Serve-a-Thon 2021 was a SUCCESS!

On Saturday, April 24th, over 40 Firewall staff, AmeriCorps members, and high school students gathered at the Davie mobile home park where Firewall Centers’ Headquarters is located. Blue shirts could be seen all around the community completing different service projects like delivering groceries, painting a family’s mobile home, cleaning shoes, and painting the Orange Park community center.

This all started with a packing day in partnership with Harvest Drive of South Florida. With their support, we were able to pack 144 bags of groceries, which totaled to 3000 pounds of food all to be distributed to families in the mobile home community.

For Serve-A-Thon, we partnered with In Jacob’s Shoes to get new/refurbished, name-brand shoes. We deep-cleaned over 100 pairs of these shoes so that we could send them back to the In Jacob’s Shoes distribution center to be delivered to needy youth all across Broward County.

Inside the Orange Park Community Center, we had members begin renovating our students’ learning space in preparation for the 2021-22 school year. We expect the full renovation including the addition of new computers, furniture, flooring, etc. to be completed by fall 2021 so that our students have safe and beautiful place to study and learn.

Our favorite and most rewarding project was in the hands of our Home Painting Team! Firewall was able to accomplish a full-service paint job for one of our Flamingo Elementary students and his family. They even got to pick their own color! They were so happy with the finished product and were so grateful that Firewall made such an impact in their day-to-day lives.

At the end of it all, Vertical Church supplied the team with lunch from Chil-Fil-A as a thank you for continually changing lives all around Broward County. It was a well-deserved gift as you can see from the smiles on our staff and AmeriCorps members’ faces.

This all couldn’t have been accomplished without the support of our Serve-a-Thon sponsors: Guy Brickman from State Farm and Lime in Plantation.

In Jacob’s Shoes Outreach

This February, we are sharing some EXTRA love for our community. We had the amazing opportunity to not just work with another non-profit in Broward County, but also gift each of our students a pair of shoes! ‘In Jacob’s Shoes’ gathered over 100 pairs of shoes, both new and refurbished. They sorted them by size and name, and packed them up for us. One of the great things about ‘In Jacob’s Shoes’ is that they are also a program funded by The Children’s Services Council of Broward County.

We then took the bags of shoes and socks back to our Orange Park Center. HQ staff, alongside our mentors, separated the bags by center. Over 120 of our students all around Broward County will receive shoes and other gifts (i.e. chocolates, candy hearts, etc.) for our Valentine’s Day delivery. Make sure to check out our YouTube channel on February 14th to see our complete recap video of the deliveries and our work with ‘In Jacob’s Shoes’.


If you would like to visit ‘In Jacob’s Shoes’ website for more info on their organization, go to

Handing Out Hope

On Saturday morning, the 15th of August, Firewall handed out hope as parents started lining up at Calvary Chapel Plantation for free backpacks full of supplies, but they received more than that. Volunteers from Calvary Chapel and staff members from Firewall Centers banded together to hand out groceries and other basic essentials to these families. All students in Broward County are required to attend school virtually, because of COVID-19. This means that families have to make many sacrifices and endure much hardship in order to balance work while assisting their children with home-schooling. We weren’t just handing out large bags of groceries and backpacks full of supplies, but we were handing out hope.

After just an hour and a half, volunteers and staff members gave out over 120 backpacks. With sometimes multiple families in each car, we had 50-60 cars pass through the parking lot. These opportunities to help our community and partner with others who have the same heart, are what Firewall Centers is all about.

Making Firewall History!

This is an exciting year for Firewall! We have the most seniors graduating of all Firewall history. This program has not only helped our high school students learn more about themselves, but also about how we impact Broward County. We even had the opportunity to hire some of our graduating seniors! Sebastian Requena, a former Western High School student, was involved in our program at Flamingo Elementary just down the street from his school.

While keeping his eyes on the prize of graduating high school, he also was learning new ways to help his community and grow in experience. Sebastian even said “it felt like being a mentor in my last year of high school was like I was giving back to the program that helped me.” It’s not just about helping others at Firewall Centers, our mentors gain great experience. “Working for you guys gave me an idea of what I want to do with my life,” says Sebastian. At Firewall we seek to help the community by not just being in the community, but being the community.

