By DALE MADISON
Personal trainer Dean Yanakis found more than a home when he moved to South Florida: He found a calling. He relates that his move to South Florida from the northeast—first to Fort Lauderdale, and then eventually to Wilton Manors— landed him a great condo, which doubles as a home-training facility, where he works with about 30 clients a week. The move also brought him into contact with the Poverello Food Bank, which was having problems feeding clients.
When he heard about the center’s Open Arms, Open Hearts food drive, Yanakis requested that a drop-off box be placed at his condo. Within one week, he had not only filled the box, but needed to call three times to have it emptied and replaced. That’s when he decided, “If I can do this with just my clients, what could I do if I made the entire complex aware?” The New York State-native called the agency, and asked that collection boxes be placed at all of the master mail boxes in his Wilton Manors condo. Since this was at the end of season, many of the snowbirds were heading north, and in the process of cleaning out their pantries. With so many grocery items to collect, Poverello required the space of an entire van for the pickup.
After Yanakis returned from a business trip to New York, he decided to immerse himself in a cause that would put those in need with work that enabled them to earn their keep. “I’d watch how so many of the charities hand out money or food, but don’t really ask for help in return. I love Poverello and the amazing work that they do. With all of those people coming in for help, why are they not volunteering to help in the food bank, in the sorting room, or in the retail store?” he wondered.
“I wanted to help those who want to help themselves. So a group of friends and I got together, and we scoped out a plan to help those who are willing to put forth an effort to jump start their lives,” Yanakis explains. “We all have special talents that we can direct to help others,” he adds.
Yanakis outlines the application process for Less Fortunate. “When a person applies, we ask for all of their income—everything, none of this working under the table. We want people to be honest with us, and then we take all of their legitimate expenses—rent, utilities, car expenses, including insurance and fuel to and from work only, food—all of the basics.
No alcohol, no smoking, no drugs, nothing recreational. We will then do a spread sheet.
“As an example, if someone has income of $1,800, and expenses of $2,200, we will work with them to find an additional $400 to get them through the month. We partner them with someone who can help them. We recently had a man who needed someone to walk his dog, because he had had knee replacement surgery. He was willing to pay $20 a day, which made up the difference for what a young dog walker needed in order to meet all of his monthly expenses,” Yanakis proudly notes, the perfect winwin scenario.
For more information about Less Fortunate, email email@example.com.