Mama Mia! Let's Celebrate Our Magnificent Moms.
Local Mom Debbie Levine Helps Provide “Healing, Hope and Home” for Children at SOS
By Kristan Bond
At times we may take for granted the loving family we have who supports us, makes us a home filled with wonderful memories, gives us the opportunities we’ve had to become educated and further our careers, and even provide the clothes on our back and food on the table. But for Boca Raton’s Debbie Levine, her passion to help others is a constant reminder to her and her daughters just how fortunate they really are to have each other.
From a young age, Debbie Levine learned the importance of giving back to the community through her mother, who volunteered in numerous capacities throughout Debbie’s childhood. The experience was so meaningful that it led to a fulfilling career for Debbie where she could pass on the experience to her own family. Debbie and her husband of 17 years, Jeff, have two children, Abby (14) and Lindsay (11). And this selfless mom has worked for SOS Children’s Villages – Florida for 14 years. SOS, which is located on a cul-de-sac in Coconut Creek, provides “Healing, Hope and Home” for foster children, allowing them to break out of the cycle of abuse and neglect and in turn gives them the potential to realize opportunities they may have never had otherwise. With an average of 72 boys and girls who grow up in the Village, many of them siblings, they receive a stable home, tutoring, independent living skills, mental health therapy, recreational activities and the necessities they need to become strong, successful individuals. And even when these children move on from SOS, they still have a family there to help with everything from finding housing and employment, to finishing their education and raising their own families. The state provides about half of the budget needed to accomplish this, with the rest coming from grants, fundraising events and individual and corporate donors. And that’s where Debbie comes in as the Interim Chief Executive Officer/Chief Development Officer. “The greatest part of my job is seeing firsthand how the children benefit from the funds we raise,” she said. “I love working there. We’re one big family.”
Debbie’s daughters are part of the family at SOS as well and have made many friends there. “My family often comes to my work events and volunteers alongside the children,” she said. “They’ll also come to the Village with me on the weekends and get involved with the activities with them there as well.”
Debbie’s gentle giving nature doesn’t end with her career. “In addition to working for a charity, I’m involved as a Team Captain for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Light the Night Walk, I’m a PTA member at my daughter’s elementary school and Don Estridge High Tech Middle School, and I also volunteer at Congregation Shirat Shalom.”
While being so involved in so much may take away from family time, Debbie makes it work knowing her family is behind her. “Finding the time for everything is always a challenge! But I’m a very organized person and gratefully, I have a lot of support from my husband and kids and that helps me feel good about the work I do at SOS.”
When it’s time for the Levines to spend some quality family time together, you may find them participating in cultural activities in the community or catching a music festival. They’ve taken more than 10 cruises together and enjoy exploring new destinations as well. But whatever they’re doing, it’s just being together that means so much to Debbie. “I’m happy knowing my kids are happy!” she said. “I love the smiles, laughter and giggles. I love experiencing my children’s successes on a daily basis. I have so much love and pride for them. Being a mom is the most important job I’ll ever have and the one I love the most.” They don’t make them any better than Debbie Levine.
Three Generations Spread their Wings in Butterfly Capital of the World
By Kristan Bond
Working for the City of Coconut Creek has proved to be a great opportunity to merge community involvement and family time for mother-daughter duo Sharon Read and Melissa See.
Sharon has worked in the Finance Department for the City of Coconut Creek for over 18 years. Married to husband Douglas for 27 years in July, this Coconut Creek couple has three children, Melissa (24), Jennifer (21), and Joey (20). “I always put my family first, and working for the city has allowed me to do my job and make sure that I had quality time for my family,” said Sharon.
Living in Coconut Creek has offered this family of five plenty of activities to keep them busy and to allow each child to pursue their individual interests, always with mom cheering them on. “All three of my children played sports and I was involved with them all,” she said. “I was team mom for Joey’s travel basketball team and Joey and Jennifer both played on the Monarch High School basketball team. I was also the team mom for the boys and girls varsity basketball at school. Melissa went to Coral Springs Charter and played flag football, basketball and was on a travel cheerleading team. Both of the girls danced at Rockette Dance Academy for 15 years. So needless to say, my kids and I were very involved in extracurricular activities times 10! Now I’m excited to start all over with my grandson.”
The grandson Sharon speaks of is her daughter Melissa’s adorable one-year-old, Noah. Melissa met her husband, Zack, when they were both working in the restaurant biz while attending college, and they’ve been so thrilled to continue their journey together as parents. Now a Recreation Programmer for the City of Coconut Creek, Melissa agrees that working for the city is a great way to stay involved with the community and have plenty of time for raising a family. “Luckily my career, volunteering and community involvement are all connected, so all my free time is spent with Noah,” said the proud new mom. “We love going to the park, the beach, and our favorite is the zoo.”
While her job can be demanding at times (she also runs the girls youth basketball league for the city), knowing she gets to go home to a supportive and caring husband and their wonderful son makes it all worth it. “No matter how my day is going, all I have to do is look at Noah and I instantly smile,” said Melissa. “He makes me feel like wonder women and I love playing and being silly with him.”
Sharon couldn’t be more proud of her three children. “I must have done something right as a mom to have three grown children that are respectful, responsible and are just good people from the inside out. Melissa is loved by all at the City, Jennifer is in nursing school at BCC, and Joseph is studying physical therapy at UNF. Watching my children succeed and become independent adults has been the best part of being a mom. When I see them smile my heart melts. I love being a mom, it is the hardest job I ever had and at the same time it is the best job I will ever have. It is a job I’ll have for the rest of my life.”
If good parenting can be taught, Sharon knows where she learned the greatest lessons. “I had the best teacher—my mom—who left us way too early,” said Sharon. “I know she would be so proud of me and my children as well.”