Meet Sebastian in the video down below!

Behind the Scenes

Firewall strives to help students achieve academic success and build character, but another priority is meeting the needs of their families.  It is hard for families to adapt to life during COVID-19 when they are unable to put food on their tables. We are thrilled to partner again with Harvest Drive to change that reality.

Harvest Drive partners with Publix to provide the food that we give our families. Volunteers from Harvest Drive come equipped with supplies as they pack the meals and help our staff pass them out to many of the families we serve at Firewall.

The need is great, and thanks to Firewall’s partnership with Harvest Drive, we are able to meet the needs of the Davie community. When we tell families that we have food for them, they come without hesitation. We have received countless texts from grateful parents that remind us why what we do is so essential. “Thank you for always thinking of us. You guys really care,” said one of our parents.

Church Leader’s Breakfast

On March 5th, Firewall Centers hosted an amazing breakfast at Community Christian Church where pastors and leaders from churches across Broward County gathered together. This breakfast was to inform the church community of what Firewall does to impact students’ lives and how they can be a part of it.

Having partners in the community is vital for growth. We currently partner with businesses, other non-profits, and churches all across the county. By reaching out to more churches, we hope to increase in volunteers, mentors, and even join together to do projects and outreaches to help the community.

Pastors from Greenhouse, Calvary Chapel Plantation, and Vertical Church spoke about their experiences partnering with Firewall. Church leaders were able to hear about the impact Firewall has on not only their students, but the student’s families and community as a whole. Pastor Greg from Greenhouse spoke about how he was a previous intern with Firewall. He was blown away with how real the relationships between the mentors and the students were. Pastor Greg loved how the mentors had the opportunity to display the love of Christ every day. “Volunteering with this program is one of the best decisions I have ever made,” Greg Grzesiak said. Pastor Virg from Vertical Church spoke about the outreach opportunities and church projects that they have worked on with us. Pastor Chris from Calvary Chapel Plantation spoke about the importance of churches joining together in schools where God is already at work. Pastor Chris mentioned the multiple outreaches that we have done together including a Thanksgiving outreach and packing backpacks full of supplies for needy families. We have been able to greatly impact the families of our students and there are even more ways to love on them when the church is joining in.

People who want to get involved have the chance to volunteer with us and to help students improve their reading skills and complete their homework. Volunteers are also welcome during Serve-A-Thon month, which is taking place in April. College and post-college students can apply to become AmeriCorps Firewall mentors for the 2020-2021 school year where they will receive a stipend and education award towards tuition and loans. We are excited for the churches to use their creativity to come up with other opportunities for us to work together.

Thank you to Community Christian Church for letting us use their campus to hold this event and to Chick Fil A for the delicious meal.

Serving the Seniors

This year, Firewall Centers aims to focus and expand its already prevalent service footprint in Broward County. Students who are a part of Firewall had their first opportunity of the new year to serve our local senior community by visiting Artis Senior Living of Davie. Many of us would like to imagine that the seniors of our community are enjoying their years reminiscing on all of their life memories. However, many are not experiencing that because they have been placed in nursing homes where they have limited contact with family and friends. An estimated 60% of residents in nursing homes never have a single visitor and spend weekends, birthdays, and even holidays by themselves.

How can Firewall make a positive impact on changing this reality? Students from both Plantation High School and Western High School were brought to Artis Senior Living of Davie, where all of the residents are experiencing symptoms of dementia. This gave our students the opportunity to model the servant leadership lifestyle that is a part of everything that Firewall instills.

Daily, our students are being taught the importance of having good character and serving the people around them. When the idea was presented to the students they were excited for the opportunity to be the first visitor for many of the residents. At Artis Senior Living of Davie we spent time with the residents by doing crafts, listening to music, and playing games. The students also talked with the residents and heard about their different life experiences. Two juniors from Plantation High School expressed that they are excited to go back and talk to one of the women that they spent time with.

