by Emma Davis | May 21, 2020

Four Floridians Who Are Bringing Out the Best of the Sunshine State

We asked readers to nominate people in their community who are lending a helping hand during the pandemic—and they delivered.

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While some of us are setting Netflix binge records and napping till noon, others are using the extra time at home to start nonprofits, spread joy through a camera lens and be a source of positivity to their neighbors. We wanted to spotlight these Floridians, so we asked you to nominate community members who are putting others first in this strange and difficult time through our Rays of Light campaign. Maintaining that constant 6-foot-distance (and even wearing a mask) means you have to get creative to lend a hand or elicit a smile. Check out how these four stellar Sunshine Staters are stepping up while social distancing.

CRISTYLE EGITTO

Cristyle Egitto delivers food to frontline workers. Photography courtesy of Cristyle Egitto

Two months ago Cristyle Egitto, 35, filled her food Instagram Eat Palm Beach with various avocado-topped delicacies and perfectly plated sushi dishes. Now, her account, with over 26k followers, is all essential workers with face mask-covered smiles and Styrofoam takeout containers. Ever since Egitto’s community was faced with an entirely new kind of disaster when the coronavirus pandemic shut down locally owned restaurants, the blogger has been pairing her passion for food with her love of the Palm Beach community.

She used her platform to start #SavePBFood, a campaign that supports both local restaurateurs and frontline workers. People can donate money to the campaign, which is then used to purchase large catered meals from local restaurants. Where do these meals go? To feed first responders like police, firefighters and medical workers.

“I’m just always trying to find where the greatest need is,” Egitto says. “People always want to help but they don’t know how.”

SHEA SMITH

Over quarantine cooking and looking for an excuse to order some pizza? Shea Smith and his wife, Ashley Sawyer Smith, have just the thing. They’re helping their favorite local pizza joint stay afloat and feeding hungry neighbors while they’re at it. For every pizza bought during the pandemic at Pizzeria Magaddino in Fort Lauderdale, the restaurant will donate another to a foster family through the local charity organization Handy, which helps foster kids in Broward County build better lives. Smith says he chose Handy because they’re focused on helping a group that was already at a disadvantage, made worse by COVID-19.

Shea and his wife gave money to Pizzeria Magaddino as an initial donation to jumpstart the program. When someone buys a pizza at Magaddino’s, it’s the Smiths’ donation that buys a second pizza for a foster child through Handy.

“We’re just trying to help in this crisis where we can,” Shea Smith says.

CARLA GOLEMBE

There’s only one place where you can connect with people from all around the world through women sculpted from wood and fiberglass birds as tall as the artist behind them: on Carla Golembe’s “Socially distanced, connected by art” Facebook page. Although she created the group in mid-March as a means to stay connected with the 20–30 adult art students she teaches in Delray Beach, it’s racked up more than 1,300 members from Florida to the Philippines. Golembe, “youthfully 68,” said she’s using the page to break through the isolation she feels in quarantine and connect with others feeling just as alone through art.

“It’s about creating an art family,” she said, “and I guess that’s what I was trying to do.” Well it’s safe to say her art family has exploded. Artists of all mediums, such as painting, photography, digital art and sculpture have taken to the Facebook page to share their creations. Comments from “This is one of those works that sings to heart” to “Miss your face!! And all them boys too!!!” can be found on nearly every post. Golembe’s favorite part, besides the shock and joy of watching the page grow, is “the joyful variety and the way people are finding to use art to deal with this new world.”

RICK AND LYNSEY GRANGER

If your family is begging you not to bake any more banana bread and you’ve already killed the plants in your new garden, this couple from St. Cloud wants you to dream bigger with your stay-at-home hobbies. Rick and Lynsey Granger, 42, are teachers with four kids at home, thus the nickname G6 for their six family members. Normally, the bunch spends their free time cruising down the interstate to Orlando theme parks next door or crossing the country to catch Old Faithful’s 150-foot displays at Yellowstone National Park, but in this quarantine reality, they’ve been just as glued to their laptops as everyone else.

So, in the hopes of reviving their wanderlust spirit, the family started filming videos of their outdoor projects, from crafting wooden cuckoo clocks to building a camper from scratch and uploading the projects to YouTube. This isn’t the first time Rick has built a camper with low-budget supplies, and friends are always asking how he does it. Now, they can see for themselves.

“Even if people don’t do the projects themselves, I hope it’s fun to watch,” he says. You can check out the watercolor houses, hand-welded campers and 3D printed toy planes here.

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