Haute Heros: Four Miamians Making a Difference

Here at Haute Living we LOVE philanthropists and humanitarians. But there’s a big difference between writing a check and actually going to places that need help and getting your hands dirty. Here are four heroes in our local community making a difference… in person.

Michael Capponi with Father David Fontaine in Haiti
Michael Capponi with Father David Fontaine in Haiti

Michael Capponi of Capponi Shear, InList and The Deck, is now as known for being one of Miami’s great humanitarians as he once was for being a nightlife impresario. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Capponi flew over with a plane load of supplies and has since returned over 84 times. In 2012, he founded the Global Empowerment Mission, to empower people struck with tragedy by providing emergency medical aid, food, housing, quality education, diverse vocational training and job creating.

Following Hurricane Matthew, which missed an impact on Florida’s coast, but devestated Haiti, he’s back in the country, on the ground helping people in dire need get planeloads of supplies. Global Empowerment Mission successfully brought over 220,000 pounds of aid supplies to seven of the hardest hit regions.

In the photograph above, Capponi shown is in Haiti with Father David Fontaine. The two are posing behind a truck carrying 1200 sheets of perforated roofing that Global Empowerment Mission purchased locally with donations to the GEM. Michael is a strong believer in transparency in philanthropic donations and, whenever possibly, buys supplies from sellers in the country in need. He also posts GEM’s financials on their website. Capponi’s commitment to helping people and willingness to go to some of the most devastated spots on the globe is truly inspiring for people in Miami, and beyond. 

Michael Grieco and family
Michael Grieco and family

Michael Grieco

Trial attorney and City of Miami Beach Commissioner, Michael Grieco, has been a bit of a local hero since he took his seat on the commission doing everything from beach clean-ups, to addressing everyday concerns of the city’s residents. But he took things up a notch when he recently helped police chase down a drug dealer. It started while Greico was on his morning jog at 9 a.m. on Sunday.  He witnessed a drug deal going down near Lummus Park, and called a nearby officer he had seen earlier on his job. It seems the dealer hopped on his bike and announced he was “not stopping,” then Grieco helped run him down. “I was in the right place at the right time with the right footwear,” he said. The dealer was caught with 10 baggies of crack cocaine and Grieco went down as perhaps the most hands-on Miami Beach Commissioner yet.

Danny Jelaca

Danny Jelaca in Honduras
Danny Jelaca at the Hogar de Niños Enmanuel, children’s orphanage in Honduras

Miami’s celebrity stylist, Danny Jelaca, dove into hands-on philanthropy this fall—by taking his glamour squad to Honduras for a benefit style-a-thon. He was there for four days in September, cutting the hair of Honduran community leaders and socialites to benefit funds for Hogar de Niños Emmanuel, an orphanage dedicating to helping kids in need. He then traveled there to personally deliver the proceeds and got a warm welcome from the kids and people who work to make their lives better.  He has also partnered with TOMS to provide shoes for school children. He already says he’s looking forward to the next visit. To make a charitable donation to Hogar de Niños Enmanuel, please visit www.hogarenmanuel.com


Rachel Russell in Colombia
Rachel Russell in Colombia

Rachael Russell

Fashion stylist Rachael Russell founded Style Saves, a charity to help disadvantaged kids get new clothes for back-to-school. On top of the exciting Style Saves Swim Week fashion show and annual drive, that raise the bulk of funds, she also travels around the world to help kids outside of Miami. She’s been to Colombia, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti for Style Saves. “We started by dressing kids an orphanage,” says Russell about a recent trip to Cuba, but she decided to expand Style Saves’ reach.  “I’m connected with a lot of creative artists and people in the fashion industry, so we brought a group of 20 artists, including Aileen Quintana, Alex Majares and more to Cuba to teach workshops such as digital internet radio.  It was really helpful because there is such a lack of information in Cuba.” Russell also works with four different orphanages in Haiti. Going to ravaged places like Haiti doesn’t phase the stylist. “It’s not a big deal for me, and I enjoy traveling. It’s travel with a purpose. I call it “voluntourism.” It gives me the chance to connect with the people we’re helping on a human level. And for the record. I feel safer in third world countries than some parts of the U.S.”