Best of Boca 2020: Best from the Lockdown

best of boca

Written by James Biagiotti, Marie Speed, and John Thomason (and our special panel of local insiders)

It was the best of times—it was the worst of times—but the last year has been one for the books. Here are the highlights, the lowlights and the many ways we navigated history, from unselfish acts to innovation to generosity of spirit. The Best of Boca was never better than this year; relive the milestones and the drama, the hits and the misses, the way a city pulled together during a crisis. And here’s to better times.

  • Restauranteur Rodney Mayo, owner of Subculture Group, has to fire 650 employees after closing all his 17 locations due to the ending of dine-in operations from the coronavirus. He promptly forms a new community group, Hospitality Helping Hands, with local nonprofit Living Hungry, to feed his employees and other out-ofwork restaurant staff and the hungry at Howley’s Restaurant in West Palm Beach. In a matter of weeks, other donors join in and multiple locations are added. By April, 110,000 meals had been served and $250,000 raised—including $14,000 from Delray Beach-based Delivery Dudes, and $25,000 from Boca City Councilman Andy Thomson’s war chest—for relief efforts.
  • Delray’s Tin Roof hosts live music and webcasts the concerts, with all donations directly benefiting the artists.
  • FAU’s Theatre Lab launches an online original monologue fundraising festival called Stories of Hope, where local writers submit short monologues, and out-of-work actors perform them as part of a three-hour online festival; supporters donate directly to the artists.
  • Global Communication Networks CEO Chris Palermo and his wife Yvette donate enough money to Fit Food Fresh, a home delivery meal service, to provide 1,000 meals to first responders. Fit Food Fresh matches it, doubling the meals provided. A movement is ignited to pay it forward.
  • Delray residents John Brewer and Iain Paterson launch a social media initiative called the Socially Distanced Supper Club, in which diners get together virtually each time they “meet” by getting takeout from different restaurants that post special menus. More restaurants start getting in on the action, more people sign up, and it spreads like wildfire; in April there were 28,331 “members” in seven different cities. Some restaurants credit this “flash mob” initiative for saving them from certain ruin.
  • Future 6, a nonprofit that offers a surf program for kids, has to cancel its program due to COVID-19, but instead teams up with Driftwood restaurant in Boynton Beach to contribute up to 500 meals for Boynton Beach first responders and city workers.
  • Spirit of Giving, a network that creates alliances with nonprofit organizations in Palm Beach County, joins forces with Boca Raton Interfaith Clergy Association and Bocahelps.com to provide support as well as unified responses to challenges faced by the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
best of boca
  • On April 1, The Addison in Boca Raton begins donating 700 meals per week to Boca Helping Hands to aid in its efforts to feed the homebound and other clients most in need of help. Drivers deliver to 30 homebound clients three times a week, enabling those clients to have hot cooked meals every day.
  • Neighborhoods throughout South Florida organize “thank you” rituals to publicly honor health care workers and first responders, from the “Clapping Hands of Thanks” that originated in Prospect Park, West Palm Beach, to a convoy of residents’ cars at Wellington Regional Medical Center blinking lights and clapping as health care workers leave the building after their shifts.
  • Delray’s Achievement Centers for Children and Families teams up with restaurants like 3rd and 3rd and Caesar’s Famous Ribs to distribute thousands of free meals to those in need. The organization also set up a COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
  • Offerdahl’s Hand-Off Foundation solicits donations used to deliver emergency food relief meal kits to first responders, health care providers and vulnerable families in need.
  • The Junior League of Boca Raton distributes 100,000 diapers to 19 different nonprofit agencies, helping parents to stay stocked on the supplies they need most when stores are struggling to keep essentials in stock.
  • Boca’s Ascend Properties contributes to the Palm Beach County Food Bank in an effort to assist people facing challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Students at the THOS Fashion School of Design in Boca design face masks and distribute them to local hospitals to help offset shortages.
  • Saint Andrew’s School juniors and top AP chemistry students Nicholas Horowitz and Matthew Russo make and sell their own hand sanitizer, called Purificate, to local businesses and individuals affected by COVID-19, donating profits to charities, including 211 and The Red Cross.
  • Luke Lynch and Jordan Hernandez, a student and teacher from Boca Raton Community High School, start the #CoronaCant movement to promote positivity within the community and remind locals that the pandemic can’t stop them from growing, enjoying life and staying connected during the pandemic.
  • As food shortages worsened, the Palm Beach County Food Bank doubled its normal output, and nonprofits expect increased demand to keep up for 12 months or more in the wake of the widespread layoffs that have resulted from the pandemic.
  • The City of Boca Raton led the way with its early issuances of emergency orders to slow the spread of COVID-19. In many cases, the city was one step ahead of county and state leadership in implementing measures such as closing nonessential businesses, adopting social distancing guidelines, and recommending the use of cloth face coverings. The city was also an early adopter of virtual council meetings.
  • Medical workers and first responders who put their lives on the line deserve our praise, appreciation and support now more than ever.

This story is from the July/August 2020 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.