Giving back to the community has always been a part of our company’s culture. It was this philosophy that fueled the launch of our CGI Heroes: Celebrating Strength contest. This was a simple way to honor and spotlight four local Miami-Dade and Broward County residents who have gone above and beyond to help others during these challenging times, with a $2,000 cash prize each.
Joan Saint-Hilaire, Katie Lizana, Demi Genao, and Jarrel Strong were all nominated for our CGI Heroes contest by peers for their commitment to assisting others. As this event comes to a close, we would like to highlight each of their inspiring stories of generosity and selflessness once more.
Joan Saint-Hilaire: Beyond the Classroom
Joan Saint-Hilaire is a kindergarten teacher at Whispering Pines Elementary School in Cutler Bay within Miami-Dade County. The 49-year-old seasoned schoolteacher has been instructing students for 26 years. The Miami resident is not your typical teacher and focuses on more than just the curriculum. She has purchased a mini refrigerator and filled it with milk, cereal and other snacks to ensure her students were well fed, driven by their homes with pamphlets and gift bags, and made sure they had the necessary school supplies.
Katie Lizana: Sewing to Save
Katie Lizana is a fourth-generation watchmaker and co-owner of Circa Tempus, LLC, a company that produces watches for individuals with special needs. She has been sewing to save health care professionals’ ears after hearing that many nurses and doctors were experiencing discomfort due to the loops and restrictions of their surgical masks. The Hollywood resident developed an ear-saving product prototype and has crafted and customized thousands of complimentary medical mask attachments. Dubbed “ear savers”, the 43-year-old began making the mask attachments in April 2020 with strong ribbon and buttons, forming a soft strap that could connect to the face covering. Since she launched the giving-back initiative, Lizana has received hundreds of requests through Facebook and Instagram from all over the country and mailed them to almost 100 hospitals nationwide to alleviate ear pain and chafing for health care professionals. She has never accepted compensation for the products.
“Giving back gives me purpose, and I cannot thank these health care workers enough for what they do on a daily basis,” said Lizana. “When I send out a batch of ear savers and get pictures back from an entire ward at a hospital, it makes me happy and makes me feel like I am doing a small part. People are always searching for the path to true happiness in life, and time and time again, I have found the only thing that really makes people happy is doing something for someone else.”
Demi Genao: Spreading Selflessness
Demi Genao, a 25-year-old registered nurse at Broward Health Medical Center, works 12-hour shifts three days a week. She typically arrives home exhausted but that doesn’t stop her from buying and hand-delivering food, including bread, eggs and other necessities, to the elderly in her off time. The Miami resident has adapted to her nursing role in the first few years and has worked through a pandemic with grace, courage and compassion.
Jarrel Strong: Feeding the Hungry
Born and raised in Miami, 26-year-old Jarrel Strong lived in nearby Overtown for most of his life. It was his connection to the area and the hardships he has experienced that compelled him to help the homeless. He saw the need for daily resources like food for those living on the streets. Since March, Strong and others have purchased and made two meal deliveries, including a welcomed meal of spaghetti, green beans and dinner rolls wrapped up in to-go containers with utensils, that fed about 300 men and women in three separate Overtown sections. Strong seeks to pursue criminal defense law in order to help those inside the criminal justice system and help defend and provide resources for those who cannot defend themselves.
“I’ve experienced these same situations,” said Strong. “Once I was above those circumstances, I felt it was my duty to turn back and help those in need as well. Someone helped me before. It was my inspiration and my opportunity to do so. It made me happy because my little help was going far, and it was a blessing to those at that moment.”
“These four Miami-Dade and Broward County residents represent the definition of a community hero,” said Bob Keller, President of the Southeast Business Unit for PGT Innovations. “They have demonstrated strength, generosity and compassion in the face of unprecedented adversity, and their actions have shown that we truly are stronger together. Our team is honored to highlight their selfless acts and reward them for the ways they have served their communities.”