Developer donates $650,000 to provide scholarships for 16 North Miami students

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Since 2014, developer Oleta Partners has donated $650,000 to the North Miami Educational Foundation to provide scholarships for North Miami students. This year, 16 students each were awarded $3,000 scholarship packages after meeting the required criteria. This includes earning a GPA of 2.75 or better from high school, or a letter grade of “C” or better in college as a full-time student.

“Oleta Partners is invested in the growth of North Miami and all its residents,” said Michael Tillman, president of Oleta Partners. “The North Miami Educational Foundation is doing great work and we’re happy to be a part of its mission to make higher education a reality for North Miami students.”

These students were awarded scholarships at the award ceremony: Megan Bichotte, Bianka Canel, Straussiani Dice, Cassandre Dieudonne, Ashley Gil, Daslyn Hall, Ydreillina Jean Francois, Jeannie C. Jerome, Samara Joly, Madisyn Jones, Cedrick Joseph, Melanie Longsworth, Krystell Michel, Valonie Richardson, Dieudonne Saint-Georges and Shama Torchon.

Mini Book Fest

The South Florida Writers Association first Mini Book Fest will be 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at Evelyn Greer Park in the multipurpose room, 8200 SW 124th St. The event is free and open to the public.

Books of all genres and gifts for all ages will be featured. Raffle prizes will be held hourly. And if you arrive early, you can be part of the ribbon-cutting ceremony with Pinecrest Council Member Cheri Ball, South Florida Writers Association President Mervyn Solomon and special guest former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald Kogan.

Evelyn Benson and Brenda Roman have worked tirelessly on the new SFWA Book Fest Project.

“We organized the Book Fest with the primary purpose of developing a market for local authors and promoting awareness about creative talents in our community. Also, to promote the value of reading in the community and encourage excellence in literary arts,” Benson said in email.

There will be many opportunities to network with authors, participate in book signings and meet local award winning authors and exhibitors including: Pulitzer Prize nominee Maxine Schnall; award-winning fairy book author Bobbie Hinman; and prolific Florida history book author Seth Bramson, who recently published his 29th book, a biography of Kogan titled “From Brooklyn to Biscayne Bay and on to Tallahassee.”

Kogan also will be at the book signing from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Many more local authors will be signing their books throughout the event. Aaron Payan will provide musical entertainment.

SFWA monthly meetings are held at the Pinecrest Library. Attend for free. Beverages and light snacks are served. Visit

Stickwork volunteers needed

Here’s your chance to enjoy a rare opportunity to work alongside world-renowned Stickwork sculptor Patrick Dougherty as he prepares his upcoming botanical installation at Pinecrest Gardens.

Volunteers are needed to “help prepare branches and saplings, weave branches, move scaffolding, keep the construction site tidy, explain the project to garden visitors and help maintain the structure over time.” Volunteers must be 16 or older and must commit to a minimum of four hours (one shift), 8 a.m. to noon or 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 2-20.

“Patrick Dougherty’s vision is both playful and stunningly architectural. Every one of his woven works is inspired by its location and his creative process is seemingly improvised. Patrick ingeniously choreographs his team of volunteers to help create these fantastical structures using the tapering forms of the saplings like a brush to canvas,” Pinecrest Gardens Director Alana Perez said in a release.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation funds the project in part and the presenting sponsor is TotalBank. It is scheduled to debut in time for the 2017 Art Miami and Art Basel season. “Life-expectancy” of the towering natural works is up to two years.

To volunteer, call 305-669-6990 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, or email your name, phone number, preferred dates and shift (morning or afternoon) to Pinecrest Gardens is at 11000 SW Red Rd.

To watch a fascinating video about Stick Work and see how volunteers help, view You can also visit to see Dougherty’s many projects.


Pinecrest resident Michael Haggard has been awarded the Florida Justice Association’s Perry Nichols Award. The honor comes shortly after his recognition as 2018 Lawyer of The Year by Best Lawyers of America for “the highest overall peer-feedback for the Miami area” in the personal injury litigation-plaintiffs practice area category.

The honors are especially meaningful for Haggard as he received a life-saving kidney transplant in 2016. Last year, the professional recognition would have been unlikely as the father of two Palmer Trinity School students was suffering from polycystic kidney disease.

His second chance is thanks to a donation from his brother-in-law Allen Buckhalt who is a Palmetto High School graduate currently serving in the Army. Both have received positive reports following numerous checkups since the surgery.

Haggard is managing partner of the Haggard Law Firm, a personal injury practice in Coral Gables. He has received numerous honors during more than 20 years of representing clients.

“The Perry Nichols Award and the Best Lawyer Award are the greatest professional awards I have been honored to receive,” Haggard said in email. “Each are specifically gratifying because they prove someone with PKD is never limited in achieving their dreams and I hope that inspires others. Of course, I would have not been able to enjoy and achieve these distinctions without the selfless and loving act of my kidney donor, U.S. Army Major Allen Buckhalt.”

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