The United Way of Miami-Dade has partnered with the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald to bring artwork to Surfside survivors following the devastating condo collapse.
The program, HeARTs for Healing, invites you to upload a photo of your artwork via the Volunteer Miami portal website for “healing and hope.” The art is an effort to support survivors who have lost everything and grieving families who have learned the search for live victims is ending.
The campaign summarizes it like this: “Our heart goes out to all victims and families impacted by the building collapse in Surfside. Art can be a calming and motivational outlet for many people. To show our support to the Surfside community and all those affected, we want to flood our community with beautiful images of local art.”
Maria Alonso, president and CEO of United Way of Miami-Dade, said the art will be collected on the website and turned into a digital album viewable to families coping with the loss of loved ones in the collapse. As of Wednesday, the site had received at least six pieces of art, and Alonso expects to start sharing the art in a week when there are 10 to 12 uploads.
Alonso said the volunteer program began with Operation Helping Hands following disasters like Hurricane Andrew. During the 1992 hurricane, the partnership helped raise money and find volunteers to help with disaster efforts such as donation distribution in communities.
While there are more than 1,000 registered emergency relief citizen volunteers ready on standby, the “need for them has not come up,” she said. United Way is still accepting donations and volunteers, but it cannot send volunteers to the Champlain Towers South site where crews are still combing through rubble.
“We just thought of, ‘How do we redeploy the goodwill of people that are signed up and want to help?’ ’’ Alonso said. “We still can bring people together and help the situation but in a very different way.”
So, when the partnership reactivated July 2, it pivoted to a form of support that anyone can give, even from home. Art helps heal, she said, adding that uploads can be drawings with encouraging messages.
“That would be a cool way to still feel like you’re doing something, giving up yourself to help others, and uplift our community,” she said. “We hope that we’re going to create some sort of memorial for the victims and for the families … but right now it’s all a digital effort and even the volunteering is digitally right from the comfort of your home or your office.”
Raymond Duenas, a marketing manager with the Miami Herald, said several print, online stories and newsletters will have a link to the Volunteer Miami’s portal website.
To Duenas, partnering with organizations is important to the newsroom and the South Florida community dealing with disaster.
“We don’t want everyone to just stand around waiting and waiting. … Hearts for Healing is a way the local community, at any age, whether it’s a 2-year-old kid or an elderly person, can write words of encouragement of peace, that shows the unity and strength in the community,” he said. “No matter what in South Florida, you’re affected one way or another. You either know someone directly [involved in the collapse], you know a friend that knows someone directly.”
As United Way collects the artwork, Duenas said the Herald will put together a slideshow or collage of the pieces.
Alonso said the effort will be ongoing.
“We don’t see a reason why to stop,” she said. “There’s always room for hope. There’s always room for compassion, and that’s who we are as a community.”