This month for Valentine’s Day, our students will be making handmade cards for residents living in different elderly care centers. This is their third year doing this. We love seeing our students serve others!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

When thinking about Christmas time, everyone pictures their own special traditions and the ways that make it feel like Christmas to them. The holiday season looks different for everyone. Some enjoy the season by receiving gifts and spending time with their loved ones, while others enjoy it by giving. We love seeing our students smile, especially when it’s caused by people who through their actions, are applying our principle of “Keep Giving Back”.

This year, one of our board members, Aaron McKee, and his wife Toni, purchased board games for every one of our student’s at Walker Elementary School for Christmas. Walker Elementary School is located within Fort Lauderdale’s 33311 zip code where the per capita income is $15,490 and the average household income is only $43,220. The need is great in the neighborhoods surrounding the school which is why Firewall chose to serve Walker and it’s students. In fact, the school is located in an area that has a higher rate of childhood poverty than almost 97% of U.S. neighborhoods, and many of these children attend Walker. The smiles on the student’s faces are enough to show how much this meant to them.

It is our mission to help the students who are a part of Firewall Centers achieve academic success, build character, and transform into servant leaders. It was such a great opportunity for the students to see one of our board members and his wife serving and blessing them this holiday season.

November is philanthropy month!

As an attorney who has worked within the philanthropic community assisting both charities and individual donors, one vehicle of giving that is not often utilized in gift consideration is the Individual Retirement Account (IRA) rollover at the year’s end. With so many changes in tax policy since the 2017 Tax Cuts and Job Act, it might be of interest to you as a supporter of a 501(c)(3) charity such as Firewall Centers to review how an IRA can be mutually beneficial for both your 2019 legacy efforts and for Firewall.


An IRA owner who has reached the age of 70 ½ or older can make a direct transfer of up to $100,000 to an eligible charity, tax-free. This means that amounts directly transferred to the charity from an IRA are counted in determining whether the owner has met the IRA’s required minimum distribution (RMD), but will not be considered a taxable withdrawal. Nice, right? Some restrictions apply including the fact that distributions from employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as SIMPLE IRAs and simplified employee pension (SEP) plans, are not eligible.

Gift Parameters 

If you are at age 70 ½ or older and are the owner of a Traditional IRA (or inherited Traditional IRA) and do not need all or part of your required minimum distribution, you can make tax-free IRA contributions directly to qualified public charities such as Firewall Centers. 

Each age-eligible IRA owner can transfer up to $100,000 tax-free per tax year. 

Your IRA gift must be completed on or before December 31 of the calendar year in which you choose to utilize the IRA Charitable Rollover gift vehicle for tax purposes. Generally, if sent by US mail, the postmark determines the date of a charitable gift.

The check should be made payable directly to Firewall Centers. 

You can only make outright gifts. The IRA Charitable Rollover cannot be used to fund life-income gifts (such as charitable gift annuities or charitable remainder trusts). 


You can count your gift towards your annual required minimum distribution. 

Your distribution is  not recognized as income on your federal income tax return and therefore  not eligible for a federal income tax charitable deduction. 

Under current federal tax laws, keeping your IRA distribution out of your adjusted gross income may save you taxes. 

The transfer process is quick and requires minimal paperwork. 


Employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as SEP IRAs, SIMPLE IRAs, 401(k)s, and 403(b)s are generally not eligible for the IRA Charitable Rollover. 

While the IRS permits IRA Charitable Rollover gifts from Roth IRAs, using a Roth IRA eliminates many of the tax advantages of the charitable distribution. If you don’t have a traditional IRA, it may be better to withdraw funds directly from your Roth account, make a gift, and take a charitable deduction. Consult your financial or tax advisor for advice. 

Most (but not all) states exclude IRA Charitable Rollover gifts from income for state and local tax purposes.  The Holiday season allows us the opportunity to reflect on the blessings in our lives and our thoughts can turn to those less fortunate than ourselves. The IRA rollover can be an effective vehicle of legacy planning for those who take advantage of it.

Thank you, and I wish you and your families a safe and blessed Holiday season.

JoAnne Daudt has been a trust and estate planning attorney helping individuals and families plan for the future for over thirty years. 


For questions about supporting Firewall Centers with an IRA Rollover or other appreciated assets, please contact us at 954-530-1871 or