You Never Know Who You Might Meet Or What You Might Learn

Pam Giganti at the Mayor\'s table

My co-anchor, Bob Mayer, teased me this morning that I had dinner with another Mayer over the weekend, and indeed I did, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez. We sat at the same table Saturday night for the 40th Anniversary Gala for Switchboard of Miami, Inc. A dear friend is the outgoing board president and invited my husband and me to his table to celebrate his swan song. 

We actually had a really fun table. I sat next to Don Bailey Jr. OK, I know that name rings a bell. I’ll give you a hint, I-95, burly man lying on a carpet in his skivvies. Yes, that’s Don’s dad many years ago. And yes, they still own a flooring company. Don Jr. is also a radio broadcaster for Miami Hurricanes football.

I’ve lived in South Florida now some 15 years and I am still learning new things about the area all the time. Surprisingly, I had never heard of Switchboard before until about a year ago. I was amazed to find out that it had been around for so long – 40 years is quite an impressive track record.

 More on that in a moment, but first I must tell you about our rather unusual venue where the gala was held. We enjoyed a lovely evening inside the Alfred Dupont Building downtown on East Flagler Street – another place I had never heard of until now. I’m telling you, a wedding reception could be held here. The second floor is an old bank, replete with gold scroll work gates, a high mosaic ceiling, and shiny marble flooring that made for a cool, vintage setting, quite appropriate for Switchboard’s 40 year anniversary. The bar was set up in the area where the tellers used to stand. The bartenders would pass the glasses through the small rectangular money slots. It was very cool.

Now back to the reason for the celebration. Switchboard of Miami is a Miami-Dade County supported organization that prides itself on answering the call. It’s a hotline, 211, for anyone who finds him or herself at the end of their rope, in need of help, possibly contemplating suicide, afraid and alone. To date, Switchboard has saved 86 lives. It’s also helped countless residents get the services they need to get back on their feet, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In fact, 180,000 calls came in last year alone. Switchboard is the only tri-lingual helpline of its kind in the country. Who knew?!

What you should know is that Switchboard, like many county services is supported by the Children’s Trust, a dedicated funding source to help all Miami-Dade children through a number of organizations. Revenue from the taxes last year reached $100 million. That means homeowners paid just over a dollar a week to support the Trust. This year in August the Children’s Trust goes before you the voter once again. By most accounts, including that of the Mayor, it’s critical that this gets passed. In the meantime — do yourself a favor and read up on the vote and The Children’s Trust. You never know, you may end up learning some new things about your community.



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