Urban League of Broward County helps local entrepreneur with umbrella company

A South Florida entrepreneur redesigned the umbrella to keep people from getting wet when the umbrella is folded up.

Keel Russell’s company is called Simply Umbree.

“We make umbrellas that are stylish, smart apparel that change colors when it gets wet,” Russell said.

One of the 31-year-old’s clients is the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

As interesting as his umbrellas are, Russell’s story sells itself. His family struggled financially when he was younger, and after 12 years in the Army, he knew entrepreneurship was the best way to help his family.

“My first company was lingerie for curvaceous women. I wanted to bridge the gap the gap between Victoria’s Secret and Lane Bryant,” Russell said.

Russell didn’t quite have enough capital to launch that dream, so he ventured into the umbrella business, landing Walmart as a client during the 2015 Urban League National Conference in Fort Lauderdale.

“People love the excitement about it. It’s really unique. It’s different,” Russell said.

Russell needed money to make the umbrellas, which led him to Bryan Cunningham and the Urban League of Broward County, which granted him a $250,000 line of credit.

“Just his story and what he went through, and his deal with Walmart and his perseverance, it really won the committee,” Cunningham said.

Russell said words will never be able to express how grateful he is for the Urban League’s help.

“It’s organizations like this that open up doors to disenfranchised companies like myself,” Russell said.      



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Coral Springs police officer returns to work after year-long deployment

A Coral Springs police officer returned to work Wednesday after finishing a deployment in Africa.

People lined up the street, cheering and waving American flags. Welcome home banners also hung from the Coral Springs Police Department to welcome back Officer Michael Zorrilla.

“(I’m) a little bit horrified, a little bit embarrassed, but very proud too, so I really appreciate it,” Zorrilla said.

Wednesday was Zorrilla’s first day back at work as a patrol officer for Coral Springs.

He spent the past year deployed in Africa with the National Guard, where he fought Islamic militants as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The year-long deployment was not easy for his family.

“It’s pretty tough, especially being a mom,” his mother, Blazina Zorrilla said. “You know, you want to have your kids, and knowing that he was so far away and not knowing what to expect. It was kind of scary.”

Michael Zorrilla’s parents and his wife worked with the Coral Springs Police Department to pull off the surprise, which was a bit of a payback.

Zorrilla returned home two days before he was expected, surprising his family on March 1, so they decided to return the favor.

“He had a look of terror on his face, like why are all these people here? But I think he figured it out pretty quickly,” Zorrilla’s wife, Patti, said.

Co-workers, city employees and residents of Coral Springs welcomed back their hometown hero, showing their appreciation and support for his sacrifice.

“I’m thrilled to be back,” Zorrilla said. “After being overseas, and all that, you really appreciate what you have back home.”


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Here is how Publix marks National Volunteer Month

Publix Super Markets marked the National Volunteer Month with a $5.5 million donation to Habitat for Humanity affiliates.

Some 5,500 Publix associates also volunteered in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.

There were 27 projects in South Florida, according to Publix Supermarkets’ spokesperson Nicole Maristany Krauss. 

The company archived photos and videos of their contribution on social media with hash tag “Publix Serves.”

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Florida Senate approves bill for daily school recess

Children attending elementary schools in Florida would have recess every day under a bill approved by the Florida Senate.
The Senate unanimously voted Tuesday for a bill that would require elementary schools to set aside 20 minutes each day for “free-play recess.” But it’s unclear if the legislation will make it to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott.
That’s because the House is moving a different bill. The House version would allow school districts to offer recess as part of physical education classes. But the legislation does not include a mandate to offer it every school day. It would only apply to students between kindergarten and third grade.
For the past two years, mothers of school children have lobbied for the recess bill. They say children need recess to expend energy and give them a break from schoolwork.

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West Broward High School student with cancer wins Make Her Mark award

A Broward County high school student who has cancer was honored Monday for all of her hard work in her school and in her community.

Samirah Khan had a look of shock on her face as she won the third annual Make Her Mark award in a surprise ceremony with family and classmates watching on.

“I was incredibly surprised. I thought it was just a regular senior assembly to talk about prom and graduation, so I didn’t expect anything like this,” Samirah said.

“We’re very proud of her,” Samirah’s father, Feizool Khan, said. “It’s a tremendous award. It represents exactly who she is.”

Samirah walked to the stage in crutches, still recovering from surgery.

The West Broward High School student was recently diagnosed with epithelial sarcoma, a rare tissue cancer.

She’s missed many days of school because of doctor’s appointments and radiation treatment. But she still makes time to volunteer with the homeless, tutor classmates in Spanish and work in student government.

She even organized a custodian appreciation day.

“It’s something that gave me a lot of hope and joy, helping other people, and that definitely didn’t go away after cancer. It only strengthened, because I knew that life is short and that we have to make the best of what we have,” Samirah said.

The 18-year-old accepted the award from U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), beating out 44 other students who were nominated.

The judges, including Local 10’s Liane Morejon, were blown away by her dedication and perseverance.

“She’s already making her mark, and the purpose of the award is to help use it to encourage a young woman in my congressional district — young people — to lift others up,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Samirah said she wants to be a pediatrician so she can give children the same hope and comfort that her doctors gave her.

Samirah said she does not know whether she’s cancer-free or not, but feels blessed for every day she lives.

She said she also wants to be an inspiration to all boys and girls facing adversity.

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Fashionistas wanted this Friday night at the Design District

Chanel, Christian Louboutin, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Dior,  Escada, Oscar de La Renta, Carolina Herrera and Yves Saint Laurent were some of the brands lined up for sale at a Miami Design District pop-up retail event on Friday night. 

Estefan Kitchen will serve bites and Zonin Prosecco will be serving beverages for the shoppers attending the Fashionably Conscious one night event. The items are gently used and the entirety of the proceeds will go to the Coconut Grove Cares‘ programs for children at the Barnyard Community Center. 

Community leaders donated the items. Gina Halley-Wright, a spokesperson for the event organizers, said the sale raised over $100,000 last year and helped about 250 children growing up in the West Grove neighborhood to participate in the center’s programs at no cost to their parents.

The shop will be open from 6 to 9 p.m., in the Palm Court’s Third Floor Event Space at 140 NE 39th St., in Miami. Tickets are $40 online or $50 at the door. 

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