Broward’s Nonprofit Hidden Heroes Revealed!

Honoring 12 Real-life Superheroes Who Help Our Community Face The Pandemic

December 16, 2020

Just when our community needs them the most, hidden heroes are stepping up to help Broward residents face the coronavirus crisis.

Food for people in need, outreach to isolated seniors, safe homes for struggling families – these are just a few of the heroic efforts underway by front-line nonprofits helping our community overcome one of its greatest challenges.

Now the Community Foundation of Broward is proud to honor 12 representatives of dedicated nonprofits who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic. Our inaugural Hidden Heroes Awards shines a light on 12 outstanding examples of bold impact by individuals who make life better in our community.

The 2020 Hidden Heroes Award winners are:

  • Tina Cortez, Sawgrass Nature Center & Wildlife Hospital
  • Timothy G. Curtin, Memorial Healthcare System
  • Rebecca Gould, Museum of Discovery & Science
  • Tammy Holder, Broward Performing Arts Foundation
  • Samantha Kelly, Lighthouse of Broward County
  • Xenia McFarling, LifeNet4Families
  • Natasha McFarquhar, Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies
  • Alex Nesar, Habitat for Humanity
  • Belinda Paulicin, Gilda's Club South Florida
  • Sandra Powell, Broward Health
  • Patricia Ryan, Broward Education Foundation
  • Elise Samet, Canine Assisted Therapy

“These Hidden Heroes have shown amazing courage, care, compassion and love as they serve our community during the coronavirus crisis,” Community Foundation President/CEO Jennifer O’Flannery Anderson, Ph.D., said. “It is our honor to recognize their dedication to Broward and to highlight how support for local nonprofits is critical to shaping a brighter future.”

The 12 new Hidden Heroes Award winners are featured in a newly released YouTube broadcast, which shows how they were surprised with capes and medals, symbolizing their heroic community service. In addition, our Hidden Heroes have received a prize package that includes $500, restaurant gift certificates and a two-night staycation at the beautiful Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach hotel.

The Community Foundation’s mask-wearing Prize Patrol uses a spacious ballroom at the beautiful Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach hotel to surprise Hidden Hero Winner Samantha Kelly, of Lighthouse of Broward County, with her cape and prizes.

Lots of smiles, a few tears and more than one cape twirl followed as each Hidden Hero learned of their new honor.

“Totally surprised. Blown away!” Hidden Hero Xenia McFarling said moments after receiving her award for helping LifeNet4Families serve 250 meals a day and provide showers, clothing and other essentials for those in need during the pandemic. “It means a lot to be valued for the work that I do. … We all need to come together as a community to help those who can’t help themselves.”

In addition to the individual honors and prizes, the nonprofits our Hidden Heroes represent will each receive up to $25,000 from the Community Foundation to further innovative efforts to help Broward bounce back better than ever from the coronavirus crisis.

“The opportunity to just highlight what we do in our agencies and our programs, it means a lot to me,” said Hidden Hero Belinda Paulicin, honored for helping expand Gilda’s Club South Florida’s cancer patient support services during the pandemic. “There’s always an opportunity to help someone else. When you seek out that opportunity, you are a hero.”

Each winner was chosen from a competitive field of nominations submitted by the CEOs of local nonprofits. And now, each of our winners’ nonprofit organizations gets a chance to participate in the Community Foundation’s new Resilience & Recovery Program, which helps nonprofits improve their crisis preparedness so they can be ready for future challenges.

“I think we are all heroes in our organizations, but I am super proud to be nominated,” said Hidden Hero Alex Nesar, whose work for Habitat for Humanity of Broward County helped hardworking families move into affordable, safe homes in the midst of pandemic shutdowns. “A lot of people are struggling right now, but if we can stay positive and keep that energy moving forward, we will get through this.”

The Broward County Commission declares Dec. 16, 2020 as “The Community Foundation of Broward’s Nonprofit Hidden Heroes Day” with a proclamation that also honors the 12 award winners.

Fortunately, our 12 award winners represent just a sampling of heroic work taking place by nonprofits all across Broward to lift up our community. It’s thanks to the power of local philanthropy that nonprofits in Broward have crucial resources during this pandemic to help residents who need it the most.

Because of Fundholders at the Community Foundation, we have provided more than $5 million in support to respond to the coronavirus crisis. This includes more than $3 million for food, housing aid, crisis counseling and support for other immediate needs. This also includes our initial $2 million investment in fueling long-term solutions to the pandemic’s effects on jobs, education, elderly support and other issues that matter most to Broward’s future.

Thanks to our Fundholders, we are just getting started. With more support from endowed charitable Funds at the Community Foundation, and as more hidden heroes step up for our community, we can tackle all of Broward’s biggest challenges – during this crisis and beyond.

Click here to see the YouTube broadcast featuring our 12 new Hidden Heroes Award winners, which shows how they were surprised with capes, medals and prizes.

More About The Hidden Heroes Awards

This fall, the Community Foundation called for CEOs of nonprofits all across Broward to nominate their best and brightest for our inaugural Hidden Heroes Awards. To select the winners, our committee of judges looked for heroes who:

  • Took on extra work or tasks outside their usual job description.
  • Were bold, innovative and adaptive.
  • Solved problems to the benefit of their organization and/or community.
  • Created a new system that continues to be utilized.

“These Hidden Heroes are changing lives and providing lifelines for so many people who need it,” said James Donnelly, the Community Foundation of Broward’s Board Chairman. “We were excited to seek them out and honor all that they do for our community.”

Meet Our Hidden Heroes

Click here to learn more about our new Hidden Heroes, who we will also be featuring individually on our website in the weeks ahead.

Community Foundation of Broward Hidden Heroes Award winners: Patricia Ryan, Natash McFarquhan, Timothy Curtin, Belinda Paulicin, Tammy Holder, Tina Cortez, Sandra Powell, Rebecca Gould, Elise Samet, Samantha Kelly, Xenia McFarling, and Alex Nesar.

Hidden Heroes Day

The Broward County Commission declared Dec. 16, 2020 as “The Community Foundation of Broward’s Nonprofit Hidden Heroes Day” with a proclamation honoring the 12 award winners. The Dec. 16 Hidden Heroes Awards broadcast included Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness reading the proclamation.

“Thank you to the Community Foundation of Broward for the tremendous work that you have done over the years, helping to build and strengthen the fabric of our community,” Holness said.

The Hidden Heroes Award Prize Package

In addition to their capes and medals our winners receive:

  • $500 cash
  • Gift certificate for two from The Restaurant People to their various restaurants,
  • Gift certificate for dinner for two at Boatyard restaurant,
  • Gift certificate for two free meals from Farm to Fork Meals
  • $40 gift certificate to Rivertail restaurant
  • Two-night staycation at the beautiful Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach hotel (valued at $900 and including free parking and resort amenities)

Thanks To Our Sponsors

A big thank you to the following organizations for the generous prize donations they provided to our Hidden Heroes Award winners:

Learn More

To learn how the Community Foundation can help you fuel heroic, life-changing philanthropy in Broward, contact Vice President of Philanthropic Services Nancy Thies at or 954-761-9503.

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