Social Worker from Broward Health Medical Center. When patients started arriving from the cruise ships at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Liz quickly got to work using translator services with tablets and phones to connect patients to their loved ones all throughout the world. Families were able to talk, pray, and sadly say goodbye to their loved ones. As a social worker, Liz provided countless hours of emotional and psychosocial support to family members, celebrating patient's recoveries and support and encouragement when patients took a worse turn. Liz is a true sounding board for all during this stressful time, giving her time, heart, and emotions to all she interacts with.
Jeremy Hall is a paramedic for Cleveland Clinic. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Jeremy jumped into action, creating and setting up outside triage and testing areas. Jeremy and one nurse were trained as a "super user" on the new rapid testing machines - tests that are typically ran in the lab. Jeremy was trained as a upper user and taught all emergency department nurses and paramedics. He worked extra shifts and stayed late to ensure he was able to effectively train other caregivers. He also maintained the logs, ensured compliance and created process to streamline the system to provide better service to their patients.
As an occupational therapist for more than sixteen years, John Mandile prides himself on always going above and beyond to assist his patients. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, the visitation hours were cancelled, and patients were left unable to see their family. You can often find John paying special music during therapy, talking to patients about their life story, and combining their therapy with hobbies that the patient is passionate about. John created a garden for the patients to enjoy and when management saw how positively it effected the patients, they made it more expansive and accessible to patients, who have come to appreciate it even more since loved ones are not able to visit.
March 1, 2021
Benny Martinez is an Ambulatory Nurse Manager for the Broward Health Physician Group Cardiology Practices. Since March of 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic began, Benny assisted with the opening and managing of 4 Covid-19 testing sites and responsible for performing over 100,000 tests. Currently Benny is overseeing the operation of Broward Health's Community Vaccination site in Fort Lauderdale that has been able to vaccinate over 30,000 patients to date.
February 27, 2021
Throughout the years, Brenda Morrison served as a volunteer for the Urban League of Broward County through their Young Professionals Network. However, when the Covid-19 pandemic began, she was elected to serve as President of the group. During the election season and while Covid-19 numbers were at their highest, Brenda led the organization to increase voting efforts with college students, food distributions, and creating small business opportunities for our members and the community at large. They have also utilized resources from local colleges to help Urban League's members to elevate their skillset in order to re-enter the job market based on what types of jobs were available.
February 25, 2021
Chief Matt Smith is a Chief Yeoman in the United States Coast Guard. Throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic, Chief Smith has come up with creative ways to maintain social distancing all while getting the job done. He's the go-to Chief at Sector Miami, and always takes the time to engage with his shipmates. Since the start of the pandemic, two sailors have been recognized as the Top Performer out of over 300 enlisted personal. His positive energy is a direct reflection of his leadership and throughout the pandemic, has been a light during the pandemic.
February 24, 2021
Michelle Peneranda is a Nurse Practitioner at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Michelle and a multidisciplinary team created brand new infrastructure so patients could safely visit their expert oncology teams for treatment. This involved creating testing protocols for the health system and Covid-19 screening guidelines for patients. Ultimately, they were able to establish tents to efficiently and safely screen patients prior to entering the facility. Throughout the pandemic, patients never stopped receiving their life saving oncology care because of the amazing efforts from Michelle and the rest of the team.
February 22, 2021
When the Covid-19 pandemic began, the demand for essential items grew greater at Kids In Distress, a local agency working to prevent child abuse, preservation of the family and the treatment of abused and neglected children. As Co-President of Kids Helping Kids, Zach Hertzbach lead the high school student volunteer group in collecting pantry bags complete with pantry essentials and cleaning supplies and backpacks filled with school supplies, a new school outfit and a handwritten note to wish them a successful new school year. In November, the group was able to collect 1067 Thanksgiving meal bags and gift cards for 1400 children and their families.
February 13, 2021
Amy Freund is from Harvest Drive Inc. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Amy rushed into action, reaching out to her contacts to create resources to help families in need all while overseeing the packing and distribution of the donated items. As a result, the Harvest Drive team has assisted nearly 6,000 families with non-perishable groceries, gift cards and toiletries
February 11, 2021
Abraham Laznik is a registered nurse at Broward Health Imperial Point. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Abraham provided care for patients who were having orthopedic, emergency and cosmetic surgeries. But when everything shut down due to the pandemic, Abraham stepped up and volunteered to help on the Covid-19 floor, eventually becoming one of the nurses that oversaw testing for patients and staff.
February 9, 2021
When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Rebecca Hahessy lead the charge at Deliver the Dream to shift to virtual and drive-thru programing where a Campfire Concert series, Pop-up Pumpkin Patch and Toy Chest programs were created for families facing a serious illness, crisis or disability. During the holidays, she worked in community and gathered more than 500 toys to create a mini toy store in the office conference room. Parents were then invited to "shop" and pick out toys for that their children would love. In a year that was so challenging for many, the parents were relieved of stress and worry and able enjoy the smiles and excitement of their children during the holiday season.
February 7, 2021
In addition to his day job as a Child Protective Investigator with the Department of Children and Families, James Bulger serves as the Warehouse Manager for Sweet Dream Makers where he ensures that families in Broward and Palm Beach Counties are provided the essentials they need to live. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, requests for beds have increased over 53% and James has kept the truck rolling to make sure that families don't have to wait to get off the floor and into a bed. The skyrocketing need in our community has kept him busier than ever, but James says seeing children get their own bed for the first time brings joy to your heart and peace to the depths of the soul.
February 5, 2021
Trinity Ward spotted a news story about how the pantry of her local Salvation Army was dwindling due to the high demand for food during the Covid-19 crisis. As a beneficiary of similar programs growing up, it allowed her to grow and recognize the need to help those less fortunate. She started a food drive at her community residence and has since raised over 400 pounds of food for Salvation Army Fort Lauderdale all while recovering from spinal surgery! Trinity saw there was a need and instantly jumped into action to help
February 4, 2021
When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Pamela Ludwick took on the challenge of putting together online programming for students who are on the Autism Spectrum or have related disabilities. She also helped organize distribution of tablets to families that couldn't afford it and taught the children and parents how to navigate the new world of online learning. Pam never hesitated to go to the student's homes and assist them with any challenges they were facing - whether it was educational, emotional support, or to deliver donations to families that were struggling financially.
January 19, 2021
Aside from her full-time job as a military veteran counselor, Jahmila Boswell and her four-year-old Great Dane named Dalis, spend their free time volunteering through Canine Assisted Therapy, Inc. They have done countless visits over video calls and through windows at senior centers to bring joy to the residents when their families were unable to visit due to the pandemic. They also see healthcare workers and provide stress relief during the long shifts treating Covid-19 positive patients.
January 17, 2021
Under the guidance of Deputy Aaron Moore, the Broward County Sheriff's Office of the Pompano Beach District has distributed over 300,000 boxes of groceries and 2,500 hot meals to senior citizens, veterans, medical personal, and people in the community who have been greatly impacted by Covid-19.