Our spotlight in September is on parent leaders in our BRIDGES At Lake Park location. We are focusing on Bentoria Murray, Brandon Lavin, and Sherrah Hill-Lavin. Each of them have a unique story to tell.
If you ask Bentoria Murray what her purpose in life is, she would say: community outreach and capacity building. Her motto is “connecting with a purpose”.
Bentoria is a native Floridian and a proud mother to two beautiful daughters. Bentoria has worked in an Urgent Care & Memory Disorder Clinic at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. She has been a certified Notary since 2017, and in 2019, Bentoria began her passion project, Da’Vines Big Sisters, aimed at mentoring young girls in hopes of reducing teen pregnancy rates in our communities.
Aside from being a full-time mother and pursuing her degree in Human Services with a focus on addiction studies, Bentoria has a passion to volunteer.
She volunteers in two community-based initiatives funded by Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County: BRIDGES and Community Voice of Palm Beach County. As a BRIDGES builder and program facilitator, Bentoria engages other parents in their journey to realizing and fulfilling their talents and potentials. Through Community Voice, a grassroots education program run by Sickle Cell Foundation of PBC, she helps spread awareness about prenatal care and healthy births. Bentoria is also a member of the Palm Beach County Parent Leader Network.
In addition, since 2020, she has supported and played an active role as a board member of the Pine Ridge Holistic Living Center, an affiliate nonprofit of the West Palm Beach Housing Authority that provides support services to the Authority’s clients and local community residents.
Brandon Jonathan Lavin
Brandon Lavin was born in Illinois, raised in Oklahoma and settled in Florida. At a young age, he obtained his cosmetology license while being dual enrolled in high school and community college. After working in the cosmetology field for a few years, Brandon became interested in the automotive industry, understanding that everyone will always need a good auto mechanic. He completed an automotive technology program in another local college.
Being raised by a single mother and his grandparents, Brandon is able to empathize with other young men who grew up without the daily support of their fathers. He has a heart for the fatherless and fathers, understanding that many fathers want to be actively involved in their children’s lives but can’t for a number of reasons.
As a father of five beautiful children, Brandon became involved with BRIDGES at Lake Park. Along with his wife and children, the family became active members, participating in many programs and services throughout the community.
Brandon received multiple certification for various trainings, including: Fathers and Family Advanced Fatherhood Practitioner Credential and Community Voice Lay Health Advisor.
After joining the Fathers and Families Coalition, Brandon was inspired to start a local “Daddy and Me” program at his local BRIDGES location to encourage and inspire other fathers to become more involved with their families and community. After supporting his wife in becoming an inaugural member of the Palm Beach County Parent Leader Network, a local team of the Early Childhood Learning and Innovation Network for Communities (EC-LINC), Brandon soon followed. EC-LINC is a national network of partners with a shared goal—to support families and improve results for young children in communities across the country.
As a result of his involvement, he is now a trained facilitator for the Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), which is rooted in a vision of building a broad movement of parent leaders working for economic, racial and social justice for families.
Sherrah is a parent ambassador at BRIDGES at Lake Park. She is a wife and mother of five who is always focusing on how she can help other mom’s in her community. But it wasn’t until she joined the Parent Leader Network, an initiative of The Center for the Study of Social Policy’s Early Childhood Learning and Innovation Network for Communities (EC-LINC), that she learned how to collectively identify and address changes wanted and needed in her community.
Utilizing her lived and learned experiences, Sherrah speaks out on specific issues regarding pregnancy and parenting in the African American and LatinX communities.
As a member of the EC-LINC Parent Leader Network Steering Committee, she partners with 40 other parents on a monthly basis to discuss and share parent empowerment strategies.
She promoted the PLN Manifesto, created by parents as a blueprint for systemic change. Sharing this document with local parents, nonprofits, funders and other community stakeholders was the first step toward achieving needed change to early childhood systems leading to racial and educational equity and parent empowerment.
After being trained through Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), Sherrah was integral in training other parents in her community. She successfully wrote a grant to host Seeds for Success, a financial literacy project to teach parents about smart spending, simple saving and the benefits of responsible banking. She has served as a host for the National Dulce Conference and was selected to serve on a national grant review team for Heising- Simmons foundation, awarding over $3 million in funding.
In addition to her work as an active parent leader, Sherrah is also a Prenatal Outreach Educator for Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition Palm Beach County.