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Palm Beach woman dedicates her retirement years to uplifting the lives of those less fortunate in PBC

KATHY Estella and bus Palm Beach woman dedicates her retirement years to uplifting the lives of those less fortunate in PBC

Pyfron driving passion to help others less fortunate

Estella’s Brilliant Bus

Palm Beach woman dedicates her retirement years to uplifting the lives of those less fortunate in PBC

By K. Chandler

     Estella Pyfrom’s driving passion to help others less fortunate might be attributed in part to her late father, Roy L. Mims of Belle Glade, Fla.

    Mims, a former migrant worker, rose up through the ranks, becoming a crew leader, camp manager and eventually a contractor who transported scores of local farm workers from Belle Glade up North to harvest the crops.

     Despite being a contractor, which was considered a prestigious and lucrative position, Pyfrom’s father rarely had much money.

    “He gave it all away to families with children,” recalled Estella, the second oldest of six daughters and a son born to Mims and his wife who assisted her husband while on the road and ran a sandwich wagon for migrant workers out in the fields.

     “People weren’t making that much money back then and whether they used their earnings wisely or squandered them away foolishly, they still needed to return back South to Belle Glade, and my father wasn’t about to let anyone be stranded.”

    Nor could her father turn away needy strangers once they returned to their home in Belle Glade.

    “Strangers could come by and say, ‘I’m hungry and need a place to stay,’ and my father would let them stay at his house even when he couldn’t afford it, and when it wasn’t necessarily safe, given that he had a wife and children to consider.

    That tradition of sharing and giving back, learned at a young age, propelled Estella Pyfrom into a 50-year career in education, 49 of those years spent in the Palm Beach County School District, primarily as a guidance counselor.

    After retiring briefly in 2004, Pyfrom returned to the class-room in 2006, for two years during which time she also served as a guidance counselor. In 2008, she left the Palm Beach County School District to take her passion for helping others to the next level.

    “We have pockets of need within the county that have become more pronounced with the downturn of the economy,” she pointed out. “What we’re seeing today are people who previously did well before, but who are now in need of services for themselves. They might have lost their jobs or their homes. I wanted to identify certain needs within the com-munity that weren’t being met, and find ways to solve them. Out of that emerged Project Aspiration, (D/B/A Estella’s Brilliant Bus).

 Food shortages prevalent in PBC

    “In my efforts to serve the community, I got a call from the Palm Beach County Office of Revitalization,” noted Pyfrom. “They had a family in crisis that was in need of food, and they wanted to know if I could help out. At the time, I was getting a little bit of food to feed people in the community. I had rented a place with air-conditioning and a freezer. So I said, ‘Yes, I can give this lady and her family some food.’ When they came to pick up the food, however, the woman brought five families with her. I said, ‘Oh my, this is serious,’” recalled Pyfrom.

    Previously, Pyfrom had been the operator of a residential group home for develop-mentally disabled adults. At that time she had been referred to a food pantry by another group home operator who told her that she was eligible to obtain food for her residents. Although she never followed through with registering for the free food program, she realized that this was an avenue by which she could feed more people through her organization.

    With each week more and more people and families were showing up in dire need of food. Many were being referred to her by people she had served the previous week.

    Consequently, Pyfrom felt compelled to move her operation to a larger location. However, the same situation occur-red at the new location, and they quickly outgrew that space as well.

 Feeding 3,000 people a month       

    Estella Pyfrom formed a partnership with Feeding South Florida, a major provider of poor for the poor. As a 501(C)3 non-profit organization, she was now eligible to purchase basic food and household staples in bulk by paying what is known as share of cost, which amounts to 19 cents per pound for Pampers, cereal, kid’s toys, detergent, hygiene products etc. They were also qualified to receive USDA food at no charge including meat, fruits and vegetables. “We started out serving 250 people; now that number has grown to 3,000 per month” and the need continues.

    Fortunately, the organization’s space problems were alleviated when they re-located to their current site, Lake Worth West Community Center on 10th Avenue North and 57th Street, where she was given access to the clubhouse on the property. “They even built shelving for our supplies,” stated Pyfrom appreciatively. Now they serve the public the first and third Wednesdays of the month.

    “Occasionally, Feeding South Florida calls to say they have a family in need of emergency food but no transportation to get it,” said Pyfrom. “Sometimes people call who are stranded here from out of town, or are homeless, or staying in a cheap motel. When I get those calls, I arrange to deliver food to these people whether it’s feeding day or not.”

    As much as her heart goes out to families in crisis who are struggling to keep food on their tables, she also feels enormous compassion for the children who aren’t able to rely on free break-fast and lunch programs during the summertime when school is out.

    As a solution to this problem, Estella held 6-week summer camps in 2011 and 2012 for children, providing breakfast and lunch for them along with a slew of activities including swimming in the clubhouse pool. The money to fund this summer program came directly out of Pyfrom’s own pocket.

 Estella’s Brilliant Bus

    Pyfrom will proudly tell you that she not only came up the concept of Estella’s Brilliant Bus, she also meticulously custom-designed the $900,000 mobile learning unit from the chassis on up.

    Originally she had planned to use her bus for food distribution. She thought better of it, realizing that the residents living in the underserved communities she ventured into were in dire need of a holistic approach that ministered to their bodies as well as their minds.

    “I found that many of the adults we were feeding also needed computer training; help with filling out job applications and resume writing.”

    Among the programs and services offered via Estella’s Brilliant Bus (which has been in operation for a little over two years now), include: G.E.D. preparation, pre-school readiness programs, college prep courses, community service credits for high-school students, anti-bullying and peer mediation classes and student leadership training.

    “We have 17 computers available so they can work on FCAT skills prior to graduation, in addition to taking virtual college tours and applying for financial aid.

    “We’ve had kids and parents here at the same time. The pa-rents are looking for jobs and their kids are working on their academic skills. We’ve also worked with homeless families whose kids were college students who needed to get on-line to do their homework.”

 Building community relationships

    A member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and a Guardian Ad Litem working with abused and neglected children, Estella Pyfrom strong-ly believes in building community alliances as a means of ensuring successful out-comes. To date she has developed strong working relationships with the Cities of Belle Glade and Pahokee, in addition to Comcast, Office Depot Foundation, Feeding South Florida, among other sponsors and com-munity partners who’ve contributed time, money or both.

    Pyfrom says she loves what she is doing and envisions working in the community for many years to come, provided that her and her husband of 55 years, Willie R. Pyfrom’s  health remains stable. (Willie Pyfrom is currently a part-time music teacher at Highland Elementary School).

    It might also be noted that the Pyfroms are the proud parents of four successful children. Their oldest son, Gene A. Pyfrom (now retired) formerly owned and operated a Gymnastic facility. Their second oldest son, Lieutenant Colonel Juan A Pyfrom, is an international lawyer and a JAGG Officer in the U.S. Army. Their oldest daughter, Dr. Karen Abrams, recently took over as principal of Pahokee Elementary School in Pahokee, and their youngest daughter, Mia L. Pyfrom, works for the Palm Beach County School District.

    Explaining why she remains energized about Estella’s Brilliant Bus, Pyfrom stated simply, “It’s a passion with me. I feel no pressure or strain doing this. My bus is an independent bus. I make my own schedule and I work from home. It’s a beautiful life!”

 

 

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    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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